Discussion in 'The Real Thing- North America' started by slekjr, Jul 17, 2008.
This was sent by a friend. It makes sence.
Way too much to invest for the marginal benefits it would provide. Besides, all the foamers would just complain about the damn poles in the shots now!
Thanks for sharing it.
The two things they left out were the potential return of GG1s and all the cool new models we might get if big SD70 size electrics come in
It would be a beautiful thing to be more environmentally friendly and switch to electric rail freight. Imagine a train powered only by the electricity generated from the wind turbines along the right of way!
But sadly I don't think it will happen because of questionable monetary benefit like railohio said. Until you can show that the cost to electrify and create a rail oriented freight distribution network will be significantly less than the cost of trucking and gas, no one has any incentive to switch.
I didn't say it shouldn't or couldn't wouldn't happen, I just said from the railroads' perspective the payoff was too little for the investment. Railroads can't be bothered yet to simply extend capacity to handle the traffic they already have. If its going to happen it'll have to be a government project. Railroads simply don't have the capital to put up at any price.
Remember, too, that if railroads are hurting from fuel costs so are their competitors, probably even more so. It's in the railroads' best interest to have relatively high fuel costs as that shuts many truckers out of the market entirely.
That's true ... today. But that monetary benefits equation is changing as we speak, and altering the global economy in the process. And it's most likely going to continue to change, perhaps at an accellerating pace.
In one year the price of oil went from ~$70/bbl to ~$140/bbl. The increase in price may not continue at that rate, but the writing is clearly on the wall. For me, the evidence is plainly visible when I look out my window - the number of private cars in China nearly tripled in five years!
Another thing to consider is that, based on historic trends, the prices of new technologies tend to drop as the technology becomes mass produced. Think of the price of early televisions or home pcs. When those technologies were new, no one believed they would become so widespread so quickly. The same process may well apply to developing alternative power generation technologies.
As the price of oil (and associated costs of global climate change) continue to rise, and the cost of alternative power generation technologies drops, that benefits equation could cross a critical threshold much earlier than we might guess.
The increased costs for the railroads are substantial and offer few benefits.
The railroads still have to retain all the service facilities for diesel locomotives since the local operations and operations to all the non-electrified areas has to be maintained. The railroads still have to keep a substantial number of it diesels around because when unit trains (which comprise a large proportion of traffic) get to the end of the main line run they will need to cut diesels in to haul the train to destination. Your may eliminate a lot of run through opportunities because at interchange point, engines may have to be changed.
There is no real benefit in hauling freight significantly faster. Running a coal train at 100 miles an hour has very little benefit and considerable additional expense in fuel/power consumed and wear and tear on the track and roadbed. Raising the speed of a coal train on a grade from 20 mph to 30 or 40 mph for the 5-10 miles of the grade would have bigger impact, but is it worth the billions or trillions of dollars it would take to electrify the line?
Not as long as you standardize electrification system, and a de facto standard exists. Or actually, as that article notes, two. 50 kV is rare, but I can see it being widely used in future. If both systems come into mainline use, I expect dual-voltage electrics to appear for run-through and pool operations.
You assume that the line you are interchanging to is electrified. The proposal was only to electrify the "strategic" corridors. What happens when the train leaves a "strategic" corridor? Or do you think that traffic only travels on the strategic corridors and there are no trains on the secondary corridors or that no trains that operate in a strategic corridor ever operate on a secondary corridor?
Au contraire, its a very big deal.
About 1/3 of western coal trains originate or terminate on a short line or a non-strategic railroad. So the shortline that now uses the class 1 road's power to deliver the coal trains to the utility will have to buy C44AC's to handle the trains. About 1/2 the grain trains are handled on one or both ends by a short line railroad. so concievable it would take a set of power on the originating road, a set of electric power on the class 1 railroad and a set of power for the delivering line. Any time the railroads have to buy two or three sets of power to handle 1 train its a big deal. Any time you have to stop and cut out power and cut in DP power its a big deal.
So now we have to buy 3 types of engines: diesel, electric and hybrid. this is getting more expensive by the minute.
Actually it is. There are hundreds of interline service agreements, that specify who supplies what power for which interchange trains. So yes the shortlines have a legal contract that requires the class 1 to provide the locomotives for the trains.
I used to live in Phillie 30 years ago. I am quite aware of electrically hauled freight trains. Its just that every proposal I have seen doesn't take into considerations the actual operations and the costs associated with how the railroads have to move the trains with part of the network electrified (which are substantial). Virtually all the studies I have seen ONLY address the establishment of the physical plant and the fuel costs.
A hybid is a something that is a combination of several things. A locomotive that uses both diesel and electric would be a hybrid and i bllieve that the person that mentioned them was you.
The FL9s didn't use a 50kv overhead electrical system to operate for hundreds of miles.
Regardless, the point is that these proposals lack the depth and thoroughness to be convincing propsals. For example they don't address the amount of time and money it would take to replace every through truss bridge, raise virtually every highway overpass and raise every tunnel on the lines that are electrified. Those lines have vertical clearances sufficient to clear doublestacks and auto racks (and some don't even meet that) but not sufficient to clear doublestacks and autoracks with a 50 kv electrical line above them and to have clearance above the wire to the top of the structure. And that's an all or nothing prposition. Unless you change ALL the vertical clearances on a route then you can't operate the higher cars on the route.
It is also a real leap to use Eurpoean experience since running a 2,000 ton train of cars that have a capacity of 50 tons or less at 100 mph is way different than running a 19,000 ton US train of 135 ton cap cars at 100 mph. The US freight cars are not designed to go 100 mph, so if you want to go over 70 mph with them you'll have to build new freight cars (once again that cost isn't addressed in the proposal).
When I see a propsal that seriously studies ALL the ramifications (track-structures-locomotives-freight cars-traffic flows-interchange-track/train dynamics) then I'll take it seriously. Until then its just an academic excercise.
Have fun playing with it.
Lets do the math. The proposal was to electrify 36,000 route miles of track. Lets say that those 36,000 miles could be electrified for $500,000 a mile (a very low ball estimate).
That means it would cost $18 trillion dollars to electrify the 36,000 miles (that doesn't include new service facilities, the engines, the proposed double tracking, modifications to bridges and tunnels).
The UP had a capital budget of $3 billion dollars (info on their website), which is among the largest of any US railroad. Lets assume the big 4 class 1's all had that size budget. That's $12 billion dollars a year of capital improvements.
If ALL the class 1's put their ENTIRE capital improvement budget into electrification(they didn't add any new tracks, no new cars, no new locomotives, no new rail or ties, no new signal systems) it would take them on 1250 years to pay for the electrification.
About 1/3 the locomotive fleet are low horsepower engines used for switching and local service. They would have to be retained. Conservatively about half the trains will at some point go on a no-strategic route for all or part of their trip, so at least 1/2 of the road engines (1/3 of the total) will be retained to protect the non-strategic routes. So by committing the entire capital improvement budget for the next millenium, the major railroads can cut their diesel fuel consumption by maybe 1/3. But since they would have to pay for electricity, their total energy bill wouldn't go down that much, maybe only 25-30%.
Still sound like a good deal? Give up all your improvement money for the next 40 generations to effectively lower the price of diesel from $4 a gallon to $3 a gallon?
Exactly. Such dual-mode engines - I don't consider them at all the same thing as a hybrid like a GG20B - are generally for third rail. 600-700VDC can supply traction motors directly, so the equipment for electric running can be simple and lightweight. An electric for high-voltage AC catenary requires transformers and other large, heavy equipment.
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