Trains no image

Published on October 8th, 2009 | by Christopher DeMorro

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All-Electric Freight Train Makes Debut in Pennsylvania

October 8th, 2009 by  
 

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Norfolk Southern unveiled an all-electric locomotive this week at its Juniata Locomotive Shop in Altoona, PA The 1,500 horsepower locomotive gets its power from 1,080 12-volt lead-acid batteries, the same kind found under the hoods of most cars.

No diesel motor here, just all electric baby.

Dubbed the NS 999, the locomotive was a joint venture between the US Department of Energy (who reportedly provided $1.3 million in funding for the project), Norfolk Southern, Penn State, and Brookville Equipment Company. Brookville supplied the brake regeneration system for the locomotive; imagine if they could put such a system on every car of a mile long train? There is no diesel engine on board either, all the power comes from the electric motor, with an advanced battery system to best manage energy output and maximize the lifespan of the batteries.

No mention of how long it takes to recharge the train, though it can apparently operate three shifts without recharging. No word on how long these shifts are either, but it all sounds very impressive. The NS 999 is just a prototype train, but a working prototype is better than no prototype at all. Trains used to rule this country before falling on to hard times (a lá Amtrak). Trains already play an important part in our freight system, so bringing them up to date and ready for our future transportation needs is crucial. If we could increase the amount of freight that trains move around, it sure would be nice to get some of those semi-trucks off the highways.

Using over a thousand lead-acid battieres isn’t exactly economical or eco-friendly in a broad sense. On the same token though, I give credit to companies that work with what is readily available, rather than making absurd, pie-in-the-sky promises.

Source: Pilot Online

Picture: Norfolk Southern


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About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.



  • MichaelBryant

    trains could use batter cars and when they are dead the

    locomotive can hock up to one that is charged

  • MichaelBryant

    trains could use batter cars and when they are dead the

    locomotive can hock up to one that is charged

  • russ

    You mean just do something? No matter how stupid!

    This sounds a bit asinine – electric are not anything new – they are in use in most of the world. The batteries

    Regenerative braking on a train? I was not would not think that would amount to much of their total energy consumption – braking for a train is not like a car or truck.

    No details in the story at all – probably intentionally by the railroad company – battery capacity in amp hours for one thing. Work 3 shifts – OK but doing what?

    Not to worry – with Obama’s executive order to the different agencies concerning the environment. Just like LaHood in this case, they will be throwing big bucks out with no idea what they are doing.

    People complain about ‘green washing’ then applaud this kind of stuff! Go figure!

  • russ

    You mean just do something? No matter how stupid!

    This sounds a bit asinine – electric are not anything new – they are in use in most of the world. The batteries

    Regenerative braking on a train? I was not would not think that would amount to much of their total energy consumption – braking for a train is not like a car or truck.

    No details in the story at all – probably intentionally by the railroad company – battery capacity in amp hours for one thing. Work 3 shifts – OK but doing what?

    Not to worry – with Obama’s executive order to the different agencies concerning the environment. Just like LaHood in this case, they will be throwing big bucks out with no idea what they are doing.

    People complain about ‘green washing’ then applaud this kind of stuff! Go figure!

  • richard schulte

    exciting to see! its an early prototype but I can see why the railroad industry is looking into this. They have extensive right-of ways wherein they could generate oodles of energy using many means.

    actually, russ, regenerative braking on a train would regen quite a bit of energy. have you even been on a train when it is braking? larger ones can take tons of time to break, releasing tons of energy.

    technology such as this is a great public investment. at least its not being wasted on obscure biotechnology. people used to complain about hybrids and electric car research and look whats happening? we’ve fallen behind and are scrambling to catch up.

    if you want to fight the progress of technology, go for it. just be prepared to be on the wrong side of history.

  • richard schulte

    exciting to see! its an early prototype but I can see why the railroad industry is looking into this. They have extensive right-of ways wherein they could generate oodles of energy using many means.

    actually, russ, regenerative braking on a train would regen quite a bit of energy. have you even been on a train when it is braking? larger ones can take tons of time to break, releasing tons of energy.

    technology such as this is a great public investment. at least its not being wasted on obscure biotechnology. people used to complain about hybrids and electric car research and look whats happening? we’ve fallen behind and are scrambling to catch up.

    if you want to fight the progress of technology, go for it. just be prepared to be on the wrong side of history.

  • Nick

    This is only practical for use as a yard switcher. The

    process of moving around a few cars within a yard does

    not need that much energy. If you were to try to

    use this locomotive on a long distance freight train the

    batteries would be dead within a short period of time.

  • Nick

    This is only practical for use as a yard switcher. The

    process of moving around a few cars within a yard does

    not need that much energy. If you were to try to

    use this locomotive on a long distance freight train the

    batteries would be dead within a short period of time.

  • Nick

    This is only practical for use as a yard switcher. The

    process of moving around a few cars within a yard does

    not need that much energy. If you were to try to

    use this locomotive on a long distance freight train the

    batteries would be dead within a short period of time.

