During the last century, trains have become increasingly longer, as companies around the world have benefited from their expanded capacity to transport a larger number of passengers and commodities. This significant increase in efficiency was enabled by historical technology advancements, such as more durable tracks and the usage of more than one locomotive. During these last few decades, trains have started reaching unprecedented lengths.
The longest train ever recorded in history is the BHP Iron Ore at 7.353 km (~4.57 miles). This freight train was powered by eight powerful hybrid diesel-electric locomotives, and it traveled for roughly 275 km (~171 miles).
In this article, I will take you through everything you need to know about the longest train recorded in history, along with the longest journey. Furthermore, you’ll learn about the length limitations on longer trains while getting a better understanding of why passenger trains are always shorter than their freight counterparts.
The Longest Train Ever Recorded
The longest train ever recorded is the Australian BHP Iron Ore which currently holds the Guinness World Record.
Before delving into the specifics of this vehicle, I should note that this Australian record came as no surprise, as the nation has a long history and well-deserved reputation when it comes to its impressive railway industry.
Australia, throughout the years, has built a rich history of impressively long trains. As their economic needs grew, they started developing these vehicles to facilitate massive bulk transport.
But this wave of growth in the industry wasn’t limited to cargo, as passenger trains started becoming increasingly longer as well.
This iconic train continues to operate even today, at its longest, pulling up to 44 carriages. Its feat becomes even more impressive when considering that this vehicle transports passengers, not commodities.
Before the revolutionization of the railway industry facilitated by these trains, these modes of transportation were limited in power by the usage of a single locomotive and outdated configurations of rail networks. Only when manufacturers and managers started figuring out how to use two or more locomotives in a single vehicle did longer, and more powerful models begin to appear.
The additional booster locomotive was placed in the middle of a wagon, just as it would be if you’d combine two regular single-locomotive trains together. With the power of multiple hybrid diesel-electric locomotives, the industry started opening up its perspective to benefit from a huge untapped potential.
Passenger trains are often much shorter due to several reasons that I’ll delve into in one of the following sections, but The Ghan became an exception.
Today, the train carries around 16-26 carriages on a usual route.
BHP Iron Ore
On June 21, 2001, another record was set in Australia by the legendary BHP Iron one. This piece of machinery redefined the limits of the rail industry while showcasing an amazing technology heat that would be unthinkable a few decades ago.
This vehicle is still the proud holder of the longest train in the world, at an unbelievable 7.353 km (~4.57 miles). The 275 km journey started from the Newman and Yandi mines and ended in Port Hedland in Western Australia and lasted about 10 hours and 4 minutes.
Its multiple, hybrid-powered locomotives provided the machine with impressive power and strength, without which, this achievement wouldn’t have been possible.
To put the extent of this train into perspective, think about the fact that within its length, you can fit almost 23 Eiffel Towers. As you may have guessed by now, a vehicle of this size can be extremely heavy as well, and you’d be right.
The total weight came out at more than 99,730 metric tons (~219.8 million pounds), meaning that the BHP Iron One simultaneously beat its own record for the heaviest train.
As I mentioned, the vehicle was used to transport commodities, specifically iron ore. The massive piece of machinery was able to carry 82,000 metric tons (181 million pounds) of the material. The strength to bear this amount of material was produced by eight different locomotives spread out along the rails.
This kind of innovation tested the limits of technology that exceeded all expectations and beat the previous 1991 record set in South Africa. This feat opened manufacturers up to many more possibilities regarding length and weight able to move by a single unit.
BHP Iron One affected the industry significantly, as longer trains started being used more and more commonly after its journey.
What Is the Longest Train Journey?
The Guinness World Record for the longest uninterrupted train journey is held by the Trans-Siberian railway, which runs from Moscow (Russia) to Pyongyang (North Korea). This line goes through a distance of 10,124 km (~6346 miles), which takes more than a week to cover.
The length of the journey depends on several circumstantial factors, so the travel time can take anywhere between six to eight days with no stops.
The train that operates on this railway transports goods and commodities.
Although the Trans-Siberian railway has been maintaining its record for a long time, this direct route is getting even longer as time goes by. Its trip is awe-inspiring, to say the least, as, during its timeframe, the train passes several different timezones.
