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Electric Traction Drives


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Electric Traction Drives

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Electric Traction Pages This page describes the way electric motors on
Fare Collection locomotives and multiple units drive the axles International railway system
Finance for Railways and wheels. See also the Electronic Power, consultancy
Terminology Pages Multiple Unit Operation, DC Traction Motor E-mail: PRC Rail Consulting.
Intermodal Systems and Electric Traction Glossary pages.
Rolling Stock Pages
Operations Pages Contents
University of Birmingham
Signalling & Control MSc in Railway Systems Engineering
The DC Traction Motor: How it Drives the Axle -
Pages AC and DC Motors - Nose Suspended Motor -
Stations Quill Drive - Monomotor Bogie - Linear Motor
Stories The DC Traction Motor: How it Drives the Axle Want to know how the railway really
Track works? Book a
The traditional DC Rail System Seminar
Search this site (Direct Current)
here: electric motor
driving a train or
locomotive is a
simple machine
consisting of a case
containing a fixed
electrical part, the
stator (called the
stator because it is
static and comprising what is called the field
coils) and a moving electrical part, the rotor
(because it rotates) or armature as it is often
called. As the rotor turns, it turns a pinion
which drives a gearwheel. The gearwheel is
shrunk onto the axle and thus drives the wheels
as shown in the diagram above.

The motion of the motor is created by the

interaction of the magnetism caused by the
currents flowing the the stator and the rotor.
This interaction causes the rotor to turn and
provide the drive.

The stator and the rotor of the DC motor are

connected electrically. The connection consists
of fixed, carbon br /ushes which are spring
loaded so that they remain in contact with an
extension of the armature called the
commutator. In this way, the field coils (the

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Electric Traction Drives

stator) are kept in the circuit with the rotor (the

armature and commutator).

AC and DC Motors

Both AC (Alternating Current) and DC motors

have the same basic structure but there are
differences and, for various reasons, the DC
motor was originally the preferred form of motor
for railway applications and most systems used
it. Nowadays, modern power electronics has
allowed the use of AC motors and, for most new
equipments built today, the AC motor is the
type used.

Often, people ask about the differences between

AC and DC motors as used in locomotives and
multiple-units. In the early days of electric
traction at the beginning of this century both
types were tried. The limits of the technology at
the time favoured the DC motor. It provided the
right torque characteristic for railway operation
and was reasonably simple to control.

By the early 1980s, power electronics had

progressed to the stage where the 3-phase AC
motor became a serious and more efficient
alternative to the DC motor because:

1. They are simpler to construct, they require no

mechanical contacts to work (such as br /ushes)
and they are lighter than DC motors for
equivalent power.

2. Modern electronics allow AC motors to be

controlled effectively to improve both adhesion
and traction.

3. AC motors can be microprocessor controlled

to a fine degree and can regenerate current
down to almost a stop whereas DC regeneration
fades quickly at low speeds.

4. They are more robust and easier to maintain

than DC motors.

This type of motor is commonly called the

Asynchronous Motor and was often referred to
as the squirrel cage motor on account of its
early design form. The photos below show a DC
and an AC motor.

Modern AC traction
Click to enlarge.

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Electric Traction Drives

DC traction motor br
Click to enlarge.

The DC motor is similar to look at externally but

there are differences in construction,
particularly because the DC motor has a
commutator and br /ushes which the AC motor
does not.

Nose Suspended Motor

The following diagram shows the layout of the

traditional DC motor mounted in a bogie as a
"nose suspended motor".

In electric trains or
locomotives, the DC
motor was
mounted in the
bogie frame
supported partially
by the axle which it drove and partially by the
bogie frame. The motor case was provided with
a "nose" which rested on a br /acket fixed to the
transom of the bogie. It was called a "nose
suspended motor" (see diagram above) and is
still common around the world. Its main
disadvantage is that part of the weight rests on
the axle and is therefore unsprung. This leads
to greater wear on bogie and track. Nowadays,
designers try to ensure all the motor weight is
sprung by ensuring it is carried entirely by the
bogie frame - a frame mounted motor.

Quill Drive

This is a simplified
diagram of a quill
drive. A quill is
described in the
dictionary as, "the
hollow stem of a
feather" and "a
bobbin or spindle", as well as a "feather" and,
alternatively, what a porcupine has on its back.

In railway traction terms, a quill drive is where

a hollow shaft is placed round the driving axle
and the motor drives the quill rather than
driving the axle as it does with a nose
suspended drive. The quill itself is attached, at
one end, to one of the wheels by means of
rubber bushed links and, at the other end, to
the gearwheel by similar links. The big
advantage of such drives is that all the weight

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Electric Traction Drives

of the motor is carried in the bogie frame (so it

is a frame mounted motor) instead of it being
directly supported by the axle and therefore
partially unsprung.

An example of a traction
motor with quill drive
appears in the following
photo. Click on it for a full
size view and the part
names. Various forms of
quill drive have been used over the years.
Older versions used radially mounted coil steel
springs instead of rubber to connect the links to
the wheels. Some, like the example shown
here, have the motor mounted parallel with the
axle. Others have the motor at a right angle to
the axle, as in the the UK Class 91 electric

In German the quill is called "Hohlwelle" (hollow

shaft) and used in the ICE1 and ICE2 as well as
the electric locomotive Class 101. (thanks to
tobias benjamin koehler 19 Oct 98).

Monomotor Bogie

As its name implies, the

monomotor bogie has a
single motor which drives
both axles. Click on the
thumbnail to see a photo
with the part names.

The design is much favoured in France, where it

was introduced in the 1950s for the rubber
tyred train concept. The motor is mounted
longitudinally in the centre of the bogie and
drives each axle through a differential gearbox,
similar to a road vehicle. The differential gears
are required to compensate for the operation of
the rubber tyres round curves. It requires a
special bogie frame construction to
accommodate the motor.

Another version of the monomotor bogie has

also been applied to a number of French
locomotive designs but here the arrangement is
more conventional. Each bogie has a single
motor mounted transversely over the centre as
shown in the diagram left.

The motor is fully

suspended in the
bogie frame and
drives both axles
through the gear

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Electric Traction Drives

train, which is contained in a single, large, oil

filled gearcase (not shown). This type of drive
is referred to in the locomotive wheel
arrangement called a B-B, as opposed to a more
conventional locomotive with four motors, each
driving its own axle, which is called a Bo-Bo.

Linear Motor

A new form of
traction which has
appeared in recent
years is the linear
motor. The principal, compared with a standard
motor, is shown here. This simple diagram
shows the principal of the linear motor. The
conventional DC motor consists of a fixed part
(the stator) and a moving part (the rotor). Both
parts are contained in a case on the train and
the rotor is connected to the axle by a
pinion/gear arrangement. When the armature
turns, the wheel turns.

The two parts of the linear motor are separated

and one is placed on the train and the other on
the the track. Both parts are unwrapped and
they are swapped so that the fixed part of the
DC motor becomes the moving part of the linear
motor mounted on the train while the former
moving part of the DC motor is fixed to the
track. The electro-magnetic interaction
between the current in the fixed part and that
in the moving part causes the train to be drawn
along the line. There is a very small air gap
(about 10 mm) between the two parts as shown
in this photo.

The efficiency of the linear

motor is about 60% of the
conventional motor but it
has the advantage of less
moving parts and it does
not have the reliance on
adhesion of the conventional motor.

See also the Electronic Power, Multiple Unit

Operation, DC Traction Motor Systems and
Electric Traction Glossary pages and Power
Supplies pages.


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