At Railway Interchange, motive power comes in many sizes

Posted by Brian Schmidt
on Tuesday, September 24, 2019

There are many things to see at Railway Interchange, held this year at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Both Cummins and Wabtec had prime movers on display – of course a full-size, six-axle locomotive would be too big for the convention center floor. (There's an outdoor exhibition, too, at BNSF Railway's Northtown Yard, but, sadly, no new locomotives appear there, either.)

What we did see on the exhibition floor was the classic Trackmobile, and its electric and Italian cousin Zephir. He's a nifty critter, and promotional materials at the show picture it moving freight wagons in Europe and commuter cars in Toronto and Chicago. I'm told by Zephir Sales and Marketing Manager Victor Zia (all the way from Italy, no less) that the electric-powered Zephir (it's really difficult to not spell it with a 'y'!) dates to 1971, and it was first purchased by a North American customer in 2013. There are, of course, diesel-powered models as well, which accounts for 50 years logo seen here.

David McMonagle, global sales manager for Georgia-based Trackmobile, says that the price for comparable power between diesel-powered Trackmobile and battery-powered Zephir units is similar. He adds that some Trackmobile customers had asked recently for a battery-powered version; he simply had to direct them to the Zephir already in their product line. 


While there are diesel-powered Zephir units in use overseas, especially in their home country, McMonagle notes that their use of different components makes them a tougher sell in North America where Trackmobile already has an extensive service network. That said, if a U.S. short line were to pick up a larger, diesel-powered Zephir to move freight, I think I'd have to make a trip to go see that.

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