423 miles on one gallon

Moving one ton of freight on one gallon of diesel, that it is. But that’s the claim being made in some CSX advertising in print, online and on TV. It’s seems a little curious. I found this old-ish blog item from a [Macon?] Telegraph reporter, who got the following response from a CSX spokesmodel:

On average, railroads can move one ton of freight 423 miles on one gallon of fuel. This is a rail industry statistic calculated by dividing the 2006 annual revenue ton miles (1.772 trillion) by the fuel consumed (4.192 billion), which equates to the industry average of one ton of freight 423 miles on one gallon of fuel. (The 2006 data was the last full year for which total industry data are available.)
Revenue ton miles are those miles for which railroads are compensated for moving freight. (We move empty cars to reposition them, and we move company materials for which we are not compensated). The industry did not include fuel consumed by passenger trains — just freight trains.

There are some follow-up questions, but basically the numbers seem sound and in line with what you might intuit about using rail to move freight. Or even people. Limited stops, less wind resistance, but also… more country songs and all those great views of people’s backyards.