The freight train that covers this record-breaking distance embarks on its journey once a week. The distance is usually covered in around eight days (7 days and 20 hours, to be exact). With that said, depending on circumstantial factors, this timeframe may look a little different in specific instances by a day or two.
Even though this rail line has been operating for more than a century, its groundbreaking record is still solidly set and hard to beat even with modern technologies, materials, and tools that we can so easily access today.
Not only does the Trans-Siberian keep expanding and improving, but, as you’ll see, the closest competitor is not even close to taking its record anytime soon. This position is held by Eastern and Oriental Express, which covers 1931 km (1200 miles).
The distance that this journey passes is more than five times shorter than that of its main competitor.
Longest Passenger Train Journey
On the other hand, the longest passenger train route also happens on the Trans-Siberian railway, with a line that starts in Moscow and stops in Vladiskov (Russia). This vehicle covers a distance of 9289 km (~5772 miles).
Those embarking on this journey need to consider that they’ll be traveling for almost six interrupted days with no available stops, so being sufficiently prepared is crucial in ensuring an enjoyable trip.
For those wanting to enjoy the constantly changing landscape with a taste of culture from whichever nation you’re passing, the trains depart every two days, so your next reservation might be closer than you think.
Before reserving a ticket, keep in mind that buying a seat on the train that takes a week-long journey won’t be cheap. Prices vary from $800 to $1600 per person, depending on the quality of your accommodation.
Even though taking the Trans-Siberian route is an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime journey, it can be challenging for many people to take on this long of a trip.
Although the breathtaking landscapes can inspire even the most uncreative types, going through several time zones in a week with no significant stops can test one’s patience, to say the least. This is why it’s essential to know exactly what to expect before embarking on this journey.
With the Trans-Siberian rail line, you will cross 87 major cities, three countries, and two continents, which is more than what some can experience in a lifetime. Between all these locations, you’ll go through eight different timezones, skipping through some hours ahead in the process.
Here’s the general outline of the route you’ll take:
Moscow – St. Petersburg – Perm – Yekaterinburg – Novosibirsk – Krasnoyarsk – Irkutsk – Ulan De – Naushki – Suhe Bator – Ulan Bator – Dzamin Uud – Erlian – Zabaikalsk – Manzhouli – Harbin – Beijing – Khabarovsk – Vladivostok
The Legacy of the Trans-Siberian Railway
As you can see, the long-standing record that this railway has attained holds a level of significance so high that it has turned into one of the most iconic achievements in human history.
Its value goes far beyond the practicality and ease of movement it offers, as this railway has inspired artists, travelers, and writers for more than a century. Its future looks even more promising and grand than its past, with further expansions being considered as we speak.
The Japanese government has been one of the most adamant entities when it comes to the possible expansion of the railway, proposing the broadening of its borders with new railroads built all the way to Hokkaido. This addition serves as a mode of transportation that could assist easy and quick travel between European countries and Japan.
The completion of this project would not only expand the impact of the Trans-Siberian railway, but it would also significantly boost tourism in Japan, along with many neighboring countries.
Furthermore, this addition provides unprecedented levels of growth to the continent’s economy as a whole, as importing and exporting services and commodities would be more accessible than ever.
The Maximum Length of a Train
Given that trains are constantly increasing in length, many have started wondering whether there’s a limit to how big these vehicles can get.
Although technically, there isn’t a hard-set rule or law that directly limits the maximum length of a train, there are several factors that can make certain sizes difficult or downright impossible to attain.
Some governed regulations forbid the obstruction of grade crossing by railroads.
These laws can indirectly limit the maximum possible length of a train when it comes to sizes that wouldn’t be able to pass a grade crossing without causing an obstruction. For example, if a train consists of more than five locomotives and their subsequent hundreds of cars, you can see how a crossing could be blocked for hours by a machine this size.
This could lead to many traffic problems, ultimately resulting in a traffic jam, which is why many governments have taken steps to prevent this situation from happening.
Some even have set limits based on the time a train needs to fully cross a particular section.
If the law stated that a train shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes (like in Illinois) to completely pass an intersection, then theoretically, all trains big enough to require more time to cross wouldn’t be allowed to operate in that railroad, limiting the manufacturers’ options.
