The train represents one of the most significant inventions in the history of human development and expansion. From humble origins to today’s behemoths feeding and building the world and providing vital travel for billions of people every year, you can’t help but to be impressed by big trains.
Our list of the longest trains includes the world’s longest freight train, the longest passenger train in the world and the massive giants that move 40% of the world’s cargo.
Measured either as units of length or by the number of wagons pulled, the contenders for the biggest train in the world are much, much longer than you think they are…! So what are the world’s longest trains? Read on to find out more.
Shinkansen N700 ‘Bullet Train’
Country: Japan | Length: 403 metres | Top Speed: 186 mph | Type: Passenger
Translated as ‘the new line’, the Shinkansen is one of the world’s most famous trains. The futuristic N700 series weighs 716 tons and can travel the 310 mile distance from Tokyo to Osaka in as little as 2h 22m.
Since its inception in 1964, it has carried over 12 billion passengers. The system shuts down between midnight and 6am every day for the ‘Doctor Yellow’ test train to run the lines looking for stresses, cracks and fragilities.
Country: Australia | Length: 774 metres | Operating Speed: 71mph | Type: Passenger
One of the world’s great transcontinental train journeys, the Indian Pacific travels between Sydney on the Pacific coast to Perth on the Indian Ocean coast, a distance of 2,704 miles.
It includes the world’s longest stretch of straight railway track at 297 miles across the vast Nullarbor Plain. The journey takes three nights and four days and its maiden journey was in February 1970.
Country: Australia | Length: 1,097 metres | Top Speed: 72mph | Type: Passenger
Weighing 2,156 tons, the iconic Ghan is massive when it comes to modes of transportation – it’s over 127 times longer than the Antonov An-225, one of the world’s biggest airplanes and over twice as long as the world’s biggest ship.
In fact, the Ghan is the world’s longest train to carry paying passengers. Consisting of 44 carriages and two locomotives, the train carries tourists 1,850 miles between Adelaide and Darwin over two nights and three days.
Train du Desert
Country: Mauritania | Length: Up to 2,500 metres | Cars: 200+ | Type: Freight
Opened in 1963, the 437 mile journey from the iron ore mines in the northwest region of Zouerat to the Atlantic port of Nouadhibou is one of the world’s most remarkable train journeys. The daily 20 hour ride is made up of three or four diesel locomotives, over 200 freight cars and – amazingly – one solitary passenger car.
Weighing around 17,000 tons fully laden, the Train du Desert is a constant contender for the biggest train in the world and passengers travel for free in an empty, open-topped steel carriage with daytime temperatures regularly hitting 40C.
It’s dirty, dangerous and noisy but cuts over 300 miles off the treacherous road journey and avoids the overcrowded and unreliable passenger trains.
Shenhua No. 3
Country: China | Length: Up to 2,600 metres | Cars: Approx. 300 | Type: Freight
The Shenhua No. 3 train operates from the Datong mining centre in Shanxi province to the port city of Qinhuangdao in Hebei province, known as the Daqin Line. Predominantly used for the distribution of coal, the Shenhua 3 is one of the longest freight trains in the world.
Powered by six locomotives, it can be filled with 20,000 tons of coal in just three hours. Annually, the line moves hundreds of millions of tons from one of China’s largest coal production centres to then be distributed by ship to its major consumption areas.
Country: Brazil | Length: 3,300 metres | Cars: 330 | Type: Freight
Vale is one of the world’s largest mining companies in the world and operates the largest open pit iron ore mine in the world in Carajás, Brazil.
The 554 mile railroad from Carajás to Ponta da Madeira Port carries 350,000 passengers and 120 million tons of iron ore on around 35 trains, one of which is a 330-car, two-mile long behemoth, one of the longest trains in the world.
Country: Australia | Length: 7,353 metres | Cars: 682 | Type: Freight
The world’s longest freight train pushes the very edges of rail technology. In 2001, mining company BHP Billiton (now BHP) assembled a 682-car train powered by eight GE AC6000CW diesel locomotives generating 50,000hp.
At time of writing, it is not only the longest train, but also the biggest, heaviest train in the world, weighing in at a staggering 99,732.1 tons. It takes this huge locomotive 10 hours to haul the iron ore a distance of 171 miles from the Yandi and Newman mines to Port Hedland in Western Australia.
A Record Made to be Broken
Will we ever see the world record for the longest train ever get beaten? To put it into perspective, the 4.56 mile long Mt Goldsworthy is so long, it would take the average person at average walking pace around an hour and a half to walk from the front to the back! So for prospective engineers with big ideas, the gauntlet has well and truly been laid down.