We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Freight Train?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
WikiMotors is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WikiMotors, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A freight train is a train which is used to carry cargo, in contrast to passengers. Freight trains consist of at least one engine and a chain of train cars which are coupled together. People use trains to carry freight all over the world, with costs for shipping by train being generally lower than those for air freight or truck freight. However, freight trains are less flexible for shipping than trucks, planes, and ships, since they must stick to the regions where tracks are available for use.

People have been using freight trains for cargo ever since the train was invented. Trains have a number of advantages when it comes to shipping cargo, including the capability of pulling a very heavy load with a surprisingly low use of energy. A single powerful locomotive can pull a very long train of freight cars, with some companies using multiple locomotives in what is known as a locomotive assist. Locomotive assists are used for extremely long freight trains to ensure that the train has enough power to get over steep hills.

There are a number of ways in which freight can be packaged on a freight train. Classically, freight trains carried goods in bulk in boxcars or wagons, and this technique is still used for some things. More commonly, freight trains are loaded with shipping containers. Containerization allows goods to be moved easily between ships, trains, and trucks without the need for repacking. Freight trains also have specialized cars like refrigerated cars for food, and specially-built racks for loading cars.

In some nations, railroads and trucking companies have come up with a creative cooperative shipping method in which trucks drive straight up onto the flat cars of a freight train. This technique, known as “trailer on flat car” or “piggybacking,” can be extremely useful. It allows truckers to take advantage of the high speeds and efficiency of train travel, while ensuring that goods can reach their end destinations, even if those end destinations are beyond the reach of a freight train.

The rise of trucking, shipping, and flying freight has led some railroads to alter their methods of doing business in order to attract customers. Many companies have supported containerization and piggybacking to make it easier for customers to combine shipping methods, and the use of frequently scheduled trains also encourages customers, by assuring them that their goods will be moved quickly. The energy efficiency of using a freight train also became a selling point in the early 21st century, when many companies wanted to engage in more environmentally-responsible business practices, and the costs of fuel began to rise radically, making energy efficiency appealingly cheap as well as environmentally sound.

WikiMotors is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WikiMotors researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By angelBraids — On Apr 16, 2011

@yumdelish - I hear you on the eco friendly appeal of moving freight by train. However, it is hard to see how far this can go considering the limited routes available.

Is this less of a problem in Europe, where trains can easily cross from one country to another?

By yumdelish — On Apr 15, 2011

My boyfriend used to work in the freight train industry. I remember he spent most of our first date telling me some amazing facts about them! The only one I remember now is that they can run over 400 miles on a gallon of fuel.

That makes them a great asset to environmentally aware companies, and I would definitely support manufacturers who choose freight over air as a way of moving their goods around.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
WikiMotors, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WikiMotors, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.