Posts Tagged ‘locomotives’

Great Lakes Central Acquires 3 SD35s

August 19, 2020

Michigan short line Great Lakes Central has acquired all three SD35 locomotives that recently worked for Montana Rail Link.

The SD35s will be a new motive power type to the largely GP35 fleet that GLC operates. Most of those GP35s once ran on the Ann Arbor.

The latest addition to the GLC roster are MRL Nos. 701, 702 and 705, which are the last three SD35s the western carrier had.

The units were last reported to be in the Chicago area being interchanged from BNSF to Canadian National en route to Michigan.

GLC had indicated it plans to renumber the SD35s as 383, 384 and 380. No. 383 is expected to enter revenue service in short order but Nos. 384 and 386 need light repairs.

The three units were built in 1965 for Norfolk & Western.

North American Motive Power Fleet Shrunk in 2019

May 12, 2020

As Class 1 railroads have embraced the precision scheduled operating model they have also reduced the sizes of their locomotive fleets.

Those who closely follow the quarterly financial reports of Class 1 railroads may have noticed that a shrinking locomotive fleet has become a regular feature.

Norfolk Southern, for example, reported that its active locomotive fleet at the end of March was 20 percent smaller than it was in late 2018.

That’s 714 fewer units in case you were wondering.

Similar trimming of the active motive power fleet has also happened at CSX.

Yet these locomotives don’t vanish from the face of the earth. Some wind up on other railroads, notably short lines and regionals, while others are snapped up by locomotive leasing firms.

Railinc Corporation, a subsidiary of the Association of American Railroads, keeps track of the North American locomotive fleet.

Its latest report shows the number of diesel-electric locomotives is 39,125, a decrease of 393 units from 2018.

The nation’s locomotive fleet is getting older with the average age rising by 0.7 years to 27.3.

The median locomotive age is 23 years, an increase of 0.2 percent.

Railinc said this is the 10th consecutive year the average and median ages of the nation’s locomotives has risen.

In large part that is because railroads are buying fewer new locomotives.

Last year railroads bought 244 new locomotives whereas in 2018 they purchased 164. Last year was the third consecutive year that railroads bought fewer than 300 new units.

Railinc has been tracking locomotive fleet size since 2009.

The size of the nation’s motive power fleet grew every year until 2018 when it began falling.

Age and size of locomotives tend to correlate with the economy. When it’s strong and railroads have more rail cars in service, the average age of the motive power fleet tends to be lower and the number of units grows.

But when the economy falters the inverse tends to be true although a lagging economy doesn’t explain what happened the past two years.

Railinc attributes that to what it termed “ industry utilization improvements,” which is another way of saying railroads are using fewer locomotives to pull their trains.

That is linked to PSR at Class 1s, which are running fewer, but longer, trains.

Since the mid-1990s, most new locomotives have been six-axle units with a horsepower rating of 4,000 or higher.

Units with 4,000 or more horsepower now account for 56 percent of the overall North American fleet while six-axle units are 69 percent of the fleet.

Most of those new units have alternating current traction motors, which perform well hauling heavy loads.

Direct current traction motors still make up 64 percent of the North American fleet. Yet the share of AC units has grown by 10 percent since 2009.

Only 39 new DC units have joined the North American locomotive fleet over the past two years.

Most new units also have featured a fuel capacity of more than 4,500 gallons.

The Railinc analysis, which was published by Railway Age, noted that Class 1 railroads often use newer locomotives for long hauls but as those units age they can be relegated to lighter duties.

It is not unusual, though, for a locomotive to have a service life of more than 60 years.

Road units account for 67 percent of the North American Fleet with switchers making up 22 percent.

Indonesian Railroad Buys EMD Locomotives

April 17, 2020

Builder’s photo of an EMD GT38AC.

Progress Rail will build 36 new locomotives for PT Kereta Indonesia at it Muncie, Indiana, assembly plant.

The order is for for EMD GT38AC freight locomotives that PT KAI’s will use for South Sumatra coal haulage operations.

PR KASI has had 50 other GT38AC locomotives operating in this service since 2011.

In a news release, Progress Rail said the EMD GT38AC model was designed specifically for Southeastern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa environments.

It features an 8-cylinder EMD 710 engine and durable AC traction, along with a cab and car body designed for improved visibility.

The locomotives are expected to be delivered in late 2021.

