Norfolk Southern is partnering with cities to reduce locomotive emissions in congested urban areas where we operate rail yards. The company’s strategy involves purchasing new low-emissions engines; coupling locomotives with engineless “slugs” that add emissions-free pulling power; and installing plug-in engine heating systems that reduce locomotive idling. While improving air quality, the effort reduces fuel use and operating expenses.

Partnerships to Improve Air Quality

Norfolk Southern is working with state and local officials in Illinois and Georgia to equip rail yards with low-emissions locomotives, helping two major metropolitan areas meet federal clean air standards.

In 2014, Norfolk Southern received locomotive grant funding for the first time through the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program – called CMAQ – for an initiative to increase the number of emissions-friendly locomotives at yards in Atlanta and Chicago. The grants will partially fund 25 switching locomotives – 15 for Chicago and 10 for Atlanta.

Employees at our Juniata Locomotive Shop are installing new EMD “ECO” engines on refurbished GP50 locomotives built in 1980 and 1981. The result: the GP33ECO switcher. The 3,000-horsepower engines meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Tier 3 emissions standards – the most stringent in effect for locomotive engines manufactured through 2014.

Juniata released the first two upgraded locomotives for in-service testing in January 2015. The fuel-efficient engines reduce emissions of EPA-regulated air pollutants, including oxides of nitrogen, or NOx, a contributor to ozone, which is linked to climate change; particulate matter; hydrocarbons; and smoke.

Chicago and Atlanta officials support the project as part of their cities’ efforts to improve air quality and comply with federal Clean Air Act attainment standards.

“We are taking steps on several fronts to reduce emissions and give us reliable locomotives that can provide the service our customers expect. It’s sustainable because we’re conserving fuel at the same time we’re reducing emissions, which helps the environment.”

Mark Duve
mechanical engineer locomotive design

Plug-In Heaters and Locomotive Slugs

Along with new engines, Norfolk Southern is taking additional steps to lower emissions and fuel costs of GP33ECO locomotives going to Chicago and Atlanta.

The railroad plans to install locomotive engine heaters and heater plug-in stations to reduce engine idling. The innovative heating system was designed by Norfolk Southern employees in 2013, and the railroad received city and state grants and other funding to install heaters and plug-in stations in Chicago, Kansas City, Mo., and northeastern Ohio. Locomotives don’t use antifreeze, so the heaters reduce the need to keep them idling in cold weather. Once plugged in, the heater cycles on and off as needed.

The company also is pairing the new units with “slugs”– locomotives that don’t have engines but are equipped with traction motors for tractive effort. Using a slug instead of a second diesel-powered switcher reduces fuel use and emissions. Norfolk Southern plans to pair slugs with all of the GP33ECO units in Atlanta and with three in Chicago.

The initial projects planned in Illinois, Missouri, and Ohio are expected to save 247,000 gallons of fuel annually and reduce NOx emissions by more than 80 tons and particulate matter by 2.87 tons.

Norfolk Southern challenges employees to think about ways they can contribute to the company’s sustainability efforts both at work and in their daily lives. Mark Cogan and Dorothy Terry are reducing air pollution and highway congestion by choosing environmentally friendly ways to commute to work.

Reducing environmental impact one ride at a time

While rush-hour congestion on Atlanta highways is legendary, Mark Cogan, chief crew dispatcher, and Dorothy Terry, head clerk, don’t worry about getting stuck in traffic in their cars. These two employees, who work in our Midtown Atlanta operations headquarters building, don’t drive to work: Cogan walks or bikes and Terry hops on an Xpress commuter bus.

Both earned recognition from Georgia Commute Options as 2014 Commuter Champions for their efforts to reduce the environmental impacts of driving alone to work every day in an automobile. Georgia Commute Options, created by the Georgia Department of Transportation and the region's transportation management associations, helps residents and employers take advantage of commute alternatives.

Terry started participating in Georgia Commute Options by taking an Xpress public transit bus to work every day. She lives more than 30 miles from Norfolk Southern’s David R. Goode Building and initially started riding mass transit to reduce her own automobile and fuel costs. “Gas was a consideration as well as the amount of miles I put on my car, but then I also started noticing the congestion outside my office window,” she said. “If everyone was driving in one car, no one would ever get anywhere.”

Since she began taking the bus to work, Terry has saved 113,000 miles of commuting, prevented nearly 49 tons of pollution from getting into the air, and saved $58,000 in automobile expense. “I like how Norfolk Southern promotes sustainable commuting,” she said. “The company urges employees to walk, bike, and van pool and helps us find other employees who live close to us that we can ride to work with.”

Cogan, who lives about two miles from the Goode office building, said he has walked or bicycled every day since starting work there in 2005. He learned about Georgia Commute Options when the organization set up a table in the Goode building lobby to help employees arrange car and van pools. “Norfolk Southern is one of the employers that really get behind this effort,” Cogan said.

Cogan began logging his daily trip mileage on the Georgia Commute Options website. In 2014, his carless commutes to work prevented an estimated 25,000 pounds of vehicle pollution from getting into the air. It came with a nice side benefit, too, he said: He shed 40 pounds.

While biking and walking was a lifestyle change for Cogan, he said: “I’ve always been conscious of the environment. I live in Midtown Atlanta, and I see people just sitting there in traffic and stressing. I wanted to do my part to keep the world a little cleaner and improve my own health.”