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Tacoma Rail tests “green” locomotive

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on Sep. 27, 2007 at 12:10 am with No Comments »
September 27, 2007 12:10 am

Tacoma’s municipally owned short line railroad, Tacoma Rail, wants to be the first railroad in Washington to put into service a new generation of fuel-efficient, ultra-low emissions locomotives.

Paula Henry, Tacoma rail superintendent, said the railroad just completed a week-long test on a new breed of locomotive with exceptional results.

The new locomotive, built by National Railway Equipment Co. of Mount Vernon, Ill., cut fuel consumption and pollution dramatically compared with Tacoma Rail’s older conventional locomotives.

Here are the test results provided by NRE:

*For over 90% of the in-service time, only one of the two GenSets was needed.

*Idle time was reduced by 80%.

*Estimated fuel consumption was reduced by 70%.

*Estimated emissions were significantly reduced by up to 85%.

*Due to tractive effort improvement, sand use was reduced by over 80%.

*Due to improved tractive effort only a single unit was used vs. two units on certain operations.

*Crew comfort improvements included dramatically reduced noise levels, a significant reduction in smoke. emissions, and better visibility due to the lower long hood and the inclusion of more rear cab windows.

*On railroads where NREC GenSets are used, maintenance costs have been reduced by over 50%.

The test locomotives is what the rail industry calls a “genset” locomotive.

Instead of one large engine, a genset uses two or three smaller diesel engines to drive generators to power electric motors that power the locomotive’s wheels.

Those smaller diesels are modified versions of the large engines that power over-the-road trucks. Those engines are fitted with the latest pollution controls.

The advantage of having two or three engines instead of one is that the locomotive’s computerized controls can shut down one or more of those engines completely when the load is light and start up the additional engines instantly when the load is heavy.

The new engines can be shut down entirely when they’re at rest, something that’s difficult to do with older locomotives whose cooling system is filled with water, which can freeze in low temperatures if the engine isn’t idling. The new engines using cooling systems filled with antifreeze like the ones used on trucks.

The genset engines can be replaced easily because of their smaller size, when maintenance is needed.

Henry said she is seeking grant funds to pay at least some of the costs of one or two locomotives she hopes Tacoma Rail can acquire.

NREC’s vice president marketing and sales James M. Wurtz said, "Indeed these results are dramatic. I do not recall a newly released locomotive model ever achieving similar comparative results. We certainly are proud of the performance of the N-ViroMotive GenSets."

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