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— by Walter Weart
There's a whole lot of innovating going on in locomotive country, as builders continue to roll out units that comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Tier 4 emission standard, which is scheduled to take effect in 2015. Tier 4 requires builders to reduce diesel engines' nitrous oxide (NOx) by 76 percent and particulate emissions by 70 percent (compared with engines introduced in 2005). Some locomotive manufacturers are fine-tuning fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly generator set (GenSet) units. A couple are exploring liquefied natural gas (LNG) technology, which CSX Corp. Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Oscar Munoz recently characterized as having the potential to "offer one of the most significant developments in railroading since the transition from steam to diesel in the 1950s."
In short: Locomotive manufacturers say they have been pushing the technology envelope this year, and they expect to keep pushing it in 2014.
Last month, Progressive Railroading checked in with representatives from six locomotive manufacturers to discuss the motive power market, including the technology evolution, as well as recent order activity and the prospects for more over the near term. Their comments, received during interviews or via email, follow.
For Progress Rail Services Corp. subsidiary Electro-Motive Diesel Inc. (EMD), 2013 has been a good year, both domestically and internationally. And it "might have been even better except for the loss of some coal traffic by the Class Is," said Marty Haycraft, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for locomotive and rail-car services for EMD sales in North America.
Aftermarket business, too, has been strong.
"We will handle all types of work from repowering to a complete rebuild, depending on the customers wishes," said Haycraft, adding that customers are seeking reduced emissions and fuel usage.
Some of the locomotives the company services are older, four-axle units that no longer are being manufactured. EMD also offers new units, including the SD70ACe, a six-axle locomotive equipped with AC traction motors. EMD hasn't produced a DC traction motor-equipped locomotive since 2011, Haycraft said.
EMD also recently developed the SD70ACe-P4 to provide customers with a four-traction model for applications such as intermodal, said Haycraft.
And, the builder has developed a Tier 4 locomotive designed to reduce NOx by an additional 80 percent and particulate matter by 70 percent compared with NOx and particulates produced by Tier 3 locomotives.
"We have achieved this without the use of urea," Haycraft said.
EMD also is active in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) arena: EMD is researching dynamic gas blending (DGB) and high-pressure direct injection (HPDI), Haycraft said. DGB would allow for the substitution of up to 60 percent of LNG for diesel fuel; HPDI, up to 90 percent of the diesel, he said.
"DGB is a dual fuel system, as the locomotive could run on all diesel fuel or a mixture of both, but HPDI always requires LNG at all times, requiring LNG fueling facilities," Haycraft said.
In December 2011, EMD and natural gas engine maker Westport Innovations Inc. entered into an agreement to integrate Westport's HPDI technology and natural gas fuel system technologies into a CN-provided EMD locomotive. EMD officials expect to launch a pilot program soon.
EMD also has developed a Tier 4-compliant unit for the passenger-rail market. In June, EMD signed an agreement with the Southern California Regional Rail Authority to supply up to 20 EMD F125 low-emission Spirit-series passenger-rail locomotives for operation on Metrolink — making it the first passenger railroad to purchase new transit locomotives designed to meet Tier 4 emissions standards in North America, EMD officials said. The pact also marked EMD's re-entry into the passenger locomotive market.
With a top speed of 125 mph, the F125 is the fastest diesel-electric locomotive in North America, EMD officials say. The locomotive uses a turbocharged, 20-cylinder, four-stroke Cat® C-175 20 diesel engine and AC traction motors.
Meanwhile, EMD also is developing computer systems to improve operational efficiencies. For example, the company has developed the SmartConsistâ„¢ Fuel Management System, which automatically sets each locomotive to its optimal throttle position, improving fuel economy, cutting emissions and reducing noise in the lead locomotive, Haycraft said. The technology can be applied to the installed EMD locomotive fleet, and trailing units can be of any vintage or manufacturer, he added.
EMD also has worked with New York Air Brake L.L.C. to provide LEADER AutoControlâ„¢ on its locomotives. The system determines the ideal throttle and braking applications to minimize in-train forces while optimizing train movement for the most efficient use of time and fuel. This could lead to what Haycraft called "cruise control" for locomotives.
As of mid-November, the 2013 motive power market — domestic and international — was "about where we thought it would be," as GE Transportation VP of Global Technology Eric Ducharme put it.
