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Diesel-electric vs. Steam Locomotives

Diesel Advantages over Traditional Steam

(1) "Multiple-unit" capability, allowing several diesel locomotives to be connected together and controlled by a single operator
(2) Very high starting tractive effort relative to weight
(3) Use of light oil fuel which provided much cleaner operation
(4) Use of mass-produced, standardized repair parts simplifying maintenance and repair procedures
(5) Extensive "factory support" in the form of extensive operating and maintenance manuals, training, factory technicians to assist with repairs, etc.
(6) Significantly higher thermal efficiency (~25% at the rail typical for diesel-electric; 7% at the rail typical for "modern" steam- figures circa 1950).
(7) Higher availability (less time spent on routine repairs and maintenance)
(8) Individual powered trucks, each with a short wheelbase, capable of negotiating tighter curves and rough track


Traditional Steam Advantages over Diesel-Electric

(1) High horsepower-to-weight ratio
(2) Very high horsepower achievable in a single locomotive
(3) Much lower first cost per horsepower
(4) Relatively simple to repair
(5) Most spare parts can be fabricated locally from raw materials
(6) Use of cheap, unrefined fuel (coal, wood, or heavy oil)



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