  • Tex

    Can you imagine how much loss there is in this system. You generate power with coal/gas, line loss is 10%. then charge Lead Acid batteres then drive electric motors with it. I bet that if this train pulls a load it will have to stop to recharge the batteres ever 30 miles. The fuel would be much more efficiently used if you directly burned it at the engine. This is true in all Electric Vehicles that use batteries. Bottom line is that all the energy to charge these things still come from Coal or Oil mostly. Lets concentrate on making more efficient motors cause you cant run Bulldozers and Trucks on Windmills and this is what Obama’s “Shovel Ready Projects” will need to creat jobs. Yah …. Where are those jobs anyway?

  • Tex

    Can you imagine how much loss there is in this system. You generate power with coal/gas, line loss is 10%. then charge Lead Acid batteres then drive electric motors with it. I bet that if this train pulls a load it will have to stop to recharge the batteres ever 30 miles. The fuel would be much more efficiently used if you directly burned it at the engine. This is true in all Electric Vehicles that use batteries. Bottom line is that all the energy to charge these things still come from Coal or Oil mostly. Lets concentrate on making more efficient motors cause you cant run Bulldozers and Trucks on Windmills and this is what Obama’s “Shovel Ready Projects” will need to creat jobs. Yah …. Where are those jobs anyway?

  • Tex

    Can you imagine how much loss there is in this system. You generate power with coal/gas, line loss is 10%. then charge Lead Acid batteres then drive electric motors with it. I bet that if this train pulls a load it will have to stop to recharge the batteres ever 30 miles. The fuel would be much more efficiently used if you directly burned it at the engine. This is true in all Electric Vehicles that use batteries. Bottom line is that all the energy to charge these things still come from Coal or Oil mostly. Lets concentrate on making more efficient motors cause you cant run Bulldozers and Trucks on Windmills and this is what Obama’s “Shovel Ready Projects” will need to creat jobs. Yah …. Where are those jobs anyway?

  • One thing that wasn’t mentioned, but could be utilized in the future would be batteries on the train cars itself. Trains can be a mile or more long, you could store a lot of batteries along that train and have the power pass through the junctions.

    Just pure speculation on my part, but I think trains could play an important role in our transportation future.

  • One thing that wasn’t mentioned, but could be utilized in the future would be batteries on the train cars itself. Trains can be a mile or more long, you could store a lot of batteries along that train and have the power pass through the junctions.

    Just pure speculation on my part, but I think trains could play an important role in our transportation future.

  • One thing that wasn’t mentioned, but could be utilized in the future would be batteries on the train cars itself. Trains can be a mile or more long, you could store a lot of batteries along that train and have the power pass through the junctions.

    Just pure speculation on my part, but I think trains could play an important role in our transportation future.

  • Mark S. Coffman

    >The 1,500 horsepower locomotive gets its power from >1,080 12-volt lead-acid batteries, the same kind >found under the hoods of most cars.

    Exactly the same kind? Anyone who is in the know

    about such things knows that automobile batteries

    are notorious for lack of “deep cycle” discharge

    capability. Automobile batteries are often limited

    to eight(8) total deep cycle discharge cycles, which

    is why you often soon will need to replace the battery

    in a car if you accidently leave your headlights

    on overnight.

    Fortunately there are photovoltaic batteries,

    boat trolling batteries, or lift truck batteries

    that are robust and have near unlimited deep cycle

    discharge capabilites and a number that will fit

    in the same space as the automobile batteries.

    So maybe they should say; “the same kind you have in your boat.”

    I assume this an engine is for switcher service which

    often includes a “hump” for sorting cars and simply

    moving rail cars around the switch yard.

  • Mark S. Coffman

    >The 1,500 horsepower locomotive gets its power from >1,080 12-volt lead-acid batteries, the same kind >found under the hoods of most cars.

    Exactly the same kind? Anyone who is in the know

    about such things knows that automobile batteries

    are notorious for lack of “deep cycle” discharge

    capability. Automobile batteries are often limited

    to eight(8) total deep cycle discharge cycles, which

    is why you often soon will need to replace the battery

    in a car if you accidently leave your headlights

    on overnight.

    Fortunately there are photovoltaic batteries,

    boat trolling batteries, or lift truck batteries

    that are robust and have near unlimited deep cycle

    discharge capabilites and a number that will fit

    in the same space as the automobile batteries.

    So maybe they should say; “the same kind you have in your boat.”

    I assume this an engine is for switcher service which

    often includes a “hump” for sorting cars and simply

    moving rail cars around the switch yard.

  • Paul

    Hello to every one.

    I’m totally agreed with Mark S. Coffman.

    Sorry for plagiarizing your writing:

    Fortunately there are,

    boat trolling batteries,

    or lift truck batteries

    military submarine batteries

    that are robust and have near unlimited discharge cycle capabilities and a number that will fit in the same space as the automobile batteries.

    Small run on the deep charge/discharge batteries:

    The deeper you discharge the batteries the less they will last.