"The railroads have told us that they are very interested in fuel economy, reliability and emissions," he said.
Accordingly, GE's Evolution® Series locomotives use up to 5 percent less fuel while reducing emissions by about 40 percent compared with previous GE models, Ducharme said. Meanwhile, since Tier 4 standards will become effective in 2015, GE had six Tier 4 locomotives out for testing as of mid-November. The Evolution Series Advance Power 4 locomotive meets Tier 4 emission standards without the use of any type of after-treatment, according to GE. Company officials expect the Advance Power 4 to be the first mainline locomotive on the market to meet the standards.
"We have had one locomotive run about 100 miles on a Class I railroad in August and are planning more field testing," Ducharme said.
Since 2009, GE has offered the Evolution Series Model ES44C4, an AC alternative for traditional DC locomotive applications. The model features two three-axle trucks with only four traction motors for applications where there is no requirement that all axles be powered. Currently powered with a Tier 3-compliant engine, the locomotive will be powered by a Tier 4-compliant engine by 2015, GE officials said.
GE, too, is developing locomotives that can operate on LNG. "Our Power Division makes gas turbines, giving us significant experience upon which we can draw," said Ducharme, adding that GE is developing a dual-fuel motor and has completed the first prototype.
On Nov. 13, CSX Corp. and GE announced they forged an agreement to explore LNG technology for locomotives, beginning with a pilot program in 2014. During the next few months, the Class I plans to develop a LNG test plan and secure regulatory approvals.
Under the agreement, GE will deploy its new NextFuelâ„¢ natural-gas retrofit kits for CSX. The kits enable existing GE Evolution Series locomotives to operate with dual-fuel capabilities. CSX and GE also plan to continue developing LNG technology for other classes of locomotives to promote gains across a larger portion of the Class I's locomotive fleet, and work closely with key stakeholders and government agencies to help advance LNG deployment.
GE has been testing low-pressure natural gas technology since spring 2013, and is working closely with CSX and other Class Is. Field tests are expected to begin next year.
GE's NextFuel gives railroads the flexibility to run on both diesel fuel and LNG, GE officials said.
"We can achieve savings by being able to substitute LNG for up to 80 percent of diesel fuel, yet allow the same locomotive to run on diesel only if required," says Ducharme.
Of course, GE is "not just inverting in metal" — the company also continues to invest in a range of electronic solutions for its power customers, Ducharme said. For example, GE offers the Trip Optimizerâ„¢, an automated system that optimizes fuel use based on a train's makeup and route. And GE's eMUâ„¢ Bridge provides a high bandwidth Ethernet communication link using existing multiple unit trainlines to communicate between locomotives and/or rail cars that are "MU'd" together in a consists, according to GE literature.
For Brookville Equipment Corp., business so far this year has "been outstanding," said marketing specialist Adam Mohney in an email. Rebuild orders included seven GP-35 locomotives for MTA Metro-North Railroad and 10 passenger locomotives for a Canadian commuter railroad Mohney declined to identify.
The passenger-rail and streetcar markets are "poised to grow" during the next few years, he said.
"There has been and will continue to be significant investment in improving the operations, reach, efficiency and environmental impact of public transportation infrastructure throughout the United States as a result of TIGER funding, among other initiatives," Mohney said. "We are already seeing the effects of that investment in the orders we've received over the past few years."
In the freight market, Brookville received an order for two 132-ton, two-engine, 1,200-horsepower (600 horsepower each) diesel-electric CoGeneration locomotives from Central California Traction Co.
Also: The company's CoGeneration multi-engine system for freight applications and the Tier 3-certified, Tier 4-ready single-engine BL36PH passenger locomotive (which features a "strong yet lightweight semi-monocoque frame design") are in full compliance, he said.
Brookville also received an order from a railroad Mohney didn't identify for a diesel hydraulic locomotive, which is "ideal for low-speed applications requiring high tractive effort," he said.
Dubbed the BM8 series, Brookville's two-axle diesel-hydraulic units range from 4 to 45 tons and 45 to 600 horsepower, while four-axle units range from 45 to 120 tons, and 375 and 1,450 horsepower, Mohney said.
