Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Gensets are already dead

I fist saw gensets on an IHB train.
20140921 0128
I then saw them in the IHB Calumet Yard. They were developed to reduce pollution in yard and industrial switching where an engine has a lot of idle time and/or handles small cuts of cars that don't need all of the locomotive's horsepower.

They cost more, but they were supposed to pay for themselves with reduced fuel costs. But they proved to be a reliability issue because you had three times as many engines to maintain and the engine and generator did not use standard parts.

Also, engineers did not like them because they were slow to get a cut of cars moving. They were supposed to be designed for switching work, but that requires a lot of back-and-forth movement, which requires a lot of stopping and starting. They didn't start as fast as the old road-engines handed down to yard work engines did. Norfolk Southern considers them an experiment that failed. [NS, p16 (This Norfolk Southern Powerpoint presentation also has graphs displaying the EPA's Tier requirements.)] This 2014 presentation indicates that only one Class I railroad is still buying gensets. This photo clearly indicates that BNSF is not buying them.

Andrew Aguilar commented on Tim Hannum's posting
 Was involved in a Accident between the 2014-2015 year and Ran head into a Loaded tanker and Blew up into flames 
(At least that's what everyone told me)
Tim Hannum posted
Toaster Genset
William Brown This one ran over a draw bar at
Alliance, TX punctured the fuel tank and
burned up within 200' of the Hump Tower.
The two "toasted" gensets are not because of a design issue like we have seen with modern John Deere combines, but if they cost more to begin with, then accidents are also more expensive.


Meanwhile, companies have learned how to rebuild the old 4-axle units with a single engine to make them economical and clean. For example EMD710ECO Retrofit Kits and Knoxville Locomotive Works.

It is particularly important to cleanup the locomotives used in yards in urban areas because when the study was finally done, a direct correlation was found between kids having asthma problems and the home's distance from a major railroad yard. (BNSF's Clyde/Cicero Yard was the specific yard used for the study.)

NS, p20
NS is rebuilding their yard engines so that they can be "plugged in" and turned off when not needed. And, of course, they are adding "plug in" stations to their major yards. The electricity powers a heater to keep the engine coolant warm because they don't use antifreeze. And a warm engine can be restarted. The plugin also keeps the batteries charged.

NS is also experimenting with a natural gas mother/slug set where the slug is full of high pressure tanks. They are also working on battery powered locomotives. They are on their second iteration of battery design, but they still need to do more R&D. [NS, p21]

Canadian Pacific's trail of two NRE gensets compared to GP9s indicated the crews liked them, but there were still significant reliability issues. The report mentioned that they did not have automatic start/stop. I wonder if NRE removed that feature to address the complaints that they were slow to get a cut of cars moving. They could at least do what I thought of when I first read about gensets --- install an active/inactive switch. The engineer knows if the locomotive is stopped for a short period of time because it is changing direction or if it is stopped for a long period of time. Leave the engines running for short (active) periods and shut some down for long periods. When the switch is turned from inactive to active, fire up the engines then so that they are ready to load when the throttle is pushed.

Duty cycle charts for line haul vs. switcher locomotives show why it is so effective to reduce emissions during idle and low power ranges for yard engines.

California Air Resources Board, Freight Locomotives, p. 50 (III-6)
California Air Resources Board, Freight Locomotives, p. 51 (III-7)
JD Steinhoff posted
Different looking locomotive.... any idea on age or series? Taken in Northlake, IL
Jason Chadourne it's a genset
Bruno Berzins RP20SD. Paired with an SD40-2 so actual work can get done.
Harold J. Krewer John, it's a genset built on the frame of an old SD40-2. Had been one of UP's "Fast Forties" (8001) in a previous life. Originally built as Yoo-Pee 3241 in 1973.
Chris Bulla Genset on the hump lead . Garbage locomotive.

