Digital Twin of the Month: Twinning the GP38-2 iron horse

Sept 18 was an epic day in 1830. This was the first head-to-head race of the iron horse and bio-horse; the steam locomotive was battling for acceptance.  While the locomotive of the day, called Tom Thumb, lost largely on mechanical issues, it eventually won the next race.  The locomotive had started on its path to dominate freight and transportation. Fast forward 185 years, and the iron horse is very different but still dominant in many countries. On average, railroads are four times more fuel-efficient than trucks, according to the Association of American Railroad.

Twinning the locomotive

Welcome to our monthly spotlight on digital twin designs.

This month we ‘twin’ a widely used locomotive. The EMD GP38-2 is a four-axle diesel-electric locomotive of the road switcher type built by General Motors, Electro-Motive Division. EMD produced over 2,000 of these locomotives throughout North America in the 1970s and 1980s, with EMD discontinuing the model in 1986. This model’s success and durability also means that 30 years after its production ceased, there are still many roaming around. Its more current variants operate as a ‘rolling power plant’ with over 250 sensors and 150,00 data points per minute.

Our digital twin of the month: The EMD GP38-2. It's a four-axle diesel-electric locomotive of the road switcher type built by General Motors, Electro-Motive Division.

Our Digital twin of the month: the EMD GP38-2 from General Motors.

At an average price of $ 1,700,000 it seems logical to ‘twin’ a locomotive to ensure reliability, resale, and efficiency. A good digital twin can tell us valuable information of the locomotive inside as well as outside; bad weather accounts for 4–8 percent of railway disruptions. Twins should look not only at the lifespan but offer real-time moments of use and inform us of speed, brake temperature, vibration, heat, precipitation, track incline, fuel consumption per mile/per ton, tractive effort, and more. Other interesting details you should know of your (GP38-S) locomotive twin:

Weight is 135-Tons
Length: 59ft 2in
Max. Horsepower: 2000 HP
Tractive (pulling) force: 61,000 lbf (equivalent to 2,000 HP)

Interested in more digital twins? Read Twinning’ the W16 Engine.

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Digital Twin of the month: ‘Twinning’ the W16 Engine

Digital twin: insights and designs

In our monthly spotlight on digital twin designs, we bring attention to some of the world’s more unique machines, and tell their story through images and facts.  This month, we feature the massive W16 engine, found only within the Bucatti Veyron automobile.

IBM Bugatti engine digital twin graphic

Bugatti W16 digital twin

The world’s most powerful combustion engine

The opportunity to drive a Bugatti is rare, and to own one, even rarer. That’s no reason not to be fascinated by its engineering, capacity, and expense.  The Bugatti W16 engine which required 5 years of engineering to join (two) V8 engines, was entirely designed and developed in Germany by Volkswagen Group. Each Bugatti W16, considered as the world’s most powerful internal combustion engine, is one-of-a-kind engineering masterpiece built entirely by hand.

Everyday consumers should marvel at the scale, speed, and features when they consider how the W16 far exceeds what we own and drive daily. For most of us, it can be hard to imagine the full potential hidden in the W16. To prove some comparison, consider the W16:

  • is a sixteen-cylinder piston internal combustion engine; most cars have four-cylinders
  • requires 40 quarts of oil; most cars require only 5-6 quarts
  • uses fuel pumps that can pump fuel 8x faster than a normal car
  • at top speed, consumes 47,000 litres of air per minute, what humans consume in 4 days
  • has 3 engine radiators, most cars require only one
  • has a weight of 882 lbs (400 kg), most four-cylinder car engines weigh 300 lbs (136 kg)
  • generates 1,000 degrees of heat, normal operating temperature for most engines is 195 to 220 degrees
  • waste energy, from running the engine at full-throttle, could heat 10 homes in the winter
  • running at full-throttle for 20 minutes straight, would empty the (26.4 gal) tank
  • offers only 8 mpg for city driving, most hybrid cars offer 32-35 mpg.

Digital twin’s value beyond ‘repair and replace’

With the complexity, performance, and $ 2M Bugatti price tag, you can see why a digital twin has incredible value to driver and designer alike. Unfortunately, most digital twin approaches are presented as a solution to predictive maintenance. It’s no longer about simply ‘repair and replace’. It’s about using Internet of Things (IoT) to build a better digital twin that knows and predicts EACH elite clientele’s experiences, behaviors, and outcomes, in the city or on the track.

To learn more of what digital twins can do for you, and your humble 4-door sedan, visit


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