In 2014, Brookville execs expect the locomotive rebuild market to continue to grow as railroads and transit agencies look to "balance their bottom line with improvements in operations efficiency and environmental consciousness," Mohney said.
"Going forward, environmental impact will continue to play into product designs more than ever, which includes meeting and ideally exceeding the requirements of any and all agencies, including Tier 4 compliance," he added.
Along the way, Brookville plans to continue to develop products that boost locomotive operating efficiency — products that are "aerodynamic, lightweight yet durable and environmentally friendly, while also improving each product's service life for the best value," Mohney said.
National Railway Equipment Co. (NRE) provides new and remanufactured locomotives, locomotive products and wheel services. Since 2007, NRE has produced more than 350 GenSets for the global market. The company expects to finish 2013 "with record growth and company revenue," said NRE Assistant Vice President of Sales and Marketing Keith Batley in an email.
In the domestic market, BNSF Railway Co. recently ordered six Tier 3 NViromotive 3GS21CDE locomotives, which are scheduled to be delivered next year. NRE also received orders from "new and repeat customers" for seven additional GenSets, Batley said.
In addition, NRE unveiled three new models this year: a Tier 4 switch engine, which the company terms as the industry's first (three additional units will be delivered to customers in late 2013 or early 2014, Batley said); a twin engine, 3,600-horsepower, Tier 3-compliant locomotive; and a remanufactured SD40-4 with independent axle control adhesion.
"We are excited to introduce our EMD 645 and 710 Electronic Unit Injector (EUI) systems in 2014 for tier enhancements, as well as fuel savings over Mechanically Actuated and Controlled Unit Injectors (MUI)," Batley said.
Meanwhile, NRE's new SD40-4 locomotive with independent axle control will be ready for demonstration before year's end.
"We [hope] this solution has a major impact on Class Is' revitalization programs for GE or EMD four- and six-axle locomotives," Batley said.
NRE officials expect the growth to continue in 2014, both in North America and in power markets around the world.
"We also expect new opportunities in Saudi Arabia, Africa, Australia and India," Batley said.
For R.J. Corman Railpower®, business in 2013 was "less than originally projected" due to "some hold-ups in government funding allocated to our customers but not finalized in the originally expected timeframe," company officials said in an email. But the "hold-ups" don't reflect market demand, they added.
During the year, Railpower received requests for "PTC-equipped" locomotives, officials said, noting that Railpower can integrate PTC solutions with its Power Plus Control System. The company plans to integrate PTC solutions with "a number" of locomotives slated to be delivered in 2014, they said.
Speaking of 2014, Railpower officials expect an increase in business. The company has expanded its RP Series GenSet locomotive product line with its RP7BD and RP28CD designs — one engine and four-engine GenSets, respectively.
"Railpower is actively working on Tier 4, which will add to the RP Series product line," officials said.
Meanwhile, the company has rolled out its Locomotive Information Viewing Environment Portal (L.I.V.E.). Customers can log on to L.I.V.E. to obtain a manufacturing update before units arrive onsite. Post delivery, customers can remotely access operational data, reset active alarms, check equipment hours for scheduling maintenance and perform other functions.
Railserve Inc., a Marmon Group/Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, has manufactured the LEAF® Gen-Set Locomotive since 2008. More than 40 locomotives are in service with industrial users, including paper, grain and chemical firms.
The LEAF was developed to meet the needs of shippers, and industrial and short-line railroads that operate in yards where there is a need for high tractive effort at very low speeds.
"We think the market is very promising," said LEAF Program Manager TJ Mahoney. "In addition to our industrial users, we think there will be real interest by short lines and regionals."
The LEAF reduces particulate matter, meets Tier 3 emissions standards, and can reduce NOx emissions by 84 percent and fuel consumption by 50 percent, he said.
"One of our LEAF locomotives replaced two conventional engines at a chemical plant and has been able to handle steep grades at a location that previously required two locomotives," added LEAF Technical Support Manager Bobby Ross.
The original LEAF offers a single GenSet, but Railserve also markets a dual GenSet model. The Dual LEAF offers the same features as the company's single LEAF with the addition of a second Cummins QSX 15 600-horsepower GenSet, a larger frame and an increased capacity sand reservoir.
Walter Weart is a Denver-based freelance writer.