Download PDF


2015 Eco Locomotives Scorecard

Rolled out


low-emission Eco locomotives


diesel emissions

in Atlanta and Chicago


new partnerships

to expand use of Eco locomotives

Partnerships to reduce diesel emissions

Norfolk Southern considers it a corporate responsibility to mitigate the environmental impacts of its rail operations. Development of a new class of low-emission locomotives and innovative idle-reduction technology demonstrates the railroad’s continuing commitment to industry leadership in sustainability best practices and environmental partnerships.

Three things NS did in 2015 to reduce rail yard emissions

  • Introduced the Eco locomotive, a locomotive rebuild program that recycles older locomotives and outfits them with new low-emission engines.
  • Rolled out the “Sleeper,” an engine-heater system that eliminates unnecessary locomotive idling in
    winter months.
  • Expanded work on a rebuild program to create locomotive “slugs” – units with traction motors but no engines. The slugs are paired with diesel-powered locomotives to add emissions-free pulling power and reduce fuel burn.

NS’ recycled Eco locomotives support community air quality

Norfolk Southern is helping communities enhance air quality with Eco locomotives, a new class of low-emission yard locomotives.

In 2015 public-private partnerships, NS introduced the Eco units at its Inman Yard in Atlanta and at its intermodal facilities in Chicago. NS delivered 10 of the locomotives to Atlanta and 15 to Chicago.

Branded “Eco” for their operating efficiencies in reducing emissions and fuel use, the locomotives were funded in part by federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program grants. These grants are available to projects that help states and localities reduce transportation-related emissions, improve air quality, and comply with federal Clean Air Act attainment standards.

Cleaner-burning engines

The 3,000-horsepower Eco engines reduce emissions regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, including nitrogen oxides, or NOx, a contributor to ozone and linked to climate change, particulate matter, hydrocarbons, and smoke.

In Chicago, the partnership enables NS to replace its entire fleet of older switcher locomotives with cleaner-burning Eco units at its five major rail yards. NS received more than $19 million through the CMAQ grant program as part of the $30 million public-private partnership in Chicago.

The emissions that 10 Eco locomotives
will reduce annually in Atlanta:


Particulate matter


Nitrogen oxides

The emissions that 15 Eco locomotives
will reduce annually in Chicago:


Particulate matter


Nitrogen oxides

Reducing life-cycle emissions

The Eco locomotives were developed through NS’ unique rebuild program that recycles older locomotive bodies and upgrades engines with newer technologies that maximize fuel economy and emissions reduction. For the Eco units, NS used the body frames of a locomotive model built in the 1980s and equipped them with new low-emission engines.

Learn more:
Visit NS’ corporate website for more information about the low-emission Eco locomotives in Atlanta and Chicago.

Recycling the older locomotives, rather than buying newly manufactured steel components, adds to the program’s benefits by reducing production-related carbon emissions and lowering costs.

To enhance emissions reduction, each Eco unit can replace two older, less-efficient locomotives when paired with a “slug” – an industry term for a locomotive outfitted with traction motors for pulling power but no engine. NS built slugs for the Atlanta and Chicago partnerships.

More Eco partnerships for 2016

Norfolk Southern has entered into public-private partnerships that will bring Eco locomotives and emissions-free slugs to rail yards in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Macon, Ga. In 2016, NS is building two Eco locomotives and two slugs for delivery to Pittsburgh and five Eco units and two slugs for use in Macon.

Norfolk Southern’s Sleeper: fuel savings and cleaner air

In 2015, Norfolk Southern began deploying the Sleeper, a customized plug-in engine heater system that reduces unnecessary locomotive idling and diesel emissions in cold weather. It was one of the company’s key sustainability advancements.

With the Sleeper, NS achieves the “triple bottom line” of sustainability:

  • People: It enhances air quality in neighborhoods around rail yards.

  • Planet: It reduces diesel emissions linked to climate change.

  • Profit: It helps NS’ bottom line by reducing fuel use and operating costs.

Public benefits are a driver

During 2015 and early 2016, Norfolk Southern joined with state and federal agencies to share the costs of installing Sleeper heaters in locomotives and wayside power stations at rail yards in Atlanta; Chicago; Kansas City Mo.; and six cities in Ohio. The primary purpose of these public-private partnerships is to help communities comply with their obligations and commitments under the federal Clean Air Act.

“This is a relatively inexpensive way for us and our public partners to accomplish a host of good public policy and private goals that any industry would want to achieve,” said Darrell Wilson, assistant vice president government relations.

The Sleeper in action
Learn more about the Sleeper in this video at Norfolk Southern’s Inman Yard.

“Our goal is to get this done on the northern part of the railroad, where winters can get really cold, but that’s not the stopping place,” said Don Graab, vice president mechanical.

