Will UP ever restore its Gas-turbine locomotive?

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Will UP ever restore its Gas-turbine locomotive?
Posted by zkr123 on Friday, May 02, 2014 8:18 AM
Will UP ever be able to restore the Gas turbine locomotive?
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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Saturday, May 03, 2014 6:53 AM

Highly unlikely.  Even in their prime, the various GTEL's were oddballs on an overwhelmingly diesel (and some steam) roster.  Parts availability for the prime movers would be virtually impossible and the support staff would need some A&P-certified mechanics to help keep it running.

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, May 03, 2014 7:56 AM

Isn't this really two questions:  Will UP bring back its old style of GTEL, or will UP use turbine power in the future?  Note:  I am assuming you don't mean whether UP will restore a Big Blow to go with the Big Boy, or to doublehead with the Centennial, or whatever.  That question would need to be posted in the Steam and Preservation thread.

The answer to the former has really already been answered.  To add to what he said, the economics depended on a very cheap fuel, which ceased to be cheap in the late '50s.  If Jerry Pier sees this thread he can comment extensively on this and the other factors involved with these locomotives.

There is probably some application for turbine power on UP in future, but it would have to be very different from the historical GTELs (perhaps using a number of smaller ceramic turbines, and including substantial bottoming heat recovery making them in essence small GTCC plants).  Whether there are advantages to that, vs. modified positive-displacement piston engines making the same effective hp, remains to be seen; personally, I think the turbines may be a better solution for high horsepower if burning LNG or CNG.  But do not expect those locomotives to be Bigger Blows!

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Posted by samfp1943 on Saturday, May 03, 2014 10:41 AM

Overmod

Isn't this really two questions:  Will UP bring back its old style of GTEL, or will UP use turbine power in the future?

The answer to the former has really already been answered.  To add to what he said, the economics depended on a very cheap fuel, which ceased to be cheap in the late '50s.  If Jerry Pier sees this thread he can comment extensively on this and the other factors involved with these locomotives.

There is probably some application for turbine power on UP in future, but it would have to be very different from the historical GTELs (perhaps using a number of smaller ceramic turbines, and including substantial bottoming heat recovery making them in essence small GTCC plants).  Whether there are advantages to that, vs. modified positive-displacement piston engines making the same effective hp, remains to be seen; personally, I think the turbines may be a better solution for high horsepower if burning LNG or CNG.  But do not expect those locomotives to be Bigger Blows!

Comments by Jerry Pier would be a welcome addition here.  His unique insite would add much.

With the current regulatory stance by the Federal Government ( essentially, anti- Coal power) in Power production?    

   Along with the current testing underway on LNG  Applications for Railroad locomotives. It would seem that Turbine applications would be an economic benefit(?) possibly, a good alternative to the conversion of Diesel Power to mixed fuels( engines started on diesel and then LNG for operations?) on the Railroad.

          Around this area there seem to have been a few applications in the stand-by Electrical Generation Facilities for Turbine type generator power plants.  MAYBE THESE ARE JUST USED TO HELP IN PEAK POWER DEMAND SITUATIONS?  

        There is a large, Electrical Generator Plant near Oologah, OK that  receives regular Coal trains from UP, but seem to always have BNSF Power on the head.  (There is also a large  NG fueled Turbine Power Plant at that same facility). 

       My guess would be that the older style of UP GTEL locomotives are just curiosities, and museum pieces.      But maybe with the smaller, modern compact turbines, would find a place in todays railroad environment?   

     Is there a Horsepower range in which they would be the best answer to function in?

 

Sam

 

 


 

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Saturday, May 03, 2014 10:46 AM

Much better to use its manpower to restoring currently out of service diesels.  ie  more HP per buck.  Also the fuel guzzling turbines do not work well on up and down profiles.  Much more miles per gallon on a diesel or maybe a LNG loco.  Note what happened to the NY state turbo liners

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Posted by lenzfamily on Saturday, May 03, 2014 10:57 AM

samfp1943
  Around this area there seem to have been a few applications in the stand-by Electrical Generation Facilities for Turbine type generator power plants.  MAYBE THESE ARE JUST USED TO HELP IN PEAK POWER DEMAND SITUATIONS?  

