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Environmental and Economic Analysis of Low Emissions Yard and Industrial Switchers

[+] Author Affiliations
Alexander Ricci, Bryan Schlake

Penn State Altoona, Altoona, PA

Paper No. JRC2016-5830, pp. V001T07A004; 6 pages
  • 2016 Joint Rail Conference
  • 2016 Joint Rail Conference
  • Columbia, South Carolina, USA, April 12–15, 2016
  • Conference Sponsors: Rail Transportation Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4967-5
  • Copyright © 2016 by ASME


As railroads and local industries served by rail seek to reduce emissions and improve fuel efficiency, new technologies are being developed to serve this market. Contrary to the minimal competitive options available over the last several decades, new companies are now emerging with a variety of locomotive designs aimed at low emissions and low horsepower solutions. Some technologies involve alternative fuels (e.g. natural gas, bio-diesel, battery power, etc.), while others incorporate very low horsepower diesel engines (400hp–1000hp) in order to meet the Tier 4 regulations set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Yet another option available to railroads and local industries is the mobile railcar mover. Typically used within railroad yard limits or on industry tracks, yard and industrial switchers and mobile railcar movers travel short distances, but must be capable of moving large loads. Subject to high forces when moving cars, these technologies must be both resilient (requiring minimal maintenance) and safe (not subject to derailment or loss of control). As the current market for yard and industrial switchers continues to expand, both railroads and local industries served by rail are placing greater emphases on the environmental and economic benefits of the emerging technologies. This paper aims to analyze the current yard and industrial switcher market and draw conclusions based on emissions data and lifecycle costs. Industrial switchers are compared with yard switchers and mobile railcar movers. Although industrial switchers are more limited in horsepower and operational versatility than yard switchers, many of the daily operations between the two are similar. Mobile railcar movers (e.g. Trackmobile® and Rail King®) offer lower initial costs as well as the versatility of both on-track and off-track movement. However, they may require additional maintenance and offer reduced tractive effort compared to locomotive technologies. As the demands on railroad yard and industry operations grow increasingly complex due to environmental regulations and economic demands, these new technologies have the potential to increase competition in the marketplace and offer improved engineering solutions. By developing a hierarchy of key requirements of yard or industry switchers, this paper provides a framework for identifying the best options available to a railroad or local industries. The scope of this paper will include a review of all options available, but will place a greater emphasis on technologies that are commercially available for wide distribution. By sampling and analyzing the current industrial market, much insight can be gained into daily operational requirements and challenges faced by this sector of the industry.

Copyright © 2016 by ASME



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