With Railway Age since 1992, Bill Vantuono has broadened and deepened the magazine's coverage of the technological revolution that is so swiftly changing the industry. He has also strengthened Railway Age's leadership position in industry affairs with the conferences he conducts on operating passenger trains on freight railroads and communications-based train control.
In a research paper presented last week at a railroad environmental conference at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Amtrak reported that the use of B20 biodiesel (a blend of 20% pure biofuel and 80% diesel oil) also operated below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits for the General Electric P32-8 locomotive used in the test. The locomotive carried an Amtrak decal indicating the use of B20 fuel and other special markings to make certain that only biodiesel fuel was used in the 3,200-hp, 12-cylinder engine built in 1991 and compliant with EPA’s Tier 0 standard.
“The trial design included one year of testing, evaluating the engine and gasket wear, determining the quality of air emissions, and regularly monitoring the quality of the biodiesel fuel,” said Roy Deitchman, Amtrak Vice President, Environmental, Health and Safety. “The results of the trial indicate the in-service locomotive was very reliable with the B20 blend, engine wear was limited, air emissions were below EPA limits for this generation of passenger locomotive, and the biofuel supply met industry standards.”
Amtrak received a $274,000 grant from the Federal Railroad Administration to carry out the research project in partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (Okla. DOT) on the Heartland Flyer, a daily train operated by Amtrak with state support from Oklahoma and Texas.
A Texas-based vendor supplied the biodiesel blend, and the trial received support on fuel and engine component evaluation from Chevron Oronite. The engine manufacturer provided input on warranty matters and some of the testing was carried out at the General Electric facility in Erie, Pa.
The trial was included in TIME magazine’s list of “The 50 Best Inventions of 2010” with a cartoon pointing out that the biodiesel blend included beef byproduct. Operating daily between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, the Heartland Flyer was the first on the list of transportation inventions and only one of TIME's transportation innovations to be publically available.
“Routine use of biodiesel fuel at Amtrak is contingent on many factors, including cost vs. traditional ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel and availability,” Deitchman said. “But we found no significant engine performance issues during the trial and we were able to replace nearly 35,000 gallons of diesel with a renewable fuel that was locally produced.”
Jack L. Hadley, at one time the owner of the Kiamichi Railroad Co. operating in Oklahoma and Texas, died Oct. 30 at his home in Latrobe, Pa. He was 85. Hadley was an executive for the railroads of Jones & Laughlin Steel and later LTV Steel before becoming a short line owner in 1987. Within one year, Hadley tripled the number of employees at Hugo, Okla.-based Kiamichi Railroad and was serving 100 businesses along the line, stretching from Medill, Okla., to Paris, Tex. Hadley then acquired the adjoining Chaparral Railroad Co., and also began operating the South Orient Railroad in Texas.
Hadley sold the properties in 1995; the Kiamichi Railroad, which also extends into Arkansas, currently is owned by Jacksonville, Fla.-based RailAmerica. Hadley started his career in labor relations before moving to Jones & Laughlin, where he focused on the company’s rail operations, including the Monongahela Connecting Railroad in Pittsburgh, the Aliquippa and Southern Railroad in Aliquippa, Pa., and the Cuyahoga Valley Railroad in Cleveland.
The Greenbrier Cos. Thursday reported net earnings of $12.6 million, or 42 cents per diluted share, in its fiscal fourth quarter ended Aug. 31, compared with earnings of $7.7 million, or 33 cents per diluted share, in its comparable 2010 quarter. Fourth-quarter revenue was a record $442.7 million, up from $178.8 million in the fiscal fourth quarter of 2010, Lake Oswego, Ore.-based Greenbrier said. Results for the quarter include a loss on extinguishment of debt of $5.7 million pre-tax, $3.4 million after-tax, for costs associated with the repayment in full of a $72 million term loan. Excluding these charges, net earnings were $16.0 million, or $.52 per diluted share, the company said.
