Posts Tagged ‘locomotives’

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.

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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.

Locomotive Business Future Not Bright

November 15, 2017

Although General Electric has yet to discuss in detail why it is seeking to sell or spin off its transportation division, one factor is likely a weak market for new locomotives.

GE had cited that earlier this year in talking about its plans to end locomotive production at its Erie, Pennsylvania, assembly plant.

Now comes a report in Railway Age that states that the number of investors in locomotives is falling and the value of used locomotives is declining as well.

Historically, leasing companies and banks were major buyers of new locomotives.

But, Railway Age reported, “changes to the lease market, low interest rates, railroad profitability and bonus depreciation changed railroad investment in locomotives from lease to buy and have potentially changed the market forever.”

Declining freight traffic has also played a role in depressing locomotive demand.

There are few investment opportunities with long-term value in locomotives and the short-term lease market for locomotives has grown thin aside from short line and industrial railroads. In short, there is more supply than demand for locomotives.

Steven Beal, president of locomotive manufacturer, rebuilder and lessor NRE, told Railway Age that there might not be any significant orders for new locomotives until 2020.

Orders for new locomotives peaked in 2015 before EPA Tier IV emissions restrictions were implemented. Since then new locomotive orders have become almost non-existent.

Many carriers have found it cheaper to rebuild older units with modern affordable technology that meets emissions standards than to buy new Tier IV units.

However, time may be on the side of locomotive investors.

There are a lot of old locomotives still in service. One estimate is that 80 percent of locomotives built 50 years ago are still in service. Older locomotives someday will need to be replaced.

In the meantime, many class 1 railroads are paring down their diesel rosters. Railway Age quoted an unnamed source as saying that Class 1’s are returning every off-lease locomotive of less than 1,500 hp and ditching higher horsepower four-axle locomotives such as the GP38-2, a four-axle, 2,000 hp locomotive whose production ended in 1984.

Many of these surplus units have been sold at auction with short-line railroads being active buyers.

But not all of the locomotives being discarded by the Class 1 railroads are finding buyers due to height, weight and track restrictions on larger locomotives.

Beal said NRE has fielded an increase in inquiries from the industrial market for medium horsepower four- and six-axle power because their business has picked up, particularly in the steel and petrochemical sectors.

He said the number of locomotives in storage has declined by half to roughly 2,500.

Class 1 Railroads Adding Few New Cars, Locomotives

August 19, 2017

Despite rising traffic, North America’s Class 1 railroads are not expanding their rail car fleets.

In the second quarter of 2017, rail car deliveries were 10,625 units versus 10,042 in the first quarter, the Railway Supply Institute’s American Railway Car Instate Committee reported.

The rail car backlog on July 1 stood at 66,561 units, up from 60,471 on April 1 but down from 66,681 on Dec. 31, 2016. At the end of last year’s comparable quarter, the backlog totaled 89,155 units.

Progressive Railroading reported hat after surveying North American Class 1 railroads it found that the carriers aren’t acquiring many rail cars. Last years railroads purchased only a small quantity of rail cars.

Railroads own 20 percent of all freight cars in North America, with lessors controlling 50 percent. Rail shippers own 20 percent and TTX manages 10 percent.

Norfolk Southern, for example, saw its budget for freight cars fall to $50 million this year after spending $121 million last year on rail car acquisitions.

NS is studying how it can create a smaller, more homogeneous car fleet that would increase cost effectiveness and boost flexibility for operations.

That might mean having fewer types of box cars. NS currently uses 20 different box cars.

The Class 1 railroads plan to continue to modernize their locomotive fleets, but not all of them expected to purchase new engines.

NS spent $290 million last year to acquire 50 new locomotives and modernize some existing units. This included transforms GE Dash 9 locomotives from DC to AC traction.

In 2017, NS is looking to buy 50 new locomotives, most of them GE Evolution™ Series Tier 4 models.

Canadian National expects to receive 22 new locomotives this year after purchasing 90 units in 2016.

CSX hasn’t said if it plans to acquire new motive power in 2017, but it has said it is storing more than 900 units as part of an perational review and the Precision Railroading transition.

The carrier bought 100 new locomotives in 2016 under a long-term purchase agreement after receiving 200 units in 2015 as part of that contract.

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

 

Amtrak Tests Charger Locomotive in Midwest

April 20, 2017

One of the new SC-44 Charger locomotives that will be assigned to Midwest Corridor trains was tested between Chicago and Milwaukee on Wednesday.

No. 4611 was on the point for test train 941 from Chicago to Milwaukee, running ahead of regularly scheduled Hiawatha Service No. 329.

It was the first test of a Charger locomotive in the Midwest. Testing has been conducted previously on the east and west coasts.

Two Chargers, Nos. 4611 and 4604 arrived in Chicago late last month.

Siemens built the Chargers at a factory in California as part of an order placed by the departments of transportation of Illinois, California, Michigan, Missouri, Washington and Maryland. The order was for 69 locomotives of which Illinois purchased 33.

Most of the Chargers in the Midwest are expected to operate on corridor routes radiating from Chicago.

Further tests of the Chargers are expected to be performed on other Midwest routes.

Progress Testing New Tier 4 Switcher

February 26, 2017

progress-diesel

Progress Rail has finished initial testing of a new type of Tier 4 locomotive, the EMD24B.

The EMD24B features a pre-1973 locomotive core that has been rebuilt to meet EPA Tier 4 emission standards.

It comes with a Cat® 3512C HD engine and after-treatment technologies that have been proven to lower emissions, Progress said in a news release.

The prototype is rated at 2,000 horsepower and has rebuilt EMD-style locomotive components, and a remanufactured under frame and cab from an EMD GP40 locomotive.

Progress is currently testing the unit in California on the Pacific Harbor Line to meet that state’s 3,000-hour in-service verification testing.

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.

CSX, NS to Increase Inward Facing Cameras, Do More Cell Phone Detection Inside Locomotives

January 18, 2017

CSX and Norfolk Southern expect to increase the number of inward facing cameras in their locomotives this year and to install cell phone detection technology.

train image2Trains magazine reported this week that it obtained a CSX employee bulletin that gave a general outline of the railroad’s plans.

The cell phone detector device will only detect devices that are turned on and available to a cellular network.

Reportedly, the device will not seek to detect phones turned off or placed in “airplane mode,” meaning they cannot connect to a cellular network or the Internet.

A CSX spokesperson told Trains that the use of cameras and cell phone detection devices is for safety reasons.

An NS spokesperson also told the magazine that it will install more cameras this year and increase the number of locomotives equipped with cell phone detection devices.

Railroading as it Once Was: CR Rarity

January 11, 2017
lv-to-cr
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