2019 Tacoma Rail Highlights

Efficient and Reliable Service

Since 1914, Tacoma Rail has worked to meet its primary goal of providing efficient, cost-effective rail service, and 2019 was no exception. Tacoma Rail continued to meet its primary goal of providing efficient, cost-effective rail service to the Port of Tacoma and Tacoma’s industrial areas (Tidelands Division), to Lakeview (Capital Division), and Frederickson (Mountain Division) in 2019.

Tidelands Division

Line-haul count was up by more than 13,000 units in 2019 over 2018. An increase in intermodal platforms and unit train railcars led to a corresponding increase in line-haul revenue of approximately $2 million. The Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA) experienced volatility in international intermodal trade leading to large monthly volume swings throughout 2019. Tacoma Rail’s agreement with the Union Pacific to assemble 10,000-foot intermodal trains daily continued to add revenue to the top line. Over 25,000 domestic intermodal platforms were handled by Tacoma Rail on behalf of Union Pacific, generating nearly $1.3 million in incremental revenue in 2019.

Unit trains and other commercial traffic were up versus the prior year. The increase’s primary driver was import automobiles with an overall commercial traffic increase of 11% in 2019. State of Washington environmental rules mandating the execution of oil spill contingency plans were a focus area for Tacoma Rail. The utility successfully completed its second Department of Ecology supervised tabletop spill drill in October.

Capital Division

From 753 carloads in 2018, total traffic on the Capital Division increased by 12% to 841 carloads. The Capital Division provides service to South Tacoma and Lakewood customers through the utility’s freight franchise on the rail line owned by Sound Transit. Expenses have increased on the Capital Division as Positive Train Control (PTC) becomes functional.

Mountain Division

Tacoma Rail operates the Mountain Division (TRMW) for the City of Tacoma. The number of carloads handled dropped from 1,594 in 2018 to 1,504 in 2019. The decrease, led by Hardie Building Products, diverted traffic to a BNSF served reload center to avoid demurrage charges. A year-end surge in shipments to Farwest Fabrication offset some of the TRMW business losses. Expenses have increased on the Mountain Division as PTC becomes functional. We continue to collect charges from the tariff that was implemented in 2018 to mitigate this expense.


Tacoma Rail continues to work diligently every day to successfully meet the utility’s goal of providing efficient, cost-effective rail service.

View Financial Highlights

Click here to view Tacoma Rail’s full 2019 financial report.