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Thread: Locomotive Weight Vs Rail Weight.

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Brough UK

    Default Locomotive Weight Vs Rail Weight.

    I have been wondering about this question for a long time and was wondering if anyone can answer it. I recently saw a video on YouTube that talked about the UP limiting 8 locomotives to a train due to the rail on Sherman Hill. I know that weight must be distributed evenly on the rail and over worked rails lead to cracking and shilling.

    What actually determines how many locomotives go on a train and what is the formula or calculations.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 1999
    Huntsville, AL


    Have you tried the calculator at to answer your question?

  3. #3


    The number of working locomotives on a train is usually limited by coupler strength, not by rail weight.
    Rail weight poses a limit on axle load and load per length unit on any rolling stock, but modern heavy rails are designed for the trains of today.

    There could be weight restrictions as to the maximum load on bridges, viaducts, track over weak soil, either in overall load or load per length unit, that restricts train make up.
    Edwin "Kanawha"

    The Chessie, the train that never was ... (6000 hp Baldwin-Westinghouse steam turbine electric)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Tujunga Calif (Senile City)


    Modern welded rail can handle the weight. Here is a BNSF with nine, five running and four in tow.
    Cajon Pass 28.jpg

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2013


    In modern operations, most mainlines use rail anywhere between 115-136lb/yd. In the past though, that weight of rail was reserved for heavy haul lines (things like ore trains - 11,000 tons fit into two-thirds of a mile). Oddly enough, sidings on some of those heavy-haul lines had relatively light rail. I know of one on an ore line that had 105lb. rail next to a main track with 136, but I've only ever seen empty trains take the siding, so it works.

    Engine count, though, (described in terms of 'powered axles') is limited primarily to keep couplers intact. Typically the limit is in the neighborhood of 30 powered axles, though it may vary in some places

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