Modern rail transport was developed in England in the 1820s, with the first trains being powered by locomotives that ran on steam from the burning of coal. Locomotives are still in use today, but they no longer rely on steam, except on heritage trains that are used for tourists and train enthusiasts. Virtually all of them now run on diesel engines or electricity supplied via additional rails or overhead wires.
Locomotives are separate units used to pull the cars or carriages of the trains. Carrying the power plant of the entire train, they do not have room for either passengers or cargo. An alternative to locomotives are the multiple units, which refers to a number of self-propelled cars joined together. These types of cars are often referred to as railcars, railbuses, or rail motor coaches. Like the locomotives, their power can come from diesel engines or electric power.
There are also special trains that run on special kinds of tracks. Among them is the monorail train, which runs on a single rail instead of the more common parallel rails. Although many people associate monorails with elevated systems, it actually refers only to its use of a single rail without regard to its elevation.
Trains that are capable of running 200 kph and beyond are classified as high-speed trains running on high-speed rails. In Japan, China, Taiwan, Germany, Italy, and the UK, trains can travel as fast as 300 kph. French and Spanish trains can go faster at 320 kph.
Maglev trains get their name from a portmanteau of magnetic levitation. The trains are elevated from the tracks and propelled forward with the use of electromagnets, so that the train is actually flying instead of running over the tracks. Maglev trains are capable of extreme speeds, with the record being 581 kph achieved in Japan.
Trains can also be classified according to distance traveled –inter-city, regional, long-distance, and short-distance trains. Short-distance trains may be commuter, light-rail, or monorail trains.
In addition to passenger trains, there are also cargo trains. In fact, the first trains were used for hauling cargo instead of passengers. And of course, there are the vintage heritage trains, which people ride to experience the romance of an earlier era.