The following video is part of our "Motley Fool Conversations" series, in which industrials editor/analyst Brendan Byrnes and technology editor/analyst Andrew Tonner discuss topics across the investing world.

In today's edition, Brendan takes a look at earnings from a few major railroads. Since railroads are so tied to our overall economy, it's important to keep tabs on them even if you're not a railroad investor (and especially if you are). How did the major railroads perform last quarter, and what can we expect from them in 2012?

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This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.