Heaviest trains

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The heaviest trains in the world are freight trains hauling bulk commodities such as coal and iron ore.

The weight of trains generally do not include the weight of the operating locomotives; this is not considered dead weight so is not included. If for example a train had two locomotives operating and was simply hauling a third off line, this third locomotive would be included in the payload weight.



If the track and its alignment are strong, gauge is not so important. Among railways with over 20,000 t (19,684 long tons; 22,046 short tons), the Sishen–Saldanha railway line use 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in), while the others use 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge.

Most Pilbara region Railways operate on pre-stressed 68 kg/m (137 lb/yd) rail,[citation needed] meaning that each metre of track weighs 68 kg or each yard of track weighs 137 pounds. This gives the track the strength to carry such heavy loads.

Axle load[edit]

The highest permitted weight per axle is:


The track bed and the strength of the rails themselves limit the axle load.

line load[edit]

line load is the weight per metre or foot of train length. The strength of bridges is what mainly limits this. Examples:

  • 12 tonnes per metre (3.60 long ton/ft; 4.03 short ton/ft) (Iron Ore Line, Sweden)


Curves must not be too sharp, otherwise wagons may be pulled off the track and derailed, especially with general freight trains where light and heavy wagons are intermixed. The meaning of "too sharp" depends as much on experience as on a specific formula.[citation needed]


The couplers must be strong enough in heavy trains. Janney couplers are used for the heaviest trains. The SA3 couplers handle trains of 6,000–8,000 tonnes (5,910–7,870 long tons; 6,610–8,820 short tons), as Russian trains limited by loop lengths, etc.; maximum load of SA3 couplers have not been tested. The standard buffers and chain couplers used in Europe can only handle 3,000–4,000 tonnes (2,950–3,940 long tons; 3,310–4,410 short tons) train weight, but trials are made to push this limit to 5,400 tonnes (5,310 long tons; 5,950 short tons).[3][4]



  • Fortescue – 40,000 t (39,400 long tons; 44,100 short tons) gross train weight, 2,700 m (3,000 yd) long[5]
  • Glencore 9,000 t (8,900 long tons; 9,900 short tons) (load) 1,500 m (1,600 yd) long. These Trains have been operated by Freightliner Australia, however with the purchase of Freightliner by Genesee & Wyoming this has most likely changed.
  • QR National (now Aurizon): 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge bulk iron ore train to Esperance, 11,000 t (10,800 long tons; 12,100 short tons) (load); 14,500 t (14,300 long tons; 16,000 short tons) (gross) 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) 32,320 t (31,810 long tons; 35,630 short tons) (gross weight excluding diesel locomotives) 40 t or 39 long tons or 44 short tons axleload)
  • Specialised Container Transport/; 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) freighter from Parkes to Perth, June 2008, 6,000 t (5,900 long tons; 6,600 short tons) and 1,800 m (2,000 yd) with diesel locomotives / (crossing loops are 1,800 m or 2,000 yd)
  • BHP Billiton: 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) June 2001 trial with 682 ore cars and eight distributed GE AC6000CW locomotives[6] with a total weight of 99,734 t (98,159 long tons; 109,938 short tons).[7]
  • BHP Billiton 39,680 tonnes (39,050 long tons; 43,740 short tons) [8]
  • Genesee & Wyoming Australia 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) bulk iron ore train to Whyalla - 82 wagons and 1,752 metres (1,916 yd) long, 12,254 t (12,060 long tons; 13,508 short tons)
  • Arrium 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) - 13,000 tonnes (12,800 long tons; 14,300 short tons) (4 locos, 160 wagons) - heaviest on national network.[9]



1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)


  • Daqin: 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge coal trains – 20,000 tonnes (19,700 long tons; 22,000 short tons), 3,200 m (3,500 yd), 210 wagons[12]


