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Locomotives as emergency portable generators?

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Locomotives as emergency portable generators?
Posted by Boyd on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 12:33 PM
I remember reading somewhere the President of a railroad saying their engines could  be easily converted to emergency generators and make enough electricity to power a small town. I forgot what railroad that was. Wouldn't it have to be an a.c. loco to  do this, and what at what hertz (sp?) is an a.c. loco at?

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Posted by ndbprr on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 1:26 PM
No you could use a DC engine if you ran the output through a rectifier to convert it to AC.  Steam engines were often used as steam sources at industrial locations when boilers went down for maintenance.  I have two photos of this being done using Nickle Plate Berks at McLouth Steel in Detroit.  When I worked at Armco Steel in Middletown Ohio we had a N&W Y3 for use at the open hearth.  There are probably much more efficient ways to generate electricty than a diesel however.  I was at a Menards Hardware this morning that has a Generac unit that runs on natural gas and has an alternator.  This thing had a 2" gas line and was bigger than a full size van to handle emergency power for the store.  The power company here in the Chicago area has several jet engines that spin generators or alternators for peak demand requirements so use of a diesel is highly feasbale.
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Posted by samfp1943 on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 1:30 PM

 Boyd wrote:
I remember reading somewhere the President of a railroad saying their engines could  be easily converted to emergency generators and make enough electricity to power a small town. I forgot what railroad that was. Wouldn't it have to be an a.c. loco to  do this, and what at what hertz (sp?) is an a.c. loco at?

Some time back, Trains carried a photo of a CN unit that was being used as a power supply in some  Canadian city; the unit had apparently been run down a track in a city street, and then drug some distance further off the rails to a point where its generating capacity could be used...The details are pretty sketchy,in my memoryBlindfold [X-)],but I think the details are still pretty accurate.Sigh [sigh]

 

 


 

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Posted by chad thomas on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 1:33 PM

 Boyd wrote:
I remember reading somewhere the President of a railroad saying their engines could  be easily converted to emergency generators and make enough electricity to power a small town. I forgot what railroad that was. Wouldn't it have to be an a.c. loco to  do this, and what at what hertz (sp?) is an a.c. loco at?

It depends on the RPM of the diesel. It doesn't matter though cause on an AC the alternator output is rectified and then powers an inverter that creates an AC current at a frequency determined by the traction motor speed / gearing / windings.

Locomotives can easily be used for supplying power to the grid, but it will need some additional equiptment to get from 600 volt DC to 7200V 60Hz AC. Either a motor / generator or an inverter (a big one) or a way to phase lock and step up the inverter output.

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Posted by chad thomas on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 1:36 PM
Ndbprr, A rectifier can only convert AC to DC, not the other way around.
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Posted by cprted on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 1:39 PM
 samfp1943 wrote:

 Boyd wrote:
I remember reading somewhere the President of a railroad saying their engines could  be easily converted to emergency generators and make enough electricity to power a small town. I forgot what railroad that was. Wouldn't it have to be an a.c. loco to  do this, and what at what hertz (sp?) is an a.c. loco at?

Some time back, Trains carried a photo of a CN unit that was being used as a power supply in some  Canadian city; the unit had apparently been run down a track in a city street, and then drug some distance further off the rails to a point where its generating capacity could be used...The details are pretty sketchy,in my memoryBlindfold [X-)],but I think the details are still pretty accurate.Sigh [sigh]

I believe the town is Stewart, BC. I have a friend from Stewart and he told me that the town uses a couple of CN locomotives for power generation. I'm not sure if it is a full time thing, or only as a backup.
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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 1:39 PM

You cannot make Inverters big enough to feed a neighborhood, much less a town. We are a group of about 500 homes within reach of the tracks and each home needs 60 hertz at 120 volts AC and who knows how many total Amperage to feed each one. Heck the computer Im using is probably the third biggest electric eater behind the laundry and the home air/heat.

There are probably 2000 homes in my town and a few hundred businesses along with phone lines, traffic lights etc etc etc.

It is also my opinion that when someone like me uses the words ..."You cannot..." someone else probably found a way to spend the United States Dollar in sufficient amounts to make it happen.