When I worked for Northern Canada Power at Whitehorse Rapids GS back in the 70's we had a couple of gas turbine package units in standby service at Faro, YT (Anvil Mine) on the far end of the 138kv line. They supplemented the existing standby Diesel plant.

I never ran them but according to the Faro operator and others they were noisy, dirty and inefficient. Like wise, they were hard to maintain I was told. IIRC they didn't last long. The diesel on the other hand is still there I believe.

Charlie

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Posted by erikem on Saturday, May 03, 2014 11:33 AM

The killer issue for gas turbines as prime movers in locomotives is fuel efficiency at low output (high turndown). Diesel engines are the preferred prime movers because of relatively high efficiency at all output levels, especially if the prime mover speed is allowed to vary with power output (true of almost all locomotive applications).

To put things in perspective, the 4500HP GTEL's and the SD70/AC4400's produce are roughly equivalent in power. The GTEL's consumed 450 gallons per hour at full throttle and 200 gallons per hour at idle. The modern diesel consume a bit over 200 gallons per hour at full throttle. OTOH, the GTEL's used 1950 era gas turbine technology, advances in turbine materials allowing higher turbine inlet temperatures and computational fluid dynamics leading to improved compressor design have led to a factor of two or so improvement in efficiency. Some simple cycle as turbines are more efficient at full output than a 1950's era diesel engine.

What may make sense is a gas turbine battery hybrid, where the lighter weight of the gas turbine would allow for a much larger battery than possible with a diesel engine of equivalent power. Ideally the battery should be large enough to allow store at least 1 to 2 hours of the gas turbine's power to allow the turbine to run out at full power (most efficient) and reduce the number of starts (extends the life of the turbine).

Allison was experimenting with steam injection to improve efficiency and reduce NOx using exhaust heat to generate the steam. This could be of help in reducing the exhaust temperatures.

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Posted by ndbprr on Saturday, May 03, 2014 6:28 PM
I believe they have their hands full with 4014 for the foreseeable future. Nobody knows how much that is going to cost and UP does have a bottom line to consider. There is only so much they can spend on museum pieces
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Posted by efftenxrfe on Saturday, May 03, 2014 6:31 PM

We may be on to something here:

given that a gas turbine's fuel efficiency improves with heavier load, a hybrid locomotive with a battery charging generator powered by a g.t.  that would operate at full load when, but not until, the battery needed charging and, I guess, would fire up to supplement the batteries when very high locomotive horsepower was called for, might be possible....feasible?....practical?

erikem, I realize I restated your concept, full credit to you; my tech flourishes didn't "ruffle" your "feathers," hopefully.   

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Posted by Firelock76 on Saturday, May 03, 2014 6:34 PM

Putting it simply, a restored gas turbine locomotive won't excite the general public the way a restored steam locomotive will.  Railfans yes, but the general public who (no insult intended) couldn't tell a gas turbine from an SD70, no.

Exciting the public's what a steam program's all about.

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Posted by erikem on Saturday, May 03, 2014 9:40 PM

efftenxrfe

erikem, I realize I restated your concept, full credit to you; my tech flourishes didn't "ruffle" your "feathers," hopefully.   

Consider my feathers unruffled... Smile

I was pleased that you thought the idea had merit. A couple of places where it could make sense, one being an area as southern California where air pollution is a major concern, a gas turbine burning natural gas is bound to be cleaner than a diesel. The other would be a line with a long tunnel, e.g. Cascade tunnel or Moffat tunnel, where the turbine would be shut down during passage through the tunnel.

The gas turbine hybrid might be even more efficient than a diesel on a hilly route, where the regenerated power while braking could be put to use later. This was (is?) the impetus behind GE's hybrid locomotive, though the larger battery capacity possible with a gas turbine prime mover might make the concept even more attractive (full power out for maybe 2 hours with the turbine, half power output for one hour with the diesel).

