Longest trains

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Mauritania Railway iron ore train at the station in Nouadhibou.

The length of a train, including the longest trains, may be measured in number of wagons (for bulk loads such as coal and iron ore) or in metres for general freight. Train lengths and loads on electrified railways, especially lower voltage 3000 V DC and 1500 V DC, are limited by traction power considerations. Drawgear and couplings can be a limiting factor, tied in with curves, gradients and crossing loop lengths.

Conventional freight trains in the USA can average nearly 2,000 metres (6,600 ft).[1] Freight trains with a total length of three or four times that average are possible with the advent of distributed power units, or additional locomotive engines between or behind long chains of freight cars (referred to as a "consist"). Power units enable much longer, heavier loads without the increased risks of derailing that stem from the stress of pulling very long chains of train-cars around curves.


A BHP Billiton Iron Ore train with 264 cars heads out of Port Hedland on the Mount Newman railway towards Newman, Western Australia, with lead units at right, and distributed power units at left.[2]
  • Rail gauge: 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) except where shown.
  • Australia
    • Rio Tinto—29,500 tonnes of iron ore—2.4 km, three locomotives
    • BHP Billiton iron ore train has typically 268 cars and a train weight of 43,000 tonnes carrying 24,200 tonnes of iron ore, 2.8 km long, two SD70ACe locomotives at the head of the train and two remote controlled SD70ACe locomotives as mid-train helpers[3]
      • BHP Billiton used to run iron ore trains of 336 car length, 44,500 tonnes of iron ore, over 3 km long, six to eight locomotives including intermediate remote unit. This operation seems to have ceased since the trunk line was fully double tracked in May 2011.[4]
      • The record-breaking ore train from the same company, 682 cars and 7,300 m long, once carried 82,000 metric tons of ore for a total weight of the train, largest in the world, of 99734 tonnes. It was driven by eight locomotives distributed along its length to keep the couplings loads and curve performance controllable.[5]
    • Leigh Creek coal—2.8 km, 161 wagons and 2 locomotives.[6][7]
    • Cane tramway - 75 wagons (610 mm (2 ft) gauge) [8]
  • Brazil
    • Carajás Railway 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in) gauge iron ore typically 330-car trains, each 3 km long.[9]
    • VLI 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in) Grain with 160 Hopper or 80 Hopper+72 FTTs (for pulp transport) about 3.2 km (2 mile) long [10]
  • China
  • Mauritania—3 km[11]—iron ore from Zouérat—trains lurch violently when accelerating or braking
  • Indonesia (proposed)
  • South Africa


A BNSF train of loaded well cars (or double-stack cars) at Caliente, California, United States.
Indian Railways term this as increased vehicle length (IVL). This reduces the traffic in this single-lined region; two goods train attached back to back, each train is led by two diesel electric locomotives.
  • 1000 m
  • 835 m—In Denmark and to Hamburg, Germany; 2 locos and 82 waggons.[19][20]
  • 800 m—RVR in East Africa (Kenya–Uganda) to introduce longer trains, which needs longer crossing loops.
  • 750 m – Normal for mainlines in several countries in Europe.
  • 750 m – UIC standard single length train
  • 400 m – New South Wales steam era, where lengths also limited by practical length of crossing loops mechanically operated from signal boxes.


Two DB AG ICE 3 trains combined, on the Fils Valley Railway, near Lonsee, Germany.
  • Australia – up to 44 coaches (approximately 1.2 km) on The Ghan[21]
  • Japan – Tōkaidō Shinkansen N700 16-car trainset 404 m
  • The Netherlands – up to 15 coaches (five 3-coach NS Intercity Materieel trains combined)[22] – 403 m
  • Sweden – 17 coaches (26.7 m each plus two Rc locomotives at 15.4 m) – 484 m between Stockholm and Luleå. Sometimes charter trains are longer than that, e.g. 22 coaches, 530 m on 24–25 February 2012.[23]
  • Denmark – five ER ("IR4") electrical train sets combined – 380 m
  • Germany – two ICE 3 trains combined – 402 m
  • German Democratic Republic – up to 22 cars BerlinDresden (– Prague) ca. 500 m
  • France – two TGV Atlantique trains combined – 476 m
  • United Kingdom, Belgium, France – Eurostar / British Rail Class 373 (20-car multiple unit) – 394 m
  • United States — Auto Train between Lorton, Virginia, and Sanford, Florida — up to 50 cars. 4 or 5 coaches, 1 lounge, 3 diners, 6 sleepers, one transition sleeper and up to 35 autoracks.
  • United States – Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus trains – longest privately operated passenger trains in the world at nearly sixty cars each. Two trains, the Red unit and the Blue unit, tour the country in an overlapping two-year cycle. Each circus train consists of around 40–45 passenger cars with dorm rooms for the circus performers and crews, four animal cars usually placed at the front of the train for a smoother ride, a dining car referred to as the "pie car", a generator car to provide power to the train, two merchandise boxcars and 15–20 flatcars carrying circus vehicles and containers.
  • India – 24-coach trains are standard for most popular long distance services, which translates to approximately 600 meters per train.
  • Canada – The Canadian transcontinental train may have 33 cars during peak season (May to September)
  • Russia - two combined Sapsan trains - approx. 500 m
  • USSR/Russia – 32 coaches – 846 m; total weight of 1,920 tonnes, using locomotive ChS7 or ChS8.[24]
  • Indonesia:
  1. Kertajaya[25] economy service between Surabaya and Jakarta, and Tawang Jaya[26] economy service between Semarang and Jakarta – 17 coaches in testing, shortened to 16 coaches in operation – total length of 320 m, total weight of approximately 480 tons, using a single GE CM20EMP engine.
  2. KA Commuter Jabodetabek – 12-car trainsets operated in Bogor Line and Bekasi Line,[27] using former JR East Nambu Line and Yokohama Line 205 series electric multiple units – total length of 240 m

The length of passenger trains generally has to match the length of platforms, especially high-level platforms. These platforms cannot always be extended to suit extended train lengths due to bridges, tunnels, pointwork, narrowing track centers and stabling yards, though "selective door opening" can help long trains stop at short platforms.

