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Diesel locomotives or trains run using diesel fuel. If you believe so, then you are not entirely right. Modern diesel trains use electric motors known as 'traction motors' to supply power to the wheels. The diesel power plant just supplies the power to the traction motors, and does not turn the wheels.
Diesel engines, along with running the traction motor, also powers the auxiliary systems such as the compressor and the blower. Earlier, diesel train traction motors used to work on DC power. Now, they run on AC input.
Diesel Train Engine Working Principle
A diesel train engine rotates a large alternator/generator which produces AC/DC output. This current passes through a rectifier. A rectifier converts AC input to DC output.
The final output current is transmitted to the traction motors. The traction motors then provide the actual rotating force or torque to the wheels. Technically saying, a diesel train engine acts as a prime mover.
Diesel locomotive engines in India have cylinders ranging from 12 to 16. The unit is coupled to six traction motors, one on each axle. Some diesel trains come with four traction motors. Hence, it is safe to say that current diesel engines run on electric power. Such locomotives are termed as ‘Diesel Electrics'.
Earlier, diesel engines directly powered the wheels. Such locomotives were called ‘Diesel Hydraulics'. The engine output was carried over to the wheels via a set of gears, just like any conventional diesel vehicle. But this system was extremely complicated and inefficient. Another interesting fact about Diesel Electrics is, the term ‘transmission' implies the form of electric current transferred to the wheels, and not a gearbox.
Diesel Train Advantages Over Electric Trains
Diesel trains are easier to run and offer lower maintenance contrary to popular belief. Diesel train engines are also very flexible in their usage as they can keep on running as long as diesel fuel is available.
Diesel engines might be costlier than electric trains in the long run. But the high initial cost of track-electrification and setting up substations for electric railway lines, make diesel engines still a cost-effective option. Then why replace diesel trains with electric locomotives? The answer is pollution. The thick smoke coming out from diesel train engines isn't particularly good for Mother Nature.
Thoughts On Diesel Engines Using Electric Power
Diesel trains have always been a nostalgia factor for many. The loud 'chuk-chuk' engine along the thick black smoke, was a common observation across India. But the fact that diesel trains are actually run by electric motors is something most of us still can't believe. That said, did you know that Diesel Trains Are Never Turned Off?