Moving America, Industry by Industry
How commodities such as paper, lumber and farm products are transported through America.

One million carloads of paper, lumber and forest products, 1.6 million carloads of corn, wheat and other farm products, 6.3 million carloads of coal, and 12.3 million carloads of intermodal freight – this is just a fraction of the volume of goods and commodities carried by America’s freight railroads each year. Learn more about how freight railroads keep America’s economy moving in the slideshow below.

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    Intermodal: In It for the Long Haul
    “Last year, the volume of intermodal freight rail – the transportation of shipping containers and truck trailers by rail – reached an all-time high of 12.8 million units. America’s freight rail industry is investing billions of dollars each year for new intermodal terminals, track upgrades and other infrastructure projects to ensure that this highly efficient, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly way to ship virtually any good or product – from frozen chickens to televisions – continues to deliver America’s freight safely, efficiently and on time.
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    Agriculture: From Train to Table
    “From field to factory, rail is moving the barley, wheat, corn, oats, rice, rye, sorghum and soybeans that help to feed the nation and the world. In 2013 alone, rail moved 1.3 million carloads, or 124.5 million tons, of grain across the country and to America’s ports for export. As demand for U.S. grain has grown, rail has responded with new high-capacity cars and efficient “shuttle trains” which move high volumes in an efficient and cost-effective way. So if it’s on your table, chances are it got there by rail.
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    Chemical: Rail’s Got Chemistry
    “Whether it’s fertilizers, drugs, or any of the essential chemicals that keep our drinking water clean, our farms bountiful and our medical care effective, railroads can be counted on to transport them safely and efficiently to market. In 2013, railroads moved 2.2 million carloads – or 175 million tons – of chemicals across the nation’s 140,000 mile freight rail network. Railroads continued investment in the health of this network ensures that producers can continue to deliver the chemicals that improve our health, safety and quality of life.
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    Automotive: Keeping the Auto Industry on Track
    “With cost-effective routes and newer and more flexible auto-carrying rail cars, it’s no surprise that in a typical year, U.S. railroads deliver approximately 1.1 million carloads of finished vehicles, parts, and accessories. As the auto industry expands, so does the rail equipment fleet with 4,075 new multi-level rail cars added by carriers in 2013 and another 2,440 due in 2014.
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    Crude Oil: Fueling America
    “As new technologies unlock previously trapped oil in shale, crude oil is coming out of the ground at an unprecedented rate. As it does, railroads are ready to safely and responsibly transport it so that North America can realize energy independence. With new investments in infrastructure and equipment, rigorous employee training, improved operating practices, higher tank car standards and first responder training, America’s freight railroads are safely transporting crude oil to where it needs to go: the refineries that will process it into things like gasoline for cars, jet fuel for planes and home heating oil. In 2013, rail originated more than 400,000 carloads of crude oil, more than ever before.
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    Moving Mountains
    America’s infrastructure depends on construction aggregates: the sand, gravel and crushed stone that build durable buildings, roads and bridges. Here again, railroads deliver. In 2013 alone, rail hauled 647,415 carloads of crushed and broken stone and 65,471 carloads of gravel between the nation’s quarries and concrete ready-mix plants, among other users. With flexible short-distance routing and robust hauling capability, rail is fundamental to building a modern America.
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    Trains Take Out the Trash
    Each year the Americans generate hundreds of millions of tons of waste – everything from sewage sludge to empty soda bottles. In 2013, America’s freight railroads transported 574,287 carloads of waste and scrap. Not only are railroads vital partners in disposing of this waste in a responsible way, they are also critical to the reuse of much of this waste moving tens of thousands of carloads of recycled paper each year with four times greater fuel efficiency than trucks. Innovations in design and construction of rail cars means that every kind of refuse, and their odors, are kept where they belong: on the fast track out of town.
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    Fast and Fresh
    “Farm-fresh produce and frozen foods from across the country are available to consumers year-round thanks to freight rail’s fast, reliable and sophisticated climate technology. Railroads rely upon “cold chains” that maintain perishables at key temperatures during loading, shipping and unloading, and Railex refrigerated rail cars control temperature and humidity throughout the journey. Together, innovations like these allowed railroads to deliver 77,306 carloads of perishable foods in 2013 to grocers, restaurants and kitchen tables across the nation.