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The Diesel Locomotive
The modern diesel locomotive is a self contained version of the
electric locomotive. Like theelectric locomotive, it has electric drive, in the form
of traction motors driving the axles andcontrolled with electronic controls. It also
has many of the same auxiliary systems forcooling, lighting, heating, braking and
hotel power (if required) for the train. It can operateover the same routes
(usually) and can be operated by the same drivers. It differs principallyin that it
carries its own generating station around with it, instead of being connected to
aremote generating station through overhead wires or a third rail.
The generating stationconsists of a large diesel engine coupled to an alternator
producing the necessary electricity.A fuel tank is also essential. It is interesting to
note that the modern diesel locomotiveproduces about 35% of the power of a
electric locomotive of similar weight.
The Diesel Engine
The diesel engine was first patented by Dr Rudolf Diesel (1858-1913) in Germany
in 1892and he actually got a successful engine working by 1897. By 1913, when
he died, his enginewas in use on locomotives and he had set up a facility with
Sulzer in Switzerland tomanufacture them. His death was mysterious in that he
simply disappeared from a ship takinghim to London.The diesel engine is
a compression-ignition engine, as opposed to the petrol (or gasoline)engine,
which is a spark-ignition engine. The spark ignition engine uses an electrical
spark from a "spark plug" to ignite the fuel in the engine's cylinders, whereas the
fuel in the dieselengine's cylinders is ignited by the heat caused by air being
suddenly compressed in thecylinder. At this stage, the air gets compressed into
an area 1/25th of its original volume. Thiswould be expressed as a compression
ratio of 25 to 1. A compression ratio of 16 to 1 willgive an air pressure of 500
lbs/in² (35.5 bar) and will increase the air temperature to over800°F (427°C).The
advantage of the diesel engine over the petrol engine is that it has a higher
thermalcapacity (it gets more work out of the fuel), the fuel is cheaper because it
is less refined thanpetrol and it can do heavy work under extended periods of
overload. It can however, in a highspeed form, be sensitive to maintenance and
noisy, which is why it is still not popular forpassenger automobiles.

Parts of a Diesel-Electric Locomotive
The following diagram shows the main parts of a US-built diesel-electric
locomotive. Click on the part name for a description.
Diesel Engine
This is the main power source for the locomotive. It comprises a large cylinder
block, withthe cylinders arranged in a straight line or in a V. The engine rotates
the drive shaft at up to1,000 rpm and this drives the various items needed to
power the locomotive. As thetransmission is electric, the engine is used as the
power source for the electricity generator oralternator, as it is called nowadays.

For more details on AC and DCtraction. Thisprovides AC power for lighting. Many of these machines are still in regular use. Theblower output also cools the alternators. air conditioning. dining facilities etc.Main Alternator The diesel engine drives the main alternator which provides the power to move the train. It produced direct current which was used to provide power for DCtraction motors. air conditioned passenger coachesget what is called electric train supply (ETS) from the auxiliary alternator. heating. Thealternator generates AC electricity which is used to provide power for the traction motorsmounted on the trucks (bogies). so the blower output is connected to each of the motors through flexible ducting. In older locomotives. In the UK. As its name suggests. The ACoutput is rectified to give the DC required for the motors. In the US. on the train. The next development wasthe replacement of the generator by the alternator but still using DC traction motors.called a generator. Whatever the arrangement. Some designs have separate blowers for the group of motors on each truck and others for the alternators. The blower is mounted inside the locomotive body but the motors are on thetrucks. a modernlocomotive has a complex air management system which monitors the temperature of thevarious rotating machines in the locomotive and adjusts the flow of air accordingly. Air Intakes . it isknown as "head end power" or "hotel power". Motor Blower The diesel engine also drives a motor blower. the alternator was a DC machine. the motor blowerprovides air which is blown over the traction motors to keep them cool during periods of heavy work. Auxiliary Alternator Locomotives used to operate passenger trains are equipped with an auxiliary alternator.The output is transmitted along the train through an auxiliary power line.

AC motors have become standard for new locomotives. one truck) fails then the unit is only able toproduce 50 per cent of its tractive effort. but theGE view is that individual axle control can provide the best tractive effort. However. It has tobe filtered to remove dust and other impurities and its flow regulated by temperature. if one inverter (i. If an inverter fails. DC motors were the traditional type used for many years but. . Rectifiers/Inverters The output from the main alternator is AC but it can be used in a locomotive with either DCor AC traction motors. ensuring wheel slip control ismaximised among the axles equally.both systems have their merits. rectifiers are required. in thelast 10 years. They are cheaper tobuild and cost less to maintain and.EMD's system links the axles within each truck in parallel.the tractive effort for that axle is lost. These are usually collected in a control cubicle near the cab for easy access. One inverter per axle is more complicated.To convert the AC output from the main alternator to DC.The air for cooling the locomotive's motors is drawn in from outside the locomotive. If the motors are AC. the DCoutput from the rectifiers is converted to 3-phase AC for the traction motors. there are some variations in how the inverters are configured. with electronic management can be very finelycontrolled.In the US. GM EMD relies onone inverter per truck. but full tractive effort is still available through the otherfive inverters. bothinside and outside the locomotive. keeping wheel diameters closelymatched for optimum performance is no longer necessary Electronic Controls Almost every part of the modern locomotive's equipment has some form of electroniccontrol.e. the output from the rectifiers is used directly. The air management system has to take account of thewide range of temperatures from the possible +40°C of summer to the possible -40°C of winter. Parallel control also means even wheel wear evenbetween axles. By controlling each axle individually. while GE uses one inverter per axle . Thecontrols will usually include a maintenance management system of some sort which can beused to download data to a portable or handheld computer. If themotors are DC.