How Long is a Train? Freight, Passenger. Maximum Allowed Length?

Let’s find out how long is a train,It is well known that trains can be very long due to a locomotive consist.

There are two totally different types of trains, freight and passenger.

Why is it important? Because their lengths are totally different.

So how long is a train? Freight and passenger?

How Long Is a Train – Freight Train

freight train

A freight train length is anywhere between 140 feet and 10,000 feet or 1.9 mile.

However there were instances where a freight train has reached over 18,000 feet or 3.4 miles, pulling 295 cars.

The 150 feet long train is a combination of one locomotive and one train car. Where the locomotive has approximately 73 feet and the train car has another 68 feet.

Of course you will rarely see such a short train, but it is possible, as mentioned before, thanks to the distributed power, many locomotives can connect together to pull an astonishing amount of weight.

Now on the other side, the 10,000 feet train would consist of 140 train cars and 6 locomotives.

The longest freight train in the world is owned & operated by the the iron ore company in Australia, BHP. The train was 4.53 miles! and carried 82,000 metric tons of iron ore! (pic below)

how long is a train
BHP’s Iron Ore carrying train in Australia. 682 cars carrying 82,000 tons

How Long Is a Train – Passenger Train?

A passenger train is way shorter than a freight train, ranging between 80 feet and 1000 feet.

Most of the passenger trains in the United States are averaging around 6-10 cars.

However the scenario of one car connected to one locomotive, or even just one self powered train car also known as a railcar is quite common (more so in Europe).

how long is a train

What Is The Maximum Legal Train Length

United States are limited to to their air brake capacity & their electronically controlled pneumatic brakes. This limits them to 180 wagons aligning with AAR Standards.

Because of this we can see examples where a train consist of 180 cars and up to 6 locomotives can block a grade crossing for over an hour.

This can be hugely frustrating and some towns have passed laws imposing limits on train length going through their stations.

For example, in the great state of Illinois, the village of Franklin Park has made it illegal for railroads to block the grade crossings for more than 10 minutes.


In the United States, trains are as long as 180 wagons as they are limited by their breaking capacity. Generally freight trains are far longer than passenger trains as they try to maximise their economical efficiency.

What trains are your favourite? How about Lionel Model Trains, check them out HERE