On average, around 250,000 freight cars are on BNSF's rail network at any time. These include cars owned or leased by BNSF, cars owned or leased by our shippers, and cars belonging to other railroads operating on our track.

A "unit train" is a full-length train that is made up of only one type of railcar and hauls one type of product, and all its freight is often bound for a single destination. Coal and agricultural products are frequently handled in unit trains, an operation that is very efficient.

Other trains may include a mix of railcars and haul many different products. These are called "manifest" trains.

Railcars you'll see on BNSF trains include:

  • Hoppers carrying agricultural or industrial products
  • Boxcars for industrial or consumer goods
  • Intermodal flatcars carrying containers or truck trailers
  • Centerbeam flatcars carrying lumber or steel
  • Tank cars carrying liquids or gasses
  • Gondolas carrying coal, aggregates, ores or scrap metal
  • Autoracks carrying cars or trucks
  • Other flatcars carrying a variety of products such as wind turbine blades, machinery, pipe or wood poles

Covered hopper

Hoppers have gates on the underside and distinctive sloping ends, and are used to carry loose bulk commodities. Covered hoppers like this one are used to carry loose commodities that need protection against the elements, such as grain.

How it's unloaded

Hoppers are unloaded by positioning the car over a pit beneath the track, and opening the bottom gates to unload. Some cars let gravity do the work, while others have pneumatic systems. The sloping ends help the grain drain through the doors. The grain or other product pours onto a conveyor that moves it along to the next stage of its journey.

A typical covered hopper can carry between 90 and 120 tons.

Agricultural products we ship

Here's just a sampling of agricultural products we ship, using boxcars, hoppers and tank cars:

  • Wheat
  • Corn
  • Soybeans
  • Sorghum
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Rye
  • Milo
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Feeds
  • Flour
  • Bird seed
  • Rice
  • Cottonseed
  • Canola
  • Flax
  • Hominy
  • Lentils
  • Corn syrup
  • Fertilizer
  • Ethanol

Low torque wheel bearings

BNSF was the first railroad to use low-torque wheel bearings. Because of their lower frictional drag, these bearings require 40 percent less energy to pull railcars and locomotives. This saves 60 gallons of diesel for each bearing on a car that moves 100,000 miles per year. This in turn reduces emissions.

The bearings also offer other benefits:

  • Weight savings compared with traditional wheel bearings
  • Noise reduction
  • Reduced grease leakage
  • Protection against entry of contaminants, which increases reliability
Select more train cars below to explore.