The only exception to this law would be if a circumstantial difficulty were causing the train not to be able to cross the intersection in time, as otherwise, circulation problems may quickly start arising.
On the other hand, some localities do have some laws and regulations that directly limit the maximum length of a train. While some do it in respective measurements, others can limit the number of cars that the locomotives are supposed to pull.
While these direct laws are not yet widespread, the significant increase of longer models over the last few years has created several problematic instances that have caused some officials to rethink train-length-related regulations.
This is apparently what happened in California when the unexpected passage of a 5.6 km (3.5 miles) train prompted an official to think about putting more laws in place limiting the size of vehicles, especially in such highly populated areas.
Furthermore, in March of 2021, the Transportation and Telecommunication Committee heard testimony on a similarly-constructed proposal, the approval of which would restrict certain lengths for trains in Nebraska.
Even in those locations where the authorities haven’t imposed any direct or indirect regulations on train length, a manufacturer would still be challenged by the laws of physics. At some point, the vehicle reaches a size that makes it impossible to control.
This natural limitation is imposed when there’s such immense pressure over the coupling and braking system that a conductor won’t be able to properly operate a train, especially in rougher terrains.
Railway Space Limitations
Another factor that a manager or manufacturer needs to consider before deciding on the most extensive length possible for a train is the number of tracks it will be operating on.
This is most notable in locations where most of the railways are single-tracked, where the maximum train size will be limited based on the length of the passing loop. For example, if the passing loop measures at 1 km (~0.62 miles), this will be the provided space for the train to pass through, which will inevitably limit its length under that same number.
Temperature and weather conditions can also limit a manufacturer’s possibilities regarding train length. For example, in colder or lower than freezing temperatures assembling trains beyond specific measurements is not advised.
Some claim that an average upper limit, in this case, would allow the operation of trains up to 2.74 km (~1.7 miles). Having said that, this limit is often subject to change based on professional judgment and environmental circumstances.
The feat achieved through the creation of BHP Iron ore is even more impressive when you consider all these restrictions and functional limitations that the vehicle had to overcome in order to operate properly.
With that said, even though achievements like this are monumental for the evolution of human transportation, longer and bulkier models are becoming an obstruction due to their excessive usage, especially in more populated areas.
For this reason, governments are taking measures to impose stronger length regulations on trains to better maintain vehicle circulation within their already busy streets and cross-sections.
Why Are Passenger Trains Shorter Than Freight Trains?
When researching the different lengths of passenger and freight trains, you’ll notice that the former comes out at an average of 182 m (600’), while the latter hovers around 1,500 m (5,070’).
With such a stark contrast, many might wonder why trains transporting commodities are so much longer compared to those transporting passengers, as the same efficiency principle could be applied to both.
Passenger trains are shorter than freight trains because they require more agility to be able to make more frequent stops in a smaller amount of time. The limited size is chosen based on customer demand and higher speed requirements.
Furthermore, passenger trains are required to be accommodated at several different-sized stations, which would make it impossible for an oversized train to stop at all its required terminals.
Speed is also of the essence when it comes to vehicles carrying passengers. While coal, iron, or other goods can be transported for weeks on end, people have strict timelines and physical limitations that make them require the fastest means of transport possible.
This is why the length of a passenger train shouldn’t reach a point where it severely hinders its speed. Otherwise, there would be no sustainable demand to make the vehicle profitable.
The longest train recorded in history is the BHP Iron Ore at an incredible 7.353 km (~4.57 miles). Although this achievement is groundbreaking, increasingly longer trains are starting to become a traffic obstruction in highly populated areas, which is why governments are taking measures to create some direct regulations that limit these vehicles’ size.
What is the Longest Train Ever? The Australian BHP Iron Ore is the longest train ever recorded in history at approximately 4.6 miles (7.353 km). In the Pilbara region of Western Australia, BHP owns and runs the Mount Newman railway. This is a private rail network designed to transport iron ore.What is the longest train track in the world? ›
The Trans-Siberian Railway (the Moscow-Vladivostok line), spanning a length of 9,289km, is the longest and one of the busiest railway lines in the world.
