Since the dawn of the Orient Express in 1883, Europeans have dreamed of a rail network that would transcend national borders. For more than a century, the best that that could be accomplished was the handoff of passenger or freight consists from one national rail system to another, usually stopping at the border to change motive power. Even when most of the continent went to overhead wires to supply motive power, voltage and current were often different from one country to another. Today, however, all that is changing. Sporting service names like "EuroCity" and slogans like "Connecting Europe," electric engines glide seamlessly and swiftly across borders, and carriers offer freight and passenger services that span many nations.
With locomotive and car manufacturing facilities on four continents, Bombardier has emerged as a leader in the manufacture of equipment for these multinational rail carriers. Starting with electric locomotive technology developed by German firm Adtranz, which Bombardier acquired in 2001, Bombardier developed the TRAXX family of electric and diesel locomotives for service across Europe. TRAXX electrics feature modular construction and can be configured to run on multiple voltages and both AC and DC. Leading purchasers have included freight carriers with multinational networks, including Cargo, the freight division of the Swiss Federal Railways that runs through Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, and Railion, which spans Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy.
The TRAXX electric offers a near-perfect combination of speed, safety, and practicality. Its streamlined shape is designed for aerodynamics but also for economical construction, being composed almost entirely of flat surfaces. The ends are raked at an angle that slices through the air - but a steeper, more streamlined angle was avoided in order to minimize air turbulence between the engine and the following car. The controls, of course, are fully computerized with myriad safety systems. With up to 800 horsepower being delivered to each of its eight wheels, wheelslip control on the TRAXX was mandatory. Another system automatically ensures adherence to speed restrictions and trackside signals.
But the most practical feature of the TRAXX electric has nothing to do with speed or safety. It turns out the engine's smooth, flat sides make a perfect rolling billboard, either for publicizing the owner or selling ad space for additional revenue. The most complex images can be printed on a heavy plastic foil and applied neatly to the engine, and changed easily when necessary. Passenger engines based on the same platform have carried graphics publicizing rock musicals, vacation destinations, and even UNICEF.