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By Jeff Stagl, Managing Editor
With carload and intermodal traffic down through 2007’s first 15 weeks, U.S. and Canadian Class Is aren’t scrambling like last year to bring on more power. But the railroads will continue to acquire locomotives in ’07 to complete orders placed the past few years, replace older units, and employ more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly power.
Plus, several Class Is still are moving more freight than they did three or four years ago and expect traffic to increase this year in certain commodities, such as coal and intermodal.
For example, Canadian National Railway Co. officials are anticipating more intermodal traffic in fall after the Class I opens a transload operation and intermodal terminal in Prince George, British Columbia. The complex will handle containerized exports moving through the new Port of Prince Rupert, B.C., to Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, and Memphis, Tenn.
To move the new traffic, as well as upgrade power, CN plans to acquire 50 SD70M-2 locomotives from Electro-Motive Diesel Inc. (EMD) and 15 Evolution Series® locomotives from GE - Transportation this year. The power comprises six-axle, DC-traction units featuring 4,350 or 4,400 horsepower, says CN spokesman Mark Hallman.
At Norfolk Southern Railway, a 2006-long traffic surge prompted officials to move up the delivery of 10 4,000-horsepower GE ES40DC Evolution Series locomotives to December 2006. The units had been scheduled for delivery in 2007. And current traffic levels warrant additional deliveries this year.
NS will acquire another 53 DC-traction ES40DCs from GE, says NS Senior Director of Operations and Locomotive Control Don Graab.
In addition, NS plans to rebuild 23 GP40s built in the 1960s to create GP40-2 units designed to drive slugs’ traction motors; rebuild six GP38s to create GP38-2s; convert eight GP50 units to lower horsepower GP38-3 models; and convert six six-axle slugs and two four-axle slugs with operator cabs.
“A number of locomotives are being upgraded to support yard and local operations,” says Graab.
Kansas City Southern took delivery of new locomotives in December, too. The Class I acquired 22 4,400-horsepower ES44AC Evolution Series units from GE, which delivered another eight ES44ACs to KCS in January.
More in Mexico and U.S.
By year’s end, KCS expects to take delivery of a total of 50 ES44ACs from GE and 70 4,300-horsepower SD70ACe locomotives from EMD. After delivery is complete, Kansas City Southern Railway Co. will operate 507 locomotives in the United States and Kansas City Southern de México S. de R.L. de C.V. will operate 415 locomotives in Mexico.
In 2008, KCS will acquire an additional 30 ES44ACs from GE and 30 SD70ACe units from EMD, says spokesperson Doniele Kane.
The railroad originally planned to acquire 30 GE and 30 EMD locomotives in both 2007 and 2008. However, the Class I accelerated the delivery schedule to 80 ES44ACs and 70 SD70ACe units in ’07, and 30 of each in ’08 to increase locomotive fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.
The accelerated plan will “increase the number of EPA Tier II AC locomotives in the international fleet to 243 locomotives since deliveries began in December 2006,” says Kane.
KCS plans to replace older power at the rate of two new AC-traction locomotives for every three older DC-traction units.
Meanwhile, Union Pacific Railroad continues to acquire low-emission, fuel-efficient locomotives to replace older power in its switcher fleet. By September, the Class I expects to take delivery of 60 2,100-horsepower generator-set or “Gen-Set” locomotives from National Railway Equipment Co.
UP will use the locomotives — which are designed to reduce air emissions up to 80 percent and cut fuel usage up to 16 percent compared with conventional switchers — at its Los Angeles Basin yards. The Gen-Set locomotives will replace about 95 older, lower-horsepower units at the yards.
By year’s end, UP expects to acquire a total of 144 Gen-Set switchers and 300 road locomotives. At that time, the railroad will have spent more than $5 billion since 2000 to purchase new, environmentally friendly locomotives.