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Model Train Couplers

Train Couplers is a mechanism used to connect rolling stock in a train. The design of the coupler is standard. This is almost as important as the track gauge. Since flexibility and convenience are maximized if all rolling stock can be coupled together.

Train Couplers

HORN HOOK COUPLERS

These are the ones that probably came with your original equipment. They don’t look anything like the prototype train couplers. They rely on side pressure to hold them together. This is a major problem when backing up because the side pressure often causes derailment. Rapido couplers are used with most original N scale equipment with similar disadvantages.

KNUCKLE COUPLERS

These are more prototypical, they look better, and they work well with the magnetic uncouplers. Also, you don’t have as many derailments when the drains are backing up. Some people like to put Z scale knuckle couplers on the fronts of N scale locos (or N scale couplers on HO locos). The smaller train couplers look more realistic on the larger models. The same idea can apply to the backs of cabooses.

CONVERSION

Most people don’t like horn hook couplers. They can’t wait to replace them with (or “convert” them to) knuckle couplers. They are more realistic and work well with the magnetic uncouplers. This takes a certain amount of time and effort to convert all of your equipment to knuckle couplers. This is why people usually do this in a stepwise fashion, converting locomotives and cars one at a time. Sometimes mixing them in consists till they are all converted. You can have several conversion cars on which you have a horn hook or Rapido (in N scale) coupler on one end. A knuckle coupler on the other so that you can connect both types within your consist.

MAGNETIC UNCOUPLERS

Kadee was the first manufacturer to develop this system. In which a special magnet (not just any magnet) is positioned under the track. At a strategic location like in front of a branch line, spur, or ladder. Such that when a train is backed up and stopped with the knuckle coupler over the magnet. The “glad-hands” of the coupler come apart when slack is allowed.

ELECTRIC UNCOUPLERS

These are also available from Kadee for all scales, primarily electromagnets activated by applying current to a wire wrapped around a cylinder many times, which creates a magnetic field. These have to be mounted in a space cut out from under the track, which is really no problem if you’ve used foam for your sub roadbed.

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DETAILING A MODERN BOXCAR

Since the beginning of railroading, boxcars have been put to use in the transportation of materials and goods across America. In modern-day, boxcars still play a role in the movement of bulk materials. With thousands of these boxcars still in operation. While original designs are still retained, there are several important details to consider when modeling a 21st-century boxcar.

BOXCAR

REFLECTIVE STRIPS

As they have been mandated by the Federal Road Administration for the past few years., Reflective strips are one of the most common features on freight cars today. These orange or yellow patches allow for greater visibility at night. Are designed to prevent vehicles from colliding with moving trains on unprotected or dimly lit crossings.

REPORTING MARKS

Most railroads and leasing companies prioritize adding their FRA Reporting Mark over their name and logo. These marks come in the form of three or four letters combinations, usually ending with ‘X’. All freight equipment is required to display these marks. So this feature is a must when modeling a modern boxcar. Even on equipment that features the name and logo of the operator.

PATCHED NUMBERS, LETTERING, OR PAINT

Most boxcars currently in use are actually decades old. Many bear the scars of multiple owners and paint schemes. Even more recent cars will often appear to have been renumbered at some point. Some wear the faded liveries of fallen flags. With only patched reporting marks signifying their current ownership. At the same time, others have been entirely repainted. It’s rare to see a boxcar in a spotless scheme without one or more of these features.

NO ROOF WALKS

Roof Walks were a common feature on boxcars from the early days of US railroading to the postwar era. Used by train crews to go from car to car, these walkways were extremely hazardous. In 1968, the FRA ruled to outlaw their use and mandated that all Roof Walks be removed by 1978. For a boxcar to have an accurate modern appearance. These should not be featured, or should be removed from the model.

END OF TRAIN DEVICES

Replacing the traditional and much-loved caboose, End of Train devices became a fixture of all mainline freight trains in the late 80s. Also known as FREDs (flashing rear end devices). These can be seen attached to the air hose of the last car on most freights. Short lines and industrial railroads typically don’t use EOTs. But include a red flag mounted to the coupler in their place.

