Railroads are the safest and most fuel-efficient form of ground transportation, according to the Association of American Railroads. Freight trains are three to four times more fuel-efficient than trucks. Each ton-mile of freight moved by rail rather than highway reduces greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds or more. And a train can take the load of 280 trucks off the road.
By improving fuel efficiency, freight railroads have, in effect, reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 20 million tons every year since 1980. Greenhouse gas emissions could fall by 12 million tons if 10% of freight currently moved by highway were, instead, moved by rail, and national fuel savings would exceed one billion gallons per year.
As a leader in the short line railroad industry, and consistent with our Environmental Policy, G&W is committed to a series of initiatives to protect the environment, conserve fuel and reduce locomotive emissions:
The company has created an Environmental Team composed of employees from each of the company’s nine operating regions who serve as Regional Environmental Coordinators (RECs). In addition to meeting yearly, the team conducts monthly conference calls to review any environmental and related safety matters and selects several company facilities to visit and conduct in-house environmental assessments.
The company’s Canada, Northeast, Pacific, Coastal and Southern operating regions currently have 18 Mother-Slug sets in operation. In a Mother-Slug set, the Mother is a conventional diesel locomotive that sends its excess electrical power via large cables back to the Slug. Coupling a Slug to the Mother allows the Mother locomotive’s excess electrical power to drive the Slug’s traction motors essentially for free, using only the power from the Mother. This provides significant fuel savings compared to using two diesel locomotives, as well as producing less exhaust emissions.
Fuel-Saving Devices and Equipment
Forty-six percent of the company’s fleet is equipped with fuel-saving devices or equipment. Company railroads have installed more than 200 Auxiliary Power Units (APUs), over 100 plugins and nearly 100 Automatic Engine Start Stop (AESS) sensors on locomotives in order to reduce fuel consumption in colder operating regions.
APUs utilize a small diesel engine to keep the engine cooling water and lube oil warm during colder and below-freezing temperatures. The APU will automatically start up to keep the engine's cooling water warm, even though the main diesel engine is not running or idling, which causes a locomotive engine to burn approximately four gallons of fuel per hour. The APU, instead, will only burn about one gallon per hour when in operation, which also saves on the amount of lube oil used and diesel emissions.
AESS units are electronic devices that monitor the locomotive systems, as well as air pressure, ambient temperature and battery voltage, when the main engine is shut off. If any of the monitored items registers below a preset limit, the AESS will activate the engine starters to start the main diesel engine, which will then build up the air pressure, heat the cooling water to avoid freezing and charge the batteries to ensure that the locomotive will start properly.
Plugin-style standby heating units keep our locomotive engines warm when the ambient temperatures go below freezing. These units are electric heating devices that are installed on each locomotive and plug into a stationary electrical receptical. One model uses electricity to heat the water and oil to circulate them through the locomotive cooling system. Another model uses electricity to burn a small amount of locomotive diesel fuel to heat the engine cooling water as it circulates through the locomotive cooling system.
Over the last decade, an important trend in the U.S. freight railroad industry has been the introduction of "GenSet" locomotives to reduce fuel consumption and air pollution. The company railroads' first entry into the GenSet arena was to build locomotives in-house, as opposed to purchasing them from a third-party Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). By utilizing off-the-shelf components in kit form and its own workforce, company railroads completely rebuilt older yard locomotives into “new” GenSet locomotives. These rebuilt units are 30% to 40% less expensive than a newly purchased GenSet locomotive.