A mixed train is a train that hauls both passenger and freight cars or wagons. In the early days of railways they were quite common, but by the 20th century they were largely confined to branch lines with little traffic. Because mixed trains involve the shunting of goods wagons at stations along the way, they provide passengers with a very slow service, and have largely disappeared today. Their use is also at variance with the separation of passenger and goods services into different subsidiaries by most modern railway administrations.
Africa and Asia
In parts of Asia and Africa, mixed trains are still the norm on routes with little traffic.
In Australia, mixed trains could also be called a "car goods", "goods train with car attached", or "mixed goods". This last term could cause confusion, as "mixed goods" in some other countries can refer to a freight train carrying multiple types of freight rather than just one commodity. In most states, a mixed train was technically a goods train with passenger accommodation, meaning it had lower priority over other trains and could be cancelled without notice if there was no goods to carry.
The Victorian Railways had a class of train called a "limited through mixed" which limited the amount of goods and ran to a set timetable and would be guaranteed to run even if there was no goods to carry.
In yet another form of mixed train, railmotors or railcars might haul a one or two goods wagons or a goods brake van carrying some freight.
Austria, Germany and Switzerland
In German-speaking countries, two main types of mixed train (Gemischter Zug) were distinguished: the GmP and the PmG.
The GmP was a "goods train with passenger service" (Güterzug mit Personenbeförderung); in other words a goods train that also had one or more coaches for the transportation of railway passengers. These were not an uncommon sight on branch lines and were run for the following reasons:
- Low numbers of passengers that did not warrant the use of dedicated passenger trains.
- Insufficient vehicles and/or railway staff to operate separate goods and passenger trains.
- High levels of traffic, which meant that goods and passenger services had to be combined.
The passenger coaches were located either in the centre or at the end of the train, so that passengers did not have to travel immediately behind the locomotive. However at times of the year when coaches required heating, the coaches had to run immediately behind the locomotive, because goods wagons usually had no heating pipes. One disadvantage for passengers was the slow speeds of a GmP, because it often had to wait a long time at stations en route whilst goods wagons were detached and added. This was one of the major reasons for the eventual disappearance of this type of train.
The Deutsche Bundesbahn continued to run GmP trains occasionally right into the 1980s. Today they are no longer to be found in Germany, Austria or Switzerland.
The other type of mixed train in German-speaking countries was the PmG or "passenger train with goods service" (Personenzug mit Güterbeförderung). The Deutsche Reichsbahn in East Germany continued to operate some of these trains until the early 1990s. In essence they comprised one or more goods wagons running behind the passenger coaches. Towards the end, no shunting of goods wagons took place at the intermediate stations. Even private railways used to run PmG trains, but they are rarely found today. Exceptions include e.g. ski trains in places like Interlaken which have an open wagon for ski equipment behind or ahead of the passenger coaches.
Mixed trains were once prolific in New Zealand. Although express trains operated on the main lines, it was often not profitable to run dedicated passenger services on rural branch lines and they were served solely by mixed trains. On the more significant provincial routes, it was not unusual for a dedicated passenger express to operate during seasons of peak traffic volume and for mixed trains to provide service during off-peak periods, such as in the case of the Rotorua Express in the late 19th century, or for the provincial express to operate twice or thrice weekly while mixed services ran daily, as in the case of the Taneatua Express.
The undesirability of mixed trains for passengers led the New Zealand Railways Department to investigate railcar technology in the early 20th century; overseas designs could not be directly introduced to New Zealand due to its rugged conditions, 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) narrow gauge track, and small loading gauge. Trials of railcars such as the RM class Model T Ford railbuses proved unsatisfactory and railcars rarely replaced mixed trains. When railcars became successful in the 1930s, they primarily replaced unprofitable provincial carriage trains, although some mixed services in regions including the West Coast and Taranaki were replaced by railcars.
Mixed trains were more prolific in the South Island as it had the majority of New Zealand's rural branch lines, but as private car ownership increased, passenger figures decreased and many rural trains ceased to cater for passengers in the 1930s, although some mixed services lasted into the 1960s in isolated regions with poor roads. In the North Island, the last mixed trains operated into the 1970s, such as the service provided on the North Auckland Line that ran until 1976. Mixed trains in a sense returned to the South Island for a few years in the 1990s, when a few wagons of express containerised freight were attached to the TranzCoastal express that operates between Christchurch and Picton. However, this was much unlike the mixed trains of previous decades that performed lots of shunting en route and operated slowly; the TranzCoastal did not perform shunting as it was expected to maintain its passenger timetable and convey its time-sensitive freight swiftly between Picton's port and Christchurch.
In North America most branch lines were worked by mixed trains. These were goods trains, that usually ran with a combined passenger, mail and baggage car, and rarely had more than one passenger car. This type of train disappeared with the closure of passenger services on the branch lines. In Canada, the last mixed train on the Canadian Pacific Railway was the Windsor to Truro mixed train, the Midland in Nova Scotia which operated until 1979. The Canadian National Railway continued with mixed trains on its northern line to Churchill, Manitoba even longer and this line retains the one remaining mixed train in North America, on the Keewatin Railway's service between The Pas and Pukatawagan using passenger cars leased from Via Rail.
- Ellis, Iain (2006). Ellis' British Railway Engineering Encyclopaedia. Lulu, p. 220. ISBN 978-1-84728-643-7.
- Greg McDonnell, "Last Train to Clarksville", Passing Trains: The Changing Face of Canadian Railroading (1991), pp. 18-19
- Via Rail Our Fleet - Café-Coach car
- http://www.narprail.org/cms/index.php/resources/list/C43/ National Association of Railroad Passengers - Resources & Links