Norfolk Southern is the first large U.S. freight railroad to undertake a systemwide program using plug-in technology to reduce locomotive idling. Working with supply-chain partners, NS’ Mechanical Department customized existing technologies to design a robust system for rail yards where locomotives shove and pull freight cars 24/7. In addition to conserving fuel, reducing emissions benefits the public. The availability of federal funds earmarked to reduce transportation-related emissions supported the effort.

“This was another step in our process of looking for newer and better ways to reduce fuel consumption,” said Mark Duve, system manager locomotive reliability, who headed the project.

Stakeholder collaboration and innovation

Norfolk Southern field-tested the Sleeper system in 2013 at one of its Chicago yards. Collaboration with suppliers produced an innovative design easy for train crews to use. For example, the power station features a retractable “power crane” equipped with a night light and other safety features. The crane went through four generations of design to perfect it.

“We’ve standardized that design across our system. NS essentially created a market for the power crane,” said Bruce Backus, electrical engineer locomotive design.

During the Chicago field trials, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the United Transportation Union – unions representing train and engine crews at NS – contributed to improvements. They suggested heating the locomotive cab as well as the engine, leading to addition of a heating element that keeps the cab comfortable.

No antifreeze? No problem

Diesel locomotive engines do not use antifreeze. To prevent freezing, locomotive engines traditionally are kept idling in winter months between operating shifts. With the Sleeper, locomotives can be shut off, plugged-in, and put to “sleep” regardless of the cold.

For interested rail fans, Sleeper is an NS acronym for: Stationary Locomotive Emissions Elimination Plug-in Electric Receptacle System.

Public partners praise NS idle-reduction technology

(Click on a photo to learn more)

A ‘cool project’ for Kansas City air quality

Chicago partnership a first for EPA

Good for Georgia neighborhoods

Growing business and Reducing emissions in Ohio

A ‘cool project’ for Kansas City air quality

Norfolk Southern’s Sleeper technology appealed to Kansas City, Mo., officials because the investment supports long-term commitments to cleaner air and to expanding freight rail business at a busy rail hub.

“This was a really cool project,” said Doug Norsby, air quality planner at Mid-America Regional Council in Kansas City. “We liked that we could be a showcase for this technology, and, because we knew the dedicated infrastructure was here, we had confidence that emissions reductions would continue to occur in our area.”

The regional council teamed with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to obtain cost-sharing funds through the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, a grant program administered by the EPA.

“When you have something that is really useful, really valuable in terms of emissions reduction and control,” Norsby said, “using some public money to encourage business to take a risk and try some of these technologies can be really important.”

Chicago partnership a first for EPA

In Chicago, Norfolk Southern and other railroads are partners with the Environmental Protection Agency in the Midwest Clean Diesel Initiative. This voluntary program promotes the use of technology and operational changes to reduce emissions from diesel engines and improve air quality in the Midwest.

Through this connection, EPA identified funding to help install the Sleeper technology at NS’ Chicago rail yards. It is the first time EPA has partnered with a railroad in Chicago to reduce locomotive idling using plug-in heater technology.

“I think it’s an innovative and cost-effective project that will be very beneficial,” said Frank Acevedo, EPA mobile source program manager for Region 5. “It has a lot of potential to significantly reduce emissions that could have a direct impact on residential areas and public health here in Chicago.”

EPA studies have shown that reducing locomotive idling is the most effective way to lower rail yard emissions, said Carolyn Persoon, an EPA environmental engineer. “Norfolk Southern,” she said, “is addressing the biggest source of emissions in the yards and is doing something we know is effective in reducing emissions.”

Good for Georgia neighborhoods

In Georgia, Norfolk Southern installed the Sleeper technology at four rail yards, including Atlanta, through a partnership with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division.

“Industrial sites, including rail yards, can generate ‘hot spots’ of emissions,” said Rich McDonald, environmental engineer with EPD. "The Sleeper system should reduce those localized emissions and improve air quality in nearby neighborhoods.

“Eliminating those emissions is a good thing to improve health in our community. When all you’re trying to do is warm up engine water so it doesn’t freeze, this plug-in arrangement is a much more efficient and cleaner way to do it.”

Growing business and reducing emissions in Ohio

In Ohio, Norfolk Southern initially is installing 21 plug-in heater stations to operate the Sleeper system in a half-dozen rail yards around the state, including Canton and Youngstown. Engine heaters will go on 26 yard and local locomotives. NS’ public partner, the Ohio Rail Development Commission, provided matching dollars through the federal Diesel Emissions Reduction Act program.

“Ohio partnered with NS to lower diesel emissions in some of the state’s most urbanized and industrial neighborhoods," said Matt Dietrich, executive director of the rail development commission. “By contributing public funds, the state can leverage private dollars for an initiative that will benefit public health and promote jobs and economic growth.

“We recognize that railroads produce emissions, but railroads are also critical to the economy,” Dietrich said. “Basically, this program results in cleaner air for everybody.”