The company also noted its backlog continues to grow, and now is measured at 14,500 units valued at $1.23 billion. New railcar deliveries in the fiscal fourth quarter of 2011 were a record 4,000 units, compared with 700 units in the fourth quarter of 2010. Total new railcar deliveries were 9,400 units in fiscal 2011,compared with 2,500 units in fiscal 2010. William A. Furman, president and chief executive officer, said, “We ended the quarter and the year with strong operating momentum, particularly in our manufacturing segment where we successfully executed at high production volumes. We continue to see strength in our end markets across each of our business segments and our new railcar backlog continued to grow in our fourth quarter. These factors give us good visibility and confidence that we can support higher new railcar production levels in fiscal 2012.
“We believe our industry fundamentals are sound, and that several forces are driving new railcar demand that are uncoupled from the more uncertain economic and political environments. Among these forces are stronger railroad balance sheets, truck traffic diversion to rail, replacement demand, and a growing strength in the U.S. energy market, which will continue to create increased demand for covered hopper cars and tank cars,” Furman said.
Willis Edward Bell, 93, of Port Charlotte, Fla., died Monday, Oct. 31, 2011. Bell was the Chief Signal Engineer of the Erie Lackawanna Railway and later the Chief Engineer for Communications and Signals at the United States Railway Association. He completed his career as a Project Manager at Gibbs and Hill, Inc., in Washington D.C., designing and implementing the signaling and train control system for the WMATA Metrorail rapid transit system. Bell and his wife Lois, who predeceased him, retired to Port Charlotte in 1983.
Bell graduated from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1943 with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering. He served as a 1st Lieutenant in the Signal Corps of the United States Army during World War II.
Bill is survived by his four children—Thomas E. Bell of Houston, Tex.; Craig W. Bell of Indianapolis; Susan A. Miner of Atkinson, N.H., and Barbara Mills of Glenville, Pa.—five grandchildren, and a brother, Frank Donald Bell of Allison Park, Pa.
Hundreds of Boy Scouts this weekend will spend a busy and fun-filled time at the North Carolina Transportation Museum earning their Railroading Merit Badges during Rail Camp, Nov. 4-6. Troops will spend Friday through Sunday at the museum, the site of the former Southern Railway Spencer Shops steam locomotive repair facility.
This year the museum will host a record number of scouts—460, including troop leaders, from 23 troops. Most of the attending troops are from North Carolina, from as close by as Salisbury, Concord, and Lexington, but the cities of Greer, Spartanburg, Simpsonville, and Tega Cay will represent South Carolina. There one troop from Alta Vista, Va.
Scouts attending Rail Camp will earn their Railroading Merit Badge with the completion of several activities. After a scavenger hunt, the afternoon will be dedicated to learning how a diesel-electric locomotive works, how to identify different types of railcars, the importance of railroad signals, and railroad safety. Troops will also learn about modern railroad companies and how to plan a trip by rail.
Brian Moffitt, Educational Programming Coordinator at the N.C. Transportation Museum, heads up the event. Moffitt became an Eagle Scout in 1991, before the museum began offering such a program. “This is an experience I was never able to have, and it’s great to offer it to others who might also become Eagle Scouts some day,” he says Moffitt. As for the rising numbers of troops attending the event each year, Moffitt attributes word of mouth among troop leaders. “Local councils and districts find out about what we do from the troops who have attended,” he says. “They enjoy their experience and are more than willing to share.”
The North Carolina Transportation Museum is part of the Division of Historic Sites and the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, which annually serves more than 19 million people through its 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, the nation’s first state-supported Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the N.C. Arts Council, and the State Archives.
