The invention of the steam train in the 1800s revolutionised transport – now people and goods could travel further and faster overland, and it was the railways that opened up the New World for business, stimulating the expansion of industries like mining. With the invention of the power-packed diesel engine, trains had even greater capacity. All aboard for a look at some of the largest trains ever to run the railways…
It may not be the biggest train on our list but it certainly packs power! The Voith Maxima 40cc, manufactured by Voith Turbo Lokomotivetechnik is the world’s most powerful single-engine diesel-hydraulic locomotive. This super schnell locomotive storms the tracks, operating at 120km/hour, and is powered by a v16 5000 hp diesel engine.
It may not top the charts, but it does take the cake for the most powerful single-engine model produced by US train manufacturer Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD). Effortlessly hauling freight cargo across the vast American landscape, it packs a 6000 hp punch and a revolutionary traction system by which the locomotive could steer itself intuitively into oncoming curves, rather than just following the track, a design feature which reduced wear and tear to truck/axle components and rail.
Third on our list, the tiger of the Indian railway – General Electric’s WDG-66! Pushing out 6000 hp, this is the most powerful locomotive ever to run the rails on the Subcontinent and – whilst massive – its also the lightest diesel locomotive in the world!
The runner-up for the title of World’s Biggest Train – a GE AC6000CW in the service of Australia’s BHP Iron Ore. In June 2001, the General Electric-made locomotive set the record for the world’s longest train – 682 wagons, hauled by eight GE AC6000CW diesel-electric locomotives, each one comprising a single-engine v16 6000 hp engine. That’s some ‘strine train, mate!
Topping the train charts has to be Union Pacific’s dual engine Centennial EMD DDA40X. Manufactured during the 1960s, the locomotives – too large for the EMD’s factories – were designed with v16 diesel engines to service heavy freights at speed and were able to effortlessly transport their payloads over hill and dale. This model, weighing a whopping 247 000kg enjoyed extended longevity, with one unit still in operation – train #6936
At first powered by steam, diesel locomotives first came online towards the end of the First World War, as Rudolf Diesel’s engine invention began to find practical applications. A readily available fuel source, it’s also cost-effective – helping ensure that trains arrive on time, every time!
Diesel-powered locomotives accelerate faster and run at high speeds, with a thermal efficiency up to four times greater than steam trains – that is, they require less fuel to operate at the same level. Electric trains may be quicker, but diesel locomotives require less infrastructure capital – and are more suited to countries where grid electricity supply is unreliable.