Rails/Railroad/Freight Trains


MathMan wrote at 2009-08-20 14:24:11
A train with 190 cars, each 53 feet long would be about TWO miles long (53x190=10,070 feet... that divided by 5,280 feet + 1.91 miles long).

factchecker wrote at 2010-04-23 17:44:18
1 mile = 5280 feet, please check your math.

So from your post, a train with 190 cars at 53 feet long each would be about 1.9 miles long.  But this isn't average, this is probably the longest I've heard of.  Trains between a half mile and one mile long are much more common.

Also, the altitude of 7,000 feet is not 4 miles high, it's only about a mile and a third.  This is really irrelevant though because 7,000 feet isn't all that high (Santa Fe, NM is over 7,200 feet).  What matters more is the grade the train is capable of climbing without using helpers.

Typically, the larger locomotives carry around 4,000 gallons each.  Doing quick math, if it takes 4 locomotives to pull the longer coal train mentioned in the original answer, that's 16,000 gallons available.  That train at 190 cars at 110 tons each would weigh in at around 20,000 tons.  Recently, we've all seen the CSX commercials claiming their trains can carry one ton for 436 miles on only one gallon of fuel.  So that heavy train would only be able to travel 348 miles - 436/20,000*16,000

More realistically, the longest train would have 125 cars max, and at that length would still probably need 4 locomotives.  With that, 110 tons * 125 cars = 13,750, thus 436/(110*125)*16,000 gallons = 507 miles range

Plug in any realistic number you want, you'll see that trains usually need to refuel much more often than every 3-4 days as originally answered.

LoudMusic wrote at 2010-10-21 00:43:11
There are 5280 feet in a mile.

A 190 car coal train with 53 foot cars would be less than 2 miles long, at just over 10,000 feet. Container cars are about 62' long, so a train of 80 cars would be less than 5000 feet, less than 1 mile in length even with two or three locomotives.

I'm not sure where your logic came from for calculating refueling frequency, but typical numbers I'm finding online reference 1.25 to 2 miles per gallon of fuel. Though I haven't been able to determine if that's per locomotive or per train, which often has three or more locomotives.

"But my Prius gets over 50 miles to the gallon!"

Well your Prius isn't moving 21 thousand tons of freight.

Randy wrote at 2013-10-11 04:30:57
Today I counted the longest train I've ever seen pass us in Utah. It had 185 cars and three engines. At best rough calculations, it was just under two miles long,  or 10,480'.  


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Bernard Markowicz


Expertise in large and complex operations management problems, operations improvement, real-time network management, equipment management and distribution, information systems design, rail operations.


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