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Electric Locomotives


M. Parsons
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I've always liked electric traction... be it trolleybuses, streetcars/ LRV's, subways, or electric locomotives.

I really should question why my favorite scale in N scale when it's tough to get models of any North American prototypes of the above!

Although there are some out there. I just picked up an Bachmann HHP-8 and at some point I want to get my hands on a E60CH.

Anyways, I do have a few questions I hope someone might be able to answer.

1. What does an electric locomotive sound like? As crazy as that sounds... I've only ever heard diesel electrics. Off hand, I can't even think of any EMU's I've been around. Specifically, it is some of the North American heavy freight electrics (like GE E60 series, or GM GFC6's) I'm curious about.

2. What does it take to upgrade a locomotive from 11 000 V to 25 000 V or 25 000V to 50 000 V? From what I have been able to find, it sounds like it's pretty tough to convert a locomotive from using 25 Hz to 60 Hz frequncy power, but, changing voltage must be a bit easier. Of course modern locomotives can handle different voltages and frequently.

On a similar vein... I would assume it's also pretty tough to upgrade a locomotive from taking in DC power to taking in AC power from the catenary?

3. It seems a lot of the electric locomotives don't have as much in the way of a short hood as diesels. In the case of GE's, the E25B and E60 series have basically flat ends without any typical short hood period. I guess the AEM-7 and HHP-8 are like that as well but I attribute that to European origins for those locomotives, where as the E25B I believe is a variation on the U23B, and the E60 just seems like a North American locomotive from it's pretty massive size. I believe the B23-7Q? that Seaboard Coast Line had, had similar cabs. At first I thought that these might have been to protect crews in a collision (although the cab actually seems to put them closer to the front of the locomotive, it just seems bigger and stronger and able to take a big hit). However, a lot of the railroads electric frieght locomotives operate on (mining railroads) have none to few public crossings. It doesn't seem like collision protection would be a big concern.

I also noticed that the test locomotives GM built... the GM6C and GM10B seemed to have shorter short hoods than other diesels.

Of course, saying that a lot of electric locomotives seem to have shorter than normal short hoods is a tad misleading, considering how few electric locomotives there are in North America compared to diesels! And hence, a lot have been purpose built.

Thanks for any information or insight anyone can provide!

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The ALP-46 makes a high-pitched whine as it starts accelerating, but that's the only locomotive I can associate with a noise. Most of the others I'm familiar with (AEM-7, HHP-8) are simply too loud to distinguish the motor's noise.

I have faint memories of riding Amtrak trains to New Haven pulled by E60s, then getting out at New Haven and watching them swap the locomotive for a F40PH. Now, since the entire Northeast Corridor to Boston is electrified, they don't do this anymore :P

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The ALP-46 makes a high-pitched whine as it starts accelerating, but that's the only locomotive I can associate with a noise. Most of the others I'm familiar with (AEM-7, HHP-8) are simply too loud to distinguish the motor's noise.

It's not just the motor I'm interested in... I actually meant to elaborate a bit more. It is actually the overall sound I'm curious about. Of course, when it comes to trolleybuses I regard them as quieter than a bus, and consider streetcars/ LRV's to generally be a quiet transportation mode. And I was wondering if a heavy electric locomotive does sound much different than a diesel electric, and if indeed it is quieter.

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1. What does an electric locomotive sound like? As crazy as that sounds... I've only ever heard diesel electrics. Off hand, I can't even think of any EMU's I've been around. Specifically, it is some of the North American heavy freight electrics (like GE E60 series, or GM GFC6's) I'm curious about.

From my very limited experience with electric motors and EMU's, the bulk of the noise that you hear are from things like the gearboxes, radiator fans, traction motors, invertors - things that you can hear on a diesel-electric, although they are generally drowned out by the noise of the diesel.

From what I remember they definitely were quieter, although they may not seem to be because many of the sounds are audible regardless of whether it is moving or not.

2. What does it take to upgrade a locomotive from 11 000 V to 25 000 V or 25 000V to 50 000 V? From what I have been able to find, it sounds like it's pretty tough to convert a locomotive from using 25 Hz to 60 Hz frequncy power, but, changing voltage must be a bit easier. Of course modern locomotives can handle different voltages and frequently.