There are several other details, such as bodyside markings and devices such as AEI electronic recognition systems. Newly produced boxcars are made with some or all of the features included. There is a wide selection of third party detail kits, decals, which can bring your legacy rolling stock up to standard for a prototypical 21st-century layout.

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How to ballast

Paint the track must be the first step. Next, you must decide on a scale and color(s). Our most popular products are between 138 and 1302. Use your base color for general use. While the Yard Mix was for the steam engine servicing area and rail yards. You may want to purchase some brown to add some dirt areas.

If you’re modeling a prototype, pick the ballast that is representative of that railroad. If you are not a real railroad, you can get whatever color you wish. Also, don’t ignore the coarser grades for mainlines. You may be able to use them in other areas!

The process of laying the ballast needs much care. You may get into a problematic area that you may not what the ballast or that color.

If you’re going to blend multi colors, mix it, and store that first. Start pouring the ballast on the track from the bag or container. Pour down the length of the track. Use a paintbrush about 1” wide to brush the ballast into the ties and to the sides. If you need an area to be a bit dirty, add some brown ballast or some pigment now. If the track is old or abandoned, place some grass and dirt middle and alongside.

Gluing the ballast

Ever glue down the ballast till you are ready, and you don’t want any other changes.

Use an eye drop with 50% glue and 50% water. Start in the middle of the track and keep adding till the edge starts getting wet on the surface. This is so the ballast does not move from the water. We do not suggest that you use alcohol or other than glue. So add some dish soap to make it flow better. The glue will take several hours to dry completely. Best to dry overnight.

When dried or nearly add some powder of the same color or brown to add back some color, the was a loss from the water moving the dust that was in the product. When thoroughly dried, use the brush/ vacuum to find and lose ballast you don’t want. If the layout is not going to move, you can skip this.

If you’re going to blend multi colors, mix it, and store that first. Start pouring the ballast on the track from the bag or container. Pour down the length of the track. Use a paintbrush about 1” wide to brush the ballast into the ties and to the sides. If you need an area to be a bit dirty, add some brown ballast or some pigment now. If the track is old or abandoned, place some grass and dirt middle and alongside.  Gluing the ballast  Ever glue down the ballast till you are ready, and you don’t want any other changes.  Use an eye drop with 50% glue and 50% water. Start in the middle of the track and keep adding till the edge starts getting wet on the surface. This is so the ballast does not move from the water. We do not suggest that you use alcohol or other than glue. So add some dish soap to make it flow better. The glue will take several hours to dry completely. Best to dry overnight.  When dried or nearly add some powder of the same color or brown to add back some color, the was a loss from the water moving the dust that was in the product. When thoroughly dried, use the brush/ vacuum to find and lose ballast you don’t want. If the layout is not going to move, you can skip this.

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Model Railroad Swap-Meets

Model Railroad Swap-Meets are marketplaces where dealers come to sell their items. You may find several items of interest in a swap meet. As well as a few vendors interested in buying your used items. But they are there to sell their own items in addition to the vendors. You will find people thinning out their personal inventory. They may be raise funds to pursue a new area of interest. Many swap meets have operating layouts for your viewing pleasure. Swap meets are convenient as you have the space of inspecting items. You see them operate before purchase. Plus, a chance which you will not get on mail order and internet purchase.

There are several reasons why you may want to attend swap meets. First is the interest in seeing railroad-related materials. Meeting other railroaders, reading railroad-related materials. Or even because you enjoy kit-bashing. Used items are less expensive than new items. Cutting up an inexpensive used model is less intimidating than doing so to a new model. These interests many times, feed upon one another. Spotting a used model can spark a creative desire to kit-bash a model. Swap meets can be fun and exciting as you get to meet other railroaders who share the same hobby as you.

Model Railroad Swap-Meets

You will be pleasantly surprised by how much fun you can have with Model Railroad Swap-Meets. This when you are sharing several hours with like-minded hobbyists. Check out a swap meet around you today, take with you your models for display, evaluation, or to brag about them, open your home layout for a tour by other hobbyists, or join a committee. There is no telling how exciting swap meets can be when you get involved in one way or another.

