Art Howes posted: I don't think my model railroad is long enough to give justice to a unit train.


Interesting thought. Could a train made up of just two tank cars going from a central location where they were filled out to a local distributer two towns away be considered a unit train?

The definition of a unit train does not include a number of cars.  I did find one association that said their unit trains have 65 to 200 cars, but I think a 20 car unit train could be realistic for modelers.

I always reserve the right to be wrong, but I believe a unit train in the purest sense can consist of any type car in any quantity but requires only a single waybill. 
¿que dices de eso?

I think the idea that a unit train requiers only one waybill is a good point.    There may be a couple of others that define a modern  unit train.    One would be that the cars stay together, and two that they are in a dedicated service.    For example above, the same two tank cars always back and forth between the same loading point and the same destination.

In reality is there a definition, however?    Do the railroads have a category called "unit train"

My favorite train is the local freight from the 60s and earlier.     The little guy that does all the "last mile" work and has to tuck into a siding for anything else.    The train that is poking around the weed grown branches or industrial areas picking up and delivering the cars to and from the customers.      Back then a lot lumber  yards and other small businesses got single carload deliveries.    Go back to the 50s and earlier and you had a multitude of small coal  yards that got one or two hoppers of coal at a time for home and small business heating.     Fuel suppliers got single tank cars, or maybe half a 2 dome car even.      And in those days, grain of all kinds was shipped in box cars by putting  plywood gates across the door openings.    Some cars even had markings painted on the inside to show how high to fill the car with each type of grain (wheat, corn, rice etc) to avoid overloading the 50 ton.    These marks might have been put on by some conductors to insure the safety of their equipement with elevator loading.

All in all, a little peddler, way freight, local is to me a very fun train to model and run.    It provides a lot of entertainment to switch the industries and figure out facing point and trainling point moves and how often to need a run-around.     The big fast freights and units trains are exciting when they zip by, but that is it, what happens next - you wait for the next one.    But the way frieight comes along and stays in town awhile and waddles around doing the business.

I once got the bug for intermodal trains and have acquired about 16 well cars with containers. But recently got bored with them and prefer mixed freight these days. Especially with alot of high cubes, center beams and tankers.


Another interesting thought.  The definition you find on different railroad associated web sites states a unit train carries a single commodity.  A company that would use multiple types of freight cars for different commodities, like a paper mil, would get the commodities from different locations.   Maybe they could all meet up at a classification yard to form one train to the mill.  Would that be a unit train between the classification yard and the mill?

A train hauling a military battalion from its home base to a training exercise would have all sorts of cars to move the personnel and equipment, but have just one waybill.  Could it be a unit train since the "single commodity" is the battalion?

I’m stuck at home so yes, I'm bored.  On the forum too much.

Last edited by CAPPilot

I like both mixed freight and the occasional coal drag.  Mixed freight keeps visitors in interested and they enjoy the mixed road names it brings back memories of their youth.  I include a passenger or mail car in a local freight to keep things interesting.

A for me, I like both but if it were to be a unit train, all I have a lot of is PFE Reefers, so that would have to be my unit train.  Interesting topic.

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