A locomotive (also known as ‘loco’, ‘engine’ or ‘unit’) is a separate vehicle used to pull multiple loads of freight and passengers across a certain distance while pulling other unpowered vehicles (rollingstock; freight cars/trucks, etc.) behind it, which creates the common and well-known term: ‘train’.

The term itself, derives from the Latin term, "loco" meaning, "from a place"; as well as "motive" meaning "movement", which both mean "moving to and from a place"; hence the term: "locomotive".


Steam-powered locomotives were the very first forms of actual locomotives. Water is heated by heat coming off a fire to generate steam.
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Locomotion No. 1, one of the very first locomotives ever built.

George Stephenson was one of the first designers to design the first ever locomotives in the late-1830's, and his company built some of the very first locomotives in Britain, and Britain was one of the very first places to develop organized rail transport. Then, in the early-1890's, Rudolph Diesel invented a much easier way of powering a locomotive by using an engine to whom he named after himself; as well as the fuel to power the "Diesel Engine". This created the Diesel locomotive. Electrically-powered locomotives were being built since just before 1900, but have only become common since 1960s.

Diesel and electric locomotives are the two main forms of locomotives in present day. The steam locomotive became too inefficient, dirty, and expensive to keep running in most countries. But in some countries where it would be too expensive to import diesel fuel, steam locomotives are still used; primarily in more rural and undeveloped areas around countries like China.

Locomotive Types/Forms/ModelsEdit

There are many different models, forms, or types of locomotives which are powered either by steam, diesel fuel, or electricity. They also have different ways of being propelled; such as the Maglev; which is electrically powered by a magnetic track; and the Rubicon; which is a fireless steam locomotive.



The Maglev, which is one of the fastest trains in the world, is actually an electric locomotive/train coupled with a string or set of passenger coaches forming a electric train set or electric multiple unit (EMU).

  • The term itself derives from the word: ‘locomotion’.
  • Locomotives are considered to be some of the most revolutionary and extraordinary vehicles ever built. (Aside from automobiles.)
  • Locomotives were, and sometimes still are, referred to as "iron horses" due to replacing animals such as horses for long distance transportation. The term is mostly used to describe steam locomotives now.
  • There are well over 1,000 different types of steam, diesel, and electric locomotives.
  • There are approximately 500,000 locomotives that exist in modern day. As well as over 1,000,000 that have been built.
  • Most average American train enthusiasts often refer to locomotives as "the power" or "power".