A very common question I receive is: how do I know when a train is coming? An alternate question is: can I get a freight train schedule?
The short answer is, unfortunately, there’s no public schedule, and there’s no easy way to know if a train is coming. You can refer to USA by Rail to see the main routes, though!
Freight Train Schedules
Freight trains have “call times” when the crews are due to start work. This is not when the train leaves the depot, but when the crews arrive. They check in, get their paperwork for the train (destination, what’s on the train, daily operating bulletins (DOBs), special instructions), then get on the train and get it ready for departure. This may involve switching cars before departure, checking the brake system, etc. so it could be an hour or two after the call time before the train actually leaves.
These call times are not published publicly. I don’t have them.
Many things could prevent a train from departing at or near the call time, including traffic, lack of crews, mechanical issues, weather… so a train that is called at, say, 8 AM may not leave until the afternoon if there are issues.
If you observe the railways long enough in an area, you will get a sense of when trains do run. For example, in Winnipeg you may notice that CN switches the Fort Garry area in late morning, or the BNSF Manitoba transfer train generally leaves their yard around 11 AM (these are examples, and are not necessarily correct).
European Freight Train Schedules
Some railways in Europe do publish train schedules, even for freight trains. For example, Switzerland’s SBB publishes draft timetables for review and comment before implementing them. They even have train graphs which show when trains will be at certain stations.
England’s Freightliner has real-time departure and arrivals on the web, and Rail Record shows live train times for passenger and freight trains.
Maybe you want to know how many trains per day are on a track?
Historical Train Schedules
Railroads employees are issued timetables with many details about each section of track, including where stations are, speed limits, and special instructions. In the past, these employee timetables also included schedules for certain freight trains. These schedules would show when the train should be expected at a station. This was important for “extra” trains and maintenance crews to know when to be clear of the main track to avoid collisions. Nowadays with computerized dispatching and radios, these scheduled meets are obsolete.
Knowing if a Train is Coming
If there are signals around, they can help tell you if a train is coming.
Most signals are “approach lit”, meaning they are dark when there are no trains around, and light up when a train is nearby. This is done to save power, as some signals are battery powered.
If a signal is lit up and shows all red lights, it is possible that there is a train approaching from “behind” the signal as shown in the photo above.
If a signal is lit and shows a green light at the top, that means it is cleared for a train to approach from the lit/facing side, so a train may be coming. This is no guarantee and it could be literally hours before a train comes. This site might help interpret Canadian railway signals.
You might want to know how busy a railroad track is.
Back to Frequently Asked Questions
80 thoughts on “Freight Train Schedules”
HI I am looking for information on approximate frequency of fright train traffic through Moncton New Brunswick. I know there are three VIA trains a week but info on freights (number and approx times) is harder to pin down. If you can help it would be apprecaited
Hi Dave, thanks for your comment. There’s CN 120/121 that runs between Montreal and Halifax through Moncton. There’s CN 407/408 that runs between Moncton and Dartmouth. There’s CN 307/308 that runs between Moncton and Montreal. Then there’s CN 406 that runs down to Saint John and back again. That’s 8 daily freight trains, plus there’s several local trains that service Moncton industries, and the train up to Miramichi and Bathurst. As far as times go, they vary… it’s hard to predict, as this article says.
I just moved to PERTH, Ontario and my property backs onto the railway tracks. I notice a few daily and evening trains. Is it possible to get a schedule of how often trains pass on a daily basis. It is not for my purpose but for my cat. He has become very frightened of the load horns and if I knew when it was going to happen I would move her to a place in the house that is more sound proof. Thankyou.
Hi Carla, it is not possible to get a freight train schedule. The best you can do is take notes as trains go by to get a feel for when they tend to go by.
We are thinking about moving to Perth ON beside the train track as well… we have a similar concern about our old yorkie. How often do the trains come and are they loud? He would also be frightened . Thank you!
Perth is on the CP Belleville subdivision, which is a fairly busy rail line. I have never been to Perth so I wouldn’t be able to say how loud the trains are through there. You could ask if there is a no-horn bylaw for the town.
We are interested in purchasing a home in a rural community of Atascadero, California. We noticed there were train tracks about three housing lots away. There are some roads further away so don’t know if the train would blow its horn when crossing them. It seems difficult to find out anything about the activity and noise level. Do you have any recommendations?
