Rail freight economics history lesson — Where are you on migrating to heavy axle load train technology?

Most of Africa’s railways still can only accommodate light axle loadings of 14 to 18 metric tons. A few lines in South Africa can accommodate 26 to 30 metric ton axle loads

How poor a design standard is an axle load of less than 33 metric tons?

33 metric tons axle loading for rail freight is the North American new engineering standard since around the mid 1970 early 1980- period.



Pre-World War 2

On some US freight railroads like the one shown below a PRR gondola wagon in 1939 operated at 28 metric tons.

Here is the simple math. 246 700 pounds = 111.9 metric tons

Divided by four axles

Equals 28 metric tons per railway axle as World War 2 began



(Click the image or here to see the original 1939 PRR document as a PDF.)

To compete with modern highways and trucks, public policy has to expect no less than a modern axle loading like that in North America. One reason is that the modern doublestacked 2-high container trains called “truck killers” by some require an axle load greater than 26 metric tons. Some stack train wagons for the container trains actually use a 35 metric ton engineering design. Even in Mexico.

Is your regional railway ready to compete? Or are you stuck in the technology era of World War 2?

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