On a similar vein... I would assume it's also pretty tough to upgrade a locomotive from taking in DC power to taking in AC power from the catenary?

It's actually not that difficult. Many modern electric locos use multi-stage transformers that allow for changes in voltages and even frequency if necessary - for instance, Amtrak's North East Corridor uses 11kV at both 25Hz and 60Hz, and 25kV at 60Hz, so all units must be able to operate on all three voltages. The TGV's are even more complex, with some being able to handle 4 voltages, including at least one DC one.

Although, if a unit is built for one specific voltage (say, the 50kV 60Hz standard used by North American industrial lines), to allow it to operate "properly" on another voltage will require the changing of the transformer. I say "properly" because the systems are designed for voltage drops, and can handle substantially less than the rated voltage - for instance, one of the ways that GO Transit will likely get around the low clearances of Union Station is to run the overhead wire at 12.5kV instead of 25kV elsewhere. The trains won't be able to run at their full rated power, but it will allow for substantially less clearance around the contact wires than if the full 25kV was used.

3. It seems a lot of the electric locomotives don't have as much in the way of a short hood as diesels. In the case of GE's, the E25B and E60 series have basically flat ends without any typical short hood period. I guess the AEM-7 and HHP-8 are like that as well but I attribute that to European origins for those locomotives, where as the E25B I believe is a variation on the U23B, and the E60 just seems like a North American locomotive from it's pretty massive size. I believe the B23-7Q? that Seaboard Coast Line had, had similar cabs. At first I thought that these might have been to protect crews in a collision (although the cab actually seems to put them closer to the front of the locomotive, it just seems bigger and stronger and able to take a big hit). However, a lot of the railroads electric frieght locomotives operate on (mining railroads) have none to few public crossings. It doesn't seem like collision protection would be a big concern.

I also noticed that the test locomotives GM built... the GM6C and GM10B seemed to have shorter short hoods than other diesels.

Of course, saying that a lot of electric locomotives seem to have shorter than normal short hoods is a tad misleading, considering how few electric locomotives there are in North America compared to diesels! And hence, a lot have been purpose built.

I suspect that at least part of the reasoning behind the shorter noses is that neither GE nor EMD wanted to spend the additional money to design a new unit from scratch, especially when they didn't have the orders to support it. The GM6C and 10B, for instance, shared a lot of parts commonality with both each other and the SD40-2 which was in production at the time.

As for safety - they would have all had to conform to the FRA standards at the time and so would have been just as safe as a diesel locomotive.

Dan

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  • 2 weeks later...
Best thing I can suggest is to look for it on Youtube.

When I feel nostalgic and want to hear old British electric or diesel locomoties / multiple units thats what I do.

I have a short MP3 file on my website of a German 103 electric starting away from a station stop.

http://www.michaeltaylor.ca/sound/sound-eu.htm as well as a diesel hydraulic, a narrow gauge 2-10-2T and a standard gauge 2-8-2.

The Czech Republic have a sizable fleet of dual voltage electrics that run on 3000 volt DC and 25000 volt AC. Interestingly they are rated at 3480kW on DC and only 3080 kW on AC. Czech electrics use the first number of the loco number to indicate voltage, starting with a 1 indicates DC, 2 are AC and 3 are dual voltage.

Siemens built the Taurus electrics in single, dual and quad voltage versions. The class 189 will operate on 1500 v dc, 3000 volt dc, 15000 v ac & 25000 v ac.

The Siemens 1016 (15kva) and 1116 (15kva +25kva) on the Austrian Railways make an organ sound which rises in pitch as the loco accelerates away.

illustrates it very well with an explanation of how.
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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks everyone for your relies! They are appricated!

I purchased a copy of the book Electric Locomotives (I believe that's the name... I don't have it in front of me right now) off of eBay for $10.

Lots of good infromation from what I've read so far. Certainly seems to be a lot more technical than a lot of information on the web, which is more along the lines of what I've been trying to research.

Also some wonderful colour photos of equipment.

It certainly makes me realize that books are probably still one of the best resources out there.

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