The QSK95 is the first engine to be introduced in a new high-horsepower diesel and gas platform from Cummins. The new product line will extend up to the 120-liter 20-cylinder QSK120, capable of over 5,000 hp (3,728 kW) output. “Designed with exceptional strength and high power density, the 16-cylinder QSK95 exceeds the power output of other large 1,800-rpm high-speed engines with 20 cylinders,” Cummins says. “Compared with much larger medium-speed engines operating below 1,200 rpm, the QSK95 offers a far more compact and cost-effective solution to achieve the same power output.
It is ideally suited for high-hour, high-load applications in passenger and freight locomotives, many types of marine vessels, and ultra-class mine haul trucks. Operators can expect higher levels of equipment uptime and a longer life-to-overhaul with the QSK95.”
For all applications, Cummins says the QSK95 is ready to meet the most stringent emissions standards, including EPA Tier 4 Final, taking effect in 2015, using proven Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) aftertreatment designed by Cummins to replace the exhaust muffler.
“Our QSK95 represents a landmark in the evolution of the large high-speed diesel engine, designed with the power and durability to surpass all other high-speed engines while also challenging much larger and higher capital cost medium-speed engines,” said Mark Levett, Cummins Vice-President and General Manager-High-Horsepower Business.
“The QSK95 moves Cummins into a significantly higher power class, and we know that many of our customers have been eagerly anticipating us making that move. During the development of the QSK95, we engaged with hundreds of potential users to ensure that we fully reflected their operational and installation needs. That’s why we purpose-designed the QSK95 to set standards of uptime availability and in-service reliability higher than those of any other engine. This is just the start of a new high-horsepower platform for both diesel and gas, covering 12, 16, and 20 cylinders.” Cummins says it has committed major resources to the QSK95 and the high-horsepower platform, with 150 engineers working on the project and over $100 million invested to establish a new production line and test facilities at the Seymour Engine Plant.
The QSK95 has been developed “using state-of-the art analytical tools, including highly advanced combustion modeling,” according to Jim Trueblood, Vice-President-Cummins High-Horsepower Engineering. “Using powerful analysis programs, we evaluated thousands of possible combustion designs until we arrived at the optimum formula for fuel efficiency, performance, emissions control, and power cylinder durability before cutting any metal. The QSK95 is designed with immense strength at the heart of the engine, enabling the power cylinder to achieve higher levels of peak cylinder pressure. This gives a higher threshold in-cylinder to focus on emissions reduction and improve fuel efficiency. A key achievement of our combustion analysis-led work is that the QSK95 makes no performance compromise to meet very low emissions standards—an advantage that few, if any, other large high-speed or medium-speed engines will be able to claim for Tier 4.”
While the QSK95 is an all-new platform, the engine has been able to take advantage of existing systems from within Cummins high-horsepower technology portfolio.
A quad-turbocharger system brings “highly reliable air-handling direct from the QSK60 engine to the QSK95. The four compact turbochargers provide “outstanding” step-load acceptance and transient response with the simplicity of single-stage operation. The Modular Common-Rail System (MCRS) is upgraded to a next-generation design with up to 2,200-bar high-pressure fuel injection. MCRS “achieves high fuel efficiency, reduces noise, offers smooth idle stability, and eliminates visible smoke across the operating range.” Cummins new NanoNet™ fuel filtration “gives superior fuel cleanliness and enhances the durability of the MCRS system—an important advantage for engines required to operate anywhere in the world with varying fuel quality.”
A new ductile iron block and an extended block skirt “ensure the highest possible structural strength for the QSK95, improving its capability for multiple overhauls. An internal stiffening bedplate minimizes vibration. A single-piece forged-steel piston provides exceptional durability and reuse capability at rebuild. All three piston rings use premium materials, with the top ring Plasma Vapor Deposition (PVD)-coated. The hardened power cylinder features midstop cylinder liners and dual piston cooling nozzles, contributing to reduced piston ring temperatures and increased wear resistance.
