How Long is an Intermodal Train? – A Comprehensive Guide

The word intermodal doesn’t usually conjure up images of enormous freight trains barreling across the landscape, but that’s exactly what an intermodal train is. An intermodal train might not be as glamorous as an express train or a regional train, but it’s a vital part of the modern world.

The length of an intermodal train is much longer than a normal passenger train or locomotive-hauled goods train. Intermodal trains can be more than 200m long. An intermodal train might consist of a number of different types of coaches coupled together to make a train.

Intermodal trains are different from regular trains in that they connect different modes of transportation. For example, an intermodal train might connect different modes of transportation such as trains, trucks, planes, and automobiles. This article will answer all your questions about intermodal trains. If you’d like to know when and how to use an intermodal train, read on!

intermodal train
Todd and Jack Humphrey

How Long is an Intermodal Train

The length of an intermodal train is typically between 200-300 meters. That’s about the length of nine school buses or three city blocks! A typical intermodal train will consist of anywhere from 10-20 shipping containers, depending on the size and weight restrictions set by the rail carriers.

The containers are arranged in a manner that maximizes the amount of cargo space per container. This facilitates a variety of cargo types, from food and textiles to grains and livestock. Each container has a door that can be opened from the outside to provide access to the contents within.

Each container is connected to another by a ship’s-long footing. When a container is full, it is top-docked and the cargo is unloaded onto a truck or a different container. The container is then topped-back-docked and the cargo is reloaded into the same container. This process is repeated as often as necessary to get the cargo from one place to another.

What is an intermodal train?

An intermodal train is a train that connects different modes of transportation. For example, if a train operator connects trucks to a terminal, it’s an intermodal train. If the train connects trucks to a manufacturing facility, it’s an intermodal train. The train may connect different modes of transportation, such as rail, planes, or automobiles.

What are the different types of intermodal trains?

There are many different types of intermodal trains. There are intermodal trains that connect railroads, automobiles, and trucks (or other modes of transportation).

There are also intermodal trains that connect different modes of transportation. There are three main types of intermodal trains:

  • Regional Intermodal Trains
  • Intercity Intermodal Trains
  • Long-Haul Intermodal Trains

Regional Intermodal Trains

Regional intermodal trains are fast and efficient, but they don’t connect to other modes of transportation as much as long-haul trains do. Regional intermodal trains are used to move people and goods from one city to another. The train connects different modes of transportation such as rail, cars, and boats.

trailer train
Todd and Jack Humphrey

Intercity Intermodal Trains

Intercity intermodal trains connect cities together, usually across a state or country line. The train connects different modes of transportation such as rail, trucks, planes, and automobiles. Intercity intermodal trains are often called “megatrains” because they have several different forms of transportation onboard.

For example, an intercity train might be a combination of a passenger train and a tractor trailer truck that are connected with racks on the side of the train car.  The racks hold the cars in place, allowing them to cross state or country lines.  Trains that are made up of different modes of transportation and are connected by racks on the side are called a “megatrain.”

Long-Haul Intermodal Trains

Long-haul intermodal trains are used to move people and goods from one city to another. These trains provide travelers with a more convenient way to travel across the country or across the world. Long-haul intermodal trains have multiple forms of transportation onboard, including rail cars, trucks, airplanes, and ships.

The train carriages are connected by racks on the sides of the train carriages so they can be moved around easily while they travel long distances.  Another long haul intermodal train is the Trans-Siberian Railway. The Trans-Siberian Railway was once the longest railway in the world. It spanned nearly 15,000 miles (24,000 km) across Russia.

The Trans-Siberian Railway is famous for its wood and iron carriages that are pulled by steam locomotives.  The railway is still used to transport cargo and people between cities in Russia and China today

How long is an intermodal train?

An intermodal train is different from a regular train in that it connects different modes of transportation. That being said, many people don’t consider an intermodal train a “regular train.” A regular train might run between two cities, while an intermodal train might run between three or more cities.

So when you’re on an intermodal train, you’re not just on a train, you’re on a series of different modes of transportation.

A standard intermodal train runs between two cities of different railroads. This type of train runs between cities that are connected by railroad, such as New York and Chicago, or between cities that are connected by road, such as Chicago and Philadelphia.

How fast can an intermodal train travel?

Intermodal trains are not just good for hauling, but are also pretty fast. These trains can travel between seventy to eighty miles per hour. While that doesn’t sound very fast compared to a plane, it is a decent speed and will get your freight or trucks to their destination on time.

high priority train
Jonathan Lee

When is a train an intermodal train?

When a train is an intermodal train, it’s not just one mode of transportation. It connects different modes of transportation.

A train that runs between two cities is an intermodal train if it’s the first leg in a journey that involves connecting different modes of transportation.

Train cars on the first leg of a journey are often connected by a rail system or by roads. For example, they might be connected by rail to another train that runs between two other cities, or they might be connected to another car on another intermodal train that will run between two more cities.

What is the difference between a freight train and an intermodal train?

