Locomotive Rebuilds

One ‘Big’ Recycling Project

Don Faulkner, Norfolk Southern’s general superintendent locomotive shops, describes the company’s locomotive rebuild program as the “ultimate in recycling.” However it is described, the program has developed into a successful business model while enhancing the company’s sustainability efforts.

The program is giving new life to locomotives built from the 1970s to the 1990s through a combination of recycling and modernizing. Existing steel platforms, wheel assemblies, traction motor frames, and engine blocks of these older locomotives are reused. Through employee innovation and ingenuity, the engines are upgraded with reconditioned parts and digital-era technologies that improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions, including carbon, particulate matter, and nitrogen oxide. The made-over locomotives are known as “E” models – for “enhanced.”

The end result are cost-efficient, cleaner-burning, and more user-friendly locomotives for train crews that will serve the railroad for another 15 to 20 years. With these rebuilds, the company is reducing operating costs and impact on the environment.

In 2013, employees at the railroad’s two heavy-repair locomotive facilities – the Juniata shop in Altoona, Pa., and the Roanoke shop in Roanoke, Va. – worked on rebuild projects that spanned a half-dozen locomotive models including yard, local, and line-of-road engines. The rebuild program includes locomotives manufactured by the two largest locomotive builders, Electro-Motive Diesel and GE Transportation.

The SD60E: A Model of Sustainability

One of Norfolk Southern’s most ambitious locomotive rebuild projects involves SD60E long-haul locomotives. These 4,000-horsepower units are rebuilds of 1980s-era SD60s manufactured by EMD.

Juniata shop employees rolled out the first SD60E in 2010 and expect to rebuild at least 150 of them. By rebuilding instead of buying new, the company anticipates cost savings of around $240 million. By end of 2013, about 60 of the SD60Es were pulling trains across the network.

Engine upgrades have improved fuel efficiency by about 7 percent compared with the original SD60 engines. That translates to annual diesel-fuel savings of 15,000 to 20,000 gallons and about 224 fewer tons of carbon dioxide emissions per locomotive. For 60 SD60Es, that amounts to annual savings of around 1.2 million gallons of diesel and 13,340 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

In December 2013, Norfolk Southern received a U.S. patent for the design of one of the SD60E’s key engine enhancements, a dual-circuit engine-cooling system dubbed “split cooling.” Two employees based at Juniata were the brains behind the system – Don Faulkner, general superintendent, and Bill Thompson, a mechanical supervisor, self-described “old hot rodders” who draw inspiration from high-performance racing engines.

In another key development, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in May 2013 issued Norfolk Southern a “certificate of conformity” that will enable the company to build and install custom-made emission kits for the SD60Es. Norfolk Southern applied for the certificate after completing construction in 2012 of an indoor emissions-testing facility at Juniata. The two-story testing facility, one of a handful of its kind in the United States, allows us to quickly test a variety of engine designs and fine-tune components for maximum fuel economy and emissions reduction.

The Anatomy of an SD60E

The SD60Es feature engine technologies that achieve optimal fuel economy while reducing emissions. We’ve also added creature comforts for train and engine crews. Similar upgrades are incorporated into the rebuilds of other locomotive models.

Here are six key enhancements that put the “E” on the rebuilt SD60s:

Electronic fuel injection: Operated by a new microprocessor system, the electronic fuel-injection distributes fuel more precisely to engine cylinders, requiring less fuel to achieve power. The injection system improves engine efficiency and enables shop employees to fine-tune the engine for maximum fuel economy. In turn, emissions are cleaner – in particular, engine opacity, or smoke, and particulate matter are reduced.

Dual-circuit engine cooling: This Norfolk Southern-patented radiator system works with the engine’s primary radiator to cool intake air and radiator jacket water. The split cooling concept lowers engine-water temperature an additional 40 to 50 degrees, which improves fuel economy and reduces emissions at higher throttle speeds while providing a boost to horsepower. In particular, emissions of nitrous oxide and hydrocarbons are reduced.

Automatic engine stop/start: Controlled by the new microprocessor system, the stop/start feature reduces unnecessary engine idling. Sensors shut off and restart engines based on engine temperatures.

Larger crew cab: Constructed of high-strength steel, the new cab, designed in-house by Don Faulkner, general superintendent, and Barry Wertz, manager locomotive overhauls, is one of the roomiest ever built. For added creature comforts, the cab features a padded floor and ceiling, sun visors, a conductor console table, and an air-controlled stainless-steel restroom.

LEADER: The Locomotive Engineer Assist Display Event Recorder train-handling system, or LEADER, is being installed on all of Norfolk Southern’s long-haul locomotives. The GPS-based system calculates and displays in real time the optimum train speed for achieving maximum fuel efficiency.

Positive Train Control: Known as PTC, this advanced technology is designed to automatically stop or slow a train to prevent accidents, including collisions with other trains and derailments caused by excessive speed. At present, PTC remains under development. In the meantime, Norfolk Southern is equipping the SD60Es and other road locomotives with the hardware required to run PTC. Eventually, all Class I railroads must install the congressionally mandated PTC system on tracks they share with passenger trains or that are used to move federally regulated toxic-by-inhalation materials. Norfolk Southern plans to integrate PTC and LEADER into a seamless software operating system.

Our Stable of Rebuilds

In addition to the SD60Es, Norfolk Southern’s other locomotive rebuilds include:

SD40E: These 3,000-horsepower units, rebuilds of 1980s EMD SD50 six-axle locomotives, are used as “helper” engines in mountainous terrain and on track maintenance-of-way work trains. Equipped with new microprocessor control systems and upgraded engines, the SD40Es are reliable workhorses that burn less fuel with their reduced-horsepower engines.

GP40-2 AND GP40 MOTHER/SLUG SETS: These combo units are rebuilds of 1970s and 1980s EMD GP38 and GP40 locomotives. The “slug” units do not have engines but are equipped with traction motors to provide propulsion power. The concrete-filled slugs are paired with four-axle GP40-2 “mother” units featuring reconditioned 3,000-horsepower engines that provide electrical power to turn the traction motors. Together, a GP40-2 and companion slug can provide nearly the same pulling power of two 2,000-horsepower GP38-2 locomotives at slow speeds and consume 40 to 45 percent less fuel.

GP59E MOTHER UNITS: These rebuilds of 1980s EMD GP59 units are intended for yard work and local delivery runs. They feature a new microprocessor control system, electronic fuel injection, a low-emissions engine, and the patented split-cooling system.

MP15E: These rebuilds of 1970s and 1980s EMD MP15 DC units are used to switch railcars in yard operations. They are being upgraded with electronic fuel-injection to increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. The company also has developed a turbocharged prototype MP21E locomotive with a 2,000-horsepower engine that competes with the GP38-2 model.

DASH 8.5: These rebuilds of 1989 and 1990 Dash 8 locomotives are the first rebuilds of older GE locomotives. The first of the 4,000-horsepower Dash 8.5 units is expected to roll out of the Roanoke shop in 2014. These units feature enhancements similar to those on SD60Es. They also are being equipped with a novel AC-power feature that will convert them into mobile generators for use by rail terminals that lose power during hurricanes or other storm events.