NS Adds Hybrid Cranes to Chicago, Atlanta Terminals

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
Rendering of Konecranes hybrid RTG, Courtesy of Konecranes

Rendering of Konecranes hybrid RTG, Courtesy of Konecranes

Norfolk Southern (NS) has completed installation of five diesel-electric hybrid overhead gantry cranes at intermodal terminals in Chicago (Landers Yard; two) and Atlanta (Inman Yard; three).

One aim of hybrid-crane use is to help “reduce the amount of fuel used while moving freight,” NS reported on Jan. 27.

The Class I railroad installed its first five hybrid Konecranes in 2021 at the 47th Street facility in Chicago. They operate with electrical power from a battery and a diesel generator. “During normal use, power is drawn exclusively from the battery,” NS explained. “Energy from braking is stored and then used to recharge the battery. During peak use, power is drawn from the battery and diesel generator in parallel.”

NS’s newest 60-foot-tall cranes stack containers “1-over-3,” working over two tracks plus one truck lane at Landers, and “1-over-3,” working over one track and two truck lanes at Inman, according to Konecranes. Crane operators use computer tracking to locate a container and maneuver the lifting machinery to move it from rail to truck, and vice-versa.

Over the next 10 years, NS plans to convert the remaining 58 traditional overhead gantry cranes located across its 22-state network to hybrid or fully electric power. Through this conversion, the railroad estimates saving approximately 30 million gallons of fuel and reducing more than 300,000 metric tons of emissions over the preceding 20 years, when all cranes are replaced.

“We initially sought hybrid-powered cranes for their fuel efficiency, and in turn we experienced not only sustainability gains, but found they are far more reliable as well,” NS Vice President of Intermodal and Automotive Jeff Heller said. “As our team conducted a technology audit to explore replacement opportunities, we found the high-tech hybrids also minimize the need for repairs and require less down time than traditional cranes. This helps minimize delays related to cranes being down, and in turn improves reliability for our customers.”

“By integrating these diesel-electric hybrid cranes into our intermodal facility operations, we are leveraging technology and efficiency to help us meet our sustainability goals,” added Josh Raglin, Chief Sustainability Officer at NS. “Rail is already the most sustainable way to move freight over land, and equipment upgrades like this provide additional long-term emissions reductions that ultimately help us and our customers become even more efficient in our operations.”

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