Hi Carol, my best recommendation is to talk to your potential neighbours to ask their experience. Rules for blowing the horn vary by state and province. You might look for white posts with a “W” on them a quarter mile from the crossings – these tell the train crews it’s time to blow the horn for the crossing. If you see a sign with a W with a line through it, that means no horn at that crossing.
Thank you so much for that information! It will come in handy while looking for a home in that area. Take care!
Thank you for writing down this article. I am a newbie researcher on the freight trains and found there is little research on it. My friend told me as far as he knows, there is no schedule on frieght trains. I googled a bit and it led me here. May I ask in your article, which country/region are you referring to?
Hi, I’m referring to North American trains (US and Canada) in general. I can’t speak to other countries as I haven’t studied their train systems in great detail.
Thanks Steve! I am working in Europe. From the talks I had with others, it is almost the same as what you described.
Today I am searching for a general introduction about how does the freight train scheduling system work. Do you have any book recommendations or other materials you think could help?
I just listened to a podcast that might help… they talked about how trains are planned.
Hi Steve, are you able to tell me if the CN tracks that cross over Ford Drive in Oakville, Ontario are still in use? I’ve been driving down that street for 5 months now, and have never seen a train, but curious. I can’t seem to find any relevant information on that section. Thanks in advance!
Hi Jon, that is the CN Oakville subdivision, running between downtown Toronto and Hamilton. I’d imagine there is a lot of traffic – maybe a lot runs at night?
we are looking at buying near yonge and summerhill and wondering how often, and for how long the trains run and from when to when.
I’m assuming you mean the Toronto area. The line crossing Yonge a few streets south of Summerhill is the CP main line, so you should expect fairly frequent traffic and long trains. However they don’t appear to cross roads at grade so there shouldn’t be horn noises or blocked crossings.
I live in Chatham Ontario. The train traffic here has increased dramatically. There’s used to be about a 6 trains a day pass by. Now there are at least 20. Seems strange such a large increase.
That is very strange, Eric! Which railway(s) do you see the increase on?
My son and I frequently go train spotting on Sundays to Washago In Ontario . We would dearly like to knowcapproximate times. Recently observing both CN and CP seem active between 1- 4.pm any thoughts. Company on Thanksgiving we would like to show. We have to travel from Midland
Hi Ev, good luck but I’m afraid I don’t have any ideas of when a freight train would go through Washago. VIA Rail’s “Canadian” does go through there so you could check their web site.
Hey Steve, there’s a train that passes through my old school, slightly north-west of the Bayview and Steeles intersection. Do you know any times that the train would pass, and what type of train it is?
Hi Alex, it looks like the CN main line. I would expect a fair amount of train traffic of all kinds.
You do such amazing work. Really appreciate your time.
I am looking at a property at 1 Station in Parry Sound. It doesn’t look like it has passenger trains but freight. Any idea how busy this would be?
hi steve, i live in whitby, ontario, and i was wondering how often cp trains pass over the garden street bridge or anywhere in that vicinity, thanks.
Hi Liam, the CP main line runs through Whitby so I would expect to see at least a half dozen to a dozen trains a day at least.
Any idea when a commercial freight train would pass over Hwy 27 to 427. How many times a day. Would be helpful since they put Hwy 427 in as traffic is backed up for miles, up RuTherford and Hwy 27, would be helpful to know the approximate
Time to avoid the back up cars doing crazy things like u turns and traffic drivers anger management
Hi Mag, I’m not sure exactly where you are referring to. I think it’s near Pearson but I’m not sure. Regardless, there is no public schedule so it’s hard to know when a train will pass by.
Hi I was wondering if there was a way to possibly know how many freight trains pass through London daily.
I’m interested in crossings in the Halton, Milton and West Mississauga area.
I’ve heard talk and seen plans for a rail depot in Milton. It looks to me that it will be south of Steeles Ave and north of Britannia, west of Hwy 25.
If I am right, that is in the middle of a new subdivision.
I’ve taken pictures from the bridge on Britannia, and now the new bridge.
I get lost crossing the street…..but…..am I the only one……Lost In Milton??
Hi Gord, thanks! It looks like https://cnmilton.com/ (CN Milton) has all the info. There’s not a lot of free space in the GTO area for a place like this!
I like trains but am looking into moving near the CP Kinnear siding in Hamilton. Since crew changes occur here, I am worried the train(s) may idle for too long, with too much vibration. What do you think? Thanks!
