UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
Home
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Webcasts
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
How do trains move?
Question Date: 2018-04-10
Answer 1:

This is a great question! There are actually quite a few kinds of trains, and each kind has a different method of propulsion (moving forward).

The first trains were powered by steam locomotive engines. Essentially, a steam engine works by taking advantage of the fact that when liquid water boils and becomes gas, it expands.

A steam engine consists of a boiler, which carries water and is attached to a cylinder and piston. The water in the boiler is heated, either with wood or coal, and as the water boils, steam is funneled into the cylinder, which causes the piston to move back and forth. The piston in turn is attached to a machine that moves the wheels of the train!

These days, however, there are lots of ways to power trains. Electricity can be used to power train motion, like the cable cars you can find in San Francisco. There are also trains that take advantage of gravity to move forward, and some work by taking advantage of differences in air pressure.

Maglev (magnetic levitation) is another method for propelling trains forward and is often used for monorail trains, which can be found in many big cities all over the world. In this technology, magnets are used to levitate ("push up on") the train so it hovers above the rail. A large electric coil which generates a magnetic field is used to propel the train forward using an alternating current. I hope this helps!


Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2017 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use