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When it comes to dimensional shipments, Norfolk Southern is experienced enough to know that moving large machinery with substantial dimensions across the country generally involves questions from our customers.

Below are some of our most frequently asked questions, including how to contact your marketing representative.

What determines whether a load is dimensional or high and wide load?

Dimensional loads are generally described as any load exceeding any of the following criteria:

  • 200,000 lbs
  • 10’6” in width
  • 15’6” in loaded height
  • Lading that overhangs the side sills or end of railcar
  • Length exceeding 60 feet or less than 18 feet
  • Cars loaded outside the plate as registered in UMLER

Loads requiring special equipment may also be considered dimensional. Dimensional loads come in all shapes and sizes. A load inside these parameters may also be considered dimensional under certain circumstances. Only the NS Clearance Department may make the determination of a dimensional or non-dimensional shipment. Dimensional shipments are subject to delays not otherwise affecting non-dimensional shipments. Dimensional shipments require a clearance file in order to move across the railroad. The Clearance Department is responsible for clearing routes. Customer Service is responsible for monitoring loaded dimensional shipments.

How do I move a dimensional shipment by rail?

The process begins with you, the shipper. Please see our Step-by-Step Guide to Shipping Your Dimensional Load . You may begin by registering at accessNS and then completing the online Clearance and Rate Request form.  Please note that it is the responsibility of the shipper to locate a suitable siding for unloading from the railcar prior to shipment. Shipper must also coordinate logistics of unloading at the site, including necessary permission and access, equipment and personnel. Shipper must include street address for unloading location on the Clearance and Rate Request.

Which railroad do I contact to request a clearance file, obtain rates and order cars?

The shipper must obtain rates, clearances and order cars from the originating railroad. Please note that interline moves require additional time for clearance and rating from foreign roads.

How do I obtain a clearance file?

Begin by registering at AccessNS  and then filling out the Clearance and Rate Request Form found on our website. NS clearance files are valid for six months from date of issue.

What happens once I request a clearance file and a rate?

The NS Clearance Department reviews the information you provided. Once a determination is made, or if more information is needed, a representative will contact you.

How do I pay for my rail shipment?

Obtaining credit is the preferred method of doing business with Norfolk Southern. Please complete the online credit application . You may also pre-pay for your shipment by wire transfer. A pre-paid wire transfer must include payment for all freight charges, any applicable fuel surcharge and any accessorial charges. If you choose to pay by wire transfer, you must pay before your car is inspected and include your company’s name (or shipper name, if different), the shipment’s origin and destination as stated in the waybill, the car number and the governing rate authority.

Do dimensional loads require special handling on the railroad?

Yes. Some dimensional loads require:

  • The use of heavy duty flat cars and other specialty equipment
  • Special train service
  • Special handling
  • Idler cars
  • Circuitous routing
  • Speed restrictions
  • And more

How do I know if I need a heavy-duty flat car?

If your shipment is  equal to or greater than:
286,000 lbs. on a 4 axle car
480,000 lbs. on a 8 axle car
12-axle or greater cars may require clearance, as they typically need empty buffer cars for weight distribution.

Load extends beyond sill of car

Height is more than 15’06” above top rail
   Width is more than 10’06” at any point

How do I order a railcar?

To order standard flats from Norfolk Southern, email:  To order Heavy Duty flats from TTX or KRL, email request to  Use the following format:

Railcar request:
Clearance File #:
Railcar series:  (EXAMPLE QTTX 130700)
Number of cars: 1 (ONE)
Loading location: 
Estimated Loading date:
Note: when ordering standard flatcars please note if it is to be used for an idler or for a buffer

Place orders 4 to 6 weeks in advance of loading for heavy duty cars and a minimum of two (2) weeks in advance of loading for standard equipment. Shipper can order a standard flat car from AccessNS for any standard shipments not requiring a clearance file.

What is an idler, and how do I know if I need one?

An idler is an empty car placed between your shipment and the next load. Idlers are required for shipments that overhang the end sills of a railcar and/or are of excessive weight as determined by the NS engineering department. The NS Clearance Department will determine if one or more idler cars is needed for your shipment.

What are Special Train Charges?

Special Train charges are applied to dimensional moves that require special train service or special handling. Special train service and charges are in addition to regular freight charges. Special Train Charges are assessed for numerous reasons, including (but not limited to):

  • High combined center of gravity.
  • Extreme width of load.
  • Extreme length of load.
  • Multiple speed, stop and walk restrictions.
  • Speed restricted cars or restrictions placed on shipments.
  • Customer request for expedited service.
  • Type of equipment used.
  • Routes without general service.

When is circuitous routing required?

Circuitous routing may be necessary when a load exceeds the weight or dimensional maximums for a given route. The routing is necessary to move the load safely to destination. Circuitous routing will likely affect the freight rate and transit time.

Who loads and secures the railcar?

The shipper is responsible for loading and securing shipments to the railcar. However, NS Marketing Representatives can provide contact information for qualified riggers, experienced in loading equipment in compliance with AAR Open Top Loading Rules.

If a load is off center on the rail car, counterweights may be necessary. Width is determined by measuring the widest half of the load and doubling it.

Please be advised that Norfolk Southern requires that all AAR tie down diagrams relative to approved shipment is approved by Norfolk Southern Damage Prevention. Norfolk Southern will not send a mechanical representative to the loading location until the diagram has been approved by Loading and Securement Solutions.

How do I obtain approval for forwarding my dimensional load?

Once the car is loaded, shipper contacts Customer Service at 800-635-5768 to request a mechanical inspection. Ask for the representative who covers your geographic area. Mechanical inspection and finalized measurements are submitted to NS Clearances. If the finalized measurements are within dimensions, previously approved by NS Clearances for this route, the dimensional load may be approved for forwarding. NS clearance files are valid for six months from date of issue.

How do I contact my marketing representative?

Elie Moir
Market Manager



Customer Service provides support 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can be reached by calling 800-635-5768.