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A locomotive or engine is a rail transport vehicle that provides the motive power for a train.


A locomotive has no payload capacity of its own, and its sole purpose is to move the train along the tracks. In contrast, some trains have self-propelled payload-carrying vehicles. These are not normally considered locomotives, and may be referred to as multiple units, motor coaches or railcars. The use of these self-propelled vehicles is increasingly common for passenger trains, but rare for freight (see CargoSprinter). Vehicles which provide motive power to haul an unpowered train, but are not generally considered locomotives because they have payload space or are rarely detached from their trains, are known as power cars.


Traditionally, locomotives pulled trains from the front. However, push-pull operation has become common, where the train may have a locomotive (or locomotives) at the front, at the rear, or at each end.


Motive power
Locomotives may generate their power from fuel (wood, coal, petroleum or natural gas), or they may take power from an outside source of electricity. It is common to classify locomotives by their source of energy. The common ones include:

Steam locomotive

Gasoline locomotive

Diesel locomotive

Electric locomotive