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Posted by chad thomas on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 1:54 PM
 Safety Valve wrote:

You cannot make Inverters big enough to feed a neighborhood, much less a town. We are a group of about 500 homes within reach of the tracks and each home needs 60 hertz at 120 volts AC and who knows how many total Amperage to feed each one. Heck the computer Im using is probably the third biggest electric eater behind the laundry and the home air/heat.

There are probably 2000 homes in my town and a few hundred businesses along with phone lines, traffic lights etc etc etc.

It is also my opinion that when someone like me uses the words ..."You cannot..." someone else probably found a way to spend the United States Dollar in sufficient amounts to make it happen.

 

Actually they can have inverters big enough (if it's not already done, look up the Celeo converter station in Sylmar,Ca.), but it takes $$$$ for expensive and large simiconductors. Much easier to use a motor / generator set.

A locomotive can easily produce 4000-6000 amps, pleanty to supply even the largest neighborhood

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 2:00 PM
More than a few years ago, a scrap yard near Boston used the ex-B&M Speed Merchants that it owned to provide electric power for its various operations.
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Posted by chad thomas on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 2:05 PM
I seem to remember MRL experimenting with supplying power to the grid somewhere in Montana where electricy was extraordinarily expensive. If I recall the experiment was short lived. I think they were useing 6 SD40-2s.
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Posted by CopCarSS on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 2:14 PM

 ndbprr wrote:
I was at a Menards Hardware this morning that has a Generac unit that runs on natural gas and has an alternator.  This thing had a 2" gas line and was bigger than a full size van to handle emergency power for the store. 

Poor fellows...once up a time I used to work on emergency generators, and I never saw a company that took short-cuts like Generac did. I always liked Onan (now part of Cummins) and Katolight much more. Then again, those days are so far removed that the situation might have changed and Generac is much better. It'd be interesting to see what the industry is like these days.

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Posted by CNW 6000 on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 2:15 PM
This is an interesting concept.  Say there's a natural disaster somewhere and the ROW is ok enough to get an engine or two and maybe a specially fitted car with whatever converter is needed to get usable power to the grid.  It could at least help out and what great PR to the RR that would help out like that.  My 2 cents [2c]

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 2:31 PM
 samfp1943 wrote:

 Boyd wrote:
I remember reading somewhere the President of a railroad saying their engines could  be easily converted to emergency generators and make enough electricity to power a small town. I forgot what railroad that was. Wouldn't it have to be an a.c. loco to  do this, and what at what hertz (sp?) is an a.c. loco at?

Some time back, Trains carried a photo of a CN unit that was being used as a power supply in some  Canadian city; the unit had apparently been run down a track in a city street, and then drug some distance further off the rails to a point where its generating capacity could be used...The details are pretty sketchy,in my memoryBlindfold [X-)],but I think the details are still pretty accurate.Sigh [sigh]

I remember seeing a picture of that.  The news article made it sound like the engine moved under it's own power down the street tearing up the pavement somewhat. I think they knew they were going to be without power for a couple of weeks so they were willing to trade off the road damage for power.

Enjoy

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Posted by spokyone on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 2:43 PM
Off topic response: I believe Northern Pacific sent a 4-8-4 to the University at Bozeman to provide steam when the boiler could not be fixed. Maybe MichaelSol has the details.
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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 2:52 PM

.

 

 

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Posted by zardoz on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 3:18 PM
 cprted wrote:
 samfp1943 wrote:

 Boyd wrote:
I remember reading somewhere the President of a railroad saying their engines could  be easily converted to emergency generators and make enough electricity to power a small town. I forgot what railroad that was. Wouldn't it have to be an a.c. loco to  do this, and what at what hertz (sp?) is an a.c. loco at?

Some time back, Trains carried a photo of a CN unit that was being used as a power supply in some  Canadian city; the unit had apparently been run down a track in a city street, and then drug some distance further off the rails to a point where its generating capacity could be used...The details are pretty sketchy,in my memoryBlindfold [X-)],but I think the details are still pretty accurate.Sigh [sigh]

I believe the town is Stewart, BC. I have a friend from Stewart and he told me that the town uses a couple of CN locomotives for power generation. I'm not sure if it is a full time thing, or only as a backup.