  • SNCF: 947 m long freight train with 67 wagons – 5,410 tonnes (5,320 long tons; 5,960 short tons). Train was composed of two coupled ordinary freight trains using standard buffers and chain couplers. Therefore, the locomotive of the second train became a mid train helper, but was still manually operated. The first train consisted of two locomotives BB 27000 with 44 flat cars loaded with steel plates, the second train consisted of one BB 27000 with 23 coal hoppers. The train run in the night from 28. to 29. October from Somain to Woippy and reached a maximum speed of 100 km/h (62 mph). More tests on the same route are planned for spring 2016. The regular service shall start in December 2017 with remote controlled mid train helpers.[4]

Germany / Netherlands[edit]


  • Proposed – Kalia iron ore – 20,000 t (19,684 long tons; 22,046 short tons) – 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge – iron ore[13]


The heaviest trains length is 750m and weighing 4000 tons.

And a recorded 12000 tons train in 1993 with 100 six axle iron ore cars pulled by 6 GT26CW locomotives in three positions, Front, middle and at the end connected by locotrol.


  • Existing – 800 t (790 long tons; 880 short tons) – 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge
  • Proposed – 4,000 t (3,940 long tons; 4,410 short tons) – 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
  • Improvement due to heavier 60 kg/m (121 lb/yd) rail, gentler curves and gradients.


Russia / Finland[edit]

  • The longest and heaviest freight train ran as a test train on February 20, 1986, from Ekibastuz to the Urals was carried out with a coal train. The composition consisted of 439 wagons and several diesel locomotives distributed along the train. The mass of is 43,400 tonnes (42,700 long tons; 47,800 short tons) and the total length of 6.5 kilometres (4.0 mi).[citation needed]
  • Chita - Zabaykalsk (break of gauge at Chinese border) up from 4,000 to 6,300 tonnes (3,940 to 6,200 long tons; 4,410 to 6,940 short tons).[14] Russia uses special SA3 couplers allowing higher weight than in most of Europe.
  • In 2014 Russian Railways presented a new locomotive called 4ES5K adopted for 7,100-tonne (6,990-long-ton; 7,830-short-ton) trains to be put into operation in 2015.
  • The heaviest trains in Finland weigh approximately 5,400 tonnes (5,310 long tons; 5,950 short tons) and carry iron ore pellets (taconite) from the mines and processing plant in Kostomuksha, Russia. They go from Kostomuksha to Oulu, Finland, as 60-car unit trains measuring approximately 880 metres (2,890 ft) in length. In Finland these trains are hauled by two Sr2 class electric locomotives at 25 kV 50 Hz AC while in Russia trains are hauled by double-section 2TE116 class diesel engines. Due to the restrictions caused by passing loop lengths between Oulu and the port of Kokkola the trains are shortened to 30-40 cars in Oulu and are usually operated with Sr1 class electric locomotives for the rest of the way. The trains use exclusively Russian rolling stock and are equipped with SA3 couplers.

Saudi Arabia[edit]

  • Freight trains on the new North-South will carry 15,000 t (14,800 long tons; 16,500 short tons) and be 100 wagons long.[15] Later estimates are for 15,000 t (14,800 long tons; 16,500 short tons) and 155 wagons.[16]

Sierra Leone[edit]

Sierra Leone had a 762 mm (2 ft 6 in) narrow gauge railway with 5 t axleloads. Train loads were necessarily very limited, which increased costs counter-productively, as large numbers of small trains were needed to haul tonnages that heavier railways could haul with fewer trains. For example, in 1956 fourteen modern 4-8-2+2-8-4 Garratts were purchased from Beyer-Peacock.[17] These locos increased the maximum load over 1:50 grades from 200 tons (203 tonnes) to 270 tons (274 tonnes).

