Types of Train

The word ‘train’ was derived from a latin phrase ‘trahere’ which means ‘to pull.’ Generally, trains are a means of transportation consisting of series of connected vehicles running through a track. Trains are usually ideal when transporting a large number of passengers and cargo. The tracks are made of two running rails depending on the train and railway system.

We will be listing the different types of trains you might come across during your journey. There are so many of them.

Types of Train

There are two major category of train designs. They are: Bogies and Locomotive.

Bogies were popular and commonly used during the 19th century. However, these days, they are only used for tourist attraction in some part of the world. This is because most train systems now make use of locomotive travel because of its efficiency.


Bogies were the traditional means of transporting cargoes in the past. The framework was made of a wheeled trolley or wagons that were attached to the train itself. The compartments are either fixed in a place or mounted to another wagon. Most bogies are made with the simplest designs. These designs accommodate two spindles. However, they need customizing to accommodate more cargo and loads.

Locomotive Trains

History have it that trains became so popular in before the 19th century because it was hauled by horses and ropes. With time, it made use of gravity to power. However, in the 19th century, the invention of steam locomotive replaced the electric and diesel versions. It overthrew the other version because it was more efficient – less labour. Nevertheless, they were more expensive and complex. These trains became the most popular means of transportation thereafter.

The purpose of a train is usually the inspiration behind the design. For instance, if the train is meant for short distance transportation, you will not find a sleeping cabinet or dining in it. There are several types of trains all over the world that serve different purposes. They also form an integral part of the transport system.

Passenger Trains

This is the most common type of train. It is usually long and accommodates more passengers. They usually operate on a unit or a combination of locomotives. Passenger trains can be fast which makes it a reliable means of transportation. Furthermore, the organisation is top notch. There are stations where passengers alight or board. Again, they operate on a fixed schedule and are often really long so that they can carry more passengers. There are three main types of passenger trains: long-distance, short-distance, and trains within cities.

Long-Distance Trains

Long-distance trains are built for travels between different cities or a region of a country. Their designs accommodate a restaurant and dining so that passengers can have meals in between the journey. There is also a provision for sleeping cabinets where passengers can rest while on the journey. People usually rely on these trains to travel a distance of over 500miles other than air travel because it is cheap. There are also types of long distance trains around the world.

High-Speed Rail

The high-speed rail is built for long-distance travel since it can get passengers to their destination quicker. Generally, high-speed trains run at speeds above 200 km/h. Their dedicated tracks are designed to accommodate such high speeds without the risk of fire from friction. The high-speed train saves time and money.

The first successful high-speed passenger railway system was built in 1964 in Shinkansen Japan. This train was popularly known as the bullet train. However, in modern times, the fastest passenger trains in the world are the Wuhan–Guangzhou High-Speed Railway system and Beijing–Tianjin Intercity Rail. They are known to reach speeds of 350km/h.

People choose these trains often than airplanes because they are environmentally friendly than airplanes. It also carry more passengers and saves times and cost when you compare with airplane that has several processes and protocol.

Inter-City Trains

Inter-city trains usually connect metropolitan areas in a country. The distance they cover are usually comparable to airline flights but they still move at highway speeds. Some provide amenities like sleeper cars or dining options.

Inter-city railways are most popular in Europe where travels is more open and countries are in close proximity. Therefore, inter-city railways get a lot of international patronage as well. Such trains providing international services include: EuroCity, EuroStar and a good number of European use it as a viable option for long distance journey.

Regional Trains

Regional railways usually have stations in nearby cities where passengers alight and board. They make more stops over a shorter distance than inter-city trains, but travel longer distances
than commuter trains. They operate beyond just urban areas and often connect the cities to rural regions of the country.

Short-Distance Trains

Short-distance trains accommodate more passengers. This is because they have a congested arrangement that allows passengers to travel even while standing. The aim of this train is to deliver people en masse to their destination. This makes them more eco-friendly than cars as people rely on this rail system more than road transport.

Commuter Trains

The purpose of the this train is to connect suburban areas with the center of the city. The main objective is to move passengers to and fro their workplace. Therefore, this train is built to service professionals and people who are employed. You usually see these trains around during rush hours and weekdays and they only travel to top directions to save cost of fueling. Regional railways have more stops in short distances. In the US, commuter trains are usually locomotive trains while regional trains in Europe typically have multiple electric units.

Commuter trains is a more reliable system of transport that reduces the burden from road traffic. They go through channels with lesser congestion and places free from air pollution. Most commuter trains have more standing spaces than seats. Also, they facilitate wheelchairs and cycles, so, you do not need to worry about anything.

There can also be a situation of congestion in commuter trains when cities become over dependent on them. For instance, there are estimated to be about 3.5million passengers across the 29 stations of the Yamanote Line in Tokyo, Japan. Also, the subway system in New York is responsible for about 5.7million passengers across 472 stations daily. As a result, modern trains come with foldable seats to enable passengers stand during rush hours. These modern trains also come with multiple doors for entrance to discourage delays in boarding and disembarking. Double decker trains are known to cope more with passengers.

