Improve Locomotive Traction Motor Performance with Superior Carbon Brushes

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Improve Locomotive Traction Motor Performance with Superior Carbon Brushes

A strong economy and the prosperity of a country depends on an efficient and robust railway system.

The railway infrastructure which includes stations, tracks, level crossings, as well as the locomotives themselves are vital to our lifeblood. Diesel electric locomotives transport goods across the country so that we can continue our social and economic functions.

Railway Traction Motor

Union Pacific Traction Motor

How Are Trains Powered?

Trains are powered by locomotives, which are specialized vehicles that propel train cars forward using a variety of energy sources, including diesel engines, electric motors, and steam engines. Locomotives are responsible for initiating and maintaining the train’s movement, and they can be positioned at various locations within a train.

Locomotives need multi-disciplinary engineering systems to operate at peak efficiency. Most modern locomotives are diesel electric, meaning that they use a diesel engine to generate electricity, which then powers electric traction motors that drive the wheels. The prime mover of a locomotive is the diesel engine. The diesel engine turns an alternator, which acts as a generator supplying electrical power to critical systems. There are large traction motors in locomotives stationed at each wheel axel, which become the main driving force to move the train.

The Role of Carbon Brushes in a Diesel Locomotive

Sliding electrical contacts (carbon brushes) are a critical component of diesel locomotives. Carbon brushes transfer power from the stationary part of the motor to the rotating part, allowing the locomotive to move. The reliability of these brushes is an important component of upholding our railway infrastructure, especially since the locomotives can haul sensitive materials.

Key Features of a High-Performance Locomotive Traction Motor Brush

The grade of carbon used on these types of applications must be robust enough to endure a high vibration environment as well as maintain good electrical contact with the rotating surface to reduce any excess resistance which can result in unwanted heat. Many of the brushes used for traction motors in locomotives are multi wafer brushes, with as many as three sections. These thin sections make the quality of brush manufacturing even more critical to ensure no breakages occur.

Traction grades typically have special treatments that allow them to operate under the tough conditions in a diesel locomotive. The brushes are also manufactured with added features that allow for greater reliability and life. Helwig’s premium traction grade H84 was specifically developed for these operating conditions and is a highly sought after material in the traction motor industry.

Partner with Helwig Carbon for Reliable Traction Motors in Locomotive

H84 Traction Brush

H84 Traction Brush for Union Pacific Diesel Engine

Due to a worldwide shortage of diesel electric traction brush materials, Helwig Carbon Products has made it a priority to keep this material in stock to ensure we keep our customers’ motors running. This in turn allows everyday people to receive the goods and services that keep everything moving forward. The cost of downtime due to shortages or failures can be significantly high.

Helwig has received multiple approvals from major railway customers. Many of them are delighted with the performance in one-on-one testing with existing OEM brushes. If you are having issues sourcing these brushes or would like a second source, please contact Helwig Carbon Products so that we can review your needs and assist in our capacity to do so. We are always eager to provide products and services of the highest quality.


Written By:
Admir Karabegovic
Application Analyst


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