South Africa[edit]

  • Sishen–Saldanha railway line: 41,400 t (40,700 long tons; 45,600 short tons). (Gross weight) 3,875 m (4,238 yd) long, 9 locomotives in 4 sets remote distributed power management (342 cars with 100 t (98 long tons; 110 short tons) ore each) [18] Uses 25 kV 50 Hz AC.
  • Manganese: 16,640 t (16,380 long tons; 18,340 short tons) [19]

Sweden / Norway[edit]

  • On the Iron Ore Line which goes between Luleå, Sweden and Narvik, Norway, iron ore trains are hauled by 360 t (350 long tons; 400 short tons) IORE locomotives. These 8,660 t (8,520 long tons; 9,550 short tons) trains (incl locomotive) are the heaviest in Europe. Special SA3 couplers, and 15 kV 16 23 Hz electrification are used. The iron trains go either Kiruna-Narvik or Gällivare-Luleå. Other very heavy trains go in flat areas but these trains go through a mountain range, although the uphill grades are at most 10 (1 %) in the direction with loaded trains. Other heavy trains in Sweden are no more than 3,500 t (3,400 long tons; 3,900 short tons) limited by buffers and chain couplers.


  • 3,250 t (3,200 long tons; 3,580 short tons) – electric hauled[20]

United States[edit]

World Record[edit]

The world heaviest train record is registered as follow:

Australia, BHP: 2001, trial with 682 ore cars and eight distributed GE AC6000CW locomotives[6] with a total weight of 99,734 t (98,159 tons)

South Africa, Sishen Saldanha: 1989, 660 fully laden ore trucks, nine electric locomotives, seven Diesel engines and three other cars made the journey,(70,543 tons train took 12 minutes to pass by the watching engineers. (http://www.theheritageportal.co.za/article/south-africas-world-record-breaking-train)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.fmgl.com.au/irm/ShowStaticCategory.aspx?CategoryID=213&HideTopLine=True
  2. ^ http://www.pandrol.com/index.php?/news/story/pandrol_double_heavy_haul_acceptance_the_longest_and_the_heaviest/
  3. ^ "SNCF and RFF put Europe’s longest train to the test | SNCF". www.sncf.com. Retrieved 2016-01-31. 
  4. ^ a b "Neues in Kürze: Frankreich SNCF". Eisenbahn Amateur: 75. February 2016. ISSN 0013-2764. 
  5. ^ Barrow, Keith. "Pilbara’s heavyweight champion flexes its muscles". Retrieved 2 April 2017. 
  6. ^ William C. Vantuono (April 2002). "Control this! how distributed power helps railroads handle the world's longest, heaviest trains. demonstration union train – BHP Iron Ore Australia". Railway Age. findarticles.com. Retrieved 2008-11-16. 
  7. ^ "Hamersley Freight Line - Railway Technology". 
  8. ^ "Freight train tonnages". Retrieved 2 April 2017. 
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-12-03. Retrieved 2013-11-25. 
  10. ^ http://www.vale.com.br/en-us/o-que-fazemos/logistica/ferrovias/estrada-de-ferro-carajas/pages/default.aspx
  11. ^ Trains magazine, February 2012 p38
  12. ^ Railway Gazette International August 2009, p25
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-10-13. Retrieved 2010-05-28. 
  14. ^ Забайкальская железная дорога | Инвестиционный проект "Южный ход" | Общие сведения Archived 2011-10-09 at the Wayback Machine. (Transbaikal Railway: The Southern Branch investment project: General information) (in Russian)
  15. ^ "Saudi Arabia Rail Line to Begin Freight Movement This Year". Retrieved 2 April 2017. 
  16. ^ Railway Gazette International July 2011, p8.
  17. ^ RailwaysAfrica September 2009, p14
  18. ^ Kemm, Kelvin. "SA features prominently in history of rail transport". Retrieved 2 April 2017. 
  19. ^ Africa, Railways. "FIRST 208-WAGON MANGANESE TRAIN". Retrieved 2 April 2017. 
  20. ^ http://journals.pepublishing.com/content/p11784725w087873/
  21. ^ http://www.uprr.com/aboutup/maps/attachments/allow_gross_full.pdf
  22. ^ Extreme Trains, Episode 1

External links[edit]