Usage of hopper, truck, van, wagon?


I have just found out that English has many options how to say the word “wagon” (connected with/to trains), depending on what kind of goods the hopper, van or truck carries.

In one computer game I can buys these “SOMETHING” that my train will be connected with/to:Passenger Carriage, Mail Van, Coal Truck, Oil Tanker, Livestock Van, Goods Van, Grain Hopper, Wood Truck, Iron Ore Hopper, Steel Truck and Armoured Van.

1.)Can I use any word that can replace “SOMETHING” in my previouse sentece? (no matter what kind of good or cargo the train carry). Is it word “wagon” ?

2.)In my language we have got one word for all and it’s “wagon”. However,I was told that it’s not possible to use the word “wagon” like this: “Oil wagon”. But is it possible to say for example “wagon for oil”?

3.)I found the difference among the words hopper, van, truck and carriage on the internet. I’m a little confused, though, because according to the information I found and the name of the “SOMEHTING” I can buy in the game, it’s possible to say Coal truck and coal van. This is what I found:

Hopper - A usually funnel-shaped container in which materials, such as grain or coal, are stored in readiness for dispensation.
Van - A covered or enclosed truck or wagon often used for transporting goods or livestock.
Truck - A railroad freight car without a top
Carriage - A wheeled vehicle, especially a four-wheeled horse-drawn passenger vehicle, often of an elegant design.

Could anyone explain it to me once again please?

Thank you very much

Hello, Mattoni

Welcome to

First, I’d be careful about trying to draw any assumptions about the English language from a video game. This may or may not have been written by native speakers, and even so, they’re probably more concerned with the game, versus English grammar. There a number of famous erroneous English translation on games written by Japanese programs. Google the phrase “All your bases are belonging to us”, for an example.

Wagons may be used in British English, but speaking from an American standpoint, in regard to trains, we don’t use the word ‘wagons’. Trains pull cars. They may be referred to as boxcars, platform cars, hopper cars, etc. The word ‘wagon’ has no connection to trains at all, at least in AmE. I can’t speak for BrE, but maybe one of our BrE speakers could clarify.

A hopper car is an empty box, without a lid, (although sometimes it is covered by a tarp), used to carry dry bulk commodities such as grain, coal, etc. We just refer to them by the type of commodity they’re carrying, such as a grain hopper, coal hopper, or simply as a coal car, grain car, etc.

Liquids hauled by trains are transported in tanker cars.

As for your question #1, I think you could just use the term ‘car’ as a generic reference to anything pulled by a train.

Excellent, thank you very much, I think it’s pretty clear now.

Just two last things … what about Passanger carriage and trucks?

1.)When I googled the word “carriage” I found some pictures of old cars that are pulled by horses. Is it possible to use this word for “passengers cars” nowdays ?

2.)What about the word “truck”? Do you use this word in meaning to a train car (similary like hopper or tanker)? If so, what kind of cargo does truck carry? —> what do you say about the “coal truck” and “coal hopper”?

Thank you

  1. Yes, the term carriage or carriage car is used for passenger cars on a train, but it’s used primarily in BrE. AmE would more likely to refer to them as passenger cars or a coach car.

  2. No, a truck has no connection to trains. A truck (or lorry, in BrE) is self-powered motor vehicle. In AmE, a truck could either refer to either a larger vehicle for transportation of goods, or to the personal pickup truck.

Note that my replies are as an AmE speaker. I suspect a few of those terms you found, such as wagon and van might be used in BrE. You’ll have to wait for a BrE speaker, or somebody better versed on BrE to expound on that.

I’ve just remembered one thing I wanted to ask … is it possible to use the word car with all kind of cargos(goods)? Instead of Oil tanker, grain hopper,… Oil car and grain car,…?

Thanks a lot