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UP to Replace Switch Locomotives at Rail Yard with New Low-Emission Models

UP Genset locomotive.

Union Pacific (UP) will replace the majority of switch locomotives used at its Commerce, California rail yard with new ultra-low emission diesel locomotives from Railpower by the end of July. Each locomotive is powered by three 700-horsepower engines.

The 2,100-horsepower, EPA non-road Tier 3-certified Genset locomotives are projected to reduce emissions of both oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and particulate matter by up to 80%, while using as much as 16% less fuel compared to current low-horsepower locomotives. (Earlier post.)

Union Pacific announced in January the delivery of the first of 60 Genset switch locomotives the railroad had purchased for use in California. These new locomotives will be used to serve customers and sort rail cars for outbound trains and will replace many of the 95 older low-horsepower locomotives currently being used in Los Angeles Basin rail yards.

Ten of the 60 will be working at the Commerce rail yard, which serves the ports of LA and Long Beach. Four of these locomotives will work moving rail cars to tracks for loading or unloading intermodal containers or move rail cars onto a track to assemble an outbound train. The six remaining Genset locomotives are used to sort rail cars for outbound trains and deliver rail cars to local Los Angeles-based customers.

The Genset locomotives have helped UP reduce overall emissions in its Commerce, LATC (northeast Los Angeles) and Mira Loma yards by 28% while accommodating strong growth in the volume of goods and materials moved through the yards. The railroad achieved these reductions using a combination of new technology, operational changes and new equipment and working closely with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in a cooperative effort.

Since the 2005 baseline year evaluated in the CARB’s Health Risk Assessments for UP’s Commerce, LATC and Mira Loma yards, the company has already achieved more than a 17% reduction in emissions. By 2010, those same facilities will achieve a 30% reduction in emissions from 2005 levels.

Taken together with projected emission reductions of an additional 25% over the next 10 years, UP expects to achieve an overall emissions reduction of approximately 55% for the period from 2005 to 2020 at these three yards.

Union Pacific has reduced emissions through the following efforts:

  • Fleet Turnover, Reducing Emissions. Since January 2000, UP has purchased more than 2,600 new fuel-efficient locomotives that comply with new, stricter US EPA Tier 0, Tier 1 and Tier 2 standards. At the same time, more than 1,700 older units were retired, and another 1,800 locomotives were overhauled (remanufactured) to meet the stricter standards.

  • Auto Start-Stop Installations. UP now has more than 3,000 locomotives, or 34% of its fleet, with computer-controlled devices that limit engine idling to only the time necessary to ensure safe and reliable operation. Approximately 75% of the locomotives permanently assigned to the Southern California area are now equipped with this technology.

  • Fuel Efficiency Improvements. Through fleet turnover and other improvements, UP has achieved more than a 12% improvement in fuel efficiency since 1995.

  • Fuel Quality. More than 99% of all fuel dispensed into locomotives in California is Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD).

The company plans to expand the use of advanced yard locomotives such as the Genset or hybrid locomotives, with reductions in fuel consumption of 16% and reductions of NOx and PM of as much as 80-90%.


Stan Peterson

Its a start. Just remember that automotive diesels must meet the Tier 2 Bin 5, standards that is ENORMOUSLY cleaner than any of these cleanups.

T2B5 is the standards is the first to equate a gasoline engine emissions to a diesel engine emissions. It says a "clean diesel" is one that equals a "dirty gasoline" engine. The other lower Tiers are much, much dirtier. wihtin a Tier ther are many standards wihtthe higher the "bin rating" the dirtierthe engine. So even a T2 B8 diesel is very dirty.

The Rail locomotive business has been allowed to skate while environmental regulators were more concerned with automotive applications. UP is doing the best it could to purchase clean switching locomotives, so they are to be applauded.

But Genset, the locomotive builder, should get its act together and offer T2B5 compliant locomotives, ASAP. Since Locomotives are capital items with a fifty year operational life, they also need to offer retrofit upgrade kits or re-manufacture for these locomotives to raise them to T2B5 standards and eventually (T2Bin3) as well.

The Rail locomotive makers have until 2012 or so to comply but the technology and research to do it has already been done, and paid for by the automotive diesel makers. They don't have to wait that long...

Tim Russell

The company that make makes the Genset loco is called RailPower. These units will be easy to upgrade to cleaner engine tech as the 3 gensets are pallet mounted and easily changed out (one of the maintenance features of the unit.)

Stan Peterson


That is great information, but that may aid maintenance bu tno thelp. To meet T2Bin5 they will have to add SCT, and a particle trap as well as a catalyst. None of which may be present on these switcher locomotives.

Bill Young

How difficult could it be to electrify a switchyard so that an electric switcher could be used? Trains move in very predictable paths they are not like highway traffic where the operator has lane choice.


Electrification is pretty expensive for any part of a rail network. Railpower has been selling a hybrid-ish product for smaller yards called the Green Goat for a couple of years, though it was recently recalled. The new Genset product is for larger yards and local switching, where a loco might travel out of the yard for a few miles.


Has anybody ever heard of Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) locomotives? I mean the same principle used in modern power plants: there is a gas turbine (which could also use a liquid fuel) which drives a first generator; the the hot gas heat a boiler producing steam for a second turbine which in turn drive a second generator. State of the art power plans achieve 60% efficiency.

I am aware that CCGT has recently been used on some cruise ships, but I am not aware of any application in locomotives.