Hi Elizabeth, I honestly don’t know – it would depend on how close you would be living, how much noise or vibration you can tolerate, and many other factors.
Hi, just wondering the train schedule through Sylvan Lake, Alberta. Tks
Hi Rick, that’s the CN Brazeau subdivision. I don’t know the schedule but it’s not a main line.
Looking at a property in Puslich, ON (Hamilton/Guelph border). It’s off Gore Rd, west of Hwy 6. Do you know how often the trains run there?
Hi Jodie, that’s the CP Galt subdivision through there. I don’t know how often trains run there but I imagine there would be a few per day at least.
I am looking for information about how to track my shipping containers when they transload from Jax Port to GPA via railroad? Do you have any acknowledge that you would like to share with me ? I have been searching for days and I found completely nothing! Looking forward to hearing back from you, thanks a bunch!
I think each of the container shipping companies have a way to track containers on their own web sites. Railways have private sites to track individual rail cars but you have to be a customer of the railway to be able to use them. For example ONE is here: https://ecomm.one-line.com/ecom/CUP_HOM_3301.do – or you could try this for multiple container companies: http://container-tracking.org/maersk/ – I honestly don’t know anything about the site.
Hello. I wonder if you would know approximately how long a freight train would take to get from KC to Toronto?
1600 km by road… figure an average speed of 40 km/hr including stops, 40 hours.
Hello there, there are some train tracks near Lake River in Vancouver Washington in the Felida area. We are looking to buy a home in the area but are concerned about the noise level. We do not know if these are passenger train tracks or freight/cargo train or both. We have asked the realtor but of course they never give a straight answer. Would you happen to know any information about these train tracks or the frequency in which we would hear the train. We would be so grateful if you had any insight about them. Many, many thanks in advance.
Hi Mary, I’m certainly not an expert in that area, but that line running along Lake River by Felida is owned by BNSF. I think it’s the Seattle subdivision. I imagine it is pretty busy as it looks like a main line track. The Amtrak Cascades train uses that track too, I believe.
Please excuse the late reply. I did not get an email notification saying that a response had been posted. Thank you very, very much for this information. It is actually extremely helpful and you were right. We were told by BNSF that approximately 30-35 trains would pass through there. On the contrary, you are quite the expert and you’ve extremely helpful.
Many thanks again.
Hi Mary, I’m glad my information was helpful. 30-35 trains a day is a busy line!
I am looking at a home in Genoa IL and there is a train track by the back yard and wonder if the train tracks are used often. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Hi Maggie, I see there are two rail lines through Genoa. The east-west line is Canadian Pacific (IC&E) and the north-south (diagonal) line is CN. I don’t know the area at all but I would guess the CN line is busier based on the look of the line.
You’re the man Steve!
My names Corbin. I’m looking at buying property in Bala Ontario. There is a CP railway that runs through the property and I’m curious to know if there’s a way to see the frequency of usage ( times, days etc etc).
Hi Corbin, that’s the CP Parry Sound subdivision. It’s part of CP’s main line so you would see long trains going any time of the day. I believe CN and CP cooperate so you’ll see both railways on this line. Note that the CN Bala subdivision also goes through Bala.
Steve, we are looking at a house straight south of Indianapolis. It is the INRD or Indiana Rail Road that parallels the 135 for a while. We are in Greenwood Indiana. We were told it may run two to five times a day. Do you have any way to corroberate this frequency? I’m ok with 2-5 times, just not 35 times daily. Also, if you do know the frequency, any idea on when (morning, mid day, middle of night, etc. Also, ideas on speed of train? Looks to be freight.
Hi Michael, I’m not familiar with the area or the railway. If it’s a short line, I’d be surprised it if it ran more than a few times per day. Often there are speed limit signs along the railroad (in MPH) that can tell you the limits.
I am considering a real estate purchase in Fernie, BC and am looking for information on approximate frequency of fright train traffic. Any help or guidance you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
Hi Seth, Fernie is on CP’s south main line through the mountains. It won’t be as busy as the Banff-Lake Louise line but I would expect several long freight trains per day… mostly bulk trains like coal or potash trains.
Thank you Steve. Much appreciated.
hey im trying to figure out when freight trains pass my in lemars Iowa that way i know when to leave for work with ease.
I wonder how often the trains pass in Lexington NC, near Abbid St. Some houses being sold around there, but not too sure if the trains pass there everyday or every month.
