What Is a Freight Rail Transport?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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A freight rail transport is a train designed to haul goods over short or long distances. The transport usually features one or more locomotives that haul numerous freight cars designed to secure goods or materials. Several locomotives can be added to the chain at the front and rear to power the entire freight rail transport, especially with longer chains that can weigh several hundred tons. Boxcars and flatcars are usually used to transport goods, and containers can be placed on flatcars, sometimes stacked two high to accommodate more storage space and transportation needs.

Most locomotives used for a freight rail transport run on diesel fuel, though in the past, steam locomotives were commonly used to haul the boxcars, flatcars, and other cars used for transporting goods or materials. Diesel fuel is considered more efficient, and the locomotives are far more powerful than steam locomotives. Some freight rail transport chains will feature more than one locomotive to accommodate the added weight of an exceptionally long chain, while shorter chains may only feature one locomotive. The position of the locomotives can vary according to the way the boxcars and flatcars are positioned in the chain, and locomotives may be present at both the beginning and end of the chain.


Bulk carrier cars are open-topped transport cars used for hauling raw materials such as coal, stone, and other loose materials that are not packaged or otherwise contained. The materials are dumped into the bulk carrier and often hauled with no protection from the elements. The bottom of such a car may be pitched to allow for easier material removal from the car, and may also open and close to further accommodate removal of material from the car. Such a car will often be part of a freight rail transport that features many such cars filled with the same material.

Some types of goods will require specially designed cars that accommodate the specific needs of those goods. Food, for example, will often be hauled in refrigeration cars that allow for temperature control during the transport process. Automobiles are transported in specially designed, enclosed cars that allow the automobiles to be driven on and off the car easily. It is not uncommon for such cars to feature two layers, which allows automobiles to be stored both on an upper layer within the car and a lower layer within the car. Sometimes boxcars are modified to accommodate the needs of specific goods as well.


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