From the shoes you wear to the food you eat – virtually every good and commodity sold in America is transported by freight railroads. Yet that’s not all. Despite carrying millions of tons of consumer products each year, it is the special deliveries that truly prove freight railroads carry almost everything on Earth.
1. Live Octopus – Commercial fishermen in Prince William Sound rely upon freight trains to transport seafood to market, which makes for some memorable train rides. Once, a commercial fisherman even caught a giant squid and put it directly into a huge vat of water to be shipped to Anchorage and made into calamari.
2. Oil Refinery – Fabricated in Tulsa, Oklahoma an entire oil refinery was shipped – section by section – to Seattle, Washington aboard 200 rail cars. The cargo aboard was so large, the train needed to stop while en-route in order to rearrange the freight so that it could fit through a tunnel. Once in Seattle, the rail cars carrying the refinery were loaded onto two train car barges – barges with tracks built into their decks so that they can transport rail cars. After loading all of the rail cars on board, the train car barges set sail for a 1,400 mile journey over water before docking and transferring the freight back onto land to complete its journey.
3. Elephants, Lions and Tigers – Specially designed rail cars are used by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to transport more than 7,000 tons of circus equipment each year. Elephants, lions and tigers (among others) are transported in customized rail cars that are designed to meet the needs of each animal. From heating and misting systems to keep animals comfortable to food storage locations that allow staff to feed animals while on the move, the circus train is built to keep humans and animals comfortable and happy as they travel the United States.
4. Submarine parts – Roughly once every 18 months, a mysterious train travels from Massachusetts to Groton, Connecticut. Onboard is a shrouded load of parts destined for a shipyard where US Navy submarines are built. Few individuals know the exact load carried on board, but once delivered, these parts are used to build high-tech submarines and protect the United States.
5. Airplanes – Long before travelers rocket into the sky onboard a Boeing 737-100, the airplane traveled from Wichita, Kansas to Renton, Washington – on a train. Loaded onto customized flatcars, newly-constructed airplane fuselages are transported more than 2,000 miles to Boeing’s Washington facility where final construction is completed and the plane is tested before it begins carrying passengers around the world.
6. Wind turbine blades – Today, more than 400 manufacturing plants across the US help to manufacture the 8,000 components found in a typical wind turbine. A wind turbine can weigh up to 335 tons, and transporting them presents an enormous challenge for shippers. In fact, a single wind turbine blade can be as long as an airplane and weigh 77,000 pounds! By relying upon carefully planned routes, railroads are able to transport the massive wind turbine blades to their final destination, where they are assembled and connected to America’s electricity grid to begin producing clear and renewable power. See how freight rail works with Vestas, the world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines.
7. Passenger Buses (with passengers) – Trains are so versatile that they even transport buses full of passengers! Sometimes found near cruise ship destinations, flat rail cars will carry buses loaded with passengers to remote inland wilderness for a day of exploration. Once the day of sightseeing is complete, the bus will be loaded back onto the train and passengers are returned to their ship to continue their journey.
Want to learn more? See how freight rail moves the food you eat.