Feasibility?  Biggest obstacle is the battery, with the GE battery being my guess as the best choice (strong emphasis on guess).

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Posted by NorthWest on Saturday, May 03, 2014 10:08 PM
Firelock76
Railfans yes, but the general public who (no insult intended) couldn't tell a gas turbine from an SD70, no.
Well, the turbine would be just a little bit louder...
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Posted by Leo_Ames on Saturday, May 03, 2014 10:35 PM

Why are we talking about things like fuel efficiency and their oddball status? Isn't the topic about restoring one of the Big Blows to operation for special occasions like the steamers? 

Uniqueness and fuel cost shouldn't be entering the equation if I'm understanding the topic correctly since it would be only for special events. What matters most are the condition of the survivors (Two, if I'm not mistaken), their completeness such as if they still have their turbine and generators, the ability to maintain one in running condition after restoration such as parts for their Cooper Bessemer engine, its suitability for use, and its potential PR value.

Sadly, we all know it's a moot point even if one of the pair was in excellent condition, the major appliances were able to be reasonably maintained, they could easily burn diesel like the rest of UP's fleet including the two operating steamers, etc. Union Pacific never held these with the fondness that they did their late model steam or their DD40AX's and weren't responsible for saving the two that ended up preserved. 

Why would they care now especially with their ambitious plan to restore the 4014?

Firelock76

Putting it simply, a restored gas turbine locomotive won't excite the general public the way a restored steam locomotive will.  Railfans yes, but the general public who (no insult intended) couldn't tell a gas turbine from an SD70, no.

Exciting the public's what a steam program's all about.

Excellent post although one could argue that the general public wouldn't be able to tell the 4014 apart from the 3985 yet that's happening just the same. 

But hard to twist a long forgotten gas turbine locomotive as having any sort of impact like the Big Boy program already has enjoyed these first few months. That tops the list of many reasons why one will never turn a wheel under its own power again.

There's just no significant PR value there compared to the cost.

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Posted by Jerry Pier on Sunday, May 04, 2014 10:15 AM

The UP "Big Blows" used industrial gas turbines that were not particularly well suited to moving platforms.Gas turbines following areospace designs are better suited to portable use; easy start and stop, lighter weight, etc. Having said that, fuel cost is the problem that  has to be solved. Recuperation, a well established technique, goes a long way in solving this problem. (Turbomeca developed an 1800 hp recuperated unit before they got out of the locomotive power field in 2005.) Use of LNG as a fuel also has a good potential to reduce fuel cost as well as enissions. A new locomotive design would be lighter in weight, saving more fuel. The Big Blows had problems with lead locomotive exhaust starving trailer units for air. This could be overcome with high density power on the front end and better tunnel ventilation. The easy start configuration would make it possible to shut the power turbines down while going down a long slope, using auxilary power for dynamic brake exitation, thus saving more fuel.

Unfortunately all of this tends to be academic since there is little incentive for existing locomotive builders to abandon a fully amortised design. A government or industry incentive to reduce oil consumption (railroads use aroung 4 million gallons/year) as well as emission limitations could re-awake this sleeping giant but I'm not holding my breath.

I've written a dozen or so published papers on the subject, including a comprehensive history, none of which have made much of a dent.

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Posted by Jim200 on Sunday, May 11, 2014 10:32 PM

To get an idea of recent gas turbines, we can look at the M1 Abrams tank and the Honeywell AGT 1500 which powers it. This 1500 horsepower engine requires nearly 10 gallons of fuel to start and 10 gallons per hour at idle. Running cross-country consumes 60 gallons per hour, but normal operation is around 30 gallons per hour. The engine has been very reliable on about 9000 Abrams tanks and can consume a multitude of fuels including diesel, kerosene, gasoline, and jet fuel. Put three of these together on a locomotive would give you the equivalent horsepower of  the old UP gas turbines. However, the fuel consumption is still considered high and Honeywell and GE have teamed together to produce the LV100-5 as a direct replacement in the present Army's PROSE program. It is said to be quieter, lighter and smaller with 43% fewer parts. Fuel consumption is down to 5 gallons per hour at idle and down 33% at power, which should put cross-country consumption at about 40 gallons per hour. Reliability assessment will have to wait for actual operation in the field.

