Clean Transport Train passing through a railway crossing against a blue sky with an interesting cloudscape. Motion blur is used to show the movement of the train. - Courtesy Siemens

Published on March 27th, 2014 | by Roy L Hales


USA High-Speed Rail Gets Boost — 32-Train Order For Siemens Trains

March 27th, 2014 by  

Originally published by the ECOreport.

Rendering of Siemens "Charger" diesel-electric locomotives - courtesy Siemens

Rendering of Siemens “Charger” diesel-electric locomotives – courtesy Siemens

Siemens has obtained a $225 million contract to build 32 “Charger” diesel-electric locomotives in its Sacramento rail manufacturing facility for US high-speed rail projects.

Five states are ordering locomotives. The Illinois Department of Transportation’s order is connected to an overhaul of its Chicago to St Louis route. California, Washington, Michigan, and Missouri have joined the deal, which includes options for an additional 75 locomotives for regional use and another 150 locomotives for mainline transportation. The locomotives are scheduled to be delivered between fall of 2016 and mid-2017.

“For Siemens this order marks our entry into the US diesel-electric locomotive market and strongly underscores our long-term vision for the US passenger rail market,” Jochen Eickholt, CEO of the Siemens Rail Systems Division, emphasized.

“The new Charger locomotives represent the next-generation of equipment advancing high performance intercity passenger rail in the Midwest, California and Pacific Northwest,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “This state of the art equipment will accelerate and brake more quickly, reducing trip times for passengers, as well as being more fuel efficient and burning cleaner than previous locomotives for the benefit of the environment.”

The lighter weight locomotives can operate at speeds up to 125 mph. A diesel version of the “Charger” is currently pulling some 1,600 passenger and freight trains through-out Europe. The electric version was introduced in the US last year and already at work in the Northeast.

Train passing through a railway crossing against a blue sky with an interesting cloudscape. Motion blur is used to show the movement of the train. - Courtesy Siemens

Train passing through a railway crossing against a blue sky with an interesting cloudscape. Motion blur is used to show the movement of the train. – Courtesy Siemens

Some of the other features described in the Siemens press release include:

A state-of-the-art microprocessor control system manages the performance of the locomotive and performs self-diagnosis of technical issues, takes self-corrective action and notifies the locomotive engineer and the remote maintenance facility of any required corrective action. In addition, there are redundant systems to ensure optimal performance and availability such as a totally redundant auxiliary power supply for the passenger coaches to keep primary systems such as lighting, communications, heating and cooling systems working. The locomotives meet the latest federal rail safety regulations, including enhanced carbody structure safety with crash energy management components.

In total, this new rail equipment can help operators achieve cost savings by enabling reduced trip times, while improving reliability and efficiency for its passenger rail service. The lighter weight of these locomotives ensures the ability to safely operate the locomotives at speeds of up to 125 mph more efficiently, requiring less maintenance for both the locomotive and the infrastructure.

All the locomotives main components will be produced in Siemens plants in the United States.

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About the Author

is the President of Cortes Community Radio , CKTZ 89.5 FM, where he has hosted a half hour program since 2014, and editor of the the ECOreport, a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of North America. He writes for both writes for both Clean Technica and PlanetSave on Important Media. He is a research junkie who has written over 1,600 since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.

  • Reedman Bassoon

    Siemens just announced that their Charger locomotive has been selected by All Aboard Florida for a new Miami-West Palm Beach – Orlando service.

  • npo

    Siemen’s? Really? What’s wrong with GE Locomotive Plant in Erie, PA? Now we’re buying foriegn trains? Our trains keep this country moving. BUILD THEM HERE, PARTS AND LABOR!!!! No wonder this country is sinking. As far as high speed; 125mph is better than 79 or 90mph.

    • Brent Brambleton

      If G.E. had actually placed a bid for the contract, your concern might be warranted. They didn’t. There is also no evidence that G.E. even has a locomotive that can meet the standards set forth in the request, among them attaining a top speed of 125MPH and Tier IV pollution standards. Also, as the article states,

      “All the locomotives main components will be produced in Siemens plants in the United States.”

      So you have American labor using American-built parts to assemble a locomotive to be used in the U.S.

      Granted, Siemens is foreign owned, but, it isn’t as if going with G.E. would have been of much help as far as generating tax revenues for the government, either. G.E. hasn’t paid any taxes to the U.S. Treasury for years.

  • ThomasGerke

    Well, 125 mph is at least faster than this:

    • As long as it doesn’t get blocked for hours by freight trains. 😀 (That really happens.)

  • Tom G.

    Well what can I say other than its a start. However, it is certainly not high speed when compared to other rail system and pales when compared to the theoretical speeds a Tesla high speed system might achieve.

    I sincerely wished we would just bypass this intermediate step and just go for really high speed transit. I guess for some parts of the country 125 mph is fine but it is certainly not something I would be publishing as some type of American achievement.