Indian Railways operated the longest train in India on 15 August 2022. The 'Super Vasuki' freight train was 3.5 km (2.2 mi) long had a total of 6 locomotives pulling 295 wagons of coal.How long is the world's longest railway? ›
What is the world's longest railway? The Trans-Siberian Railway, from Moscow to Vladivostok, is 5,777 miles long.Who made the longest train in the world? ›
In 2001, mining company BHP Billiton (now BHP) assembled a 682-car train powered by eight GE AC6000CW diesel locomotives generating 50,000hp. At time of writing, it is not only the longest train, but also the biggest, heaviest train in the world, weighing in at a staggering 99,732.1 tons.How many feet is the longest train? ›
The longest model train measured 282.11 m (925 ft 6 in) and was made up of 31 locomotives and 1,563…Which is the longest railway system in the world class 7? ›
The Trans–Siberian Railway (TSR) is a railway network that connects Western Russia and Russia's Far East. With a length of almost 9,289 kilometres (5,772 miles), it is the world's longest railway line, stretching from Moscow, Europe's largest city, to Vladivostok, on the Pacific Ocean.
- America's rail network is the world's largest rail network. ...
- China has finished second in terms of the rail network with a length of 100,000 kilometers. ...
- Russia is the third-largest rail network country with a rail network of 85,500 km.
Modernized Locomotives Are Making Railroad History
That's a far bigger undertaking, considering locomotives weigh an average of about 200 tons (400,000 pounds), whereas the weight of an average passenger vehicle rings in at 4,156 pounds.
At any given time on Class Is' networks, trains stretching from 10,000 to 15,000 feet long are snaking their way to a destination. Pulling well more than 100 cars, the trains are much longer than — and in some cases more than double the size of — a typical 5,000- to 6,000-foot train.
With a rather beautiful name, found in the razzle and dazzle of Bunker Hill, Los Angeles, the Angel's Flight is regarded by many as the shortest railway in the world.Which country has the first railway? ›
Stockton & Darlington Railway, in England, first railway in the world to operate freight and passenger service with steam traction.How fast do trains go? ›
High-speed trains can generally reach 300–350 km/h (190–220 mph). On mixed-use HSR lines, passenger train service can attain peak speeds of 200–250 km/h (120–160 mph).How much can a train pull? ›
A modern railcar has a gross capacity of 286,000 lbs or 125.5 tons moving in trains consisting of 100 cars or more, yielding a total carrying capacity of 12,500 tons, an increase of over 181% in carrying capacity. Power of Locomotives Light duty – low horsepower vs.How many cars can a train have? ›
Depending on the railroad and location, they can be between 65 cars in length and 200 cars (or more). The locomotives pulling the train will usually stay connected from origin to destination, which is why you will find a locomotive from one railroad on another railroad.How long it takes to stop a long train? ›
The average freight train is about 1 to 1¼ miles in length (90 to 120 rail cars). When it's moving at 55 miles an hour, it can take a mile or more to stop after the locomotive engineer fully applies the emergency brake. An 8-car passenger train moving at 80 miles an hour needs about a mile to stop.How long is the longest train in America? ›
The longest train in the USA is Amtrak's Texas Eagle between Chicago and Los Angeles via San Antonio, a distance of 2,728 miles (4,390 kilometers).Why are trains so heavy? ›
The heaviest part of the train is the locomotive. It needs to be heavy to keep its wheels from slipping. Lighter weight train sets can be pulled by lighter weight locomotives with the added benefit of reduced fuel or electricity consumption.How long would a 1001 car train be? ›
The last remnants of humanity must live on a perpetually moving 10-mile-long, 1001-car train, dubbed Snowpiercer, which circumnavigates the ice-covered globe.How many trains are in the world? ›
In excess of 350,000 trains, including passenger and freight trains.
Roads built underground are called subways or underpass. Flyovers are built over raised structures. The railways carry people and bulky goods. They cover long distances quickly and cheaply. The railway network is well developed over the plain areas.Which is the longest railway line in India? ›
The train route between Dibrugarh to Kanyakumari is the longest train route in India and also finds its place among the longest routes in the world as well.In which country railway is private? ›
|Country/Territory||Length (km)||Nationalised or private|
- La Trochita (The Old Patagonian Express), South America. ...
