Trains can be sorted in several distinct categories, separated by the way their locomotives are powered, their use, and by the design of their tracks.
Steam locomotives – From the moment Matthew Murray produced first steam locomotive, the world of trains changed forever. This type of propulsion disappeared only after Diesel engines became undeniably cheaper and reliable.
Diesel locomotives – With the lowering prices of diesel fuel, and the increasing industrial pressure for transporting ever larger amounts of coal and goods, diesel engine locomotives became the predominant choice for trains after the end of WW2. Today they are mostly used in combination to electric engines.
Electric locomotives – Advances in electrical grid infrastructure and electric engine manufacture enabled trains to adopt electrical power as one of the most reliable sources of propulsion. Today electrical trains can be found everywhere, from city transit trains, subways, trams, to high speed rapid transit trains.
Combined engines – Many trains today use dual engines that can harness the power of electrical grid in urban areas and use diesel engine in more harsh terrains outside the cities.
Common railway – From the first moments that steam engines started rolling across the fields of England, standard configuration of railway began spreading across the world. Today, they can be found almost everywhere.
Electrified railway – Even though electric locomotives electric locomotives were introduced to the public from the early 1800s, they became increasingly popular only after the introduction of alternating current toward the end of that century.
High speed rail – Advances in railway and train technologies enabled technicians to design new type of railway that is optimized for high speeds and smooth driving. These railways can be found in many high-speed train networks, especially in Japan, France and Spain.
Maglev – In distant 1937 German inventor Hermann Kemper patented railway system that uses power of the magnets to provide support for traveling locomotive and its trains. Today this system is often used for very expensive and high-speed railway lines.
Monorail – Monorail railways that are not using maglev design are today most often used in urban environments, with slow trains and trams that transport usually only people.
Freight train – Essentially any train that is not carrying passengers. Its cars can be used for storing variety of goods, from solid items to liquids and gasses. Majority of the world railway network is used for industrial use.
Inter-city trains – Public transportation trains, mostly built for safe travel low speeds at both land based railways and underground subway lines.
Rapid transit – High Speed trains that are specially made with streamlined design that offers as little air resistance as possible. Trains made with this technology can achieve speeds of up to 300 km/h.
Short and Long distance trains – This type of trains is often used for traveling between cities and countries, equipped with sleeping cars, dining cars and all necessary things that are needed to service passengers on their longer journeys.
Trams – Slow public transportation trains, powered by electricity and almost exclusively used in highly congested urban zones.
Mine trains – Special train types that are used for underground excavations of rock and coal. They are durable, small, and capable of hauling goods in very harsh and cramped environment.