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'GenSet' Locomotives

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. While a proven technology, widespread use of GenSet locomotives has been slow because of high capital costs compared to the older-technology locomotives that they would replace. A new GenSet locomotive is approximately six times more expensive than the cost of a traditional diesel locomotive in rebuilt condition.

What is a GenSet?

GenSet technology (short for "Generator Set," or sets of engines turning a generator) replaces the large diesel engine and generator found in almost all existing freight locomotives with two or three much smaller diesel engines and generators. These smaller engines are similar to large off-road diesel engines and are Environmental Protection Agency Tier II, Tier III or soon to be even Tier IV railroad compliant to meet EPA mandates. Advanced computer technology allows for precise control of the engines, starting and stopping only as their power is needed.

While the outward appearance of the GenSet is similar to existing, older-technology locomotives, fuel consumption and exhaust emissions can be significantly reduced by using smaller engines only when needed.

Environmental benefits of GenSets include:

o    Fuel savings of more than 20%, compared to existing diesel locomotive technology in side-by-side use, have been demonstrated

o    Compared to a traditional locomotive in the same application, GenSet units have been shown to reduce NOx by 58%, HC by 94%, CO by 37% and PM by 80%

G&W GenSet Program

G&W’s first entry into the GenSet arena was to build our own 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, G&W completely rebuilt older yard locomotives into “new” GenSet locomotives. These rebuilt units are 30% to 40% less expensive than a newly purchased GenSet locomotive.

G&W’s in-house rebuild program reduces the cost of a GenSet locomotive to the point that a public–private partnership becomes an economically viable means to introduce this technology to our railroads.

In 2010, G&W's Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad (BPRR) commissioned GenSet locomotives 1400 and 1401, built via public-private partnership with the Southwest Pennsylvania Commission (SPC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. In early 2011, G&W's Ohio Central Railroad (OHCR) commissioned GenSet locomotive 1402, built via public-private partnership with Ohio Rail Development Commission, Ohio Department of Development and the U.S. Department of Transportation. Even with public funding that recognizes the environmental benefits to the local area, the projects would not have been possible without the technical capabilities and ingenuity of the railroad employees who took previously retired, 1950s-vintage locomotives down to their frames and transformed them into state-of-art GenSets in their own locomotive shops in Brookville, Pennsylvania and Morgan Run, Ohio.

Through the acquisition of RailAmerica, numerous other OEM-built GenSet locomotives have been added to G&W’s global locomotive roster. G&W now operates a series of first- and second-generation GenSets of the two- and three-engine variety, built by three major manufacturers.  In 2012, the San Joaquin Valley Railroad -- a former RailAmerica railroad in California now owned by G&W -- received four new single-engine CAT-repowered locomotives that were retrofitted with state-of-the-art Ultra Low Emissions technology and pre-Tier IV exhaust after-treatment. The upgrades brought these engines’ emissions outputs down to the lowest to date of any locomotive at a G&W railroad.