This cherished shout has long since signaled the start of a train journey. If you’ve ever boarded a train, then there’s a good chance that you’ve heard this phrase shouted by the conductor.
What you may have never stopped to consider, however, is the question of how do trains work. How do trains run? How do railroads work? How do trains manage to cart such enormous loads of cargo and people across great distances just riding on two metal strips?
If these questions perplex you, then you’re in the right place.
In this article, we’ll give you a brief overview of how trains work.
A Locomotive or Magnetic Levitation Power
The first thing to consider with trains is that they are powered by one of two sources: a locomotive that pulls it along (the more standard option), or magnetic levitation (the higher-end, more technologically advanced option).
The locomotive option is one that you’re probably very familiar with. If you’ve ever heard the “choochoo” of a train, then it was likely sourced from the locomotive. In the past, locomotives used to be powered by coal, or some other kind of fossil fuel.
While many locomotives today still leverage the power of coal, many other locomotives rely on electric power that is sourced from an overhead electric line. Locomotives can make anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 horsepower — that’s a lot of get up and go!
The magnetic levitation trains, however, are the future. Rather than sitting on rails, these levitate above train rails with the power of magnetic repulsion and is pulled forward by magnetic connection. Because the train is essentially sitting on air, the friction it experiences is much lower, allowing the train to reach far higher speeds.
Connected, Conical Wheels
The second part of understanding how locomotive trains work is understanding how the wheels allow them to go around turns. During the steel railcar post manufacturing process, the wheels of the railcar are curved in a conical fashion so that the inside diameter is larger than the outside diameter.
Remember that a train’s wheels are connected so that they spin at the same speed to keep the train moving correctly. But when going around a turn, the wheels cover different distances (shorter distances on the inside of the turn).
Because the wheels have varying diameters due to their conical shapes, this facilitates the ability for connected wheels to go different distances. The centrifugal force of the train pushes the inside wheel to its smaller, outside diameter, thus causing it to cover a smaller distance than the outside wheel.
How Do Trains Work? Answered
There you have it. Equipped with this knowledge of how locomotive and magnetic levitation trains function, you should now have a more clear answer to the question of how do trains work.
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