Overhead Line - Overview

Overview

Electric trains that collect their current from an overhead line system use a device such as a pantograph, bow collector, or trolley pole. The device presses against the underside of the lowest wire of an overhead line system, the contact wire. The current collectors are electrically conductive and allow current to flow through to the train or tram and back to the feeder station through the steel wheels on one or both running rails. Non-electric trains (such as diesels) may pass along these tracks without affecting the overhead line, although there may be difficulties with overhead clearance. Alternative electrical power transmission schemes for trains include third rail, ground-level power supply, batteries, and electromagnetic induction.

This article does not cover regenerative braking, where the traction motors act as generators to retard movement and return power to the overhead.

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