America’s construction and lumber industries rely heavily on the country’s freight railroads to move lumber and wood products, including milled lumber and other construction panels such as wood particle, which is used to make furniture.
These materials are essential to building America as they create everything from walls to doors, floors and roofs. In 2019, freight railroads moved 2 million carloads of construction-related materials.
Lumber is typically transported on one of three types of cars — centerbeams, boxcars and bulkhead flatcars. Centerbeams are preferred for lumber transport because they can be loaded and unloaded simultaneously from both sides, allowing them back into service quicker. The standard centerbeam flatcar can carry about 200,000 pounds or more and is also used to carry other construction materials, such as wallboard. One centerbeam railcar carries enough framing lumber to build about six homes.
In addition to lumber, railroads carry wood-related materials such as millwork, veneer and plywood. These materials are transported to manufacturers of paneling, furniture, trim, molding and flooring, and to distributors of building materials.