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Railway Locomotive


What is a Locomotive?

A locomotive is a railway vehicle that provides the motive power for a train. A locomotive has no payload capacity of its own, and its sole purpose is to move the train along the tracks. Locomotives are classified mainly into Steam, Diesel , Electric and Hybrid.

Stages of Development of a Locomotive

Steam Locomotive : Steam Engine was invented

by George Stephenson in 1813.In the 19th century the first railway locomotives were powered by steam, usually generated by burning wood, coal, or oil.

Working of a Steam Engine

Diesel Locomotive
A diesel locomotive is a type of railway locomotive in which the prime mover is a diesel engine, a reciprocating engine operating on the Diesel cycle as invented by Dr. Rudolf Diesel

Electric Locomotive

The first known electric locomotive was built in 1837 by chemist Robert Davidson. An electric locomotive is a locomotive powered by electricity from overhead lines, a third rail or an on-board energy storage device (such as a chemical battery or fuel cell). Electricity is used to eliminate smoke and take advantage of the high efficiency of electric motors; however, the cost of railway electrification means that usually only heavily used lines can be electrified.

Hybrid Locomotive

A hybrid locomotive uses an onboard rechargeable energy storage system (RESS), placed between the power source (often a diesel engine prime mover) and the traction transmission system connected to the wheels.

Working of a Hybrid Locomotive

Control of the Engine

The rail engine is controlled by 3 levers. The first lever is the Notch lever. It is a 8-notch system. The engine accelerates on increasing the number of notch. The 8th notch gives the maximum acceleration to the engine. The second lever is the direction lever. The forward and reverse motion of the engine is controlled by this lever. The third lever is the brake lever. On applying this lever, the brake is applied to the engine. When this is applied, the brake shoes come in contact with the wheel and hence the engine comes to rest.

Parts of a Locomotive
6-Cylinder Engine : A V6 engine is an engine with six cylinders mounted on the crankcase in two banks of three cylinders, usually set at either a right angle or an acute angle to each other, with all six pistons driving a common crankshaft

Generator :One main generators to generate power for the traction motors and two auxiliary generators are provided to generate power for other purposes in the engine like lighting. Traction Motor : Traction motor refers to an electric motor providing the primary rotational torque of a machine, usually for conversion into linear motion (traction). Battery: The batteries used in a locomotive are Ni-Cad batteries . They are 8 in number . These batteries initiate the motion of the main generator.

Radiator Fan : The radiator is provided to cool the engine when it exceeds a temperature of 68C. It automatically starts when the engine temperature rises above 68C. It is connected to the motor shaft using a universal coupling. Universal Coupling withstands twisting upto an angle of 18.

Governor : A governor setup is provided to the engine to control the flow of fuel into the 6 cylinders of the engine.

Fuel Injection Pumps(FIP): FIPs are provided to mix engine oils to the fuel in the right proportion and inject this mixture into the cylinders for combustion. One FIP is provided for each cylinder.

Because of the need for positive injection into a very high-pressure environment, the pump develops great pressuretypically 15,000 psi (100 MPa) or more on newer systems.

Compressor : Compressor provides the required air for the combustion of fuel in the chamber. It also provides air for the air braking systems. Turbochargers: A turbocharger is a forced induction device used to allow more power to be produced for an engine.

The turbocharger's compressor draws in ambient air and compresses it before it enters into the intake manifold at increased pressure. This results in a greater mass of air entering the cylinders on each intake.

Working of Locomotive

Unlike the engine in automobiles, rail engine is run by traction motors and not the main motor.
The main motor runs the generator. The power generated by the generator is given to the traction motors which runs the wheels of the engine. The governor controls the amount of fuel entering the 6 cylinders depending on the notch applied. The compressor sucks in air necessary for combustion in the engine. It also generates the vacuum necessary to apply brake between the wagons.

To start the engine, the charge from the batteries start the generator which then continues the generation due to the action of the self motor. As soon as the engine gets hotter than 68C, the radiator fan automatically gets on and cools the engine.

Practical Problem in a Locomotive

The coaches are connected to the engine with Hooks. An appropriate angle of contact should be maintained between the hooks such that the friction force is sufficient enough to maintain contact between the hooks. But due to enormous force being applied to the hook during motion and braking, the hook experiences deformations and after certain period of time , it may reach fatigue. A SOLIDWORKS model and simulation have been performed to analyse this problem of linkage. The results are shown below.

Simulation Results(Contd.)


In order to avoid failure, materials like Carbon Steel (WCB) of ASTM A216 Grade WCB is used for manufacture of railway hooks. This material not only has a high yield strength but is also corrosive resistant and withstands a large range of temperatures. The modern day rail engine has evolved from a efficiency of 8% for the steam engine to 28% for the electric engine.