We started operating electric trains as long ago as 1895. However, we cannot simply take electricity from the socket – we have to convert it first. Because, then as now, trains use power with a frequency of 16.7 Hertz, whereas 50 Hertz is the frequency used in the public electricity grid.
Electricity is increasingly being converted in converter stations. Unlike their predecessor, the traction substation, these converters do not use a mechanical system to do their job – instead, they are fitted with power electronics. This technology has a major environmental benefit, since it means up to five percent less energy is lost in the conversion process.