Motor coach (rail)

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A Swiss motor coach pulling four coaches: not an EMU and not a railcar

A motor coach (International usage) or motorcar (US usage) is a powered rail vehicle able to pull several trailers and at the same time transport passengers or luggage. With multiple unit train control, one operator can control several “motor coaches”, possibly even combined with locomotives, efficiently in the same train, making longer trains possible. A motor coach is distinguished from a railcar or railbus by not being lightweight.

Motor coaches can replace locomotives at the head of local passenger or freight trains. Especially electrified narrow gauge lines on the European continent often saw this form of operation. Many of these railways closed down, many others changed to electric multiple units. But a few lines in Switzerland, Italy and Austria still work with motor coach pulled train consists. It can be expected that the Bernina line of Rhaetian Railway will continue for a long time to be operated with motor coaches pulling passenger and freight trains.

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