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Trains in the U.S.


hen you think about trains, you may think of

their heyday in the 1800s and early 1900s,

before the invention of the automobile. Since

the completion of the First Transcontinental

Railroad at Promontory Summit, Utah on May 10, 1869, the

railroad has been an integral part of the nation’s economy.

Trains continue to be a vital component of our transportation

network, whether transporting passengers or goods. In

fact, the U.S. economy is especially dependant on our

rail network for transporting freight. The mining industry

has a symbiotic relationship with the railroads, as mining

provides the resources to make rail service possible, and

railroads often are used to transport minerals and metals.

According to the Association of American Railroads, in

2011 North American railroads operated 1,471,736 freight

cars and 31,875 locomotives, with 215,985 employees.

They originated 39.53 million carloads (averaging 63

tons each) and generated $81.7 billion in freight revenue.

The largest (Class 1) U.S. railroads carried 10.17 million

intermodal containers and 1.72 million trailers. Intermodal

traffic was 6.2% of tonnage originated and 12.6% of

revenue. The largest commodities were coal, chemicals,

farm products, and nonmetallic minerals. Coal alone was

43.3% of tonnage and 24.7% of revenue. The average haul

was 917 miles. Within the U.S., railroads carry 39.9% of

freight by ton-mile, followed by trucks (33.4%), oil pipelines

(14.3%), barges (12%) and air (0.3%).

Regarding passenger service, public transportation (including

light rail and commuter rail) has increased 30 percent since

1995. Salt Lake City has made large investments in building

its TRAX system, and it’s not alone. At

am/america.htm, you can see a map of North and South

America that identifies cities with light rail or subway systems,

and there a lots of them. Furthermore, high-speed rail may

well be a part of our nation’s future transportation network.

Trains have a wonderful history, and the best may well lie

ahead. The U.S. mining industry is vital to making it all