Gas turbine-electric locomotive

Gas Turbine-Electric Locomotive

Gas turbine-electric locomotive

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A gas turbine - electric locomotive, or GTEL, is a locomotive that uses a gas turbine to drive an electric generator or alternator. The electric current thus produced is used to power traction motors. This type of locomotive was first experimented with during the Second World War, but reached its peak in the 1950s to 1960s. Few locomotives use this system today.


A GTEL uses a turbo-electric drivetrain in which a turboshaft engine drives an electrical generator or alternator via a system of gears. The electrical power is distributed to power the traction motors that drive the locomotive. In overall terms the system is very similar to a conventional diesel-electric, with the large diesel engine replaced with a smaller gas turbine of similar power.

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, allowing a locomotive to be very powerful without being inordinately large. However, a 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.

Union Pacific operated the largest fleet of such locomotives of any railroad in the world, and was the...
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