At Central Diesel Inc. (CDI), we are a premier distributor of diesel engines and diesel engine components for companies across a wide range of industries. We’ve provided product solutions to short-term and long-term problems within the railroad industry for over 35 years.
How Does a Diesel Locomotive Work?
Diesel locomotives consist of two main components: a prime mover (i.e., an initial source of power such as an internal combustion engine) and a mechanism of transmitting the generated power to the tracks. Despite being called “diesel locomotives”, many modern units are actually driven forward by electricity. They use a diesel engine to rotate the drive shaft of a generator. The electricity produced by the generator is used to power the motors at the wheels (i.e., traction motors), which move the locomotive forward on the tracks.
Types of Transmission in Diesel Locomotives
The transmission mechanism found in a diesel locomotive can vary depending on its power requirements and restrictions. For example:
- In diesel-mechanical locomotives, the transmission is similar to the mechanical ones found in cars. The locomotives generally operate at low power and speed levels.
- In diesel-electric locomotives, the transmission does not establish a mechanical connection between the diesel engine and wheels. The locomotives are driven using an electrical DC generator or AC alternator-rectifier. The power output depends on the road speed.
- In diesel-hydraulic locomotives, the engines are less efficient than ones found in diesel-electric locomotives. As a result, the engine needs help conveying power to the wheels. The transmission can be hydrostatic or hydrokinetic. In hydrostatic transmissions, the engine turns a pumping component that pressurizes hydraulic fluid, which is then used to power a motor on the drive side. In hydrokinetic transmissions, a torque converter is used.
- In diesel-steam locomotives, piston engines are used to drive forward motion. They are powered using steam generated from a boiler or other similar device.
- In diesel-pneumatic locomotives, the power mechanism is often converted using an existing steam engine and transitioned to diesel operation.
Diesel Locomotive Parts
In addition to the prime mover and transmission mechanism, diesel locomotives have many other parts that help them run reliably and safely. These include:
- Cab: serves as the operating/control location for the locomotive
- Coupler: connects locomotives and rail cars
- Fuel tank: houses the fuel for the engine
- Headlight: casts light at the front of the locomotive
- Horn: provides a warning to people and animals to stand clear of the tracks
- Number board: indicates the locomotive or train number
- Pilot: clears debris or obstacles from the track in front of the locomotive
- Porthole window: allows passengers and personnel to see into/out of the locomotive or train
- Stirrup: helps people step into/out of the locomotive
- Truck: hold the wheels, gears, axles, brake cylinders, and motors and supports the locomotive
- Ventilators: cool the engine and braking grids
Advantages of Locomotive Diesel Engines
After diesel-powered locomotives were introduced, they gradually overtook steam-powered locomotives as the standard. Some of the advantages they offer include:
- Lower fuel requirements
- Smaller crew requirements
- Easier maintenance requirements
- Longer run time between maintenance operations
- Broader availability
- Greater operational safety
Locomotive Diesel Engines from Central Diesel
From hauling goods to transporting passengers, diesel locomotives play a vital role in the rail industries. That’s why CDI is proud to deliver a variety of diesel engine solutions to companies within these industries. We specialize in rail maintenance machinery and equipment, including, but not limited to, service/maintenance kits for oil, fuel, and air for each machine; hydraulic service/maintenance kits; service/maintenance kits; and hydraulic hose kits for each machine. We also offer various engines and engine packages, including Deutz, Perkins, Mitsubishi Industrial, Cummins, and John Deere, and a wide range of engine parts to help keep the machinery up and running to optimal performance.