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Posted by ndbprr on Tuesday, May 13, 2014 7:47 PM
It wouldn't be that expensive to dieselize one. Sort of a cosmetic resroration but I agree steam is something the general public sees as different. Another yellow blob won't excite them.
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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, May 19, 2014 12:59 PM

It would be more expensive to dieselize one than to buy a new diesel or they would have done it to the fleet and not scrapped the bunch.  But of course when the scrapped it they saved all parts that could be used to maintain diesels or build new ones.   Traction motores, trucks, blowers, probably even filters and the cab seats.

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Posted by oltmannd on Monday, May 19, 2014 1:09 PM

erikem
What may make sense is a gas turbine battery hybrid, where the lighter weight of the gas turbine would allow for a much larger battery than possible with a diesel engine of equivalent power. Ideally the battery should be large enough to allow store at least 1 to 2 hours of the gas turbine's power to allow the turbine to run out at full power (most efficient) and reduce the number of starts (extends the life of the turbine).

Interesting idea!  How about two or three small gas turbines to better fit part throttle operation?

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Posted by oltmannd on Monday, May 19, 2014 1:14 PM

ndbprr
It wouldn't be that expensive to dieselize one. Sort of a cosmetic resroration but I agree steam is something the general public sees as different. Another yellow blob won't excite them.

Something akin to the "lets make a GG1 move again" threads that have been around.  I agree with you that the general public sees things as "steam" and "not steam".   Just today I read an newspaper article where the NS steam train into Danville KY was described as having a "lonely whistle".  

A yellow blob would never have a "lonely whistle"....

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Posted by Paul Milenkovic on Monday, May 19, 2014 3:43 PM

oltmannd

ndbprr
It wouldn't be that expensive to dieselize one. Sort of a cosmetic resroration but I agree steam is something the general public sees as different. Another yellow blob won't excite them.

A yellow blob would never have a "lonely whistle"....

"But I shot a man in Reno . . . just to watch him die

When I hear that whistle blowin' . . . I hang my head and cry"

 

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Posted by Jim200 on Monday, May 26, 2014 4:27 AM

UP #18 at the Illinois Railway Museum is said to be complete and functional. The A unit contains a Cooper-Bessemer 850 HP diesel engine which is connected to generators to provide power for starting the gas turbine, for charging the batteries, for air pressure, for dynamic braking. and everything required for movement (without turbine power) up to about 20 mph. The B unit contains a GE Frame 5 gas turbine of 8500/10700 HP connected via a rpm reduction gearbox to four generators which also serve as motors for turbine start up.  Since the turbine hasn't been started, the electrical and components would have to be gone over. The link shows what can happen when something gets out of sync.

http://wjhudson.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/turbine-ogden-ut.jpg

UP #26 at the Utah State Railroad Museum at Ogden Union Station is just a shell. All electrical components, the turbine, diesel engine, and even the traction motors were removed before it was donated. It would be cool to install a more modern gas turbine like a Pratt and Whitney PW150 5000HP,(a descendant of the 1967 Indy 500 race which it almost won), if the museum was amenable.

The following link states that UP #14A and UP #16A  were also donated to the Illinois Railway Museum, but the museum doesn't list them.

http://utahrails.net/up-diesel-roster/up-diesel-roster-01.php#gtel-1

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Posted by dinwitty on Tuesday, December 05, 2017 9:29 PM
I ran into this thread while searching on the turbines, 14a and 16a were scrapped by IRM to raise funds, as noted in the above link, I think since that data may have been updated since that was posted.
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Posted by caldreamer on Wednesday, December 06, 2017 8:59 AM

I previously posted a question as to what it would take to convert a GTEL to diesel fuel.  The answer was replacment of the burn boxes, fuel pump and nosels, add computerized control system (which would control low speed/idle fuel use). Other than that it is ready to go.  An inexpensive conversion.  It could be done if UP really wanted to, which I doubt.