- Golden Chariot, India. ...
- The Maharajas' Express, India. ...
- Deccan Odyssey, India. ...
- Inca Rail, South America. ...
- Rocky Mountaineer, North America. ...
- The Canadian, Canada. ...
- Royal Scotsman, A Belmond Train, Scotland.
When looking at which city has the most trains, the most noteworthy American city is Chicago. It is considered the National Railroad Hub, and Trains Magazine dedicated an entire issue to the city and the history of its ever-important rail system.Which country has bullet train? ›
The first high-speed rail system, the Tōkaidō Shinkansen, began operations in Japan in 1964 and was widely known as the bullet train.Which is faster train or car? ›
With high-speed rail, train travel is always faster than driving. In many cases, it's even faster than flying, once you factor in the whole air travel song-and-dance.How fast is a train the boy? ›
During his race with Shockwave for the title of "the fastest man alive", the announcer states that A-Train can reach speeds in excess of 1,000 miles per hour (1,609.34 kilometers per hour/Mach 1.3).Can a train still run the boys? ›
Ashley, annoyed that A-Train had killed Blue Hawk, shared that A-Train was saved because of this act. Blue Hawk's heart was the one used in the transplant. The good thing for A-Train is that it means he can run again.Can a coin derail a train? ›
The vast majority of derailments are caused by railroad equipment failure. For your own safety and the safety of the train, never place anything on the tracks. A penny left on the tracks is too small to derail a train. Don't try this out, though, as many people have been killed in the attempt.
Rail Tank Car Fun Facts
Typically, tank cars have up to five times the capacity of truck, holding between 6,500 gallons to more than 31,000 gallons of liquid.
The distance it takes to halt a train in an emergency is based on multiple factors: the speed when the brakes are applied, the track's incline, the number of cars hooked behind the locomotives and the loading of those cars, the “brake delay” inherent in the train's hydraulic system, the friction-causing metallurgy of ...How long is a train in Canada? ›
Up until the 1990s, the average freight train in Canada was about 5,000 feet (1.54 kilometres) long and weighed 7,000 tons. But it is now not uncommon to see these trains stretch to 12,000 feet, sometimes as much as 14,000 feet (more than four kilometres), weighing up to 18,000 tons.How big is a train engine? ›
The locomotives weigh between 100 and 200 tons (91,000 and 181,000 kilograms) and are designed to tow passenger-train cars at speeds of up to 125 miles per hour (200 kph). Siemens' modern engines produce up to 4,200 horsepower, and the generator can turn this into almost 4,700 amps of electrical current.Which is the slowest express train in the world? ›
The Glacier Express is known as the slowest express train in the world. As St. Moritz and Zermatt are home to two well-known mountains, the Glacier Express is also said to travel from Matterhorn to Piz Bernina.Which is slowest train in India? ›
Mettupalayam Ooty Nilgiri Passenger train is the slowest train in India, running at a speed of 10 kmph, which is roughly 16 times slower than the fastest train in India.Which country has the shortest rail network? ›
Bhutan. Bhutan is one of the smallest land-locked nations located in South Asia. Bhutan has no railway network, but there are plans to link the southern parts of Bhutan to the vast Indian railway network.What was the first train called? ›
Locomotion No. 1 was built by George Stephenson at his son Robert's company, the Robert Stephenson and Company. George Stephenson drove the first train. The engine was called Active (later renamed Locomotion).When was train invented? ›
When Englishman Richard Trevithick launched the first practical steam locomotive in 1804, it averaged less than 10 mph. Today, several high-speed rail lines are regularly travelling 30 times as fast.How did Rome fall on the tracks? ›
Answer: Roma had fallen by the railway track while commuting by an electric train and Baleshwar also had jumped off a still-moving train after pulling the chain. Both the trains had moved on with the rest of the passengers as if nothing untoward had happened.
Trains do not run faster at night, but sometimes night trains don't make as many stops at smaller cities and there's less interference from other services so they can complete a route in a bit less time.Which fuel is used for train? ›
Modern trains use electricity as their fuel.What country has the fastest train? ›
1: Shanghai Maglev - 460 kph/286 mph (China)
The world's fastest public train is also unique -- it's the only link in the world currently carrying passengers using magnetic levitation (Maglev) rather than conventional steel wheels on steel rails.
