How Much Do Locomotives Cost – Diesel-Electric, Steam, Used, GE.

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How Much Do Locomotives Cost?

Locomotives also known as engines are the propulsion machines behind any train, freight or passenger.

If you are wondering how much do locomotives cost, I got the answer plain and simple and long and detailed for you.

Short answer:

Diesel-Electric Locomotives cost between $1,200,000 and $2,200,000. DC Locomotives being cheaper than AC Locomotives.

Electric Locomotives cost between $4,000,000 and $6,500,000. Major manufacturer Siemens, charged AmTrak back in 2010, $466 million dollars for 70 Electric Locomotives.

diesel-electric locomotive
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Long answer: How much Do Locomotives cost?

Locomotives are some incredibly impressive pieces of machines, extremely powerful and super heavy. The locomotive cost fluctuates drastically for few good reasons, there are few types of locomotives, different manufactures, locomotives using 4 axles, 6 or 8 axles, locomotives powered by electricity or diesel, newer or older.

I know it sounds like a lot of information, so let’s jump right in.

How much does a diesel electric locomotive cost? Types, Features and Manufactures.

The diesel-electric powered locomotives are the most widely used engines for pulling freight, in the United States. The cost of such a locomotive is between $1,200,000 - $2,200,000, depending on the manufacturer, model and type.

Diesel-Electric Locomotives comes in three varieties, according to this source.

DC (Direct Current) - DC where DC generator is supplying DC traction motors, the earliest diesel electric locomotives were powered by DC until variable-voltage/variable-frequency (VVVF) drives, or "traction inverters” made the AC current possible to be used, without getting too much into technical stuff, these locomotives are mostly used for high speed intermodal trains, since those require horsepower but less brut pulling force power, however many freight railroads use them.

So how much does a Diesel-Electric DC Locomotive cost?

These locomotives are cheaper than AC type locomotives, with purchase price ranging between $1,200,000 to $1,500,000.

A good example of a DC locomotive would be the ES44DC model built by General Electric (GE). This powerful engine started being manufactured in 2005, being presented as the ES44AC counterpart hasn't raised much interest.

However BNSF Railway, Canadian National and CSX Transportation bought hundreds of these locomotives which are still in use today.

AC - DC - AC (Alternating Current) where the AC alternator output is rectified to DC and then inverted to 3-phase AC for the traction motors provide the highest tractive effort. For your interest, Tractive Effort = Weight on Drivers x Adhesion, where modern AC locomotives are rated to 37%-39% adhesion making these engines extremely powerful.

So how much does a Diesel-Electric AC Locomotive Cost? Types, Manufactures.

AC Locomotives are way more expensive than their DC counterparts, with prices varying between $1,500,000 to $2,200,000.

A good example of an AC Locomotive would be the ES44DC counterpart, ES44AC.

These locomotives have successfully sold for years, in 2015 the General Electric plant was packed and the orders were 2-3 years backlogged. If you are wondering where the locomotive model name comes from, ES comes from Evolution Series, 44 semnficate 4400 horsepower and AC/DC the power type.

I hope this answered both how much a DC diesel-electric locomotive cost as well as how much an AC diesel-electric is.

Let’s go further with another type of locomotive.

How much does an electric locomotive cost?

Electric locomotives are powered by, you guessed right, electricity. These locomotives are powered, as well as the diesel-electric ones, in two ways, DC and AC and their cost range between $4,000,000 and $6,500,000.

I am sure you’re asking why there is this huge cost difference between a diesel-electric locomotive and a fully electric one?

Well, many reasons go into play, but mostly because these electric powered locomotives are less expensive to maintain and operate than the diesel-electric ones. Few electric locomotives worth mentioning are Siemens, Bombardier, CLW and CRRC.

A large manufacturer of electric locomotives in Germany and the U.S is Siemens, which back in 2010 sold to AmTrak, 70 locomotives (ACS-64) for $466,000,000.

A good example of an electric locomotive is Siemens ACS-64, used by AmTrak.
These locomotives are way faster than the diesel-electric ones, with speeds reaching 135 mph compared to ES44AC max speed of 72-74 mph. However with a tractive effort of maximum 63,000 lbf is way less than ES44AC tractive effort of 183,000 lbf, that’s why Evolution Series is mainly used for freight transportation, that requires not only horsepower but brute force.The ACS-64 has 6,700 horsepower which is way more comparing with the ES44AC 4,400 horsepower.

amtrak electric locomotive
How much does a steam locomotive cost? How much it cost when it was manufactured, calculated in today's money as well.

A steam locomotive cost in the 1800s was between $9,000 and $15,000 thanks to this source which translates in $300,000 to $500,000 in today’s money according to this calculator.

The models I based my research on were:

  • Baldwin 24 ton 4-4-0 which was built in 1860 and it cost $9,725, translated in today’s money it would be $302,429.
  • Baldwin 27 ton 0-8-0, built in 1860 it cost $11,331 and in today’s money it would be $352,373.
  • Unknown 35 ton 4-4-0 was built in 1870 and it cost $10,000, in today’s money it would cost $197,000
  • Baldwin 40 ton 4-4-0 built in 1885, it cost $6,695 back then and today it would cost $157,200
  • Cotton Belt 50 ton 0-6-0 has cost between 7,500 to $8,152 and in today's money it would cost approximately $180,000.
  • Cotton Belt D2 4-6-0 built in 1898 cost $10,860, today it would cost $210,300.
  • Cotton Belt E2 4-6-0 built in 1900 cost $15,250, today it would cost $468,000.

    A steam locomotive cost in the 1900s would be between $21,900 and $265,000 which in today’s money would be between $672,000 and $3,838,000.

    The models I based my research on were:

  • Cotton Belt G0 4-6-0 built in 1913 for a total cost of $21,900 which translates to $672,000 today’s money.
  • Baldwin 51 ton 4-4-0, and 91 ton 2-8-0 both built in 1905 with $9,410 and respectively $14,500 which translates in $275,000 and $425,340.
  • NYC 2-8-2 H-10 built in 1922 for $72,173 which would cost $1,106,000.
  • GE/PRR GG-1 built for approx. $250,000 in 1935-43, would cost approximateively $2,650,000.
  • NYC 4-8-4 S-1 Niagara built in 1945 for $240,000 would cost $3,441,000.

    I hope this answered your question, leave me a comment if you have any others.