What is a consist? Locomotive consist? How about a train consist?

A locomotive consist and a train consist are in essence talking about the same principle, but on a different group of rail vehicles.
What is a locomotive consist?

A locomotive consist is a group of locomotives, which could range anywhere between 2 to 6 locomotives. You may also hear the term, motive power consist, which refers to locomotive consist.

E.g: “What’s the locomotive consist for that train?” “ Two locomotives”

What is a train consist?

A train consist refers to a group made out of cars and locomotives, same as the locomotive consist plus the cars, which together form a train.
E.g: “What’s that train consist?” “Three locomotives and six cars”

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Any group of rail vehicles which make up a train could be called a consist, and having a multiple-unit train is very common.

Today freight trains consist of many cars, in some instances a train can have up to 180 of them, which require a massive traction effort.
In order to pull that amount of tonnage, the railroad crew connects the cars to a multiple-unit.
A multiple-unit, also called MU, is a term used for a locomotive connected to another one. A multiple-unit, as the name says, consists of multiple engines.

You might ask yourself why the railroads “multiple-unit” several engines together?

Well there are few reasons for it.


Imagine a train consist of ten locomotives and 145 cars, if the MU technology wouldn’t be available, the train would need ten railroad crews to safely operate the train. Now if you multiply that with the average train conductor salary, plus the engineer salary and few other members of the crew, you realize how expensive that could be.


Imagine the same train consist, think about the distributed powerof having, say one group of two engines consist in front, one group of four locomotives consist midtrain, and one group of six locomotives consist at the rear compared with having all the pulling force in the front. Grouping the train like this avoids putting too much pulling pressure on the drawbars, you can only imagine how much pressure the first drawbar connected to the first engine would need to support to pull 145 cars.

The term “locomotive consist” or “train consist” is used mainly by the railroad workers, where the railroad modelers are using the term lashup.

I really hope this article answers your question, please do not hesitate to reach out to me in the comment section.

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