Not sure about the name of the town, but otherwise you are correct.

This was done to supply power to a town that was dark due to an incredible ice storm.  The town is in a valley, and the cold air pooled in the valley and when the precipitation began falling, it was rain...but as the rain fell into the cold pool (where everything had already been chilled to many degrees below freezing), all the rain turned to ice on impact.  Some places had ice 4" thick!!  It took many weeks to restore all of the downed lines.

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Posted by tdmidget on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 4:44 PM
ndbprr I hate to call you again on the same post but they do NOT have JET engines that "spin generators". These are gas turbines and they have about the same relationship to jet engines as a water wheel does to a garden hose nozzle. A jet engine produces thrust due to the reaction to the action of gas passing at high speed through a jet or orifice. A gas turbine produces torgue through the pressure on blades(also known as buckets) as the expanding gases pass through the turbine, at each stage pressing on another set of blades as the gases expand. their velocity at the exit is low and you would not hear one at all at 200 yds.

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Posted by J. Edgar on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 6:08 PM
 zardoz wrote:
 cprted wrote:
 samfp1943 wrote:

 Boyd wrote:
I remember reading somewhere the President of a railroad saying their engines could  be easily converted to emergency generators and make enough electricity to power a small town. I forgot what railroad that was. Wouldn't it have to be an a.c. loco to  do this, and what at what hertz (sp?) is an a.c. loco at?

Some time back, Trains carried a photo of a CN unit that was being used as a power supply in some  Canadian city; the unit had apparently been run down a track in a city street, and then drug some distance further off the rails to a point where its generating capacity could be used...The details are pretty sketchy,in my memoryBlindfold [X-)],but I think the details are still pretty accurate.Sigh [sigh]

I believe the town is Stewart, BC. I have a friend from Stewart and he told me that the town uses a couple of CN locomotives for power generation. I'm not sure if it is a full time thing, or only as a backup.

Not sure about the name of the town, but otherwise you are correct.

This was done to supply power to a town that was dark due to an incredible ice storm.  The town is in a valley, and the cold air pooled in the valley and when the precipitation began falling, it was rain...but as the rain fell into the cold pool (where everything had already been chilled to many degrees below freezing), all the rain turned to ice on impact.  Some places had ice 4" thick!!  It took many weeks to restore all of the downed lines.

1993 ice storm covered eastern ontario and CN did run a loco down the street to power emergancy services......peaker services in South Lyon MI ...a prime mover remanufactor....supplies local cities with rebuilt 567's and ac/dc sets for standby power....at least they have twice that i know of
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Posted by GP40-2 on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 7:34 PM
A C60AC produces around 4.7 million watts of power at full throttle. That's the equivalent of 40,000 amps at 120 volts.
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Posted by ouengr on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 7:58 PM
Didn't California consider using the old BN B30-7A during the electricty trading crises several yeasrs ago?  I do not know if it ever worked but I remember the discussions.
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Posted by canazar on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 8:41 PM
I wish, for the sake of a godo point I could info, but I swore I heard a story in a midwest town here in the US that was hit by a wicked storm.   Union Pacific, brougt in a pair of engines and powered the town unitl things could be restored...  I gathered it was back in the late 70's or so.

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Posted by SteelMonsters on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 9:54 PM
Some of the newer IGBTs can handle 5,000 + amps each, take hard shorts for microseconds, and be used at working voltages 4, 5 + thousand volts. Yes, they don't come cheap but nothing that can do this does. Newer inverters tend to be made from IGBTs.
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Posted by mudchicken on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 10:18 PM
During Katrina, an AMTRAK engine powered the passenger depot in N.O. for almost a month. The struggle was keeping it fueled. CSX powered a yard office briefly with some of its trapped power, but it was not that successful.
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Posted by williamsb on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 10:32 PM

I knew I kept all these magazines for a reason. The news article is in Trains April 1998 page 18.CN MLW M420W 3502 was derailed in the Montreal suburb of Boucherville and moved under its own power 400 feet down the middle of a paved street to serve as a portable generator for the town's civic buildings.

