Clean Transport

Published on October 24th, 2008 | by Timothy B. Hurst

18

New Diesel GenSet Locomotive Cuts CO2 Emissions by 50%

October 24th, 2008 by  


csx genset

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On the south side of Chicago where railroads are an integral part of the community’s history, CSX, one of the nation’s biggest railroads has begun rolling out a fleet of new diesel GenSet switcher locomotives that can slash CO2 emissions in half and cut particulate emissions up to 80%. I was fortunate to be invited by CSX to take a look at these new locomotives located at the company’s 59th Street intermodal terminal.**

>>More on rail transportation at Green Options

Perhaps you’ve seen the ads on television or in print. Freight trains have increased their fuel efficiency by 80 percent over the past 25 years and today’s locomotives can move a ton of freight more than 400 miles on a single gallon of fuel. But one of the biggest culprits of air pollution and fuel inefficiency has traditionally been in the railyards themselves where trains are loaded and offloaded, and the “switcher” locomotives that move them are left idling for hours on end. Not only is the practice inefficient and dirty, it can also make for sticky relations with the neighbors; particulate matter emissions can be the precursor to serious respiratory ailments.

But the new diesel GenSet switcher locomotives can be cranked up as quickly as a truck engine, avoiding the need to leave engines idling for long periods of time, resulting in drastic reductions in pollution and fuel consumption. The GenSet achieves its impressive 80% reduction in nitrous oxide and particulate matter emissions, in addition to approximately 50% CO2 savings capability by monitoring engine idling and switching to a sleep mode after a period of inactivity.

Under the hood of the GenSet are three 700 horsepower Cummins diesel engines. The engines run independently of each other and depending on the need of speed and amperage, 1, 2, or 3 of the engines will be used. When the need goes away, the third will shut down after one minute, after five the second will shut down, the third will go into sleep mode after 15 minutes.

CSX is only in the early stages of rolling out the $1.8 million locomotives, with a total of 9 GenSets in operation by 2009. The company plans to eventually replace the entire switching fleet with the low emission locomotives.

**Many thanks to CSX for covering the travel and lodging expenses for this trip, and to all the good folks I met in Chicago from CSX who clearly understand that sustainability is not just a marketing tool but a business strategy; and to the folks at APCO Worldwide for understanding the importance of social media enough to reach out to the blogosphere and green bloggers like me.

Images: Tim Hurst. Follow Tim on twitter.






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About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.



  • I come from a systems background (GE, USNR, ROCKWELL, etc.), and there is always a single failing to explain a host of discrepancies. In this case it is not AMTRAK or CSX or cars, or others to blame for pollution. The culprit was earlier mentioned, a lack of a national strategy for transportation. And in order to achieve a national transporation strategy, you must give up your right to “directly” cast a local (city, state) vote for what the strategy should be and how it gets implemented. What is good for the whole, is likely not good for the individual – is this socialistic? Until the strategy exists, there will be those who point a finger, and regardless of where it is pointing there will be guilt; but, also active players pursuing good. (Note: does AMTRAK move a greater percentage of population than the amount of the population being served by the goods and materials delivered by CSX? Don’t forget that CSX is serving people just like AMTRAK, but in a different context. THE REAL ISSUE IS A NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION STRATEGY; nothing less will do.)

  • I come from a systems background (GE, USNR, ROCKWELL, etc.), and there is always a single failing to explain a host of discrepancies. In this case it is not AMTRAK or CSX or cars, or others to blame for pollution. The culprit was earlier mentioned, a lack of a national strategy for transportation. And in order to achieve a national transporation strategy, you must give up your right to “directly” cast a local (city, state) vote for what the strategy should be and how it gets implemented. What is good for the whole, is likely not good for the individual – is this socialistic? Until the strategy exists, there will be those who point a finger, and regardless of where it is pointing there will be guilt; but, also active players pursuing good. (Note: does AMTRAK move a greater percentage of population than the amount of the population being served by the goods and materials delivered by CSX? Don’t forget that CSX is serving people just like AMTRAK, but in a different context. THE REAL ISSUE IS A NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION STRATEGY; nothing less will do.)

