How Does A Modern Diesel Locomotive Develop Power?

Pistons attached to an electric generator are pushed by the ignition of diesel fuel. The produced electricity powers the locomotive’s motors, which are attached to the locomotive’s wheels. The heat generated by the compression of air during the upward cycles of the stroke is used to ignite the fuel in a “diesel” internal combustion engine. This sort of engine was created by Dr. Rudolph Diesel, the creator. In 1892, it was granted a patent.

  • An electric fuel pump delivers diesel fuel to the engine, which is kept in a fuel tank. Because of its lower volatility, lower cost, and widespread availability, diesel fuel has become the favored fuel for railroad locomotives.
  • The diesel engine (A) is the locomotive’s most important component. It’s an internal combustion engine with many cylinders linked to a shared crankshaft. The tremendous compression ignites the fuel, driving the piston down. A crankshaft is turned by the piston’s action.
  • The primary generator (B), which converts the engine’s mechanical power to electrical power, is attached to the diesel engine. The electricity is subsequently distributed to traction motors (C) via various switchgear components’ circuits.
  • The output of the main generator is regulated by the excitation field current to its windings since it is always turning, regardless of whether the locomotive is moving or not.
  • The locomotive’s power output is controlled via an electrically operated throttle by the engineer. More fuel is fed into the engine’s cylinders when it is opened, increasing mechanical power production. The electrical output of the main generator grows as the excitation of the generator increases.
  • Each traction motor (C) is connected to a pair of driving wheels directly. Using electricity as the locomotive’s “transmission” is significantly more reliable than relying on a mechanical transmission and clutch. Starting a big train from a stop would quickly burn out the clutch.

How does an electric locomotive develop power?

A locomotive that is powered by electricity from overhead lines, a third rail, or on-board energy storage such as a battery or a supercapacitor is known as an electric locomotive.

Because the electric generator/motor combination solely functions as a power transmission system, locomotives with on-board fueled prime movers, such as diesel engines or gas turbines, are classified as diesel-electric or gas turbine-electric locomotives rather than electric locomotives.

Electric locomotives benefit from electric motors’ high efficiency, which is often above 90%. (not including the inefficiency of generating the electricity). Regenerative braking, which allows kinetic energy to be recovered during braking and used to put power back on the line, can improve efficiency. Regenerative braking is available on newer electric locomotives thanks to AC motor-inverter driving systems. Because there is no engine or exhaust noise and less mechanical noise, electric locomotives are quieter than diesel locomotives. Because electric locomotives do not have reciprocating parts, they are easier to operate on the track and require less maintenance. Because the capacity of the power plant is significantly greater than the capacity of any one locomotive, electric locomotives can deliver higher power outputs than diesel locomotives, as well as higher short-term surge power for rapid acceleration. Electric locomotives are suited for frequent-stop commuter rail service. Electric locomotives are employed on freight routes with a significant volume of traffic or in locations with well-developed rail networks. Even if they utilize fossil fuels, power plants are significantly cleaner than transportable sources like locomotive engines. Geothermal power, hydroelectric power, biomass, solar power, nuclear power, and wind turbines are all examples of clean or renewable energy sources. Electric locomotives are typically 20% less expensive than diesel locomotives, with maintenance expenses of 25-35 percent cheaper and operating costs of up to 50% lower.

The expensive expense of infrastructure, such as overhead lines or third rail, substations, and control systems, is the main downside of electrification. Electrification is hampered in the United States by government policy, which imposes higher property taxes on privately held train systems that are electrified. The EPA regulates locomotive and marine engine exhaust emissions in the same way that automobile and truck emissions are regulated, in order to restrict the quantity of carbon monoxide, unburned hydrocarbons, nitric oxides, and soot produced by these mobile power sources. Because train infrastructure in the United States is privately held, railroads are hesitant to engage in electrification. Railway networks, like roads, motorways, and rivers, are considered part of the national transportation infrastructure in Europe and worldwide, and are frequently subsidized by the government. Rolling stock operators are charged fees based on how much rail is used. This enables the significant investments required for technically and economically advantageous electrification in the long run.

How much power does a modern locomotive have?

