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International Forwarding Association Blog » Railway transport in Europe » From Food to Vehicles: Items That Can Be Shipped by Railroad

From Food to Vehicles: Items That Can Be Shipped by Railroad

Rail transport is commonly used to move heavy and bulky cargo across long distances. The main types of cargo that are transported by rail include consumer goods, special cargo, and electronics. The many advantages to using rail transport are safety, lower fuel consumption, capacity, and cost-effectiveness. Also, as rail freight allows for moving large shipments, it is often used to transport construction and building materials, beverages and food, liquids, vehicles, and small cargo in large quantities.


Construction and Building Materials

Construction materials are often shipped by train, including shingles, bricks, and metal coils. Other items include:

  • Rebar
  • Paper
  • Asphalt
  • Metals
  • Pipes
  • Lumber
  • Roofing
  • Drywall
  • Plywood


In addition, rail can be used to ship raw materials or aggregates such as crushed stone, sand, and gravel.


Household Goods

Almost anything that ends up in people’s homes can be shipped by rail, including electronics, appliances, and furniture. You can also transport items such as toys, clothing, shoes, parcels, and boxes.


Food and Beverages

If you take a look inside your kitchen cabinets and fridge, almost everything in there is shipped by railroad, including frozen, canned, and packaged goods. Other items include chocolate, cheese, soybeans, corn, and seafood. Beverages are also shipped by rail, like orange juice, tequila, wine, and beer.


Small Cargo in Large Quantities

Known as bulk items, small cargo is ideal for rail freight, especially when shipped in large quantities. Examples are hemp, flour, non-metallic minerals, soda ash, plastic pellets, and sand.



From corn syrup to fuel for heating and cooling and for powering your vehicle, almost anything can be shipped by railroad. Liquids that are commonly transported by rail include LPG, petroleum, diesel exhaust fluid, biodiesel, and ethanol.


Large Items

Oversized cargo that is difficult to ship by road is also transported by railroad. Examples of oversized, heavy, and large cargo that can be shipped by rail include rocket boosters, military vehicles, machinery, wind turbines, and transformers.



Trains often ship parts and vehicles, including SUVs, trucks, and cars. They also transport brake pads, spark plugs, tires, rims, and other automobile parts. However, rail doesn’t usually transport personal vehicles.


Chemicals and Fertilizers

Railroads are used to transport granular-based, powder, and liquid fertilizers as well as non-toxic, toxic, and inorganic chemicals.



You can move just about anything by railroad, from hazardous goods to waste, construction debris, and recycled materials. The list of items includes:

  • Grains
  • Fibers
  • Irrigation equipment
  • Carpets
  • Paint
  • Christmas trees
  • Feed products
  • Solar panels
  • Paper (paper lines, cardboard boxes)
  • Plastics (packaging, pellets, resins)


What Cannot Be Shipped

While the list of allowed items is quite long, there are some exceptions, including personal property, livestock, pets, and passengers.


Rail Cars Used for Freight Shipping

Given the wide variety of cargo that is moved by rail, different types of cars are used to ship freight. Common types include specialty, refrigerators, coil cars, gondolas, tankers, flatcars, hoppers, and boxcars.