# Is it possible to power a freight train with an animal motor?

• Mudbungie
In summary: They can go much faster, are less affected by weather, and are less likely to break down. However, there are a few places where animal traction is still in use. In rural developing countries, where there is little access to roads, animals are used to haul freight. In some cases, small engines are used to power carts, which are then used to haul goods.
Mudbungie
The question is whether freight could be hauled along train tracks using only beasts of burden as a power source. My first ideas of a design involved tying, say, horses, to a belt which would drive a shaft, and, through simple gearing, provide power to push the train forward.

The first few pieces of information that I have are that a horse can be expected to express, naturally, one horsepower over reasonable amounts of time, and that a single railcar weighs 30 tons. Initially, I was looking into the breaking the static friction of steel-on-steel, but the whole point of wheeled systems is that you don't have to do that. It became clear that the significant numbers, which I have no idea how to obtain, are the component pieces of the overall friction of a freight car, predominantly, I would think, the friction of the greased axles. The deformation of the wheel and track would also sap some power, as would the friction in the gear train set up to power it.

I am skirting the edge of my understanding of kinematics and friction, and am squarely out of my depth in engineering.

Also, this is my first post in this forum, so if I have in some way violated a rule, I apologize in advance. Otherwise, I thank you all for your consideration and input.

Gear it low enough and you can move practically anything. Or so my dad says.

Right, you could gear down to break static friction, but that doesn't speak to whether or not you could functionally move a train. Since locomotives are notorious for their long periods of acceleration, I would pretty much ignore the speeding up and gearing down process. The question is, with, say, 100 horsepower, how heavy a train could you move at a reasonable speed (say 10 miles per hour), given the internal friction of trains on tracks?

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Well, they have some switcher locomotives that have around 300-400 hp but most of the "big" ones have 1,000-4,000 hp. This is just from a few minutes of googling, so I really don't know how.

Forget gearing, just do it the way actual trains do. Use your thousands of horses to power electric generators. Then use the electricity to run electric motors on the wheels.

Well you would need a lot of horses and that would pretty much be a train length in itself.
If one uses a size of horse that can supply 1 hp, and that horse typically weighs 1000 pounds, then for a switcher 'horse' locomotive of 360 hp, you would need 360 horses.
If horses are spaced 3 abreast and 10 foot intervals for each triplet, then you are looking at a switcher locomotive of weight 180 ton, ( normal switcher is about 40 ton ) and about 1200 feet in length.

By the way, an empty railway car is around 30 ton. A full car can be upwards of 100 ton.

Why mess about with horses? Use elephants.
Or even better, one of the sand worms from 'Dune'.

The answer to this will depend upon the precise details of the situation, in particular, the gradient of the track, friction and how fast you want to go. A single horse (or even a man, briefly) could manouever a 100 tonne barge on a canal at a steady couple of km/hr but that's level, of course, and the resistance is very low at low speeds.
The power needed is force time velocity so all you need to do is to slip in some likely values to find the answer. The World's Strongest Man contestants can get a jet airliner moving along a runway - slowly - but the tyre friction will be higher than for steel wheels and steel rails, I expect.
So many variables. . . . .

Mudbungie said:
The question is whether freight could be hauled along train tracks using only beasts of burden as a power source.

Been there, done that. See for example the Granite Railway in Milton, Massachusetts, c. 1855:

Necro?

jtbell said:
Been there, done that. See for example the Granite Railway in Milton, Massachusetts, c. 1855:
Oh my. I didn't have the faintest idea you were that old. Are you the 2,000 year old man?

In my Walter Mitty-cum-Harry Potter daydreams, I magically convert the 500+ hp engine of the idiot who nearly brushed me and several others into a 500+ hp (hamster power) engine, replete with lots of cute little tunnels and geared-down hamster wheels so those 500+ hamsters can make that car move. Slowly.

One way to look at it is to ask how fast you could go up hill. I think moving on the level is not the problem - like someone said if you gear it low enough and accelerate slowly you can move almost anything. But railroad tracks are rarely perfectly flat. So suppose you had 10 horses trying to pull 10 railroad cars up a 2% grade - how fast could they go? So if m = 300 tons = 3E5 kg, and P = 10 hp = 7.5E3 Watts, then:

V = P / (.02 * m * g) ~ 0.12 m/s ~ 0.25 mi/hour

i.e. going up hill is really slow.

Certainly, rails came well before steam.

## 1. Can a freight train be powered by an animal motor?

Yes, it is possible for a freight train to be powered by an animal motor. In the past, trains have been pulled by horses, mules, and even elephants. However, this method of powering trains is no longer used due to advancements in technology and the availability of other energy sources.

## 2. How does an animal motor work?

An animal motor works by attaching a harness to an animal, such as a horse or mule, and having them pull the train along the tracks. The animal's natural movements and strength are used to generate the force needed to move the train.

## 3. What are the advantages of using an animal motor to power a freight train?

One potential advantage of using an animal motor is that it is a renewable energy source. As long as the animal is well-fed and cared for, it can continue to provide power for the train. Additionally, using an animal motor may have less environmental impact compared to other methods of powering trains.

## 4. What are the limitations of using an animal motor for a freight train?

Using an animal motor for a freight train has several limitations. One major limitation is the speed at which the train can travel. Animals can only move at a certain speed, which is much slower than modern trains. This would significantly impact the efficiency and timeliness of transportation. Additionally, using animals to power trains would require a large amount of land for grazing and resting, making it impractical for long-distance transportation.

## 5. Are there any current efforts to use animal motors for trains?

No, there are currently no major efforts to use animal motors for trains. As mentioned before, this method of powering trains is no longer practical or efficient compared to other energy sources. However, some heritage railways and tourist trains may still use animals for novelty or educational purposes.

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