Hi Eli, that’s the Winston Salem Southbound Railroad (https://www.wvncrails.org/winston-salem-southbound-railway.html). It’s a short line so I don’t imagine it has a lot of traffic – it could be daily or weekly service.
Hi Steve, looking to purchase in Smyrna GA, just west of Cobb Pkwy off Spring Rd. Trains are long and loud. Any idea of the activity level? Thanks!
Hi Patsy, Smyrna is on the CSX Atlanta Terminal Subdivision. I expect it is quite busy. There are certainly a lot of YouTube videos of CSX trains in Smyrna. Keep in mind that I’ve never been in Georgia…
Hello, Steve. I am look for general schedule of freight trains that run through Grand Prairie, Texas. I have tried to ‘guess,’ based on when I have had to stop for them, but I cannot seem to get it right. Thank you.
HI Sheryl, freight generally doesn’t run on a set schedule so there’s no way to predict exactly when they will go through a particular town.
Looking at a house in old Bedford NS. How often do trains run on the line that runs up the west side of the Bedford Basin?
That’s the CN Dartmouth subdivision. There’s a daily gypsum train that runs between Wright’s Cove and Milford, NS. There’s also a daily freight train between Dartmouth and Moncton. Beyond that there may be industrial switching in Burnside.
I’m in Georgetown, Ontario and am looking to shoot some stock photography of rail travel over a bridge. VIA & GO have schedules for departures & arrivals. I also know there is also a lot of freight that goes through Georgetown.
Having browsed your responses to many of the questions posted above, I know there is no schedule per se for freight. Would it be safe to say that a rough idea of trains transiting could be figured out around the scheduled services?
Any insights would be helpful.
Love your site – keep up the great work!
Hi Bill, the passenger schedules will help you determine when VIA and GO might cross that bridge. The freight trains likely run more off-hours but given that it is the CN Halton sub, I imagine freight trains could run at any time.
Great site and info, thank you.I live in Michigan and am normally woke up by trains a cpl of times a night on their way to Port Huron. I haven’t heard anything in a few days now. I find this troubling given the current supply chain issues. Thoughts?
Sometimes there’s a derailment or broken rail that will cause an interruption in traffic. I imagine it’s temporary and you’ll hear those trains again soon.
Sometimes, however, the railways choose to use a different route for some of their trains and the traffic patterns will change.
We are staying at an Airbnb in Ripley, New York. I believe two lines run though the town, CSX and Norfolk Southern. A NS worker in town told me about 70 CSX trains run through a day and about 10-20 NS trains. Any other info you may Have?
The CSX line through Ripley is the Lake Shore subdivision. It hosts Amtrak. It looks like the max speed in the area is 75 MPH for passenger trains, 60 MPH for intermodal trains, and 50 MPH for freight trains.
I’m sorry but I don’t have any information on the NS line.
My grandson LOVES watching freight train videos. I’d like to take him to see the real deal.
Do you know where in the Ottawa area or towns nearby that I might accomplish this?
If possible, a schedule(s) would also be much appreciated.
Hello Sherrie, I’m glad your grandson is interested in trains! Unfortunately there are very few freight trains around Ottawa. If you head to Smiths Falls or Brockville you will see a lot more. For Ottawa action you may want to visit this blog by an Ottawa train blogger: https://beachburg.blogspot.com/
Very helpful site and I am looking to rent a place around Coburg Crescent, Richmond Hill, ON L4B 4E4. There is a railway across the street I think has both Go Train and CN train passing by. Any idea about the activity and noise level? Much appericated!
Hi Ashley, that’s the CN Bala subdivision, definitely a busy rail line.
I am looking for a schedule for the Chattooga and Chickamauga railway.
Or about what time and day they come through
Hi Matthew, I’d love to help you, but as I said at the top of the post, freight schedules aren’t public.. and shortlines especially don’t run on schedules.
Hi Steve… I appreciate you won’t have a schedule but you seem to have a keen sense of how busy rail lines are. I’m particularly interested in the CPR Havelock subdivision. Any thoughts on how busy that sub is? It runs through Durham Region, parallel to and north of the 407.
Hello Greg, I can’t imagine the CP Havelock subdivision is very busy, given that it is a dead end. There are industrial customers in Peterborough so I imagine the western end is busier than the Peterborough-Havelock section.
This video shows a local train in Havelock: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Td2JQ168b0
My guess is a once daily train but I don’t know.