Within City Trains

There is a very high demand for a reliable transport system in major cities in the world. With over 31 cities in the world and over 10 million people living in it, there is need for many mass-transit systems across the world. Without this organized system of transport in these places, cities will crumble from traffic and congestion. Therefore, cities adopt a suitable transport system to handle the movement of several people from one place to another with ease.

Rapid Transit Trains

Large cities often rely on a metro system. These systems can also be called tubes, subway, or underground rails. They are usually powered by electricity coursing through a unique third rail. The railroads are separate from other traffic like underground tunnels in the city’s center or on elevated overhead
structures in the suburbs. They are designed to decelerate and accelerate faster than long-distance trains which are much heavier.


In UK law, there is a difference between a railway and a tramway. United States and Canada refer to similar trains as trolleys or streetcars. However, the main distinction between a railroad system and a tramway system is the path they travel through. Trams run mostly in public streets while trains run through a separate path from the street.

Light Rail

Light rails are often referred to as the modern tram systems but they usually have their own separate paths similar to heavy-line railways. They are a mixture of a tram and a train. Unlike subway trains, light rails may even have level crossings, which are often protected with crossing gates. In most deprived areas, abandoned heavy rails are often used as modern light rails to connect the areas with larger cities.


A monorail is a railway system uses single track of a beam or rail. The aim for the development was to meet the regular demands of traffic in urban areas and typically run on elevated rail tracks. Most monorails have a similar design with linear induction motors. The origin of the word mono (one) and rail traces back to 1896 when Eugen Langen named elevated railways systems the Eugen Langen One railed Suspension Tramway.


Maglev is a word derived from ‘magnetic levitation’. It is a transport system that uses two sets of magnets to push the train off the track. They also use another magnet to move the floating train at great speed since it does not require friction. They do not cover a long distance, however, they compete favourably with high-speed rails and airplanes.

Maglev technology-based trains have no real moving parts. The only moving part is the train which travels along a specific guide-way through magnets to control the speed and stability of the train. They are smoother and quiet than heavy-duty conventional trains due to this very reason. They can also decelerate and accelerate much quicker than normal trains.

However, maglev train systems cost a lot of money and energy to construct. It requires man power to remove drag and friction. Also, they are not the most comfortable or safest option for passengers. Currently, their operation is im three countries, namely: China, South Korea and Japan. This is because the risks and cost of those trains outweigh the benefits.


The railcar is a self-servicing railway transportation system that moves passengers to their destination. Railcars refers to a
single car, coach or carriage with a driver’s cabin at both ends of the vehicle. These vehicles are also capable of hauling train carriages. However, in technical rail usage, they are known as motor cars or railmotor coaches.

Named Trains

Railway companies often give their name a specific name as a marketing strategy. This boosts the profile of the service and even attracts more passengers. Usually, the most prestigious trains are given names like high-speed express and they travel between cities. Some of the most famous trains include the Flying Scotsman, the Deccan Queen, the Royal Scot, and Orient Express. The latter has also been featured in many films including ‘The
Murder on the Orient Express.’

Automated People Mover (APM) Trains

The (APM) is an abbreviation for Automated People Mover. This is a small scale guide-way transit system used in small areas like airports, theme parks, downtown districts, or under the Capitol Building. They can utilize different technologies like a monorail, duorail or maglev.

Some APMs are smaller vehicles that work on off-line stations to move passengers quickly over small areas consistently. Larger vehicles can carry 20 to 40 people.

Freight Trains

Freight trains are generally known as goods trains since they transport materials or cargo. They are not designed to carry passengers at all. They are essential to transporting most of of the cargo from one part of the world to the other. Also, most countries make use of their railway system to transport goods and cargo rather than passengers. Such countries include USA.

In addition, transporting freight by train can be really economical under the right conditions. They are also a more efficient option than road transportation. Again, they carry very large quantities and cover tremendous distance than trucks which is suited for short distance travels.

However, there is also a huge disadvantage to freight trains which is the lack of flexibility. This is because they can only travel through a route that the rail tracks are in good condition. Om the other hand, with road transport, you can reach more inaccessible and remote areas.

There are different types of freight trains used across the world. The most common type of modern freight rail is the intermodal train where huge containers can be lifted into and off the train using cranes. This reduces the
amount of time it would take to unload and load the train, making it a more cost-effective option. It also secures the materials and increases accountability.

Piggyback Train

In some regions, another popular train is the piggyback train. The train is built in a way that trucks can drive on the train and drive off again once the destination is reached. They require no modification to the truck and are the easiest way to transport trucks without increasing the traffic on the roads. This system is the
main type of transport used through the Channel Tunnel between France and England, as well as in the trans-Alpine service between Italy and France.


Trains is an essential system of transport in most part of the world today. They are also effective and efficient in transporting people en masse and facilitates trade.

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