Oats are too light to be moved by rail and have to be transported how?

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New Member
I was reading a brief passage in a book about how grains are handled at a trackside grain industrial elevators, that said the following, and I'll quote it (so it's the book saying it and not me):

"Oats also traveled by rail (around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries), but they were too light to economically move long distances."

So what this book is saying then is that a grain (in this case it was oats) has to be "heavy" in order to be moved by a train, is this correct? I wonder what the cut-off point is, weight wise, for a grain that is considered to be too heavy and one that is considered to be too light?

I wonder how oats are transported then...

If someone responds with the answer "trucks", then my reply will be: why can't all grains just be shipped by trucks then and lets just forget about trains altogether?

I don't immediately get that either. Hundreds of thousands of carloads of wheat, corn, and other grains and soy are routinely shipped by rail every year, the sheer volume is tremendous. The unprocessed oat grain hardly looks any different in size or weight from any other grain, even rice. I put away my share of oatmeal like the rest of America, so the volume must be there. I can't imagine any grain being too heavy, either.

Bill Anderson

Well-Known Member
If the book was describing rail transportation of agriculture products at the turn of the 19-20th centuries, much has changed to increase the efficiency of both industries since then. For example, grain used to be loaded into boxcars which were switched into regular freight trains. Now grain is loaded into jumbo hoppers which are transported in unit trains of over 100 cars.
I actually remember that now, but it's been a real long time since I've seen box cars used to haul bulk commodities in that manner. These were partial carloads at most, and usually had to be manually loaded and unloaded with shovels. I remember reefers being loaded with ice blocks, too.


5th Generation Texian
It isn't that they are 'too light', there are many commonities that are lighter and are handled by rail. The issue is likely the 'light' volume (perhaps that was what the story intended to say), according to this report oats and barlet together consititute less than 1% of grain shipments.
"Rye and oats were taken out of the calculations for this report because of unreliability due to small volumes, which total less than 1 percent of all grain movements."



New Member
Yes, oats do move by rail, but volume wise its very little. In the last year I can only think of two or three carloads that my employer has dealt with. All of them went to a General Mills mill in Minnesota.

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