How Diesel Locomotives Work
SunRail locomotives are an impressive hybrid of diesel engine and heavy-duty electric motors. This diesel engine delivers 3200 horsepower and the generator turns this into a usable electric current. The electrical power is then sent to four traction motors to power the wheels with enough thrust to move the locomotive and attached cab cars. The rest of the train is powered by a separate engine and generator called a head-end power unit.
Why the Steel Wheels
Trains have steel wheels to help reduce rolling friction. Since the amount of energy wheels use is proportional to the weight they are supporting, the less the wheel comes in contact with the track, the less energy it will take to move the train. Believe it or not, the contact area between the train wheels and the track is about the size of a dime. A fueled SunRail locomotive with attached coach and cab cars weighs approximately 530,000lbs or 265 tons. That’s about 133 times heavier than the average car! Because trains are traveling so fast and weigh so much, they take longer to stop. In fact, a train traveling just 55mph can take more than 1 mile to come to a stop. That’s why it is so important to keep off of train tracks.