Monopoly Railroads: Names, Rules & Best Strategy

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The Monopoly railroads can be the cause of much confusion. Players often misinterpret the rules around railroads and it can be tricky to know whether you should buy them or not.

This article tells you everything you need to know about Monopoly railroads. Plus, a few facts that you don’t need to know at all, but you may find interesting.

Note: This guide is for the US. I also have a UK version of this guide for the Monopoly train stations from London.

Monopoly railroads

A quick summary of the railroad Monopoly strategy and stats:

  • Railroads are most effective when you own all of them
  • It is worth buying one or two railroads to prevent players completing the set
  • If you own all 4 railroads in Monopoly you’ll make back 25% of your total investment with every rent payment
  • On average, it takes 281 rolls to make back your investment for 1 railroad, but just 35 rolls to make back your investment for all 4

Monopoly Railroad Names

There are four railroads in Monopoly. These are Reading, Pennsylvania, B&O, and Short Line.

The Monopoly railroads in order are:

  1. Reading Railroad
  2. Pennsylvania Railroad
  3. B&O Railroad
  4. Short Line

Which one of the four railroads in Monopoly was not a real railroad?

Out of the four Monopoly railroads, the only one which wasn’t a real railroad is Short Line. The original Monopoly game board was designed around Atlantic City, New Jersey which featured all of the railroads except for Short Line, which is fictional.

On Monopoly boards in the UK, the railroads are known as railway stations and they are all named after real train stations in London. Their names are Kings Cross Station, Marylebone Station, Fenchurch St Station, and Liverpool St Station.

Suggested read: UK Monopoly Board Properties

How do you pronounce Reading Railroad?

In Monopoly, Reading Railroad is pronounced ‘red-ding’, not ‘ree-ding’. The Reading Railroad was a real railroad in the city of Reading, Pennsylvania between 1924 and 1976.

What does B&O Railroad stand for?

In the Monopoly railroad named B&O Railroad, the B&O stands for Baltimore and Ohio. The Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad opened in 1830 and was the first steam-operated passenger railway in the United States.

Monopoly Railroad Rules

The rules around railroads in Monopoly can be a little complex, particularly when some railroads are mortgaged. There are also some unofficial variations of the Monopoly railroad rules that you may like to try to spice up your next game.

What does the railroad do in Monopoly?

When you land on an unowned railroad, you may buy it for the list price of $200. When another player lands on your railroad, they must pay you rent. The amount of rent owed depends on how many railroads you own.

  • Rent with 1 railroad: $25
  • Rent with 2 railroads: $50
  • Rent with 3 railroads: $100
  • Rent with 4 railroads: $200

Can you put houses on railroads in Monopoly?

You can never build houses or hotels on railroads in Monopoly. You can only add houses and hotels to the colored properties and only once you have collected a full set.

Monopoly railroad mortgage rules

If you own all four railroads and mortgage one or more of them, you may still collect the full $200 rent when someone lands on an un-mortgaged railroad.

Mortgages railroads

Some people wrongly believe that in the example pictured above, if you landed on Pennsylvania Railroad you would owe $25. However, this is incorrect. You would still be liable to pay the full $200.

This rule also applies to color sets. You can still charge double rent for having a full set, even if one or two of the set are mortgaged. You can read more about this here: Monopoly Rent Rules Explained.

Can you travel on railroads in Monopoly?

According to the standard rules of Monopoly, you cannot travel on railroads. However, there is an unofficial variation of the rules called the ‘traveling railroads rule’ which allows you to do so.

According to the traveling railroads rule, when a player lands on a railroad, they may choose to move their token to another railroad that they own. The player must pay any rent due regardless of whether they choose to travel. 

Players may travel on their own railroads for free. They may not travel on unowned railroads but can travel on mortgaged railroads. Players do not get $200 for passing Go.

The six railroads rule in Monopoly

Another unofficial variant of the Monopoly rules is the six railroads rule.

When playing the six railroads rule in Monopoly, the two utilities (Water Works and Electric Company) are treated like railroads. They cost $200 to buy and can be mortgaged for $100. To get a railroads Monopoly you need all six – the rent for owning five railroads is $300 and for six railroads the rent is $400.

Monopoly game

Monopoly Railroads Strategy

Many people wonder whether it’s smart to buy the railroads in Monopoly. Most people seem to value them highly, but how much return on investment do they actually generate? And are some railroads better than others? Let’s take a look…

Monopoly railroads cost and return

This table shows the cost, rent, and ROI of the railroads in Monopoly:

Number of railroadsCost to buyRent per railroadTotal rentROI if a player lands on oneROI if a player lands on all

Are Monopoly railroads worth it?

The Monopoly railroads are worth it if you can buy three or four as this will generate a return of 16.67% to 25% of your total investment each time they are landed on. In a two-player game, buying one or two railroads can also be worth it to prevent your opponent from owning three or four.

The interesting stat is that buying a second railroad doesn’t really improve your investment position. You’ll pay double the amount to buy a second railroad, and you’ll get double the rent back – the only real benefit is that you have a second railroad that might be useful for bargaining, and a second chance for a player to land on your railroad.

But it’s when you get into the third and fourth railroad territory that your percentage ROI improves.

Here’s another way of looking at it:

  • If you own one railroad, players need to land on it 8 times to make back your investment.
  • If you own two railroads, players need to land on either railroad 8 times to make back your investment
  • If you own three railroads, players need to land on them 6 times to make back your investment
  • If you own four railroads, players need to land on them 4 times to make back your investment

Don’t underestimate the power of the railroads. It’s possible to win a game of Monopoly with no color sets if you have four railroads.

Which Monopoly railroads are the best?

The best Monopoly railroad to own is the B&O Railroad as this is landed on most often. The B&O Railroad space is the fifth most commonly landed on space in the whole Monopoly board.

Here are the probabilities of landing on each Monopoly railroad per roll:

  • B&O Railroad – 3.0659%
  • Reading Railroad – 2.9631%
  • Pennsylvania Railroad – 2.9200%
  • Short Line – 2.4326%

This data comes from a computer simulation of 32 million rolls.

Based on this, I can tell you how likely you are to make back your investment. For one, two, or three railroads owned, the probability is based on the average of the percentages above. For all four railroads, it’s just the sum of the four percentages.

Number of railroads ownedProbability of a player landing on a railroadROI each time a player lands on a railroadAverage number of rolls needed to make back your investment
12.8454%12.5%281 rolls
25.6908%12.5%141 rolls
38.5362%16.67%70 rolls
411.3816%25%35 rolls

The best railroad strategy to win at Monopoly

The Monopoly railroads are generally good buys and can help you to win at Monopoly. If nobody else owns railroads, you should always buy them as they will provide a decent return on investment, especially if you can get a railroad Monopoly with all four.

In a two-player game of Monopoly, you should always buy Monopoly railroad cards as doing so will either help you to get you a collection of three or four or will block your opponent from doing the same. In larger games, buying one or two is still worth it to block a railroad Monopoly.

Knowing how to play the railroads on Monopoly is the same as understanding the strategies for the utilities – it can make all the difference when it comes to winning more games than you lose.

Jenni Fielding

Jenni Fielding is the founder of Monopoly Land - an unofficial fan site. She has been a huge fan of Monopoly and has been playing the game for over 30 years. She is a stickler for the rules and loves to find vintage Monopoly sets in second-hand shops.