Whole Lotta Locomotives Rolling Along

April 13, 2018

Last Saturday during the annual Dave McKay Day of the Akron Railroad Club in Berea, all cameras were out as manifest freight 17N approached on the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern.

On the point was the GoRail locomotive. But the rest of the motive power consist held some interest, too.

Immediately behind the GoRail unit was a former CSX locomotive with a line drawn through its markings. It is now a lease unit owned by a locomotive leasing company.

The motive power consist itself was out of the ordinary long, comprised of seven units. Perhaps 17N was ferrying locomotives as well as cargo.

With Orders for New Engines Scarce, Locomotive Builders Turn Their Attention to Rebulding

January 29, 2018

Last year was a decidedly mixed one for North American locomotive manufacturers.

Orders for new locomotives were down and much of their business came from re-manufacturing, which the builders said remained strong as railroads sought cost-effective ways to increase capacity and reliability.

“While 2017 [was] a challenging year for the rail industry and we’re still in a tough environment, we have been using this time to continue diligently meeting with customers and turning our focus on how we can meet future needs,” said Brian Edwards, vice president of sales, locomotive service operations and customer performance for Progress Rail in an interview with Progressive Railroading magazine.

Progress Rail said most of its work has involved upgrading engines and control systems, with much of this work being done on intermediate or switcher locomotives.

Edwards expects the demand for these services this year to be similar to what the company did in 2017.

GE Transportation said new orders for motive power last year were soft, but the demand for locomotive overhauls has been trending up for the past two to three years.

“I would say 2017 was strong and 2018 will be stronger as our customers are looking for better capital efficiency,” said John Manison, GE’s general manager of locomotive modernizations.

“One effective way to do that is to take a heavily used locomotive and upgrade the technology on it,” he said.

Manison said most Class 1 railroads have “embarked on some sort of modernization program.”

Pennsylvania-based Brookville Equipment Corporation did not receive a single contract to build a new locomotive in 2017.

It has been focusing on two major rebuild orders while expanding an existing re-manufacturing order from seven units to eight.

Brookville executives believe there will be a “good mix” of demand for both rebuilt and new locomotives said spokesman Adam Mohney.

“Our focus will be on meeting the specific demands of our clients and looking for apparent ways to add value with both new and re-manufactured locomotive fleets,” he said.

T.J. Mahoney, the program manager at Railserve said 2017 was a challenging one for modernizations due to a soft North American market. But he sees better days ahead.

“With the economy strengthening, and factors favoring volume shifts from truck to rail, 2018 holds great promise for the industry in general,” he said. “On top of that, corporate sustainability requirements are expected to bolster demand for low-emissions locomotives, including the Railserve LEAF and Dual LEAF. Our outlook is positive this year for sustainable locomotives, both domestically and internationally.”

Like other builders, PowerRail reported a weak market for new locomotives.

“We have also seen a decline in investments in locomotive fleets, in general,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Foster. “Cutting of capital rebuild projects, deferred maintenance and stored locomotives have all contributed to an overall drop in the investment in locomotive fleets.”

However, Foster said that PowerRail has maintained rebuild sales by leveraging new technology and offering reliability-driven products.

That has led it to expand its locomotive facility in Monroe, Georgia, by adding on the building and install two overhead cranes and some Class I track.

“PowerRail has focused on offering enhanced products that will help the railroads increase the service life of their locomotives,” he said.

Ya Think It Won’t Start Anyway?

August 4, 2017

The remains of a StL&H SD made a stop at work in its journey from LTEX to Pottstown, Pa. I thought the “Do not start” instruction on the non complying locomotive tag was a bit of a hoot.

Photographs by Roger Durfee


GE to Layoff 250 at Texas Locomotive Plant

February 4, 2017

The Erie, Pennsylvania, locomotive assembly plant is not alone in seeing worker layoffs.

GE transportationGE Transportation Services plans to furlough 250 workers at it Fort Worth locomotive assembly plant this year, starting in April.

“The North American rail market continues to be challenging. Freight rail volume has dropped year-over-year and the number of parked freight locomotives remains high,” GE spokesman Tim Bader told Trains magazine. “As a result, production volume is down at the facility in Fort Worth, Texas, requiring only 50 percent of the site’s available capacity.”

Bader said furloughed employees will receive company benefits and be eligible for state unemployment insurance.

Those workers not being laid off will be working 32-hour weeks beginning in June.

