Gas turbine locomotive

Gas turbine locomotive image

A 44-ton 1-B-1 experimental gas turbine locomotive designed by R. Tom Sawyer and built in 1952 for testing by the U.S. Army Transportation Corps UP 18, a gas turbine-electric locomotive preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum

A gas turbine locomotive is a type of railway locomotive in which the prime mover is a gas turbine. Several types of gas turbine locomotive have been developed, differing mainly in the means by which mechanical power is conveyed to the driving wheels (drivers). A gas turbine train typically consists of two power cars (one at each end of the train), and one or more intermediate passenger cars.

A gas turbine offers some advantages over a piston engine. There are few moving parts, decreasing the need for lubrication and potentially reducing maintenance costs, and the power-to-weight ratio is much higher. A turbine of a given power output is also physically smaller than an equally powerful piston engine, so that a locomotive can be extremely powerful without needing to be inordinately large.

However, a gas turbine's power output and efficiency both drop dramatically with rotational speed, unlike a piston engine, which has a comparatively flat power curve. This makes GTEL systems useful primarily for long-distance high-speed runs. Additional problems with gas turbine-electric locomotives include the fact that they are very noisy and produce such extremely hot exhaust gasses that, if the locomotive were parked under an overpass paved with asphalt, it could melt the asphalt.

Unlike steam engines, internal combustion engines require a transmission to power the wheels. The engine must be allowed to continue running when the locomotive is stopped.

Contents

Early developments

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