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HOW TO DETAIL A CONCRETE SILO FROM A PLASTIC KIT

DETAIL A CONCRETE SILO

Just like red barns or wood-framed houses, concrete silos are a classic staple of the American landscape. Concrete silos can be seen over great distances from great plains to the industrial northeast, Atlantic to Pacific. Used for storing diverse materials ranging from concrete to grain, these industrial pillars can often be found alongside railroads, making them an important feature on many North American layouts. Follow this article to know how to give your plastic silo kits a realistic textured concrete appearance:

The first step is to assemble your kit.

This has to be done before any detailing or weathering. This kit can be found in both HO and N scale. Plus, the following steps can be applied to either scale.


The kit comes pre-molded in a selection of appropriate color tones.

Once you have your preferred color tone mixed, it’s time to start applying it to the model.

While painting, make sure to use broad strokes from side to side where possible.

This will help the overall appearance of the weathering job. As it will create a similar linear texture to the cast concrete seen on the prototypes.

Once your base coat has dried, you will need to go over with a second layer. Make sure to again use broad, side to side strokes.

Once the silos have been fully painted, move over to the attached corrugated loading shed.

This can be enhanced with a thin layer of silver textured acrylic to give it a metallic shine.

This can usually be found at your local craft store. Once all paint has dried, it’s time to begin the weathering process. A range of PanPastel colors from their Rust/Earth, and Gray/Grime/Soot ranges are a common option. Before attempting the more noticeable detail, it’s a good idea to apply to areas where dirt would naturally collect. The deeper the area for dirt to collect, the heavier the powder should be applied. Once this is applied, use either a finger or a paper towel to spread the grime appropriately.


This is the step where your silo might start looking a little strange

Once all the nooks and crannies have been weathered to your liking. It’s time to move on to the main weathering process. Many prototype silos have accrued “rings” of various grades of grime. Plus weathering due to years of being exposed to the elements. You may start with several rings of rust/earth tones. These should be a little lighter, as the more noticeable colors on the prototype are generally darker and closer to gray tones. Go one silo at a time, however it’s important to maintain roughly the same lines across all silos for the correct appearance. After applying the rust/earth lines, come back with your gray/grime/soot tones. You can use a variety of these to create different textures as you work your way down the silos. These rings should be more pronounced than the rust/earth tones.

Now that all rings and lines have been applied to your liking, it’s time to blend them into the structure.

Using a combination of white and light gray, gently dry wash the silos with these tones, ideally with a broader brush, from top to bottom. This will not only help to blend your rings into the concrete texture but will also create a realistic top-to-bottom texture flow. Once this has been completed to your liking on each silo, the final step is to add some “streaks” down the side of the structure for added realism.

For the finishing touch

Some rust and dirt streaks can be added to the corrugated loading shed at your discretion. At this point, your newly weathered cement plant or silo will be ready to add to your layout!

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What Model Railroad Scale is Right For Me?

If you are new to model railroading, you might ask, “what model train scale is right for me?”. A very common mistake beginners make is to confuse scales. However, scales and gauges are very straightforward. A scale is the proportion of your model to the real deal. For instance, the HO scale locomotives are 1/87 the size of real life locomotives. The model train gauge is the width between the inside running edge of the track. As you already can tell, model trains are scale down replicas of real railroad elements. The main model train scales and their minimum turning radiuses are:

  • O scale 1:48 – Minimum Radius 24 inches
  • S scale 1:64 – Minimum Radius 22.5 inches
  • OO scale 1:76 – Minimum Radius 21 inches
  • HO scale 1:87 – Minimum Radius 15 inches
  • N scale 1:160 – Minimum Radius 7.5 inches
  • Z scale 1:220 – Minimum Radius 5.75 inches
What Model Railroad Scale is Right For Me?

O scale is the largest scale, to Z scale being the smallest scale. An O scale model train set is 1/48 the size of the real thing, while a Z scale model train set is 1/220 the size of the real thing. All the trees, bridges, roads, buildings and other accessories are all scaled to the relevant size. Also known as the OO gauge in the UK, HO scale has become the most popular scale.