Since opening in 2012, the Fort Worth plant has built more than 1,000 locomotives for such railroads as Union Pacific, BNSF Railway, Canadian National and Ferromex.

Railroading as it Once Was: CR Rarity

January 11, 2017
Certainly one of the rarer units on Conrail, this former Lehigh Valley Alco RS-3 with a high short hood rests at the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, engine service facility in October 1977. Built for the Pennsylvania Railroad with a steam generator in that tall hood, it went to the LV as its 211. It would be the only unit of its kind on both the LV and CR roster, and would even retain this car body after it’s conversion in the RS-3 mod program. I believe this unit survives today, although with an EMD prime mover.
Article and Photograph by Roger Durfee

Indiana Northeastern Buys 6-Axle Power

September 24, 2016

The Indiana Northeastern Railroad has acquired a pair of six axle locomotives, its first.

indiana-northeasternUntil now the short line railroad that serves Indiana, Ohio and Michigan had relied on four-axle EMD diesels.

Now Indiana Northeastern has purchased a pair of SD40-2s from Motive Power Resources in Minooka, Illinois.

The units formerly worked for Canadian Pacific and Southern Pacific with the ex-SP unit still having its flared SD45 car-body.

Indiana Northeastern president Gale Shultz said two factors prompted his railroad to seek larger locomotives.

“In the next year, we have to equip for positive train control to get in and out of the Norfolk Southern yards at Montpelier, Ohio,” Shultz said. “We are running 85-car unit trains and I can’t see spending money on one of the old girls.”

Shultz said both SD40-2s have been rebuilt from the frame-up by Alstom Canada and were last used in a CSX Transportation lease fleet.

“’These are sixteen cylinders, new controls and wiring, we hope to have the first one here in a week,” he says.

Indiana Northeastern General Manager Troy Strane told Trains magazine that one six-axle unit will be paired with a four-axle unit to move unit grain trains.

“I think one of these can easily do the work equal to two or three of our four-axles. We have a lot of small hills and curves, its real railroading and moving these unit trains is rough on the power,” Strane said.

The SD40-2s are unlikely to be repainted into Indiana Northeastern colors until next spring because they are needed immediately to help with the grain harvest that is getting underway.

Market for New Locomotives Has Gone Soft

April 10, 2016

They look good, perform well and garner a lot of favorable publicity. But during a time when freight traffic is down, environmentally friendly locomotives are having a tough time finding buyers.

An analysis by Railway Age of Tier 4 compliant locomotives compared them with DOT-117 hazmat tank cars.

Both are well suited to achieve desirable goals, but those are not necessarily the most pressing or immediate goals of the railroad industry.

train image2Tier 4 refers to emission standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Although the railroad industry has embraced Tier 4, it doesn’t have enough Tier 4 compliant locomotives to pull its trains.

The railroad industry remains profitable and is outwardly optimistic about its future.

But month after month of reports from the Association of American Railroads show freight traffic in decline, particularly the coal business.

Some freight business has remained stable or achieved some growth, but that hasn’t been enough to offset the large losses resulting from falling coal traffic.

Those are not the conditions that are likely to lead to railroads wanting to buy new locomotives or tank cars.

Another falling commodity has been crude oil and the number of available tank cars exceeds the demand for them.

Likewise, Class 1 railroads have many locomotives in cold storage.

“Two years ago, every serviceable locomotive was reactivated,” said Oliver Wyman’s Jason Kuehn at Rail Equipment Finance 2016 in an interview with Railway Age. “Now, 15 percent or more of the road locomotive fleet is in storage. The price spread between natural gas and diesel has choked off interest in LNG and CNG-fueled locomotives. And Tier 4 emissions levels are so strict that they’ve halted the virtuous cycle supporting locomotive replacement. We’ve gone from the perfect storm to a dead calm in two short years.”

Railway Age reported that some locomotive builders and leasers are looking to the export market for business.

Progress Rail/EMD, GE Transportation, National Railway Equipment, MotivePower, Railserve, RJ Corman, Brookville Equipment, Knoxville Locomotive Works and Republic Locomotive are among the companies that have sent represents traveling to such places as China, India, Russia and South Africa in search of sales.

As a result of the soft U.S. market for locomotives, Railway Age said that you won’t find this year a builder offering something new and/or innovative.

Nonetheless, the companies are seeking to do what they can with what they have to serve what markets exist and to prepare for what they hope will be better times ahead.

That means tinkering with existing products and seeking to use technological advances to tweak them.