How challenging can be transporting of a Large Power Transformer (LPT)
How challenging can be transporting of a Large Power Transformer (LPT)

Safe and efficient transportation…

Transporting an Large power transformer (LPT) can be quite challenging. LPTs large dimensions and heavy weight pose unique requirements to ensure safe and efficient transportation.

Current road, rail, and port conditions are such that transportation is taking more time and becoming more expensive.

Although rail transport is most common, LPTs cannot be transferred over normal rail cars, because they cannot be rolled down a hill or bumped into other rail cars, which can damage the power transformer. This is because the heaviest load a railroad normally carries is about 100 tons, or 200,000 lb, whereas an LPT can weight two to three times that.

Workers move wires, lights, and poles to transport a 340-ton power  transformer, causing hours of traffic delay
Workers move wires, lights, and poles to transport a 340-ton power transformer, causing hours of traffic delay

A specialized railroad freight car known as the Schnabel railcar is used to transport extremely heavy loads and to accommodate height via railways (see Figure below). However, there are a limited number of Schnabel cars available worldwide, with only about 30 of them in North America.

Certain manufacturers operate a Schnabel car rental program and charge up to $2,500 per day for the rental in addition to other applicable fees.

Access to railroad is also becoming an issue in certain areas due to the closure, damage, or removal of rail lines.

'Schnabel-type' car
Schnabel. Certain transformers are designed to be an integral part of the ‘Schnabel-type’ car. The transformer attaches to railcar frames utilizing a pinning system located near the base. This allows the transformer to ride approximately six inches above the rail. These cars range in mechanical design from 12 to 20 axles. Load requirements determine car capacity requirements.

When an LPT is transported on the road, it requires obtaining special permits and routes from the department of transportation of each state on the route of the LPT being transported. According to an industry source, obtaining these special permits can require an inspection of various infrastructure (e.g., bridges), which can add delay.

In addition, transporting LPTs on the road can require temporary road closures due to traffic issues, as well as a number of crew and police officers to coordinate logistics and redirect traffic.

Picture on top depicts LPTs being transported via road and Schnabel car. The transport modular shown is 70 feet long with 12 axles and 192 wheels, and occupies two lanes of traffic. The Schnabel car shown in Figure above has 20 axles.

Logistics and transportation accounted for approximately three to 20 percent of the total cost of an LPT for both domestic and international producers.

A remarkable journey – Transportation of the world’s largest HVDC transformers

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SHELL Power Transformer 675 MVA 352/22 kV by SCHNABEL Transportation

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  • Large Power Transformers and the U.S. Electric Grid – The U.S. Department of Energy
  • Railcar rental program for power transformer relocation – ABB

About Author //


Edvard Csanyi

Edvard - Electrical engineer, programmer and founder of EEP. Highly specialized for design of LV high power busbar trunking (<6300A) in power substations, buildings and industry fascilities. Designing of LV/MV switchgears. Professional in AutoCAD programming and web-design. Present on


  1. Shaukat A. Tabani
    Aug 28, 2015

    Dear Friends

    We have to transport 57 tons weight of an electric transformer from a bridge over a small river which is about 125~150 meter wide in a hilly area. The bridge already built on the river cannot take load of more than 15 tons.

    Please guide me how to transport it. We have 2×57 tons and 4×37 tons, total 6 transformers for transportation from this bridge.

    Wit kind regards.
    Shaukat A. Tabani
    Karachi, Pakistan
    Skype : gensetco

  2. Alison Avila
    Feb 22, 2014

    Here in Brazil, many times we rent schnabel car for shppiment or to transport LMPT transformers to factory for repair. We don’t have a big wide railroad like north of america or Europe. So the transport of transforme we have to get a special licenses and spend monetária a lot for this operation. Due to this the factory repair considering long distances can’t be só profteble.

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