  • Timothy,

    I have had a couple of Union Pacific employees pass your article on to me regarding CSX’s Genset locomotives.

    While technically the CSX units will be operated in Chicago, they will not be the first Genset in Chicago.

    A Chicago-based UP employee came-up with the concept of the Genset locomotive and tested a prototype in Chicago in late 2005 through early 2006. Most of the ordinal order of 60 Genset locomotives that would be used in California were broke-in in the Northlake area.

    Attached one of our recent Genset news releases with several background pieces, including a feature on the design of the Genset.

    http://www.uprr.com/newsinfo/releases/environment/2008/0328_chi-genset.shtml

    I hope this is helpful.

    Mark Davis

  • Timothy,

    I have had a couple of Union Pacific employees pass your article on to me regarding CSX’s Genset locomotives.

    While technically the CSX units will be operated in Chicago, they will not be the first Genset in Chicago.

    A Chicago-based UP employee came-up with the concept of the Genset locomotive and tested a prototype in Chicago in late 2005 through early 2006. Most of the ordinal order of 60 Genset locomotives that would be used in California were broke-in in the Northlake area.

    Attached one of our recent Genset news releases with several background pieces, including a feature on the design of the Genset.

    http://www.uprr.com/newsinfo/releases/environment/2008/0328_chi-genset.shtml

    I hope this is helpful.

    Mark Davis

  • Yochi-

    Thanks for your comments. You hit the nail on the head in your first sentence: “The only track owned by Amtrak is the Northeast Corridor.”

    I would argue that getting Americans out of their cars and taking trains needs much more than prioritizing passenger trains, it needs government prioritization, which means serious investment.

    As I’m sure you know, passenger rail is generally not a money-making venture, this includes Europe where the excellent rail system is also a heavily subsidized one. Freight trains slowing down passenger trains are not the cause of the problem, they are a symptom of it.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blindly backing CSX or the other big rail companies, I just think we should take a more holistic approach to analyzing our transportation infrastructure.

    Thoughts?

  • Yochi-

    Thanks for your comments. You hit the nail on the head in your first sentence: “The only track owned by Amtrak is the Northeast Corridor.”

    I would argue that getting Americans out of their cars and taking trains needs much more than prioritizing passenger trains, it needs government prioritization, which means serious investment.

    As I’m sure you know, passenger rail is generally not a money-making venture, this includes Europe where the excellent rail system is also a heavily subsidized one. Freight trains slowing down passenger trains are not the cause of the problem, they are a symptom of it.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blindly backing CSX or the other big rail companies, I just think we should take a more holistic approach to analyzing our transportation infrastructure.

    Thoughts?

  • railster

    Tim —

    The only track owned by Amtrak is the Northeast corridor, mostly where the Acela express trains run. The rest of the country is serviced on freight lines, which account for a horrible on-time rate for their trains. According to this article their on-time rate is 50% IL. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-amtrak-26-sep26,0,3195108.story

    Although this article does not cite CSX as a problem, I’ve been stuck behind a CSX freight train on Amtrak while traveling DC to Chicago before, and it’s no fun.

    It’s OK to cover the green work of industry, but you should also maintain your independent voice and criticize them for what they do wrong (and I encourage you to do it in the same post, not different ones).

    Freight companies lack of prioritization of passenger rail service is one the single biggest reasons Amtrak service stinks outside of the east coast. Getting Americans out of their cars and taking trains for inter-city trips would do way more for GHG reductions than a gas-saving switching locomotive at a CSX rail yard.

    I look forward to seeing your post on this topic. I’d be happy to help you research or do a guest-blog on this important clean-tech issue.

    Yochi

  • railster

    Tim —

    The only track owned by Amtrak is the Northeast corridor, mostly where the Acela express trains run. The rest of the country is serviced on freight lines, which account for a horrible on-time rate for their trains. According to this article their on-time rate is 50% IL. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-amtrak-26-sep26,0,3195108.story

    Although this article does not cite CSX as a problem, I’ve been stuck behind a CSX freight train on Amtrak while traveling DC to Chicago before, and it’s no fun.

    It’s OK to cover the green work of industry, but you should also maintain your independent voice and criticize them for what they do wrong (and I encourage you to do it in the same post, not different ones).

