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.**
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.