Railroad Makeovers

Warren Buffet’s on board. Should you ride the rails, too?

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


Here’s a sign of the times: Since early last year, investor/economic prophet Warren Buffett has been putting his money into railroads. His firm, Berkshire Hathaway, now owns about 70 million shares of three major freight lines—2 million of Norfolk Southern, 4.5 million of Union Pacific, and a staggering 64 million of Burlington Northern Santa Fe—worth a combined total of almost $7 billion. Bill Gates is on board with an investment of $1.7 billion in the Canada National Railway Company. Why now? For starters, there’s the growing demand for oil alternatives like coal and grain, both of which are shipped on trains. Freight cars also use 65 percent less fuel than long-haul trucks. “It became clear to me the competitive dynamics in the railroad business had changed from when I last thought about them,” Buffett told cnbc last year.

Thanks to the cash influx, rails are getting a makeover. Union Pacific is spending billions to ease congestion on its busy Sunset Route from Los Angeles to El Paso with 760 miles of double tracks. The boom has yet to impact the passenger rail system, but all those miles of new track, which Amtrak shares, could mean improvements (read: fewer delays) are just around the bend.

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate