From: Christiana, TN
It's easy to forget how colossal those US freight trains get. What's that, 8000 tons? 10000?
Growing up in Virginia it was a normal deal to see 100+ car coal trains headed east on either the Chesapeake and Ohio RR or the Norfolk and Western RR.
I now live within a mile of the BNSF mainline between Seattle and Portland but we rarely see trains of that size on this stretch - though we see a lot of trains, just usually 30-50 cars long.
Each car can be rated as high as 100 tons usually. There are some exceptions up or down, but it is sufficient to do calculations. I live on the main line from Nashville, TN and Chattanooga, TN. Between those two points is a helper district and the tonnage of trains through here can be interesting, not as interesting as Stevens Pass, but this is the East, not the Cascades.
We have ES44 series, CW44AC, or other high HP AC locomotives. They work best on the grades with high tonnage. Usually two on a inter-modal or drag freight. On the loaded coal trains (90 cars), they usually have three locomotives and will pick up two helpers to get over the large hill they need to get over (locals call it a mountain, but the geologist in me refuses to recognize anything without deformation from uplift a mountain) it.
The loaded coal trains have 90 cars at 100 tons each, 9000 tons. The locomotives are 4400 HP and weight another 216 tons each, so, the loaded train with three engines and two helpers is just over 10,000 tons and being pulled by 22,000 HP!
Anyways, back to my rjopel turn...