How Much Horsepower Does a Train Have? Passenger Locomotive

How much horsepower does a train have?

The train needs a lot of horsepower to pull those heavy cars, loaded with freight or passengers, right? Well not really. But let's answer the question. How much horsepower does a train have?

Short answer: between 4,000 -18,000 horsepower.

Long answer? Well let’s dive into it.

First, the term train refers to a group of cars and locomotives, also known as a train consist. The train doesn’t have pulling power, but the locomotive does. The locomotive also known as an engine is the one that pulls the cars, together they form a train.

Another important thing is that the train force of pulling the cars is not measured in horsepower but tractive effort. Please read How much torque does a train have? Where I have evidentiated the difference between horsepower, torque and tractive effort.

Anyhow to resume it, I will repeat, it is the tractive effort that makes a locomotive powerful, by powerful I mean being able to pull heavy loads.

how much horsepower does a train have
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How much horsepower does a freight locomotive engine have?

An average freight locomotive engine outputs between 4,000 and 18,000 horsepower.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the freight locomotives used today by the railroads and check out their specs.

GE Evolution Series - ES44AC

It’s a locomotive used for pulling freight cars mainly; manufactured by General Electric Transportation, it is broadly used by CSX Transportation, BNSF Railway and few other railroads.

This particular freight locomotive has 4,400 horsepower.


This diesel-electric locomotive outputs 4,400 horsepower, with a 12-cylinder 1010 engine.


It’s a diesel-electric locomotive which runs a 16-cylinder 710 engine, outputting 4,300 horsepower.


It’s a diesel-electric locomotive with a 16-cylinder V-type, which outputs 6,000 horsepower.

China Railways HXD1D

This engine it’s purely electric, no diesel, it outputs 9,700 HP, which is about 5,300 HP more than ES44AC.


Remember what I was saying about the tractive effort and horsepower?

The ES44AC tractive effort is 183,000 lbs at starting, where the Chinese HXD1D has a tractive effort of 94,000 lbs, which is half.

Now you know why a HXD1D won’t pull heavy freight cars but passenger ones only.

Of course HXD1D has its advantages, it can get to 160 mph in 5 minutes, while pulling 20 passenger cars.

You won’t see a ES44AC running faster than 70MPH, but you will see pulling twice as heavier loads than the above mentioned engine, this with way less horsepower.

Since we covered how much horsepower does a freight train have, and we know the answer, let’s continue our research with locomotives used for pulling passenger cars.

How much horsepower does a passenger train have?

A passenger locomotive usually has more horsepower than a freight one.

Why? How come?

Well not everything is about the horsepower, I mentioned above, but for the sake of understanding let me give you another example.

Think Ferrari Enzo and a Volvo VNR640 Semi.

You have 5 tons of load needed to be moved, what would you choose?

Ferrari Enzo or Volvo VNR640 Semi?

I know it would be fun to try and pull 5 tons of freight with a Ferrari Enzo, but your answer it’s a Volvo VNR640 Semi.

Well, a Ferrari Enzo has 660 HP and the most powerful Volvo VNR640 has 500HP. That’s a 160 HP difference. Anyhow that’s my example, it may sound funny but that’s it, too many people think about trains' force in horsepower or torque, it is not, it is the tractive effort.

So my favorite diesel-electric locomotive used for pulling passenger cars is Bombardier Acela Express, the fastest AmTrak locomotives.

Can we get to the point? How much horsepower does a passenger train / locomotive have?

Short answer: Between 6,000-16,000 - way more than a freight train.

Long answer, As I regularly say, let’s dive in.

Talking about Bombardier Acela Express, this locomotive has 6,200 HP.

Few other examples of passenger trains with enormous horsepower, are:

Novocherkassk 4E5K - 17,838 horsepower

Bombardier IORE - 14,483 horsepower

Datong Electric Locomotive - 13,410 horsepower

I hope this article answered your question of how much horsepower does a train have, remember it’s the locomotive, “how much horsepower does a locomotive have?” and yes, it is not about the horsepower but about tractive effort. You may also be interested in how much do a locomotive cost?

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