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By Michael Popke
As the pandemic continues to take its toll on the North American economy — and on passenger-rail ridership — transit agencies continue to try to figure out how to cope with their corresponding financial crises. Everything’s on the reconsideration table, from reducing service and headcounts to scaling back capital plans.
But even as they reconsider short-term plans, agency officials also are keeping an eye on the longer term so they’re ready to respond when the riding public returns.
Providers of transit locomotives, diesel multiple units (DMUs) and electric multiple units (EMUs) need to be ready, as well. And they are, a sampling of them told Progressive Railroading in August — whether it means delivering next-generation locomotives, DMUs or EMUs, power modernization programs or the latest in-cab technology.
For example, Bombardier Transportation is working to provide the ALP family of electric and dual-power passenger locomotives to various North American agencies.
New Jersey Transit recently exercised an option to purchase eight additional ALP-45 dual-power locomotives from Bombardier. The transit agency’s fourth order for the locomotives from a 2008 contract will boost its ALP fleet to 60. The units will meet current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tier 4 requirements by reducing emissions when operating in diesel mode and producing no emissions when operating in electric mode, Bombardier officials said in an email. The locomotives also offer significant increases in horsepower, acceleration and available head-end power over the older units, they added.
Since entering service, the 35 ALP-45 dual-power locomotives for NJ Transit and 20 units delivered to a Montreal agency have maintained a level of reliability two times the contractual requirement while operating over 12 million miles, including in harsh weather conditions, Bombardier officials said.
The dual-power locomotives can operate under both diesel power and alternating-current electric power from overhead sources. ALP-45 units operate push-pull service at speeds up to 125 mph in electric mode and up to 100 mph in diesel mode. They meet all Federal Railroad Administration standards, company officials said.
Other builders also have developed next-generation power options. Siemens Mobility’s Charger locomotive is powered by a high-performance, environmentally friendly Cummins QSK95 diesel engine. It was the first high-speed passenger locomotive to receive Tier 4 emissions certification from the EPA, Siemens officials said in an email.
The unit’s lighter weight ensures the ability to safely operate at speeds up to 125 mph more efficiently, requiring less maintenance for both the locomotive and the infrastructure, company officials said. All wiring, cabling and piping is located under the middle aisle within the locomotive machine room for easier maintenance access and better protection from external elements.
A state-of-the-art microprocessor control system continuously monitors components, takes self-corrective action and provides clear operating instructions to the locomotive engineer to help ensure the most efficient on-time performance.
The Charger units also feature enhanced car body structure safety with such crash energy management components as a locomotive cab safety cage and push-back couplers. Their redundant systems are designed to keep primary systems working, including traction, communications, heating and cooling systems. The single-axle control located in the drive system enables the locomotive to better adhere to rails in difficult conditions, Siemens officials said.
Charger locomotives are equipped with electronically controlled regenerative braking systems that use energy from the traction motors during braking, resulting in emission reductions of about 90 percent compared with locomotives powered by Tier 0 units, they said.
On the DMU and EMU fronts, Stadler US Inc. offers the FLIRT and KISS models.
The FLIRT — or Fast Light Intercity and Regional Train — is a single-deck, flexibly customizable regional train. Trainsets of between two and six cars are possible in standard and broad gauge, Stadler officials said in an email. The KISS — an acronym derived from the German words for “comfortable innovative speedy suburban train” — is a double-decker train with high, scalable seating capacity. It is lightweight and energy efficient with a stable, torsion-resistant aluminum car body, Stadler officials said.
Designed as a regional train with double doors to ensure quick passenger flow, the KISS can be built to run at a maximum speed of about 100 mph. Trainsets of two to eight cars are possible in standard and broad gauge, with seating for up to 1,000 passengers, depending on the interior’s design.
EMU options are available for the FLIRT and KISS models. Both technologies can be combined to create bi-modal multiple units for routes that are only partially electrified.
FLIRT DMUs are in service on the TEXRail commuter line, while KISS EMU trains currently are in production for Caltrain.
At Brookville Equipment Corp., the current focus is providing value-added modernizations, including technology and safety upgrades, company officials said in an email.
Brookville has been rebuilding and modernizing locomotives for both passenger and utility rail applications for more than 20 years. Customers include MTA Staten Island Railway, MTA Metro-North Railroad and South Florida Regional Transportation Authority’s Tri-Rail.
“The company’s experience includes the integration of modern locomotive control systems for improved traction adhesion and fuel efficiency, positive train control integrations, Tier 4 engine integrations, remote health monitoring, and head-end power upgrades and replacements,” company officials said.
The upgrades and integrations can be customized to fit an operator’s needs, and are packaged with Brookville’s “typical” overhaul and rebuild services, which include truck rebuilds, braking system overhauls and upgrades, engine and alternator rebuilds, cab updates and overhauls, wiring replacement, car body repairs and complete refinishing, they said.
Meanwhile, the technology evolution continues in and around the locomotive cab. Witness Progress Rail’s PowerView, a next-generation, crash-hardened locomotive event and video recorder for the passenger-rail market.
It is designed to provide synchronized recording and playback of multiple data sources. PowerView can replace multiple locomotive recorders into a single unit, Progress Rail officials said in an email.
As an OEM-agnostic processing platform, PowerView provides a single advanced fuel-monitoring solution across an entire and varied fleet, according to Progress Rail officials. It can integrate with other third-party fuel management products. PowerView also supports edge computing for local analytics, alarming and other applications.
Michael Popke is a Madison, Wisconsin-based freelance writer. Email comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.