Now back to our original question, what scale is right for you? This is a very important decision to make and comes down to three main factors; the available space for your layout, the physical size of model train equipment you want to work with, the available accessories for that scale.

HOW MUCH SPACE DO YOU HAVE AVAILABLE?

Building a layout in HO scale will be almost half the size of the identical layout in O scale. Turning radius’s in HO scale will be tighter; tunnels will be smaller and, most importantly, it is easier to hide mistakes in a smaller scale. Larger scales need more detail and it can often be very hard to create a realistic looking layout in a large scale. HO scale has become very popular because it is a “middle-of-the-road” scale and easier to make look realistic. If you still don’t have enough room available, you may consider an N scale railroad which can be built in just 30% of the area which is required for a HO scale model train layout.

WHICH SCALE DO YOU PREFER WORKING WITH?

Fat finger syndrome or bad eyesight can sometimes force us to consider the larger scales. It can be very frustrating trying to airbrush a Z scale carriage or manipulating N scale rolling stock. They can be very fiddly. Children will find it easier operating and manipulating the bigger scales, from HO scale upwards. Bigger scale rolling stock tends to be heavier and less likely to derail. From observation, the ladies seem to prefer the intricate smaller scales, while the men tend to go with the HO scale and larger scales.

WHAT ACCESSORIES ARE AVAILABLE?

Over the years the HO scale has become the most popular model train scale and the manufacturers have responded to the demand by producing more accessories and rolling stock for HO scale. HO scale is just the right size for most people to appreciate the detail and running performance without being too cramped.

If you decide to run digital controllers and have lots of switching operations, the HO scale might be the best choice for you.

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REEFER & BOXCARS

You probably know the difference between a sedan, an SUV, and a pickup truck, but do you know the difference between a boxcar and a reefer? Just how vehicles are designed to cater to different needs of transporting passengers and cargo, various rail cars accommodate various freight shippers’ needs. This article compares reefers and boxcars and examines how they are built, what they carry, and their differences.

A refrigerator car (or “reefer”) is a refrigerated boxcar (U.S.) is a piece of railroad rolling stock. They are designed to carry perishable freight at specific temperatures. Refrigerator cars differ from simple insulated boxcars. They also differ from ventilated boxcars. Those two are used for transporting fruit. Neither of which are fitted with cooling apparatus. Reefers can be ice-cooled. They come equipped with mechanical refrigeration systems. Or utilize carbon dioxide. They use either dry ice or in liquid form as a cooling agent. Milk cars may or may not include a cooling system. Other types of “express” reefers also may not be cooled. But they are equipped with high-speed trucks. They may have other modifications to travel with passenger trains. Reefers are really boxcars with insulation and a fridge inside. Most modern reefers are 57′ long while most boxcars are 50′.

REFRIGERATED BOXCAR

It carries Perishable freight, like fresh fruits, vegetables, frozen food, beverages, meat, poultry, seafood, and cheese. How it is built: Refrigerated boxcars (commonly referred to as “reefers”) are much like traditional boxcars but with one significant difference: they are temperature controlled.

REEFER (REFRIGERATED BOXCAR)

BOXCAR

BOXCAR

It carries: Boxcars can carry a wide variety of crated or palletized freight, including paper, lumber, packaged goods, beverages, and (shocker) boxes. How it is built: Boxcars are fully enclosed and, true to their name, are the most “boxy” looking of all the rail car types. Boxcars typically have doors on the side of the car but can have them at the ends, too. Because they are enclosed, boxcars protect the freight inside from the weather during transport.

It carries: Boxcars can carry a wide variety of crated or palletized freight. Including paper, lumber, packaged goods, beverages, and (shocker) boxes.

How it is built: Boxcars are fully enclosed and, true to their name. They are the most “boxy” looking of all the rail car types. Boxcars typically have doors on the side of the car but can have them at the ends, too. Because they are enclosed, boxcars protect the freight inside from the weather during transport.