The stronger engine design of the QSK95 means more reliability in-service and less to rebuild at engine overhaul, considerably reducing total life cycle costs. The QSK95 will provide an exceptionally long life-to-overhaul, capable of achieving 1.7 million gallons and above of fuel consumed before overhaul, with the significant advantage of no mid-life intervention required.”
The SCR aftertreatment system is purpose-designed for the QSK95 to provide “a highly flexible, installation package for Tier 4 Final and similar ultra-low emissions standards. Design space remains available within the aftertreatment system configuration for additional Particulate Matter (PM) reduction technology if required for specific applications. Depending on the duty-cycle, the Cummins SCR system is capable of achieving fuel savings of 5% to 10%, together with a significant reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The SCR fuel savings are incremental to those already realized by the high-pressure fuel system, reducing the cost of operation by more than the cost of Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) required for the SCR system.
By using Cummins SCR aftertreatment solution, the QSK95 avoids the need for an Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) system on the engine to reduce Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx). This EGR-free approach avoids the inherent complexity of applying it to high-output engines and means that no compromise is made to serviceability. A further advantage is that no additional heat rejection is generated by the engine, avoiding both an installation cost and space impact.”
Cummins says the QSK95 “is designed with more inherent reliability to ensure the highest possible uptime availability. The engine is configured to provide faster and easier servicing procedures, with simple access to all cooling, oil, and fuel system maintenance points on the engine. Service intervals are a minimum 500 hours, with the option of much-extended oil change intervals available using the ELIMINATOR™ oil purification system, mounted on the engine. The goal of a leak-free engine is achieved by premium press-in-place seals on all critical joints, such as the flywheel housing, gear housing, and oil pan-to-cylinder block. A special perimeter seal to the cylinder head guarantees that airborne debris cannot penetrate this important sealing interface.
Four standardized Cummins Electronic Control Modules (ECMs) provide a high level of processing power and memory to monitor, control, and protect the engine systems. One ECM monitors each engine quadrant, with all four ECMs grouped together for easy access at the front of the engine in a protected cover. An easy interface provides access for full diagnostics.”
The Florida Department of Transportation on Thursday completed its purchase of the 61-mile SunRail right-of-way in central Florida from CSX Corp. for $150 million, clearing the way for construction and improvement on the route. The first phase of construction will include the double-tracking, signal improvements, stations, and establishing an operations control center for SunRail service. The 31-mile first phase of SunRail, with Orlando as its hub city, includes 12 stops from DeBary in Volusia County to Sand Lake Road in southwest Orange County.
“Today's purchase is another important step in the process to bring SunRail commuter rail to Central Florida,” said Ananth Prasad, secretary of the state transportation department, in a statement. “All along the way, the department has worked closely with federal, state, local and private partners to help achieve the vision to deliver the most effective and efficient commuter rail system in the country.”
Said CSX Vice President-Strategic Infrastructure Louis Renjel, “Today’s closing represents a significant milestone in this public-private partnership that accommodates Central Florida’s need for a transportation alternative to congested highways, while preserving and expanding environmentally friendly and efficient freight rail capacity.”
SunRail’s prospects were aided by the efforts of Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, who has fought for the project and countered state-level anti-rail efforts despite significant criticism from members of his own party, as well as Florida Tea Party voices.
Union Pacific Railroad Senior Vice President–Corporate Relations Bob Turner, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, and local officials were on hand Friday as Union Pacific unveiled its employee-designed and built AutoFlex™ rail car in De Soto, Mo. The 90-foot long AutoFlex™ is a convertible, multi-level rail car that UP says can be transformed from two to three decks based on the customer’s vehicle shipment needs. UP says the AutoFlex™ delivers numerous benefits to its auto customers, including: • The flexibility of three decks to transport small vehicles or two decks to accommodate large vehicles. Traditional vehicle-carrying rail cars have either two or three decks and cannot be converted from one to the other.
• Superior security due to the removal of ladder access to the rail car roof and upper decks. The ladder is accessible only when end doors are open.