Special test runs[edit]

(These are one-off to set records)

Bulk (ore, coal etc)[edit]

  • Australia BHP Run on 21 June 2001, comprising 682 wagons and hauled by eight 6000 hp General Electric GE AC6000CW diesel-electric locomotives controlled by a single driver with a total length of 7.352 km on the 275 km iron ore railway to Port Hedland in Western Australia – total weight 99,734 tons[28]
  • South Africa Sishen–Saldanha, South Africa. Run on 26–27 August 1989, comprising 660 wagons, 7.302 kilometres (4.537 mi) long and a total weight of 71 765 tons. The train comprised 16 locomotives (9 Class 9E 50 kV AC electric and 7 Class 37 diesel-electric).[29][30]
  • Soviet Union Bulk coal train from Ekibastuz to the Urals, Soviet Union, 20 February 1986. The train consisted of 439 wagons and several diesel locomotives distributed along the train with a total mass of 43,400 tonnes and a total length of 6.5 kilometres (4.0 mi).[31]
  • United States Unit coal train from Iaeger, West Virginia to Portsmouth, Ohio, 15 November 1967. The train consisted of 500 cars and several diesel-electric locomotives distributed throughout the train for a total weight of over 42,000 tons and total length of 6.5 kilometres (4.0 mi).

General cargo[edit]

  • United States Union Pacific, United States. Run from 8–10 January 2010, consisting of 296 container cars and hauled by nine diesel-electric locomotive spread through the train with a total length of 18,000 feet (3.4 mi; 5.5 km), from a terminal in Texas to Los Angeles. Around 618 double-stacked containers were carried at speeds up to 70 mph/112 km/h. 14,059 t.[32][33]
  • United States BNSF, United States, 2010—12,832 feet (2.4303 mi; 3.911 km) [34]


  • Netherlands KijfhoekBreda, Netherlands. Run on 19 February 1989, as a test and publicity stunt what would become the longest passenger train in the world. The train was pulled by one 1500 V DC locomotive and had 60 passenger cars, of which only the first 14 cars held actual passengers during the run.[35]
  • Belgium GhentOostende, Belgium. On 27 April 1991, one electric locomotive and 70 passenger cars (totalling 1733 m and 2786 ton, excluding locomotive) held a charity run for the Belgian Cancer Fund, thereby exceeding the Dutch record.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Popular Mechanics: http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/engineering/extreme-machines/4345689
  2. ^ According to count of visible cars in the pic and Google Earth imagery of 2011.
  3. ^ According to count of visible cars in Google Earth imagery of April 2015.
  4. ^ "BHP RGP5 Railway. Pilbara Region. Australia". Retrieved 2016-01-06. 
  5. ^ "BHP breaks its own 'heaviest train' record". Railway Gazette. Retrieved 2016-01-07. 
  6. ^ http://www.pomgonewalkabout.com/Page3.htm
  7. ^ "Leigh Creek Coal Now Major Asset.". The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931–1954). Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia. 7 October 1954. p. 3. Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  8. ^ Light Railways October 2013, pg 22
  9. ^ http://www.vale.com.br/en-us/o-que-fazemos/logistica/ferrovias/estrada-de-ferro-carajas/pages/default.aspx
  10. ^ http://www.oprogressonet.com/geral/vli-comeca-operar-frota-de-locomotivas-da-ferrovia-norte-sul/47105.html
  11. ^ Railways Africa—MAURITANIA’S LONG TRAIN
  12. ^ Railway Gazette International November 2010, p56
  13. ^ http://www.ihha2011.org/doc-pdf/heavy_haul_operations_south_africa.pdf
  14. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 May 2010. Retrieved 2009-11-22. 
  15. ^ Railway Gazette International May 2014, pg9
  16. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=felyEKqUxvE
  17. ^ Modern Railways Jan 2009, p71
  18. ^ Railway Gazette International April 2011
  19. ^ 835 m lange Güterzüge zwischen Padborg (DK) und Maschen geplant
  20. ^ Modern Railways November 2012, p78
  21. ^ http://www.traveller.com.au/the-ghan-set-to-become-australias-longest-passenger-train-gp42y5 The Ghan set to become Australia's longest passenger train
  22. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0a3xCx8FQ9g
  23. ^ Långt tåg vid vattendrag (in Swedish with photo). It departs as two trains because of platform length but is combined shortly after.
  24. ^ http://railbook.net/?mod=articles&art=11
  25. ^ Kertajaya Train with Long Consist, A New Alternative for Passengers
  26. ^ KAI Launches Tawang Jaya Train with Long Consist
  27. ^ Soon Operates 12-Car Trainsets Jawa Pos
  28. ^ "Hamersley Freight Line—Railway Technology". Railway Technology. Retrieved 2011-10-17. 
  29. ^ Four world rain records shattered by the SA Transport Services (1989)
  30. ^ Re: Longest freight train in the U.S.
  31. ^ Kazakhstan railways
  32. ^ "Safety, traffic concerns raised when 3.5-mile-long freight train rolls through L.A. Basin". LA Times. Retrieved 2011-10-17. 
  33. ^ Railway Gazette International March 2010, p7.
  34. ^ http://www.railwaysafrica.com/2009/08/long-bnsf-trains/
  35. ^ a b De langste reizigerstrein ter wereld