Dillon Harrison posted
The Not-so-loved 200 series Belt Railway of Chicago Gensets resting inside the Engine house at Clearing Yard in Bedford Park. Taken February of 2016.
I will note that the Shop itself for being the age that it is, Is well maintained and kept relatively clean.
Daniel Herkes Perhaps unloved, but the ability to de-rate a power unit and save fuel and engine hours is the future.
Steve Kraus Against added maintenance of more engines, generators, etc. It's a tradeoff. It's not like a big prime mover is putting out full HP all the time; it too is "derated" by running at reduced throttle. Perhaps there is a fuel savings by the small engine running at max throttle as against the big engine at partial throttle but there's no such thing as free lunch. Time will tell.
Daniel Herkes The smaller engines can be pulled out and shopped very easily. Those big guys have to be serviced in situ. Since the prime mover is only running at full capacity for a small portion of the time, and the small gen sets can be turned off (they are not wearing out if they are off) when loads are light, the modern design will be successful in the right environment. The shortest, cheapest path will always prevail in a transport problem, and not to take it is ruinous.
Justin Gillespie Which is why almost every railroad is getting rid of their gensets, not practical.
Barry Sprofera posted
How many Gen Sets does it take to move a train. Or............I heard the power desk was short some motors but this is nuts. No April Fools here, 6 Gen Sets being moved to Barstow, CA on 4/1/19 wb into Flagstaff, AZ on the Transcon.
Alex Bieniek They have 3 700 horse power Cummings in each Genset. It’s equallying to 2100 horse power.
Rupert Gutierrez Don't know if those genset units came from the dead line at one of Ft Worth,Tx yard,cause I saw some on my last trip.
Michael Thomas Headed for the scap pile.
Barry Sprofera Is that a question or a statement?
Michael Thomas Barry Sprofera statement...BNSF's talking about getting rid of theirs, like UP did.
Blair Wallace Probably four “jacks” in power the trailing six either DIC or DIT
[DIT means Dead in Tow. I don't know what DIC means.]


It takes two locomotives to shove three cars?! I guess so because when they went across the road, they had four of the six gensets running at 2:23 (vv^+^^^). At 4:10 we see the guy running the remote is not strapped to the handrail. So he is violating the "three points of contact" rule. I'd be willing to count his rear resting against the hand rail if he had enough room to lean against the rail. If anything, it looks like the rail wants to shove him off the platform. With just one tank to push, they were using ^v^+vv^ gensets. Using 3 gensets (2100hp) to push one car seems like bad fuel efficiency. For relatively modern locomotives, one of the engines is smoking real bad.




Gene Butler posted
Came across this string of UP Ultra Low Emissions Genset Switchers near Compton overpass close to where the old MoPac shop used to be located. Downtown St. Louis skyline in the background and the Ewing Metrolink yard and shop just passed the Switchers. That is where I worked my last 15+ years as a LRV operator of my 33+ years for Metro Transit.
Dennis DeBruler Are they in storage? I've read that gensets are viewed by the Class I railroads as an experiment that failed. But I've not been able to determine what the problem was. It sounded like a good idea on paper.



Update: The code for the "v" and "^" is, from the beginning of a train, a genset is not running (v) or is running (^).

A video of v^^+^vv pulling 12 cars. So UP is still using them in California. (They were invented by NRE as a solution to meeting California's pollution requirements.)

A video of 1) ^vv+vvv+vv^ pulling two cars (street running), 2) vv^(barely)+vvv+^^v pulling 10 cars, and 3) ^v^+vvv running light.

A video of gensets switching tank cars of corn syrup for a Coca Cola plant. A reminder that there are 140 calories in every 12-ounce can. This video is hauling ADM tankers instead of Corn Products tankers to the Coca Cola plant.

NS is auctioning three of their gensets.

UP had a couple running eastbound to Kirk Yard at Griffith. The third engine at the end of the long hood is turned opposite of the other two.

IHB was still using them in Dec 2018: Arturo Gross Flickr




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