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<< Rail News Home: Mechanical

8/18/2004    Freight News

Rail News: Mechanical

Alaska Railroad to adopt distributed power to pull longer trains from North Pole

Alaska Railroad Corp. (ARRC) plans to begin using distributed power to move longer, heavier trains between a North Pole refinery and Anchorage.

By placing locomotives at either end or in the middle of a train, the 482-mile regional will reduce stress on rail-car connections and lateral forces on rail, decrease the risk of derailments, improve braking efficiency and air-brake system recharging, and cut fuel usage between 8 percent and 10 percent per trip, ARRC officials believe.

"Fuel transported from Flint Hills Resources North Pole refinery — which constitutes nearly half of the railroad's freight revenue — has increased steadily over the last five years, and state economic projections suggest the growth will continue," said Ernie Piper, ARRC assistant vice president of operating safety and environmental management, in a prepared statement. "As that business grows, so does our responsibility to search out and implement ways to improve operating safety."

Last winter, ARRC began using digital simulators and field trial runs to train some locomotive engineers on distributed power, which is used by U.S. railroads to move heavy trains through mountainous terrain.

To increase train length from 75 cars to 125 cars, the railroad needs state approval to amend its oil-spill prevention and response plan. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation currently is reviewing ARRC's amended plan.

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