Railroads’ involvement in the automotive industry dates back to the early 1900s and Henry Ford’s innovative Highland Park assembly plant.

As demand for new automobiles grew, railroads designed a railcar specifically to move automobiles, increasing the number of autos carried per railcar from two to ten or more. Today, freight railroads offer North American automakers safe and reliable rail service, laying the groundwork for continued growth and vehicle sales that span the globe. No matter where the plants are located, the rail network is the backbone of the auto supply chain. In fact, railroads are involved in all stages of auto manufacturing – from moving the iron ore and coke needed to make steel to delivering semi-finished goods to manufacturing plants where they are used to produce auto parts and moving finished parts and final vehicles. A few facts:

  • Steel: An average car contains 2,400 pounds of steel, which is used in car frames, door panels, support beams, exhaust pipes and mufflers.
  • Rubber: Like plastic, rubber is durable and flexible and is used to create engine mounts, seat belts, wiper blades and hose seals.
  • Copper: Mostly used in car wiring and electronic parts, copper is in the radio, charging points and starter.
  • Sand: Used to create the glass for navigation screens, backup cameras, mirrors and windshields.
  • Aluminum: This metal is critical for electrical wiring, headlamps, wheels, the transmission, engine parts and air conditioner condenser and pipes.
  • Fiberglass: Made from small thin strands of glass, fiberglass is fireproof and is found in front bumpers, doors, the roof, wheels and casings.
  • Plastic: Making up almost 50% of total parts in one car, the plastics used in cars are petroleum by-products (gas and oil) and are found in the dashboard, door handles, air vents and interior.