Canadian Geographic
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Tracking rail


Nearly everything Canadians consume travels by rail on its way to our local stores. Likewise, much of what Canadians produce is exported by rail. Altogether, rail carries three-quarters of all surface goods in Canada.

Canadian rail delivered more than 3.3 million carloads of goods in 2009. If that many freight cars were lined up end to end, the resulting mega-train would circle the Earth 1 1/2 times.

Intermodal freight — those big Lego-like boxes that snap onto ships, trains and tractor-trailer trucks — is both the largest and the fastest-growing category. Canadian rail delivered 741,807 carloads of intermodal freight in 2009.

Agricultural products, such as wheat and grain, comprised the second largest goods category, with 474,980 carloads. Canada’s agricultural products tend to be bound for export and can be transported in either intermodal containers or traditional hopper cars.

Fuels and chemicals were the third largest goods category in 2009, followed by minerals, coal, metals, forest products, paper products and machinery, including automotive products.

Railways work in partnership with Canada’s international ports to move goods in and out of the country. Port Metro Vancouver is Canada’s dominant port, overseeing more than 118 million tonnes of cargo per year. More than half the nation’s container traffic flows through Vancouver.

Montréal handles about 20 million tons of goods each year, much of it from Europe and the Middle East. Canada’s other international ports include Halifax, N.S., Prince Rupert, B.C., Saint John, N.B., and Sept-Îles, Que.

The average Canadian freight train pulls about 87 cars. With locomotives, that train is more than 1.5 kilometres long.


This piece features a series of goods statistics for the Canadian rail industry, supported by a bar graph.


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Quiz :

Which sector of freight is the fastest growing in Canada?