Motor coach (rail)

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A 2100 kW motor coach of SOB at the head of a train in Wädenswil 2003

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.[1][2] 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 train consists hauled by motor coaches. 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.

Examples of motor coaches[edit]

Examples of railcars[edit]

Examples of multiple units not combined with other vehicles[edit]

See also[edit]




  1. ^ Ellis 2006, p. 222.
  2. ^ Jackson 2006, p. 216.


  • Ellis, Iain (2006). Ellis' British Railway Engineering Encyclopaedia. Lulu. ISBN 978-1-84728-643-7.
  • Jackson, Alan A. (2006). The Railway Dictionary, 4th ed., Sutton Publishing, Stroud. ISBN 0-7509-4218-5.