The last remnants of humanity must live on a perpetually moving 10-mile-long, 1001-car train, dubbed Snowpiercer, which circumnavigates the ice-covered globe.Which is the longest non stop train? ›
The Trans–Siberian Railway which connects Moscow with the Russian far east is still the world's longest direct rail route, running for 9,259 kilometers or 5,753 miles.How many cars can a train legally pull? ›
One unit can easily pull 100 cars on the flat if you only want it to go 10-12 mph. Put it on a 2% grade and a 3000 hp unit can only pull about 6-8 cars at about 15 mph. Western RRs usually rate their trains in Horsepower/ton.How long it takes to stop a long train? ›
The average freight train is about 1 to 1¼ miles in length (90 to 120 rail cars). When it's moving at 55 miles an hour, it can take a mile or more to stop after the locomotive engineer fully applies the emergency brake. An 8-car passenger train moving at 80 miles an hour needs about a mile to stop.How many cars is big Alice? ›
Carrying 40 carriages (27 supply cars, 13 non-supply cars), Big Alice (before separation) had 949 fewer carriages than Snowpiercer. The cars have a second floor used to traverse the train.How long is a train with 100 cars? ›
At any given time on Class Is' networks, trains stretching from 10,000 to 15,000 feet long are snaking their way to a destination. Pulling well more than 100 cars, the trains are much longer than — and in some cases more than double the size of — a typical 5,000- to 6,000-foot train.How many train cars are in a mile? ›
Car-miles measure individual vehicle-miles in a train. A 10-car train traveling 1 mile would equal 1 train-mile and 10 car-miles.
The Dibrugarh-Kanyakumari Vivek Express has 57 stops or stops all along the route. The Dibrugarh-Kanyakumari Vivek Express holds the current record as the train linking India's longest train line, as well as the highest train running time.Which is longest stop? ›
|Sr/No||Distance (in km)||Section|
|1||450||Hazrat Nizamuddin – Kota Junction|
|2||440||New Delhi – Kanpur Central|
|3||594||Habibganj – Balharshah Junction|
|4||310||Itarsi Junction – Bhusaval Junction|
Currently, the shortest route of a slow passenger train in India is Barkakana–Sidhwar Passenger (numbered 53375 / 53376) with a record distance of 6 km (3.7 mi) with an average speed of 18 km/h (11 mph).How many miles does a train engine last? ›
BNSF Locomotives. We have one of the newest locomotive fleets in the industry. A typical BNSF locomotive will travel up to 4.8 million miles in its lifetime - equal to about 20 trips from the earth to the moon.How much fuel does a locomotive burn? ›
Using an average of 3.5 gallons of fuel burned per hour idling per locomotive – some easy math shows an annual consumption of over 20 million gallons of excess idle, which is over 4% of the total annual fuel consumption for that particular Class I railroad – do we have your attention yet?Why do they put train engines backwards? ›
They're on those rails so the rail is the only direction of travel they can go in." Jacobs says it's actually more efficient to leave locomotives facing whatever direction they are facing because it takes a lot of energy to pick a train up and turn it around so that it would face the other way.Can a train still run the boys? ›
Ashley, annoyed that A-Train had killed Blue Hawk, shared that A-Train was saved because of this act. Blue Hawk's heart was the one used in the transplant. The good thing for A-Train is that it means he can run again.Who has the fastest train? ›
- Siemens Velaro E/AVs 103: 400 kmph. Image Source: ...
- TGV POS: 357 mph. Image Source: ...
- CRH380A Hexie: 302 mph. Image Source: ...
- Shanghai Maglev: 267 mph. Image Source: ...
- Hemu -430 X: 262 mph. Image Source: ...
- Fuxing Hao CR400AF/BF: 249 mph. ...
- The Frecciarossa: 245 mph. ...
- Shinkansen H5 and E5: 224 mph.
Freight trains and passenger trains do have emergency brakes. These are typically controlled by the engineer. They're simply a faster way to aggressively slow and stop the train when needed. Some passenger trains, like subway systems, have emergency brakes for passengers.