The diesel engine of a locomotive is coupled to a DC or AC electric generator. In each case, roughly 3,200 horsepower is generated. This energy is converted into a large amount of current, around 4,700 amperes, by the generator.

A New Era

Although diesel locomotives were originally introduced to American railroads in the 1920s, they were initially limited to switch engines and then passenger train locomotives. The Electro Motive Division of General Motors (EMD) didn’t demonstrate that diesel locomotives could practically replace steam locomotives in heavy-duty service until 1940. The model “FT,” a pioneer freight diesel, traversed the nation’s railroads and made history. It was fashioned with an automobile-like snout and windshield, just like its sister passenger locomotives of the time, a design that lasted until the late 1950s.

The locomotives are actually powered by electricity, despite the fact that they are frequently referred to as “diesels.” The locomotive’s diesel engine powers an alternator, which generates electricity to power electric motors located on the axles. The internal combustion engine outperformed the steam locomotive in terms of efficiency, allowing for significant cost reductions in maintenance and the elimination of several facilities. Extra units may be linked and controlled by a single engineer from the lead unit, resulting in extremely powerful combinations.

Due to material shortages created by World War II, several railways, including Union Pacific, were unable to take advantage of the new technology quickly. Union Pacific’s fleet of contemporary steam locomotives, as well as Wyoming’s abundant on-line coal supplies, contributed to the company’s late entry into the dieselization race. Railroads, on the other hand, began sweeping the rails clear of the classic steamers after the war. Union Pacific began its sweep in the late 1940s on a line that ran across the southern deserts, where steam engines struggled to find water.

The steam era was finished by the end of the 1950s, and increasingly powerful diesels ruled the rails.

Why do diesel locomotives use electric motors?

Switchers (or shunters), locomotives used for moving trains around in railroad yards and building and disassembling them, were the first to utilise diesel–electric technology in the 1920s. The American Locomotive Company was one of the first companies to offer “Oil-Electric” locomotives (ALCO). In 1931, the ALCO HH series of diesel–electric switchers went into production. The system was modified in the 1930s to accommodate streamliners, the fastest trains of the day. Diesel–electric powerplants were popular because they substantially simplified the transmission of motive power to the wheels, as well as being more efficient and requiring less maintenance. When a locomotive has four or more axles, direct-drive transmissions can become quite complicated. A direct-drive diesel locomotive would also necessitate an excessive number of gears to keep the engine within its powerband; connecting the diesel to a generator solves this problem. In a direct drive system, a torque converter or fluid coupling can be used to replace the gearbox. Hydraulic transmissions are said to be more efficient than diesel-electric transmissions.

How do modern trains work?

Many trains run entirely on electricity. They obtain power from a third rail, or electrical line, that runs parallel to the track. Transformers convert the voltage from the lines into electrical current, which drives the wheels’ motors.

What is the newest diesel locomotive?

Amtrak passengers will soon be able to travel on a brand-new locomotive capable of speeds of up to 125 miles per hour: Meet the Siemens ALC-42 Chargers.

  • The Siemens ALC-42 Chargers can reach high speeds of 125 mph while using less diesel.

How much horsepower does a CSX train have?

The first locomotives had a variety of mechanical issues, the most serious of which was the engine itself. The engine mass was increased to lower the resonance frequency, which alleviated serious vibration issues. As a result, the dual turbochargers had issues. Due to these issues, GE decided to delay complete manufacturing of the new type until 1998. At full production, changes such as stiffer materials and greater engine wall thickness (to increase bulk) were in place.

Many of CSX Transportation’s AC6000CW units have been re-powered from 16-7HDL engines to GEVO-16 engines to make them more reliable and ecologically friendly. These engines have a maximum output of 5,800 hp (4,300 kW), but are rated at 4,600 hp (3,400 kW) and are designated as CW46AH.

What do modern freight trains run on?

Diesel is nearly entirely used in freight train engines. The first over-the-road diesel freight engines were introduced in the 1930s, and by 1940, the United States had over 1,000 diesel-powered trains, the majority of which were used for passenger service.

According to the most recent available statistics from the United States Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), there were slightly over 26,000 freight locomotives and 431 passenger rail AMTRAK locomotives in operation in the United States at the end of 2018. Other state transit organizations ran regional rail services that were primarily powered by diesel engines. Except for a few electrified passenger rail lines (Amtrak’s Northeast corridor and the Harrisburg, PA line), all passenger rail and freight rail in the United States is diesel-powered, utilizing 65 million gallons of diesel fuel in 2018.

