Sustainable Rail International, U of Minnesota partner to develop most powerful carbon-neutral locomotive, using new steam engine and biocoal
The Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR)—a collaboration of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment (IonE) and the nonprofit Sustainable Rail International (SRI)—plans to develop what it calls the most powerful carbon-neutral locomotive to date, proving the viability of solid biofuel and modern steam locomotive technology.
The locomotive will run on torrefied biomass (biocoal), a biofuel created through an energy-efficient processing of cellulosic biomass. Biocoal exhibits the same energy density and material handling properties as coal, but unlike coal, it is carbon-neutral, contains no heavy metals, and produces less ash, smoke and volatile off-gases.
CSR says that preliminary research suggests that the test locomotive will cost less to maintain and less to fuel, and will also exhibit significantly better horsepower output at higher speeds than current diesel-electric locomotives that pull the majority of passenger trains in the US.
CSR Project 130 will draw on the carbon-neutral solid biofuel research expertise of the University of Minnesota and the modern steam mechanical engineering capabilities of SRI. CSR plans to break the world record for steam locomotive speed, reaching 130 mph (209 km/h).
In November 2011, SRI acquired a large test bed steam locomotive—Locomotive 3463—through a transfer of ownership from the Great Overland Station Museum in Topeka, Kan. Locomotive 3463, built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1937, is the largest locomotive of its type left in the world and features the largest wheels of any engine in North America.
|Locomotive 3463. Figure of person provided for scale. Click to enlarge.|
CSR will completely rebuild and modernize the locomotive, doubling its thermal efficiency, converting it to burn biocoal, replacing all existing link motion with roller-bearing rods, rebalancing the driving wheels and more.
Featuring a gas-producer combustion system, improved steam circuit, modern boiler, low-maintenance running gear and steam-powered electric generator (to power the passenger train), the revamped 3463 will be able to pull a passenger train with electric-like performance for less than the cost of diesel-electric locomotives, according to CSR.