The Basics of Train Engineering Explained

When trains were first introduced into the world, it blew people’s minds. Being able to travel over ground so fast and so easily was a concept that people couldn’t quite grasp at first but it soon caught on and revolutionised the way import/export businesses operated and how people travelled and saw the world.

Nowadays, people take the concept of rail travel for granted and, despite Amtrak train accidents still occurring, it remains one of the safest ways to get about in a country and across continents.

Early Beginnings

To simplify a complicated journey, the first commercial trains were steam engines and utilised a prolific fuel source in the 18th and 19th centuries: coal.

Coal is basically a little lump of energy thanks to its carbon makeup and it was the perfect source to power steam engines to power trains in the early days. A steam engine burns coal to release the heat energy that is ‘trapped’ inside. When it burns, it creates steam, kind of like when a kettle boils on a stove, except, instead of the steam dissipating into nothing, the steam is captured and used to power the machine!

The steam powers a piston that is connected to the engine’s wheels and uses a crank to make them move in the desired motion.

Electric is Introduced

Once electricity became the power source of choice, trains were one of the first to jump on the bandwagon. Electric trains are powered by overhead lines which connect to the train, creating a circuit that sparks power to move the engine and the rest of the carriages.

Electric trains can use either a direct current or alternating current, as long as it is safe, steadily available and efficient. The cost of electric can be expensive, so it’s so surprise that train companies are trying to be as economical as possible.

There are also a few different ways of connecting a train to a track, although most countries have standardised this so that all companies can use all tracks to be as efficient as possible.

The Future of Trains

Despite all the negative comments regarding train infrastructure, it is coming along leaps and bounds for efficiency. Japan is leading the way, with super efficient and high tech trains that break down walls of what we previously thought was engineeringly possible. The bullet train is famous for it’s eye watering speeds and penchant for always being on time.

The UK is trying to catch up with the introduction of plans for HS2 – a high speed railways that is designed to connect all the major cities at bullet-level speeds.

Who knows what the future will bring for rail networks across the world. The global population is focused on sustainable energy and reducing the amount of carbon emissions that are released into the atmosphere.