Now a 30-year-old regional, Montana Rail Link continues to mine carloads both solo and with BNSF

By Jeff Stagl, Managing Editor, Progressive Railroading Magazine; December 2017

Montana Rail Link (MRL) launched operations on Halloween in 1987. Although that typically wouldn’t be considered an ideal startup date, the regional has largely avoided ghoulish twists or devilish turns over the past 30 years when it comes to business growth.

Owned by The Washington Cos., MRL operates more than 900 miles of track mostly in Montana, with some lines crossing into Idaho and Washington. The regional employs 1,100 people, serves 125 customers, and maintains eight yards and three shops. Headquartered in Missoula, Montana, MRL interchanges with BNSF Railway Co. in Laurel and Garrison, Montana, and Spokane, Washington.

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