There was a huge ice storm that knocked out the power to 1.35 million customers taking in all of southwest  Quebec, plus some adjoining areas of Ontario, New York state and Vermont in January 1998. It took several weeks to get all the power back. Our daughter and her family servived that storm in Ontario.

CN 3508 was going to provide power at a high school turned shelter, but only made it as far as the 3502. Two other locomotives remained on the rails and provided power in the Quebec towns of Richelieu and Coteau.

CP provided SD40 5417 and a container with a generator.

These moves were provided free of charge.

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Posted by lenzfamily on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 10:33 PM

Hi All

The city in question was Boucherville, Quebec, a south shore suburb of Montreal, during the ice storm of 1997 I believe it was. Emergency power generation systems within the city failed and the electrical distribution system in the area was seriously damaged. The hospital and senior's care facilities were without power and so for 3 weeks, as it turned out. The locomotive ( a yard unit if I recall) was run off the end of an industrial spur onto a city street near these critical care locations, Cables at ground level provided power to these facilites and to other public services until the highlines were restored. It was one of a variety of creative substitutes for the standard electrical supply. The weather problem creating this natural disaster was a ground level temperature inversion (fed by an Arctic cold front) which turned a warm high level flow of moisture from south of the Great Lakes, which would otherwise fall as rain, into freezing rain which fell for several days and created ice as much as 6-8" thick. Havoc was the result. These can occur in this area of southern Ontario and Quebec quite easily so don't be surprised if such an event occurs again. High tension transmission towers were broken like matchsticks for miles and Hydro Quebec imported line crews from as far away as BC and the Central US to clean up the mess. It was one of the most recent natural disasters of such proportions to occur in Canada. The crews worked like Trojans. The response knew no borders.

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Posted by ericsp on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 11:24 PM

 ouengr wrote:
Didn't California consider using the old BN B30-7A during the electricty trading crises several yeasrs ago?  I do not know if it ever worked but I remember the discussions.

The Sierra Railroad bought a bunch of those locomotives to use for power generation. As far as I know, it never happened. They did have the information on their website. Unfortunately, now it is only about their dinner trains.

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Posted by beaulieu on Thursday, June 28, 2007 12:33 AM
My local power company, Northwestern Wisconsin Electric Co., has 18 EMD 20V-645E5 gensets, basically the powerplant of an SD45, scattered around the county for Emergency power. Two are on the east side of town. When the tornado went through a few years ago and destroyed the main power lines, they comartmentalized their network and powered the whole county with the gensets. One pair worked for nearly two weeks straight.
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Posted by oltmannd on Thursday, June 28, 2007 6:01 AM
Conrail actually had a set of standing instructions on how to provide quasi-commercial power from a locomotive.  For an SD40-2, you attach to the bus before the diodes.  Operating in notch 6 runs the generator at 647 RPM.  Since the AR10 is a 10 pole machine, that gives 64.7 Hz power.  You could tweak the governor to get it closer to 60 Hz if you really wanted to, but for powering everything but clocks, it's close enough.  I think the method for regulating the voltage was to disconnect the load regulator from it's governor-powered vane motor and dialing the voltage in manually.  The output is 3 phase power.  Max output in notch 6 is about 1000KW.  If the avg home draws 2-3 KW on the avg, that'd power several hundred homes.

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Posted by Randy Stahl on Thursday, June 28, 2007 10:06 AM
It's VERY simple to use a modern locomotive for standby electric power. During the rolling blackouts in California a FLEET of SD-40s were used to power vast portions of California. An SD-40 can produce about 2 MW. The AR-10 (alternator rectifier) can easily have the rectifier disconnected and the parellell 3 phase connected to the power gris instead . The AR 10 is a 10 pole machine therefore you will produce 60 hz at about throttle 6 .The voltage  regulator is simply the locomotives own exitation system . GE locomotves are even simpler , the rectifier is external .. easier to unhook
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Posted by CNW 6000 on Thursday, June 28, 2007 10:12 AM

I wonder if many cities today with RR ROWs in them have any kind of contingency plan for this.

Dan

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