SOURCES

https://www.up.com/customers/track-record/tr181121_rail_car_types.htm

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Graffiti on a Model Railroad

Whether you think of it as an eyesore or art, Graffiti on a Model Railroad is part of the modern railroad scene. Including graffiti, or “tagging,” on your model railroads is a personal choice. Those who include graffiti know it can be difficult and expensive using the limited selection of graffiti decals on the market. However, by learning how to draw your own graffiti, you can duplicate what you see trackside. Best of all, it requires limited artistic ability. If you can draw a line, you can draw simple graffiti.

There are several types of graffiti. The first is drawn or spray-painted lettering. This is the easiest type of graffiti to re-create on models. Balloon lettering is another style of graffiti. This style takes normal letters and turns them into wide outlines, similar to tracing around the edge of a lettering stencil. The letters may be further distorted by bending or stretching them to different sizes, angles, and shapes, leaving each with a fat, balloon-like appearance. Large block lettering is a third style that’s easy to reproduce. This style sometimes takes up the entire side of a railcar.

There are dozens of other styles of graffiti. Prototype photos, books, and the Internet are all valuable resources for graffiti ideas and techniques.

Graffiti on a Model Railroad https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2464_247-0,_1,_Borken,_Schwalm-Eder-Kreis.jpg
Graffiti on a Model Railroad

Graffiti with Paint Markers on the Model railroad

Paint markers, sold individually and in sets at art supply and big box stores, are offered in a variety of colors. One consideration when choosing a marker is the tip size, which varies from extra fine to wide. The tip sizes can be used to create different effects. Paint markers also work well for balloon lettering. A pencil makes it easy to change the shape or size of the letters without committing paint to the model.

Airbrush Graffiti

Though paint markers are handy for adding graffiti to cars with smooth sides, they aren’t as effective for auto racks and cars with uneven surfaces. In these situations, modelers opt for airbrush to ensure even coverage.
If you’re looking to give modern era rolling stock some realism, try adding graffiti. Whether you use the paint markers, an airbrush, or both, these easy techniques will bring your cars into the 21st century.

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https://mrr.trains.com/how-to/tips-projects/2020/02/diy-graffiti-for-modern-model-railroad-freight-cars

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graffiti

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Storing Model Trains & Engines

When your model trains aren’t on display, you need to storing model trains & engines properly otherwise, you risk damage.

Here are a few tips for keeping your treasures safe:

Storing Model Trains & Engines
Storing Model Trains & Engines

Modern trains go in their boxes:

Be sure you store them out of direct sunlight and fluorescent lighting in a cupboard, drawer, or other dark, dry area. A packet or two of silica gel inside the box helps keep moisture and humidity low, so your boxes won’t get musty, and metal parts don’t rust. Prevent trains from rolling inside their boxes, so the inside of the packaging doesn’t rub off the paint.

Don’t wrap trains without boxes in newspapers:

Newspapers, especially recycled newsprint, may leave a dark smudge or black mark on the body from your handling.
Do not wrap trains in old dusters or clothes: Residual soap, other detergents, and cloth dyes can bond to the plastic or tinplate and, when removed, take some color and details with them. At worst, they can initiate minute corrosion and abrasions, giving a rough feel to surfaces. Therefore, if you want to use the cloth as an initial wrap, You recommended that you put it through two or three hot-water rinses in a normal washing machine to remove dyes and residual chemicals.

Wrap sheet metal and plastic items in alkaline tissue paper first:

Use two or even three sheets of acid-free tissue paper. Then wrap the item fairly tightly in the first 24- by 20-inch tissue and then wrap it again in a second or third tissue, folding in the ends, much like wrapping a present. Besides, put a note on the outside to identify a stored item. Ensure to put one or two silica gel sacks nearby to keep down the humidity.

Wrap flatcar loads separately:

Vehicle loads may have old rubber tires susceptible to becoming soft and flattening on the bottom. The tires may also chemically react with the surface of a plastic flatcar. Wrap them separately but store each load with the correct car. Don’t attach a load on a flatcar with an elastic band or tie-tape. Rubber bands and elastic will deteriorate over time and stick to the surface of the load. If possible, store vehicle loads upside down to take the weight off their tires. Mount other types of loads with dry blocks of wood that hold the load above the car’s surface. This is also a good method for displaying these loads on a shelf.

