Rail transport is a means of conveyance of passengers and goods by way of wheeled vehicles running on rail tracks. Traditionally, trains are pulled using a locomotive. This involves single or multiple powered vehicles being located at the front of the train and providing sufficient adhesion to haul the weight of the full train. This remains dominant for freight trains and is often used for passenger trains.

Freight trains are very efficient, with economy of scale and high energy efficiency. Container trains have become the dominant type in North America for non-bulk haulage. Containers can easily be transshipped to other modes, such as ships and trucks, using cranes. This has succeeded the boxcar where the cargo had to be loaded and unloaded into the train manually. The intermodal containerization of cargo has revolutionized the supply chain logistics industry, reducing shipping costs significantly.

In addition to trains themselves, specialized equipment is used in the “maintenance of way” required to keep the tracks in proper form, capable of supporting the trains and the massive loads they carry.

Photo: Julia Adamson