Just days after we wrote about the problem of trying to introduce cleaner locomotives into existing railway's fleets, Union Pacific Railroad has unveiled the first of 60 new environmentally friendly, ultra-low emission diesel locomotives for use in the Los Angeles region.

In prototype and testing since 2002, the new locomotives are called "Generator-Set," or "Genset" switchers and are manufactured by National Railway Equipment Co. Each Genset locomotive is powered by three 700-horsepower, ultra-low emissions Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) non-road Tier 3-certified diesel engines. The move to this new ultra-low emissions technology is projected to reduce emissions of both particulate matter and NOx by up to 80 percent, while still managing to use up to 16 percent less fuel compared to current low-horsepower locomotives.

The 60 new locomotives will be delivered over the next six months for use in sorting rail cars for outbound trains. They will replace many of the 95 older locomotives currently being used in Los Angeles Basin rail yards.

Around half of Union Pacific's 8,500 plus locomotive fleet is certified under existing EPA Tier 0, Tier 1 or Tier 2 regulations governing air emissions. This means of course that a huge percentage of their fleet doesn't meet Tier 2 standards. Hopefully Union Pacific's testing of two different retrofit technologies for reducing emissions in older locomotives, an experimental "oxidation catalyst" filtering canister and a diesel particulate filter, will prove successful and see their existing locomotives upgraded to improve air quality.

The experimental oxidation catalyst is designed to be installed inside the diesel engine's exhaust manifold on a high-horsepower long-haul locomotive. The special catalytic material chemically reduces the amount of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and particulate matter generated by the diesel engine, much like a catalytic converter on today's cars and trucks. The diesel particulate filter being tested is for use on low-horsepower yard locomotives.

Analysis: It is critical to improve the fuel economy and reduce the emissions of all forms of transport and it's great that Union Pacific is introducing new locomotives which meet new emissions regulations. Arguably more important though is retrofitting emissions reduction technologies to existing locomotives, many of which aren't scheduled to be entirely replaced for decades yet.

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[Source: Union Pacific Railroad]

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