Norfolk Southern acquiring lighter weight Steel Railcars as Sustainability move

Dec. 14, 2021
The stronger, lighter and more energy-efficient railcars engineered by The Greenbrier Companies use special light-weight steel from U.S. Steel.

Transportation firm Norfolk Southern Corporation has partnered with freight railcar manufacturer The Greenbrier Companies and The United States Steel Corporation to transition to a fleet of more sustainable steel gondola railcars. Initially, it will acquire 800 of the new gondolas.

The stronger, lighter and more energy-efficient railcars engineered by The Greenbrier Companies use special light-weight steel from U.S. Steel. The steel manufacturer identified the steel advancements in automobiles and applied these to the rail industry. As a result, the new gondolas offer benefits like:

 ·        An extended useful life of the gondola, greater by 50 years, as the steel is twice as strong as traditional steel.

·         A lower cost of maintenance as the external finish strengthens the railcar body

·         A greater freight capacity due to design enhancements

·         A simpler manufacturing process as the high-strength steel needs less structural enforcement. This also ensures greater cargo space.

·         More energy efficiency in production and in use as the fabrication process needs less time and the lightweight railcars require less fuel for hauling. This leads to reduced energy usage and emissions.

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Norfolk Southern’s Chairman and CEO James A. Squires commented, “The use of lightweight, high-strength steel is a real revolution for railcars. Not only will each gondola carry more material, they will do so by using less energy, making our operations, and our customer’s operations, even more environmentally friendly. The advancements made by Norfolk Southern, U.S. Steel, and Greenbrier on these gondolas can be applied to other car types, ensuring that this sustainable innovation continues well into the future. Further, once these new gondolas are in service, we plan to recycle the previous models.”
The combination of U. S. Steel's materials innovation, Greenbrier's deep engineering expertise and Norfolk Southern's commitment to sustainable freight transportation has led to the development of an energy-efficient product for the freight rail industry, the companies say.
Greenbrier Chairman and CEO William A. Furman noted, “…Together, we are leading the way to a net-zero carbon economy.”
About the Author

EnergyTech Staff

Rod Walton is senior editor for He has spent 14 years covering the energy industry as a newspaper and trade journalist.

Walton formerly was energy writer and business editor at the Tulsa World. Later, he spent six years covering the electricity power sector for Pennwell and Clarion Events. He joined Endeavor and EnergyTech in November 2021.

He can be reached at [email protected]

EnergyTech is focused on the mission critical and large-scale energy users and their sustainability and resiliency goals. These include the commercial and industrial sectors, as well as the military, universities, data centers and microgrids.

Many large-scale energy users such as Fortune 500 companies, and mission-critical users such as military bases, universities, healthcare facilities, public safety and data centers, shifting their energy priorities to reach net-zero carbon goals within the coming decades. These include plans for renewable energy power purchase agreements, but also on-site resiliency projects such as microgrids, combined heat and power, rooftop solar, energy storage, digitalization and building efficiency upgrades.