Rail vehicle

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Railway vehicles symbol in Hungary

Rail vehicles are vehicles of lanes (lane vehicles) which, on one or more rails run or are guided. The vehicle and rail are a closely coordinated system, usually referred to as a wheel-rail system . Particularly in the rail sector all of the rolling stock of a company or government will also work with the preamble rolling stock or rolling stock referred.

Technique and definition

The most widespread are rail vehicles that run on tracks made of steel rails arranged in pairs and in parallel (rail line). The rails used for this are mostly the Vignole rails and, in the case of trams, the grooved rails . On these, the rail vehicles are guided in a self-centering manner by the tapered running surfaces of their wheels ( sinusoidal run ) and, under normal operating conditions, protected from derailment by additional wheel flanges running along the inside of the pairs of rails .

However, derailment cannot be completely ruled out with this system. Since the kinetic energy of the vehicle is quickly consumed in the event of a derailment with comparatively little damage, this is used for safety devices ( track closures ) that can deliberately derail a vehicle when it collides with it.

Conventional rail vehicles have the advantage that the rolling friction of steel wheels on smooth steel rails is very low, which makes the drive more difficult. In this way, large quantities of goods can be moved with comparatively little energy . The track guidance properties of the wheel-rail system also allow trains of comparatively great lengths to be put together so that the maximum movement of goods can actually be used. At low speeds, rail vehicles are only outperformed by ships in this regard . In contrast to ships, however, trains are often operated electrically, which - if it is done with renewable energies - shifts the ecological balance further in favor of the railways.

In the early days of railroad history , as a result of material science phenomena that were still not understood at the time, steam locomotive boilers began to creep and the cyclically stressed wheel tires often had serious accidents. The latter were first researched by August Wöhler (1819–1914).

Rail vehicle types

In funiculars , one wheel in the wheel set can be cylindrical , while the other has two flanges and takes over the track guidance .

Other rail vehicles are, for example, monorails or overhead conveyors and roller coasters . With these, derailing can be made impossible with the appropriate construction.

Cabs of fully automated so-called Personal Rapid Transit Systems (PRT) do not use a conventional wheel-rail system due to the switch positions determined by the cab. In addition to the drive system, the rail systems are also different, so the first public PRT ULTra is only track-guided.

The solar train represents a special type of rail vehicle . The system advantage of the wheel-rail system is an important part of the overall concept, which is primarily aimed at the best possible use of energy.

Rail vehicles of the railway can be motorized ( locomotives , railcars , railcar , track tractors , railway service vehicles such as rail construction vehicles, tower car , road vehicle or railway cleaning vehicles , rail cars ) or unmotorisiert ( cars , railway bicycles , hand lever Handcars ). Rail vehicles that are permanently connected or coupled for use are referred to as train sets.


  • Michael Brandhorst, Torsten Dellmann, Andreas Haigermoser, Markus Hecht, Stefan Karch, Günter Löffler, Wolfgang Rösch: Rail Vehicle Manual. Development, production, maintenance . Ed .: Christian Schindler. 1st edition. DVV Media Group GmbH, Hamburg 2014, ISBN 978-3-7771-0427-0 (576 pages, table of contents online [PDF; accessed on June 8, 2016]).

Web links

Commons : Rail Vehicles  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Rail vehicle  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Rolling stock. Swiss Federal Railways, accessed on July 8, 2016 .