    Now the completion of a 500 mile Tesla line operating at 500 mph between L.A. and San Francisco would be news. That is what we should be working on. Forget rails except for short distances and freight and even forget maglev. Its time for a real moon shot not a revised locomotive.

    O.K. so thats my opinion and you know what they say about opinions, LOL.

    • Bob_Wallace

      As soon as someone demonstrates that the Hyperloop actually works and would be affordable we can talk.

    • Peter Antonocci

      well, somebody owns stock in tesla, I guess. tesla, as far as I can find out, does not even make locomotives. and what are we going to do, plug them in every few hundred miles? electric cars are a SCAM for libtards, that would never fly were it not for the government using our money to subsidize them. they are far less efficient than gas automobiles after consideration that the electricity is generated mostly by coal plants that are not very efficient and pollute more than the gasoline engines they are replacing.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Boy, Peter, you really bring the stupid.

        Locomotives? Never made it out of Podunk to see how the rest of the world does it?

        “The Trans-Siberian Railway covers 9,288 kilometers between Moscow and the Pacific port of Vladivostok, or 5,771 miles. In other words, if it were twenty-one miles longer, it would be exactly twice as long as Interstate 80 from New Jersey to California. Laying awake near the tracks in some remote spot at night you hear trains going by all through the night with scarcely a pause.…

        (T)he Trans-Siberian Railway is all-electric, with overhead cables like a streetcar line – you find the tracks are empty of traffic only for five or ten minutes at a time.

        Besides oil, the railway carries coal, machinery parts, giant tires, scrap iron, and endless containers … just like the containers stacked five stories high around the Port of Newark, New Jersey, and probably every other port in the world.”

        Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier (2010)

        High speed rail is electric rail.

        Gasmobiles are about 20% efficient. About 80% of the energy in a gallon of gas turn into waste heat. EVs are about 90% efficient.

        We’re cleaning up our grids. Coal is a dead man walking.

        • Peter Antonocci

          you got me there i never considered overhead wires, but where does tesla fit in? should they be getting into the electric locomotive business, while other companies have been making them for years? sure, the EV itself is 90% efficient BY ITSELF, unless you consider how the electricity is produced. if it is produced by windmills and/or solar, i’m sure you know there has to be a redundancy of systems for these “green” (bird killing allowed but only to solar and wind producers, everyone else ends up in court) power sources, because they only produce power irregularly. coal will be around producing power for a very long time, even if not in this country. Tesla cars and all electric only vehicles are only for the rich and will never be practical for a family that has 1 car and goes on trips.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Tom mistakenly uses “Tesla” when he should have used “hyperloop”. Tesla has nothing to do with the hyperloop project, neither does Elon Musk. Musk presented the idea, stated that he had all he could deal with between Tesla, Space X and SolarCity. He turned the idea and his group’s work to date over to the public to see what others could do.

            Peter, you are so very wrong about so many things in such a small amount of space. ;o)

            But since you were grown up enough to admit that you had overlooked electric rail, I’ll spend some time and see if I can give you some information that you might find useful.

            Let’s look at efficiency. Gasmobiles are only ~20% efficient. That’s our starting point. 80% of the energy in a gallon of fuel is waste heat that does nothing at all to move the vehicle down the road. Then there’s a lot of energy used to extract the oil, refine it into gas/diesel, and transport it from well to refinery to gas station. A huge energy input for little kinetic energy where the rubber meets the road.

            Wind turbines and solar panels are terribly efficient in terms of turning wind and sunshine into electricity, but that doesn’t matter because wind and sunshine are a) free and b) for all practical reasons – unlimited. We can waste all the wind and sunshine we want and never worry about running out.

            Moving electricity from wind/solar farm to battery is efficient. We lose, at worst, about 7% of our electricity in transmission (long haul) and distribution (neighborhood). Most of the loss is at the distribution level and that is improving as we make our grids “smarter”. As we replace old tech with new solid state transformers and switches.

            Bird kills. First, we need a reasonable way to evaluate danger to birds. What is being used is the number of birds killed per unit electricity generated Kills per GWh (gigawatt – one billion watts).

            Wind farms kill roughly 0.27 birds per GWh.

            Nuclear plants kill about 0.6 birds per GWh. (2.2x wind)

            Fossil-fueled power stations kill about 9.4 birds per GWh. (34.8x wind)


            Clearly if we want to minimize bird deaths we need to be closing coal plants and installing more wind turbines.

            But that’s not all, we are learning how to further reduce turbine-caused bird deaths per GWh.

            In 2009 there were 12.5 bird kills per MW installed wind capacity.

            In 2012 there were 9.5 bird kills per MW installed wind capacity.

            That’s a 24% decrease. A very major improvement in bird safety. And we aren’t done yet.

