What Products Are Transported by Train?

When a train passes by, you might ask what products are being transported by that train. There are a few ways to tell, but in some cases you really can’t tell.

Here are some products that are transported by train:

  • Consumer goods
  • Bulk materials like potash, grain, fertilizer, gasoline, or sand
  • Vehicles like automobiles, trucks
  • Large dimensional loads like bridge parts or windmill blades
  • Manufactured goods like lumber, steel beams

The type of rail car used can give you some ideas of what is being carried.

Tank cars carry liquids, and are often pressurized or kept at a certain temperature. Some examples include gasoline or diesel fuel, crude oil, chemicals, and hazardous materials. Usually a placard on the side of the tank car will identify the type of material being carried.

Covered hoppers usually carry solid materials that can flow, like grain, sand or fertilizer. The size and shape of the hopper usually determines what it can hold.

Flatcars can carry a wide variety of materials that can be strapped down. There are specialized flatcars for particular loads. For example, some have a central bulkhead to strap items like finished lumber to, while others have a bulkhead at each end to secure items like pipes or steel beams. There are also flatcars with stakes along the sides that can carry poles or tree trunks.

Boxcars can carry a wide variety of items. Larger boxcars can carry finished paper rolls inside for example, or auto parts.

Containers carry a huge variety of items, from consumer goods to chemicals to grain and more.

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