First Look: New ‘Green’ Gondola From U.S. Steel, NS, Greenbrier

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
U.S. Steel, Norfolk Southern and Greenbrier have collaborated on a new high-strength steel gondola design. (Rendering Courtesy of Greenbrier)

U.S. Steel, Norfolk Southern and Greenbrier have collaborated on a new high-strength steel gondola design. (Rendering Courtesy of Greenbrier)

United States Steel Corp., Norfolk Southern (NS) and The Greenbrier Companies, Inc. have teamed to design a “sustainable, high-strength steel” gondola; NS will initially acquire 800 of the Greenbrier-engineered railcars, they reported on Dec. 9.

The supplier-builder-end-user partnership “is rooted in the recognition that North America’s aging gondola fleet will soon require substantial replacement with a more sustainable design” for hauling loose bulk material, according to U.S. Steel, Greenbrier and NS.

The new gondola (see video below) will be constructed using a “high-strength, lighter-weight steel” developed by U.S. Steel, which “identified the interconnections between steel advancements for automobiles and adapted these to the rail industry.” Employing this steel is slated to reduce the gondola’s unloaded weight by up to 15,000 pounds, the partners said.

U.S. Steel, Greenbrier and NS reported that the new gondola will offer the following benefits:

• “Extended lifecycle: The new steel is twice as strong as traditional steel used in the railcar manufacturing process, potentially extending the useful life of each gondola to 50 years. A stronger external finish also strengthens the railcar body, lowering maintenance costs.

• “Increased sustainability: The new gondola is more energy-efficient, both during production and in use. The steel fabrication process requires less time, leading to improved energy efficiency due to less material being used. The lower weight decreases the fuel needed by locomotives hauling the railcars, reducing energy usage and lowering emissions.

• “Greater freight capacity: Enhancements to the gondola design also afford greater freight capacity. The high-strength steel requires less structural reinforcement, simplifying the manufacturing process and allowing more total cargo space in each railcar.”

NS Chairman and CEO James A. Squires

“The use of lightweight, high-strength steel is a real revolution for railcars,” NS Chairman and CEO James A. Squires said. “Not only will each gondola carry more material, they will do so by using less energy, making our operations, and our customers’ operations, even more environmentally friendly. The advancements made by Norfolk Southern, U.S. Steel, and Greenbrier on these gondolas can be applied to other car types, ensuring that this sustainable innovation continues well into the future. Further, once these new gondolas are in service, we plan to recycle the previous models.”

Greenbrier Chairman and CEO William A. Furman

“The work done by U.S. Steel, Norfolk Southern and Greenbrier promises significant benefits to all three companies and the freight transportation industry as a whole,” Greenbrier Chairman and CEO William A. Furman said.

U.S. Steel President and CEO David B. Burritt

“This remarkable collaboration with our partners at Norfolk Southern and Greenbrier is helping realize the full potential of U.S. Steel’s continued product innovations as sustainable solutions for the steel and transportation industries,” U.S. Steel President and CEO David B. Burritt said.

New high-strength steel gondola from U.S. Steel, Norfolk Southern and Greenbrier (Rendering Courtesy of Greenbrier)
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