• A new end-door design with ladders that allow for safer, more ergonomic access to the rail car’s interior.
• Increased service quality thanks to a proven durable door edge system, improved tie-down chock systems, and upgraded in-transit damage protection.
UP says it holds 15 patents related to the design and process that resulted in developing the AutoFlex™. UP employees expect to build 100 AutoFlex™ cars in 2011 and are scheduled to build 200, or more, in 2012.
“Our nearly 150-year existence is due largely to innovations, like the AutoFlex™, that provide value to our customers, keep us competitive, benefit the industry and sustain and grow jobs. Today marks yet another day when Union Pacific employees showed great ingenuity to provide our customers ever-better service. We are very proud of what they achieved,” Turner said.
As of Nov. 1, Amtrak passengers between the age of 8 and 12 are now not allowed to ride the national passenger railroad without being accompanied by someone 18 years of age or older. Amtrak had allowed passengers as young as 8 years to ride unaccompanied. Amtrak’s web site urges those making reservations for unaccompanied minors to call 1-800-USA-RAIL. “You may not book reservations for unaccompanied minors on this web site,” Amtrak warns. In addition, Amtrak says children ages 13 through 15 “must travel in accordance with the Amtrak Unaccompanied Minor Policy,” which includes several conditions limiting travelers’ flexibility. For example, young teenagers may travel on Amtrak trains, but are “not permitted on Thruway motorcoach service, or on any other other connecting services.” Also, Amtrak says, “Both boarding and arrival stations must be staffed. (Please note that even certain staffed stations do not allow for unaccompanied minors.)” As well, “The adult must remain at the station until the train has departed.”
Lenore Skenazy, host of the blog “Free-Range Kids,” objects strongly to the change. Amtrak is institutionalizing the “idea that ‘safe enough’ is not safe enough. Now it must be almost 100% safe, which nothing is,” she said in response to a request for comment by Railway Age.
“I’m surprised at how much this issue is totally getting under my skin; I guess it's a combination of the fact that I love trains, and that Amtrak itself admits there is no basis to it,” she said.
A board appointed by President Obama to review a dispute between freight railroads and labor unions recommended during the weekend that workers receive an 18.6% pay increase over six years. The unions sought a 19% increase over five years; rail management had countered with 17% over six years. “While we recognize that this proposed resolution is by nomeans the only reasonable resolution possible, we believe thatit is fair and appropriate,” the five-member Presidential Emergency Board No. 243 wrote in the report it submitted to Obama on Saturday. The railroads remain at odds with 11 unions representing most of its labor force, including the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, a unit of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. BLET President Dennis R. Pierce is unhappy with the report.
“The 11 unions working in unison made a compelling case for status quo on health and welfare benefits and an even more compelling argument for wages increases greater than those found in the recommendation,” he said.
“BLET also made very specific agreements that were documented by substantial evidence, and made it quite clear to the Board that tour wage settlements with three of the four largest Class I carriers and on-property negotiations with the fourth meant that health care cost-fhifting would place a tremendous obstacle in the way of obtaining an acceptable settlement. Unfortunately, that is exactly the situation we now face,” Pierce said.
The United Transportation Union and its yardmasters division, with 30% of those workers, reached a five-year agreement with Class I railroads last April that includes a 17% raise and retains the $200 per-month cap on employee. UTU ratified the deal last September. The value of the UTU’s raise plus other wage-relatedincreases that don’t apply to the other unions is comparableto the 18.6% raise the presidential board recommended forother labor groups, according to Frank Wilner, a spokesman forthe union.The board’s recommended settlement is aimed at preventing anational railroad strike that, according to the Association ofAmerican Railroads, would cost the U.S. economy as much as $2billion a day. Obama appointed the board Oct. 6 to offer recommendationsfor resolving the stand-off, citing the National Mediation Boardas saying that the dispute threatened “substantially to interrupt” interstate commerce.