Various railroad companies have tried turbines in the past, and they weren't too sucessful. I'm sure newer turbines would be better, but CCGT plants are fairly bulky, and there are space limitations for locos.

Tim Russell

Stan, What is SCT?

You can see the exhaust stacks sticking up from each genset so I would think you could add what ever is needed for the exhaust. How do you know there isn't space under the hood to have these items added to the motor/generator sets. I haven't seen one of these units with the hood doors open so I don't know how much space is under the hood. With clever packaging, hood modifications I'm sure these could be made cleaner.

I had a discussion on Electrification here once before. Expensive yes but I can see someday with higher fuel costs some rail lines may electrify. Problem is that power has to come from somewhere and the US has a lot of coal. :(


Right now according to the EIA, rail accounts ~2% of the total amount of energy used for transportation, in contrast to light duty vehicles, which use ~60%. Rail is low-hanging fruit in terms of total energy use.

Stan Peterson


Sorry. That was a mispelling I meant SCR, or Selective Catalytic Reduction of Urea injection and feedback. The so-called Blue Tec technology that is the only one which seems ot clean a diesel exhaust up to merely "dirty gasoline engine" equivalent. So its a) the Urea metering equipment,fairly small, a particla trap, fairly large, and a catlaytic converter of some size.

I don't know whether these are diesel electric Series Locomotives. I suspect they may be. If so then there are some gains to be made by making them hybrids. Adding a battery, fairly bulky, (and optionally a mechanical power pass through) would allow for either a combined operation of a alrger elctric motive power.

This would allow downsizing of the diesel and uprating the electric motor/generator, improving efficiency and reducing fuel consumption. Smaller cosnumption should mean smaller amounts of pollutioon emitted.


Messed up my metaphors. I meant that rail is relatively unimportant in terms of total energy use. Light-duty vehicles should be the focus of conservation efforts. Rail is NOT low-hanging fruit.

Stan Peterson


I had heard that all "other" transportation sector consumed about 12% of the transport oil consumption. All "other" is Rail, Off-road, Marine and Aviation usage.

I have never seen the breakout within each sub sector. it would be interesting to know. But since all transport is 80% of total; oil consumption, that still represents 9.6% of petroleum demand.

Efficiency gains will help in both marine and air applications, but I question how much is to be gained, as both are pretty efficient as is. Rail looks like it can eke out some efficiency, and certainly some pollution gains, since in essence, Rail has NO Pollution abatement devices on its engines. Nor do off road engines. Both are changing, however. within a decade they will be clean.

I agree that the regulators should have gone after automotive users first, as there is a lot more to be gained. Having developed and achieved the pollution abatement technology sought, it is applicable to Rail and Off road. I think the schedule for these other users could be accelerated, since they did not have to pay for the R&D, and only need to adopt solutions developed for the on Road fleet.

The real necessity is to have an acceptable substitute for transport needs. An acceptable substitute will answer the only potential bottleneck preventing the world's population from eventually achieving the developed world life expectancy and lifestyle. Having an acceptable substitute, will also remove the terrorist, ME oil Sheik, and Statist oil extortions.

If I really thought that CO2 was a problem, and not a political scam, in any thing less than several hundred years if at all, that would be another reason for seeking an acceptable substitute.

I'm sure though that Science is showing it is a premature threat, a non-causative concern, much like the "Acid Rain" scare, and the "Ozone Hole" exaggerations. within a few years CO2 will join these "threats" & we will laugh about the concerns.

Substitutes for Marine and Rail transport exist; little as yet for ground, and that is why Electrification of Ground Transport is so needed. Air will be the last to develop suitable substitutes and may over time just become a sub sector needing a manufacturing sub-industry to create idealized aviation fuel.

I can't even envision any substitute solution for air, other than a He3 fusion reactor and electric motors; or a real ability to request for "Scotty, Beam me up".


"I have never seen the breakout within each sub sector. it would be interesting to know."

Well, that's why I posted a link. Follow it.

"Rail has NO Pollution abatement devices on its engines."

Older engines didn't. Current models do have some restrictions, though they are much less than on-road vehicles. However, locos have lifespans of 20-40 years, so older polluting models can ride the rails for a long time.

"I'm sure though that Science is showing it is a premature threat, a non-causative concern, much like the "Acid Rain" scare, and the "Ozone Hole" exaggerations."

Thousands upon thousands of scientists disagree, and you are overlooking the fact that efforts were made to mitigate acid rain and the ozone hole. If you want to be in denial about things, knock yourself out. Just don't expect people to take you seriously.


Actually, both EMD and GE are working on new locomotives based on the EMD SD70ACe and GE Evolution ES44 series that will incorporate a built-in particulate trap and new type of exhaust catalyst that reduces NOx output without the complication of lugging around a separate tank of urea fluid to inject into the exhaust stream as a gas. I believe Cummins is working on that catalyst design, which is designed for the truly big diesel engines used in locomotives, cargo ships and power generation.

Amari ab87c661e8fe4fd581cf2f7c6fbb5213 [url][/url] [url=]ab87c661e8fe4fd581cf2f7c6fbb5213[/url] [u][/u] 82f6f41a12f5d0f876f2f92d6541f238


Trains should be electric, like the old electric
trolleys and buses that I used to see when I was a
kid. It shouldn't be too hard to run a line over
the tracks, or between 'em.

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