A freight train is a train that carries freight from one location to another. Intermodal trains are one type of freight train.

Freight is basically anything that can be moved from one place to another, and it can include anything from people and pets to cars, trucks, and even heavy equipment. The main difference between intermodals and freight trains is the way they travel.

Intermodals are designed to travel between cities that are connected by rail, while freight trains generally go only between cities connected by road.

What are the advantages of using an intermodal train for freight or truck shipment?

The intermodal train is a good option for big shipments because of the following reasons:

  1. It is fast.
  2. They are versatile.
  3. They’re flexible.
  4. They’re environmentally friendly.
  5. They’re efficient.


Intermodal trains are faster than trucks or trains because they can travel on multiple different modes of transportation at once. As a result, they can travel much faster and more efficiently than other types of land transportation systems.


Intermodal trains can use all types of technologies to get their cargo from one place to another, including cars, trucks, and railroads. This means that they can be used for both long-distance and short-distance freight shipment purposes.

In addition, intermodal trains are able to transport goods in many different ways, so they are able to meet the needs of shippers in any region or country without having to change their mode of transportation or technology too much.


Intermodal trains can be used to transport many different types of products, from cars to steel, from vegetables to computers, and from furniture to cars. This means that they are able to meet the needs of shippers in many different ways and for many different products.

Environmentally Friendly

Intermodal trains travel on multiple modes of transportation at once, which can help reduce their carbon footprint as well as the amount of pollution they create while moving goods. In addition, intermodal trains use less fuel than trucks or other modes of transportation because they have a smaller footprint than other types of vehicles.


Intermodal trains can move freight over long distances quickly and efficiently because they are able to use a variety of modes of transport at once.

For example, intermodal trains can travel on multiple modes simultaneously when traveling between one railroad station and another in order to avoid delays due to congestion or traffic jams caused by one mode slowing down the other mode or interfering with it in some way.

Likewise, intermodal trains are able to move cargo from one mode of transport to another in a short amount of time.

csx intermodal
Jonathan Lee

Disadvantages of using an intermodal train for freight or truck shipment?

While intermodal trains can be amazing, there are a few disadvantages to using them for shipping goods.

  1. They have limited space
  2. They’re expensive.
  3. They’re not always available.

Space limitations

  1. Intermodal trains are limited by space. Intermodal trains are limited in the amount of goods they can hold, and even though they have large freight containers, they still tend to be limited in size compared to trucks or other modes of transportation.

In some cases, intermodal trains can hold less than other modes of transport as well, such as when it comes to shipping industrial goods or heavy equipment.


Intermodal trains can cost more than other modes of transportation to ship freight, especially when they need to be moved by truck or another mode of transport. Additionally, the cost of shipping by intermodal train can be higher than other types of shipping because they have a larger footprint and they need to move over longer distances than other types of vehicles, which means that they require more fuel to move goods.

Lack of availability

Intermodal trains are often not available for shipment by truck or another mode of transport because the train may be too busy for the shipment or because the train line is out of service for maintenance on the tracks that it uses for movement between stations or terminals.

This means that freight might have to wait until another intermodal train comes along so that it can be shipped in that train’s place, which can cause delays in shipping time and increase costs as well as risk damage to the product being shipped.

Can a freight train be converted into an intermodal train?

It will be a difficult task. The most important feature of an intermodal train is the ability to interchange trains at will. This way, both the passenger and the freight trains can run on the same track. As such, the conversion process will require the removal of some parts of the train.

It must be noted that this conversion will not happen overnight. The process will be a long one and will require the installation of a new communication and signaling system. The installation of new equipment will require the removal of some old track.

This process is known as “de-maintaining” the track and is mostly done to protect the safety of the rail traffic. Once the conversion is completed, it will be possible to run the train on the new track as if it was the original track.

bnsf intermodal
Jeff Hampton

How to find a train that’ll take your load

When searching for an intermodal train for your freight or trucks,  you’ll want to look for a train that can handle your product and will be able to move it quickly and safely. The best way to do this is by looking at the “capacities” of trains on the train line that you are interested in moving freight over.

Capacity, or weight, is the total number of tons that a particular train can carry on its own – for example, a 40-foot container can hold 40 tons of cargo and only weighs 40 tons. If you look at a train’s capacity, you should see a number associated with it called its “ton-mileage” rating.

For example, if a particular train has a ton-mileage rating of 10 t/mile (t = ton), then this means that it can carry 10 tons per mile as part of an intermodal shipment. This is also referred to as an “intermodal load” or just an “IMO”. You can see a train’s ton-mileage rating by looking at its weight and length, as well as how many containers it can carry.


The cost of shipping cargo by truck or rail can be high, but it’s not impossible to do. You can avoid most of these costs by using an intermodal train, which is essentially a train that can carry multiple kinds of freight. Here are some starter tips for finding the right intermodal train for your needs.

Check out the trains that you’re interested in moving on a particular route to see what their ton-mileage rating is and how many containers they can hold.


Lifelong Rail Enthusiast and Owner of Worldwide Rails

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