While today’s average vehicle engine has around 200 horsepower, locomotive engines often have ten times that. Diesel power is used by train operators for a wide range of rail applications:

  • Small locomotive engines (up to 2,000 horsepower) are employed in freight yard switch operations to assemble and disassemble trains, or in short hauls of small trains.
  • The most powerful locomotive engines (up to 4,500 horsepower) are generally employed by America’s five Class I railroads, shorthaul operators, and AMTRAK passenger rail locomotives for long-distance freight train operations.

For locomotives, diesel engines offer significant cost savings over other power sources. Diesel locomotives also accelerate rapidly and travel at high speeds while causing minimum track damage. They have similar efficiency to electric locomotives, but they don’t require the capital investments in substations and electric distribution networks as electric locomotives do.

Regulations and Standards

The diesel sector and rail manufacturers continue to put money and effort into developing the cleanest train technology feasible. In recent years, diesel locomotive engine technology has evolved tremendously. Since 1980, fuel economy has grown by 61%.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the Final Nonroad Diesel Rule in 2004, which mandates that train engines fulfill stringent air quality criteria. Trains will be obliged to use low sulfur diesel fuel, which reduces sulfur emissions by 99 percent, as part of this requirement. These fuel enhancements will have an immediate and considerable positive impact on the environment and public health.

Clean rail regulations, on the other hand, will need the adoption of advanced emission-control technology comparable to those already in use for heavy-duty diesel trucks and buses. Because pure non-road diesel fuel is now available, modern clean diesel emission control technology can reduce NOx and PM emissions from new rail engines by 90%.

The transition to near-zero emissions in locomotive engines for all applications is now complete, with new engines made since 2015 meeting US EPA Tier 4 emissions limits for particulate matter and nitrogen oxides. The emissions reduction benefits of replacing a single older switch locomotive with a new Tier 4 near-zero emissions diesel engine are equivalent to removing 8,000 automobiles off the road for a year.

Advanced Rail Technology Delivers Clean Air and Climate Benefits

While new Tier 4 near-zero emissions diesel locomotive options for passenger and freight rail are now available, incorporating them into the locomotive fleet may take some time. According to research, locomotive engines last an average of more than 50 years in service. As a result, there is still a considerable number of engines in use that were built before emissions limits were enforced. Replacing these considerably older locomotives with new near-zero emissions diesel engines can help reduce pollutants in the towns they serve almost immediately.

Siemens, a global locomotive builder, collaborated with Cummins, a global engine manufacturer, to produce a near-zero emissions locomotive for AMTRAK’s aging fleet. In 2021, 75 new AMTRAK Charger locomotives with powerful 4,000 HP Cummins QSK90 diesel engines are planned to enter service, reducing emissions by 90% while also saving fuel. These new, more fuel-efficient diesel engines are intended to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 10%.

Diesel engines are capable of integrating hybrid systems, thus locomotives should benefit from these advancements as well. To achieve greater environmental performance, near-zero emissions diesel engines are combined with energy conservation and storage technologies. MTU created a hybrid PowerPak system that can be adapted for any rail application and reduce CO2 emissions by 25% while also providing Tier 4 environmental benefits.

Machine learning has the potential to improve the efficiency of large machines. Caterpillar’s ProgressRail subsidiary has integrated modern electronic controls into the latest locomotive designs, combining Tier 4 near-zero pollution reduction benefits with fuel savings performance. You may have spotted numerous locomotives running in a comprise to transport passenger or rail cars if you’ve ever seen one in operation. The latest electrical technologies allow these engines to run as effectively as possible and avoid idling, resulting in significant fuel savings.

Rudolph Diesel’s initial diesel engine, which was developed over a century ago, was designed to run on biofuels. Diesel engines, old and new, may now run on renewable diesel fuel and high-quality biodiesel mixes, resulting in considerable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. VirginAtlantic, which operates the Brightline high-speed passenger rail service in Florida, has pledged to use biodiesel to cut the ride’s carbon footprint by 20%.