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US Steel, Norfolk Southern, and Greenbrier collaborate on new, sustainable high-strength steel railcar; weight reduced up to 15,000 lbs

United States Steel Corporation, Norfolk Southern Corporation and The Greenbrier Companies, Inc. jointly announced a new, more sustainable steel gondola railcar. Using an innovative formula for high-strength, lighter-weight steel developed by US Steel, each gondola’s unloaded weight is reduced by up to 15,000 pounds.


Gondola railcars transport loose bulk material such as metal scraps, coils, wood chips, steel slabs, and ore. Norfolk Southern will initially acquire 800 of the Greenbrier engineered gondolas.

The partnership between supplier, builder, and end-user is rooted in the recognition that North America’s aging gondola fleet will soon require substantial replacement with a more sustainable design. US Steel’s materials innovation, Norfolk Southern’s commitment to sustainable freight transportation, and Greenbrier’s deep engineering capability have led to a stronger, lighter, and more energy-efficient product for the freight rail industry.

Features of the newly designed gondolas provide several benefits:

  • Extended Lifecycle: The new steel is twice as strong as traditional steel used in the railcar manufacturing process, potentially extending the useful life of each gondola to 50 years. A stronger external finish also strengthens the railcar body, lowering maintenance costs.

  • Increased Sustainability: The new gondola is more energy-efficient, both during production and in use. The steel fabrication process requires less time, leading to improved energy efficiency due to less material being used. The lower weight decreases the fuel needed by locomotives hauling the railcars, reducing energy usage and lowering emissions.

  • Greater Freight Capacity: Enhancements to the gondola design also afford greater freight capacity. The high-strength steel requires less structural reinforcement, simplifying the manufacturing process and allowing more total cargo space in each railcar.

Moving freight by rail is the most environmentally friendly mode of surface transport, with the average US railroad moving one ton of freight 470 miles per gallon of fuel. The high-strength steel gondola aims to further improve this performance for railroads.


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