It’s impossible to start certain kinds of trains without a railroad locomotive starter. Older train parks need to keep power units on hand to give these trains a jump, so the process is very different from starting your car. That distinctive “hissss” sound, for instance, isn’t the pneumatic brakes, although trains have those too. That hissing noise is actually the train clearing the massive fuel system before it pumps diesel into the lines.
Investing in the proper tools to start a locomotive will keep it in working order for many years after its initial lifespan was slated for demise. Most “vintage” locomotives aren’t running on original parts, and trains needed a jumpstart in those days. Trains are complex machines, and that means you can’t simply start them up with any portable power supply that you might find laying on the ground. They require a jolt of energy to turn the engine over, and then the cars will move forward a few inches at a time to drag the other cars behind it and build momentum slowly. If the train accelerates too quickly, the sudden strain can rupture the couplings that keep the trains together. So not only do you need a battery with enough power, but you need one that can reliably deliver the right amount without overwhelming the system.
A truck-mounted power supply can help start a battery with insufficient charge, or start an engine with an alternative power source, but make sure that the equipment has been well-maintained and that it matches or can easily adapt to fit the locomotive.
Typically, the batteries are powered with high-quality lithium ions, and obviously, they can’t be too old. Batteries with any sign of corrosion are not acceptable and could potentially damage your locomotive’s engine or anything that is part of the electrical system. So don’t just go looking at the first place that has cheap locomotive batteries for sale. Don’t accept less than the best for your battery. At the same time, don’t think that this means you have to pay through the nose– some batteries are marked up with a premium. These sellers rely on workers caught in emergency situations who are caught in a tight spot and need a battery right away. Find a trustworthy retailer who can keep the batteries you need stocked and ready for when you unexpectedly need a replacement.