How is a freight train able to generate so much torque? Can you put that into perspective?


It boggles my mind how much a freight train can tow. I feel like something should break before that much power can be generated. How does it work? What’s the engineering feat that enabled this? Can you put it into perspective? I mean it’s obvious just by looking at it, but what does it compare to? Thanks!

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I don’t think torque is really the word you’re going for but I’ll answer what I think you’re asking. First off, most trains of any energy type take a decent amount of time to get up to speed. If you haven’t seen a train get going then I recommend you watch a video of it. I can assure you it doesn’t even look like conservation of energy is being violated. If anything, it looks like a ton of energy is wasted.

Second, trains with wheels are made of pretty sturdy metal. The pieces are crafted and positioned in the way they are meant to be. They allow the most energy transfer with the least stress on each piece.

Third, the energy is distributed between many pieces, which means lower force on each, so less stress.

Fourth, in a safe, regulated environment, trains are inspected regularly for wear and tear. It’s not that there isn’t ever damage. It’s just that the damage that could be done generally wouldn’t be enough for anything to “break” until quite a while/several uses after.

In short, freight trains use electric motors to turn their wheels. I’m not sure the exact physics behind it but electric motors produce WAY more torque than gas or diesel motors.
That’s why teslas have more towing capacity than some trucks. It has to do with the fact that a magnet and electric current are turning the motor, not a chemical explosion “pushing” against the force of the train.

Freight trains use a diesel engine to generate electricity, then transfer that electricity into an electric motor that turns the wheels.