    Freight companies lack of prioritization of passenger rail service is one the single biggest reasons Amtrak service stinks outside of the east coast. Getting Americans out of their cars and taking trains for inter-city trips would do way more for GHG reductions than a gas-saving switching locomotive at a CSX rail yard.

    I look forward to seeing your post on this topic. I’d be happy to help you research or do a guest-blog on this important clean-tech issue.

    Yochi

  • railster- I don’t know much about CSX’s relationships with passenger trains or their history with them, so thanks for your comment. I tried to steer away from the politics of rail for this particular piece, but perhaps I will do one for Red, Green, and Blue in the next couple weeks.

    Tom- Perhaps you misread, I didn’t actually go along for a ride in the GenSet, though I did get the tour of the locomotive itself, so I couldn’t tell you what it sounded like. But I can tell you it felt like steel. And thanks for your question about the operators; the GenSets can be operated in cab or operated via a remote.

    As far as using the “sleep mode” language, I figured since people would be reading this on their computer, they would know what I mean. The GenSet can be fired up quickly when it is in sleep mode, much like your computer, but for all intents and purposes, it is off while “sleeping.”

    RD Jones- Perhaps you could elaborate on your comment, not being in the railroad industry, I’m not sure I follow your concerns.

  • railster- I don’t know much about CSX’s relationships with passenger trains or their history with them, so thanks for your comment. I tried to steer away from the politics of rail for this particular piece, but perhaps I will do one for Red, Green, and Blue in the next couple weeks.

    Tom- Perhaps you misread, I didn’t actually go along for a ride in the GenSet, though I did get the tour of the locomotive itself, so I couldn’t tell you what it sounded like. But I can tell you it felt like steel. And thanks for your question about the operators; the GenSets can be operated in cab or operated via a remote.

    As far as using the “sleep mode” language, I figured since people would be reading this on their computer, they would know what I mean. The GenSet can be fired up quickly when it is in sleep mode, much like your computer, but for all intents and purposes, it is off while “sleeping.”

    RD Jones- Perhaps you could elaborate on your comment, not being in the railroad industry, I’m not sure I follow your concerns.

  • RD Jones

    As I have to work with these on the UP, I am qualified to tell you the are ‘JunkSets’. I have to spot industries and cannot do it with these. Texas paid for 90% of ’em and that’s why we have keep ’em.

    Novel idea, horrible execution!

  • RD Jones

    As I have to work with these on the UP, I am qualified to tell you the are ‘JunkSets’. I have to spot industries and cannot do it with these. Texas paid for 90% of ’em and that’s why we have keep ’em.

    Novel idea, horrible execution!

  • Tom

    That wasn’t an article, that was an advertisement for CSX. If the author was “fortunate” enough to go along for a ride, why not tell us about it? How did it sound? How did it feel? What did the operator do? What did he or she say? What’s it like being in the cab?

    To make matters worse, there was no technical detail. What the heck is “sleep mode”? Every diesel I’ve seen is either running, or it’s not.

  • Tom

    That wasn’t an article, that was an advertisement for CSX. If the author was “fortunate” enough to go along for a ride, why not tell us about it? How did it sound? How did it feel? What did the operator do? What did he or she say? What’s it like being in the cab?

    To make matters worse, there was no technical detail. What the heck is “sleep mode”? Every diesel I’ve seen is either running, or it’s not.

  • Gutfred

    Choo Choo! ZZZZZZZZZ…. Choo Choo! ZZZZZZZZ…..

  • Gutfred

    Choo Choo! ZZZZZZZZZ…. Choo Choo! ZZZZZZZZ…..

  • railster

    Let us not toot CSX’s horns without mentioning that their refusal to cooperate with (or give priority to) passenger trains is one of the single largest reasons for Amtrak’s horrendous delays.

    CSX: Good switching locomotives. Bad track prioritization policy.

  • railster

    Let us not toot CSX’s horns without mentioning that their refusal to cooperate with (or give priority to) passenger trains is one of the single largest reasons for Amtrak’s horrendous delays.

    CSX: Good switching locomotives. Bad track prioritization policy.

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