Like almost everything else, the rail industry is influenced by the global trend toward sustainability – more efficient rail construction, operation and maintenance that minimizes impact on the environment.

3m logo edited

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), rail is already one of the most energy-efficient transport methods in a world where transportation accounts for more than half of global oil demand and one quarter of CO2 emissions. Rail is a strong leader in electrification. Across the globe, around 75 percent of all trains operate on electricity – up 10 percent in the past two decades.

But the need for cleaner and more efficient processes and procedures puts the squeeze on rail operators daily. And some studies have shown that due to urbanization and other factors, the combined global energy need for rail freight and passengers could double in the next 25 to 30 years. What more can be done to improve rail sustainability starting right now?

3M Films as a sustainable solution

interior railcar design

New technologies for the design, construction and maintenance of rail cars include the use of durable film solutions. These film solutions can (1) Replace paint to provide overall weight reduction of the train; (2) Expand design possibilities through print design flexibility and a wide range of colored films; (3) Reduces maintenance time through use of protective coatings that help get the dirt and grime off faster, and (4) Helps lower cabin temperature by blocking heat-producing Infrared (IR) rays.

Exterior films as an option to paint

Printable graphic films can contain a nearly unlimited range of designs and wrap around the railcar exterior. Most can be applied to bare metal which can reduce or potentially eliminate the need for painting, and significantly reduce the associated volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. Applying films instead of paint also helps reduce water and chemical use during the washing cycles, and the overall coach weight for better fuel efficiency.

Excellent for short-term advertising or long-term branding, digital print films are best utilized for full wraps, partial wraps, wayfinding and custom designs. Colored films are best for branding and waistline stripes as they come in a wide range of colors and can be customized to meet branding requirements.


Create visual appeal with interior films

A range of interior décor films is available for railcar cabins. They can create the look and feel of materials such as wood, stone and metals, without the extra weight and consumption of natural resources. They are designed to be extremely durable to hold up to repeated cleaning and disinfecting without deterioration of the surface finish. Interior décor films can also save on installation time.

Our range of colored and printable graphic films can also provide additional accents to interior walls and doors, or be used for informational signage, wayfinding, temporary promotions, or pandemic communications.

Interior films are also excellent for railcar restrooms, where they can be used to accent walls, floors and doors, or create completely new environments such as natural outdoor scenery. These films are easy to clean with commercial cleaners and can be quickly refurbished without business interruption.

Protective your investment

There are a wide variety of graphic film protection options that can help protect against undesirable graffiti– a common problem for freight and passenger rolling stock. These films allow for much faster and easier removal of graffiti and dirt and helps to provide a clean sparkling look for a longer period of time. These protective solutions come in gloss, luster and matte finishes.

paint-replacement-digital-film-reflective-category-rail-eloqua-800x400 (1)

Films for energy efficiency

Another area where films can really make a difference – railcar windows. Windows provide a beautiful view but along with the visible light comes heat, which is absorbed into, and radiates from, interior surfaces such as fabrics. The result is heat buildup, which can cause passenger discomfort. It can also put an extra load on air conditioners and the cost of operations.

Optically clear window films have been engineered by 3M to block heat-producing InfraRed (IR) rays, while allowing in nearly all of the visible light. Window films are easily applied to railcar windows, doors and windscreens. They can help reduce cabin temperature and decrease your energy usage without blocking the view.

Films and sustainability goals

restroom refurb (1)

What about the production of the films themselves? As companies worldwide strive to advance a global circular economy, reduce material consumption, decarbonize operations and accelerate climate solutions, they take into account their own processes from production through the entire product lifecycle.

3M offers film solutions that are low VOC emitting, non-PVC and are made without phthalates, chlorine, or heavy metals. Films weigh less than paint so additional efficiencies are gained when it comes to energy usage of the full train. Our window film options can help to reduce the temperature of the cabin, keeping passengers more comfortable and reducing the wear and tear on the train’s HVAC system.

Learn more

3M provides a full range of solutions for the rail industry including prototyping, piloting, regulatory testing and warranties. Talk to one of our 3M experts and find out how 3M and your team can build a customized solution that best meets your needs.

Discover more at 3M.com/railsolutions.