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Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Railway Interchange 2013: Upbeat, and back for more

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Healthy attendance and a record number of suppliers exhibiting at RI2013 established this biennial gathering as a can’t-miss event.

Two years ago, Railway Interchange 2011 sought to bring together North America’s railway supply industry organizations to better advance the industry’s aims. The initial effort succeeded handsomely, establishing a solid foundation for future events, and drawing industry interest not just from within North America but from global players as well.

So successful was the 2011 event, in fact, that attendees at Railway Interchange 2013, held in Indianapolis Sept. 29-Oct. 2, could be forgiven for the “business as usual” casual professionalism permeating the event, evidenced by exhibitors, speakers, and attendees all, as if the gathering was a long-established industry standard.

Hosted by the Railway Supply Institute (RSI), Railway Systems Suppliers, Inc. (RSSI), the Railway Engineering-Maintenance Suppliers Association (REMSA), and the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA), the 2013 event sold out booth space by mid-August—no mean feat given the ample room provided by the Indianapolis Convention Center.

Those attending were bombarded by new products and technical innovations, offered by companies large and small, ranging from fuel-efficient locomotive engines to wayside signals. Many companies, including Railway Age parent Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corp., staffed display spaces at two or more locations throughout the exhibition, and while RSI, RSSI, and REMSA each hosted exhibition space, the net result was a seamless display of goods and service throughout.

While the exhibition was primarily aimed at freight railroad operations and customers, passenger rail was not forgotten. Players as large as Alstom and Siemens mixed in with smaller suppliers touting their expertise in (for example) aiding Cincinnati’s nascent streetcar construction project, now ongoing.

Supplier participation “continues to grow,” says RSI President Tom Simpson. “There were more 10 foot by 10 foot equivalent booths this year than in Minneapolis,” the site of Railway Interchange 2011. “The exhibitors have really embraced this and, at least for where I can vouch in the RSI area, it seemed that the exhibits were on a grander scale. I think that, too, indicates the supply acceptance of this as an every-other-year, can’t-miss event.”

Tier IV dominates developments

Notable among the numerous developments: New York Air Brake debuted its new control valve, the DB60 II, designed to improve braking capability on various terrain—an industry issue now highlighted in unfortunate fashion by the July 6, 2013 derailment and explosion of a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic (MMA) train in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

“All air brakes leak—the allowable standard is one psi per minute—and they leak more when cold or worn,” said New York Air Brake Senior Vice President Jason Connell. “This leakage is not normally a problem on flat terrain, when brakes are applied for short periods of time. But when brakes are applied on a long grade for an hour or more, they need recharging.”

New York Air Brake’s “brake cylinder maintaining” feature on its new DB60 II brake valve solves this problem by enabling a constant recharge of the brake cylinder during braking. “This improves safety and ensures a more even brake cylinder pressure along the entire train, enabling the cars in the train to brake evenly,” says DB60 II Product Manager Deepak Kumar. “It dramatically reduces the risk of bringing the train to a halt on a steep grade. Maintenance costs decrease, fuel use lessens, and ontime performance improves.”

Engine power was a prime feature among many Railway Interchange 2013 exhibitors. General Electric Co. and subsidiary GE Transportation touted the Evolution Series Advance Power 4 locomotive, designed to meet Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Tier 4 emission standards without the use of any type of aftertreatment. GE said it had invested $600 million in the Evolution Series since its introduction in 2005, and started field testing a Tier 4 compliant locomotive along 100 miles of track through western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. Additional field testing will take place in the near future, it said.

In addition, GE’s NextFuel™ Natural Gas Retrofit Kits were touted to offer Evolution Series locomotives the ability to operate with dual fuel capabilities, either by diesel fuel or liquid natural gas (LNG), while not compromising performance.

For its part, Cummins Inc. introduced its 4,200-hp (3,132 kW) QSK95 Power Module, meeting EPA Tier 4 regulations, noting that its module will first enter service with Indianapolis-based Indiana Rail Road Co. by mid-2014.

“This fully self-contained power module represents the first repower package capable of bringing Tier 4 ultra-low emissions capability to heavy-haul locomotives,” Cummins said. “The QSK95 Power Module is designed to replace the complete diesel-electric system and carbody of the base locomotive as a complete drop-in package. The fully enclosed unit features the QSK95 engine, alternator, cooling system, and dynamic braking system, together with integral Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) exhaust aftertreatment specifically designed for locomotives. The clean combustion of the QSK95 works together with Cummins SCR aftertreatment to meet stringent Tier 4 emissions levels.” The QSK95 Power Module is the result of a design collaboration between Cummins and Sygnet Rail Technologies Inc.

Intermodal on the rise

Conference sessions hosted by AREMA and the Coordinated Mechanical Associations (CMA) as always covered a wide range of technical subjects, but if any one development could be argued to be above others, intermodalism might be as good a choice as any.

Indiana Rail Road, in many ways the “host” railroad at Railway Interchange 2013, also made it clear its future relies in large measure on intermodal traffic. During the show, INRD CEO Tom Hoback informed attendees the Indianapolis-based regional railroad would open its new Senate Avenue Intermodal Terminal on Oct. 10. The multimillion dollar investment by INRD, in conjunction with CN, will facilitate freight movement between the U.S. Midwest and Asia in as little as 20 days via Canadian ports in Vancouver and Prince Rupert, both in British Columbia, bypassing Chicago congestion.

Hoped-for salvation via export coal as a long-term option, Hatch observed, was a slim hope at best, even for Western railroads less vulnerable to shutdowns of domestic energy plants relying on coal as their primary fuel source.