            Annual bird kills 2009 and 2012


            (Getting long – I’ll continue…)

          • Bob_Wallace

            (Part 2…)

            Wind and sunshine do not produce electricity 24/365. That means that we will need to use a combination of over-building, storage, dispatchable generation, dispatchable loads, and power sharing been grids in order to match supply to demand 24/365. (We do all these things already, we’ll just do them in different ratios.)

            EVs will play a wonderful role on our renewable grid. The average driver needs to charge less than 3 hours per day using a 240 vac (clothes dryer type) outlet. Cars spend 90% of their time parked.

            With “smart charging” EVs can be charged when there’s extra wind and sunshine and can drop out when supply is low. As we move into longer range EVs (~200 miles) some drivers will be able to skip one or more days of charging during low wind/sunshine days.

            EVs can ‘eat the peaks’ which means we can install more wind turbines and solar panels and not have to toss away the peak power outputs. That will make more wind and solar power available during less windy/sunny times. And that will lower our need for storage and dispatchable generation/loads.

            EVs are expensive right now. That’s pretty much always the case with new tech. The first hard drive I bought cost $266,667 per gig. I only bought 30 megs and that was over $8,000 in current dollars. One can purchase 2 TB for $100 these days.

            The price of EVs will come down as we build them in larger quantities. Not as dramatically as hard drives but down considerably from what they cost today. Many in the industry expect EVs to become cheaper to purchase than same-model ICEVs. EVs are already much cheaper to drive on a per mile basis.

            I think (this is only my opinion) we’ll see longer range EVs at a good price within the next two years. Something like a 200 mile range EV for $35,000. The average price of a new car in the US is $32,000.

            When we hit that point we’ll see a lot of EVs sold. They will be practical for almost everyone and affordable for many new car buyers. As more are sold the prices of batteries will drop and we’ll be on our way to a 200 mile range EV for $25k. My guess is that we’ll see $20k – $25k longer range EVs in less than ten years.

            200 mile range. Drive about 200 miles, stop for 20 minutes and charge up 80%, drive 160, charge 20 min, drive 160. That’s a 500 mile driving day with 40 minutes spent charging, eating lunch, peeing, checking messages.

            Drive a gasmobile. Spend 10 minutes fueling, 20 minutes eating, 10 minutes taking a pee break and you’ll get there about the same time while having spent a lot more money on fuel.

            Plus you’ll spend 10 to 12 hours a year fueling up whereas the EV driver will just plug in when they get home/to work.


          • Bob_Wallace

            (Part C…)

            “one more thing, the cost of gasoline and diesel goes up and down, but the cost of electricity only goes up, and steeply at that.”

            Yes, the cost of oil goes up and down. But over time it can only go up (as long as there is demand). We will use the cheapest eventually and have to turn to the more expensive. That is something that has already happened.

            The cost of electricity, however, will almost certainly move downward (or at least rise slower) as we move to renewables.

            Wind is already our cheapest way to bring new electricity to the grid. In 2013 wind contracts averaged 2.5 cents per kWh. Take out the federal subsidy and that’s under 4c/kWh.

            Solar, in 2013, sold for about 5c/kWh – about 6.5c/kWh without the subsidy.

            New CCNG (combined cycle natural gas) is about the same price as solar and the price of solar will continue to drop. Most likely to about half what it is today.

            New coal and new nuclear are well over 10c/kWh. In addition, taxpayers fork out between $140 billion and $242 billion each year to cover the health costs created by coal pollution.

            We’re seeing wholesale electricity price drops in Germany and Texas, places where significant amounts of wind/solar have been connected to the grid. Those drops will continue and improve as the cost of wind and solar fall further.

            We’re almost certainly looking at a future of lower electricity prices and very much lower costs to drive.

          • Peter Antonocci

            thanks. a huge amount of info there i was totally unaware of. i will look at the whole thing differently and just thought of the amtrack line as the only high speed rail in the US (that i know of) and they use diesel/electric. amtrack is not really high speed anyway, comparatively. have spent the last hour or so looking into the trans siberian line and other related items, so thanks for the starting point.

          • Bob_Wallace

            If you have questions or want links for anything just ask.

            We don’t have true high speed rail in the US. I’ve ridden HSR in Europe and Asia (Turkey). I’m now a big fan of HSR, it’s so much more comfortable than flying.

            You can get up and walk around at any time, you don’t have to buckle in because the ride gets bumpy, you can look out the window and see scenery.

            Since rail tends to leave from the center of cities HSR is about as fast as flying over moderate length trips. No travel out to the airport and back. No two hour security check.

            With true HSR we could move perhaps half of our air travel to electricity. Use planes for coast to coast and across oceans. Most fuel is used for takeoffs. Don’t fly short hops and save a lot of fuel.

  • JamesWimberley

    125 mph is medium-speed, not high-speed rail (200 mph). The customers for these locomotives are engaging in incremental upgrades, not building dedicated high-speed track. The true HS rail projects in the USA are stalled. Meanwhile, Morocco carries on building its first line… (

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