Dry all items before storing:

A cloth towel that’s warmed from home heating (radiant/forced air and radiators are best) works very well for this.
Avoid woods that emit acidic vapors and strong odors: These may keep away moths but can harm trains. Pine and cedar, with their strong scents, aren’t good. Also, keep your trains away from any “green” wood you may have purchased when building your layout.

Store old trains with their wheels down, but don’t let them roll:

If you are storing two rows of items in either a box or drawer, separate the top and bottom layers with a layer of newspaper or a thin dense foam layer (lightly springy foam will break down over time) to provide an ample cushion.
Use polyethylene bags with care: These are helpful, but they can trap moisture, causing metal objects to rust. Bags can also release compounds that damage any plastic items stored inside them.

Keep humidity at 50 to 60 percent:

Buy a hygrometer at a hardware store or home improvement center to measure the humidity of wherever your trains are stored. Also, keep that area at an even, moderate temperature (55 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit). Very low humidity is not ideal either. Storing items in an attic without insulation during the hot summer can be as bad for your trains as keeping them in a wet basement. Items can dry out, causing the paint to crumble and decals to crack. In extreme heat, plastics can warp or melt.

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Types of Locomotives Engines on Railroads

Trains can be sorted in several distinct categories, separated by the way their Locomotives engines are powered. Their use, and by the design of their tracks. The following are the types of trains engines on railroads:

STEAM Engine LOCOMOTIVES

The steam locomotive is a self-contained power unit. They consist of a steam engine and a boiler. With fuel and water supplies. Superheated steam, controlled by a throttle. Is admitted to the cylinders by a suitable valve arrangement. The pressures on the pistons being transmitted. The main rod to the driving wheels provides power. The driving wheels, which vary in number. Steam locomotives are usually classified under the Whyte system. That is, by the number and arrangement of the wheels. For example, an engine classified as 2–6–0 has one pair of wheels under the front truck. Three pairs of coupled or driving wheels, and no wheels under the trailing truck. In some cases, the truck wheels of the tender (fuel carrier) are added.

Locomotives Engines
By Marcus Wong Wongm – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3212047

ELECTRIC Engine LOCOMOTIVES

Electric locomotives range from the small type used in factories. To coal mines for local hauling to the large engines used on railroads. Electric locomotives have two or more motors. They get power from overhead wire or from a third rail on one side of the track. Battery locomotives, used only for local haulage. They carry electric storage batteries. They act as their primary source of power. Steep grades use electric locomotives. Plus they run on high traffic density track. Efficient they are not more on most railroads. Because of the cost of electric substations and overhead wires or third rails.

DIESEL Engine LOCOMOTIVES

Diesel-electric locomotives were introduced in the United States in 1924 and have become the most widely used type of locomotive. The modern diesel-electric locomotive is a self-contained, electrically propelled unit. Like the electric locomotive, it has an electric drive. In the form of traction motors driving the axles and controlled with electronic controls. It also has many of the same accessory systems. They are for cooling, lighting, heating, and braking. It differs principally in that it has its own generating station. Instead of being connected to a remote generating station through overhead wires or a third rail. The generating station consists of a large diesel engine coupled to an alternator or generator. That provides the power for the traction motors. These motors drive the driving wheels by means of spur gears.

The ratio of the gearing regulates the hauling power. This increases the maximum speed of the locomotive. Diesel-mechanical locomotives have a direct mechanical link. This consisting of a clutch. Plus a series of gears and shafts between the engine and the wheels. Similar to the transmission in an automobile. Because mechanical drives deliver less power to the wheels. Then electric and diesel-electric systems. Small locomotives use diesel-electric systems. In diesel-hydraulic locomotives, the engine drives a torque converter. In which uses fluids under pressure to transmit. Plus regulates the power to the wheels. Hydraulic drives are little used in the United States. But used in many countries, such as Germany.

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https://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/science/tech/terms/locomotive/types-of-locomotives

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locomotive