5.8 seconds. That's how fast an Re 620 electric locomotive can top 100km/h from a standing start. Which is handy when one needs to pull 725 tonnes of freight through some of Europe's highest peaks.
Re 620 series of locomotives were built between 1975 and 1980 but are still a workhorse along the Gotthardbahn, a Swiss rail line that runs over the Alps from Luzern, Switzerland to Chiasso, Italy, where the fleet of 88 engines are used to haul freight. The Re 620 is the single most powerful individual electric locomotive in the world — producing 10,500 horsepower and providing up to 398 kN of effort through its six drive axles.
A single Re 620 can pull up to 800 tons on a 26 per cent gradient at 80km/h. For heavier loads up to 1179 tonnes, the Re 620 will be assisted by a smaller engine — the 6320hp four-axle Re 420/430 which is coupled in-line behind the main engine to provide additional power.
The first two prototypes of the Re 620 were actually built with a split locomotive body, connected with a vertical hinge to allow it overcome the sudden and steep grade changes found along its route. The design didn't stick when engineers found they could simply soften the suspension and achieve the same results, but the two split body engines are still in service today.
In addition, all of the engines feature a unique bogie design that allows the Re 620 to contend with the numerous tight turns along the Gotthardbahn. Bogies are the sleds that hold the axles and connect to the body of the engine. Instead of the traditional set of two, three-axle bogies, the Re 620 instead used three, two-axle bogies and allowed the centre set to move sideways to better accommodate curve of the rails.
When the new Gotthard Basistunnel is completed in 2017, the Re 620 will be expected to help pull the roughly 49.3 million tons of freight that travel along the rail line each year along at a brisk 140 km/h.
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