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Old 08-27-2003, 10:06 PM   #5
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petertenthije's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: the Netherlands
Posts: 76

I don't think the main reason for the larger size of locomotives is because they are diesel. In Europe we also got some diesel locomotives that are still smaller when compared to US locomotices.

Click Here to view this pic full size!

Click Here to view this pic full size!

There are two main reasons I think:

the loads the US locomotives pull are heavier. In Europe freight trains are very much the minority. In the US the opposite is true, passenger trains tend to be the minority. Therefore the Acela is smaller, it can do with hauling less weight. Another big advantage of the Acela, and other European trains, is that they are electric. This is lighter because there is no need for diesel and other equipment.

Another point is that US trains travel longer distances. Most European freight trains (and even some passenger trains) still have to change locomotive when crossing the borders. Each national railway has its own signalling, electric current etc. There are plans for a standardised freight network covering Europe simlar to the high speed rail network being build, but that is very much a long term goal.

At the moment only the newer trains (ICE, TGV, Thalys, Eurostar etc) can drive on 2 or more national tracks. Take for instance the ICE-3, in the pic you can see that the it has more than one power tap (or whatever it is called)

Click Here to view this pic full size!

Of course this problem can be bypassed by using diesel locomotives. But since there is a very dense electric network in Europe it is used more often. It is cheaper to use, more environmentally friendly (remember, I am talking about Europe, we are bordering at lunacy when it comes to the environment), interchangable with passenger trains etc. Another point is that on some vital routes diesel trains aren't allowed. For instance the tunnels linking Italy with France and Switzerland and the Eurotunnel linking the UK with continental europe. Therefore for these routes the rail companies could not go diesel even if they wanted to!

The US probably could have made their locomotives longer and less tall, thus having the same volume. But why bother? Because of the nature of the load, high weight freight, speed was not the most important concern. Traction (sp?) is!
In Europe speed is of a larger concern because passengers can complain. Since the weight is lower, traction is less vital. Therefore European trains tend to be aerodynamic were US trains are not.
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