    Let say that at 50% charge/discharge they will last for 6 years,

    At 80% continuous charge/discharge they will last for 3 years.

    At the lees charge/discharge of 10% they will last for 20 years.

    I know that battery stored quantitative amount of energy. From that wee can calculate the battery energy used by the 1,500 horsepower locomotive plus the losses to charge up the battery by regenerative breaking. I know that new technology do exist to combat the sulfating of the batteries anode and cathode.

    And for a photovoltaic batteries on the top of a train? To small of a square footage to be efficient energy collector. For the amount of the batteries in the train.

    These are my five cents. Paul.

  • Paul

    Hello to every one.

    I’m totally agreed with Mark S. Coffman.

    Sorry for plagiarizing your writing:

    Fortunately there are,

    boat trolling batteries,

    or lift truck batteries

    military submarine batteries

    that are robust and have near unlimited discharge cycle capabilities and a number that will fit in the same space as the automobile batteries.

    Small run on the deep charge/discharge batteries:

    The deeper you discharge the batteries the less they will last.

    Let say that at 50% charge/discharge they will last for 6 years,

    At 80% continuous charge/discharge they will last for 3 years.

    At the lees charge/discharge of 10% they will last for 20 years.

    I know that battery stored quantitative amount of energy. From that wee can calculate the battery energy used by the 1,500 horsepower locomotive plus the losses to charge up the battery by regenerative breaking. I know that new technology do exist to combat the sulfating of the batteries anode and cathode.

    And for a photovoltaic batteries on the top of a train? To small of a square footage to be efficient energy collector. For the amount of the batteries in the train.

    These are my five cents. Paul.

  • Paul

    Hello to every one.

    I’m totally agreed with Mark S. Coffman.

    Sorry for plagiarizing your writing:

    Fortunately there are,

    boat trolling batteries,

    or lift truck batteries

    military submarine batteries

    that are robust and have near unlimited discharge cycle capabilities and a number that will fit in the same space as the automobile batteries.

    Small run on the deep charge/discharge batteries:

    The deeper you discharge the batteries the less they will last.

    Let say that at 50% charge/discharge they will last for 6 years,

    At 80% continuous charge/discharge they will last for 3 years.

    At the lees charge/discharge of 10% they will last for 20 years.

    I know that battery stored quantitative amount of energy. From that wee can calculate the battery energy used by the 1,500 horsepower locomotive plus the losses to charge up the battery by regenerative breaking. I know that new technology do exist to combat the sulfating of the batteries anode and cathode.

    And for a photovoltaic batteries on the top of a train? To small of a square footage to be efficient energy collector. For the amount of the batteries in the train.

    These are my five cents. Paul.

  • Soylent

    This is demented.

    Half of our rail lines in Europe are electrified; in the US almost none are. The reason for this isn’t population density or any other sensible reason; it’s because electrified rail is subject to a prohibitive tax that diesel trains do not have to pay.

  • Soylent

    This is demented.

    Half of our rail lines in Europe are electrified; in the US almost none are. The reason for this isn’t population density or any other sensible reason; it’s because electrified rail is subject to a prohibitive tax that diesel trains do not have to pay.

  • Joe

    Sorry folks but Obama is an imbecile. Energy in equals energy output, so where does the electricity come form to charge those batteries…you just pollute on the other side of the state at best.

    Let’s get some people with an education beyond Business, Law and Fine Arts in office for a change…political science, international affairs are just excuses to go party in college as compared to the medical and engineering types.

    • Sorry Joe, but “Energy in equals energy output [sic]” is a failed attempt to convey logic by being overly simplistic. In your zeal, you apparently ignored a key feature of the locomotive: Regenerative Braking (RB).

      If there were two identical fully charged battery powered locomotives, yet only one had a functioning RB system, which one would drain its battery earlier, given each loco carried out identical switching tasks including braking, with identical tonnages handled?

      Theoretically, it should take identical amounts of energy (coal, natural gas, or whatever) to charge each of our two hypothetical battery powered locomotives. Assuming that they both do some braking while carrying out identical switching tasks, the functioning RB loco should actually run longer than its counterpart. Regenerative Braking captures (what you like to call) ‘Energy in’ that would otherwise be wasted. Diesel powered locomotives usually lack sufficient space to place the required enormous battery capacity necessary to capture and store braking energy, which could be used later for propulsion.
      Rail terminal diesel switching locomotives spend much of their time idling. Constantly restarting the diesel engine would shorten the usable life of a number of expensive components, and attempting to crank and successfully start a diesel engine in very cold weather can be fraught with potential headaches. Ask anybody.

      Coal and natural gas fired electric power planets pollute the air, especially near and around the plant. Diesel powered switching locomotives pollute the air, especially in and around the rail terminal. Your suggestion seems to be that we should continue to pollute the air in and around BOTH locations … just to make it fair.

      For someone who loves engineering and despises non-technical fields, you might consider using the Engineering degree that you earned, instead of attempting to use the PolySci degree that you didn’t.

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