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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, December 06, 2017 9:50 AM

Do you have any idea of the SFC of that turbine even with FADEC control, operating on diesel/gas oil?  Were you thinking of keeping it on the turning gear with pulsed ignition fuel flow short of idle?  Electric assist to the compressor shaft?

Doubt you'd get a 5000shp PW150 in an Indy car - it weighs more than ¾ of a ton dry.  Of course it is more than usually attractive if you want a 'locomotive replacement' as it has a four-stage compressor, free turbine for propulsion, and output speed bang-on what a modern GE locomotive alternator expects to see (1030 vs 1050 rpm).  So a modular swap on a sled might not be too far-fetched... sure wish they'd kept one of the other units for 'experimentation'.

Now, what I'd like to see is that engine running on cryomethane for comparable output ... might even get some Energy Department grants to speed the plow...

 

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Posted by tdmidget on Saturday, December 09, 2017 1:14 PM

I don't think the prime movers in the turbine locomotives are frame 5s. The frame 5 wasn't introduced until 1957, and it produced over 16,000 hp in the first version. It would be nice if someone could get a look at the unit at the Illinois Railroad Museum and get a pic of the name plate if it is still there, or pics of the engine itself if not, though it would be difficult to get decent shots inside the carbody.

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Posted by BOB FREITAS on Monday, December 11, 2017 7:54 PM

I wonder since GE built the GTEL's, would they have any interest in getting onboard with a project to restore one?  Turbine technology is light years ahead of what it was in the 1950's. GE could take one of their newest gas turbine industrial engines and apply it to one of the remaining UP GTEL's locomotives.  This could be funded as a research project, to see if the new generation of turbines, could fit in with modern railroading.  I'm sure the new engines, would be much more efficient, better fuel economy, less maintainence, less polution and noise. That combined with better traction motors and state of the art electronics, would make the repowered turbine locomotive head and shoulders above the 50's model.

On the subject of fuel, a turbine can run on just about anything that will burn.  CNG might be a good suggestion or perhaps straight ethenol ?  Its renewable  and not fossil based

From a historic standpoint, I think the turbine locomotives were just as significant, as the Big Boy and the DDA40X Centennial.  UP was known to build the biggest locomotives, no matter if it was steam diesel or turbine powered.. I have been track side when an 8500 HP Big Blow as roared by, with a heavy freight, and attacking a grade.  It was a fantastic sight to see...and hear

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Posted by erikem on Tuesday, December 12, 2017 2:26 PM

tdmidget

I don't think the prime movers in the turbine locomotives are frame 5s. The frame 5 wasn't introduced until 1957, and it produced over 16,000 hp in the first version.

The Big Blows date to ~1960 and the 8500HP rating was for 6,000 ft altitude and 80F if I recall correctly. With that in mind, the Big Blows may very well have used frame 5 turbines.

Indy Car:

The 1967 Indy turbine car used a PT-6.

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Posted by K. P. Harrier on Tuesday, December 12, 2017 4:02 PM

No one seems to have mentioned it in any detail, but when I was a kid in grade school one of my teachers said Union Pacific gas turbines were outlawed in Los Angeles because of the horrendous noise they made.  The law might still be on the books … If one was operably restored, southwest fans may never get to see it!

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Posted by tdmidget on Tuesday, December 12, 2017 8:13 PM

Overmod

Isn't this really two questions:  Will UP bring back its old style of GTEL, or will UP use turbine power in the future?  Note:  I am assuming you don't mean whether UP will restore a Big Blow to go with the Big Boy, or to doublehead with the Centennial, or whatever.  That question would need to be posted in the Steam and Preservation thread.

The answer to the former has really already been answered.  To add to what he said, the economics depended on a very cheap fuel, which ceased to be cheap in the late '50s.  If Jerry Pier sees this thread he can comment extensively on this and the other factors involved with these locomotives.

 

There is probably some application for turbine power on UP in future, but it would have to be very different from the historical GTELs (perhaps using a number of smaller ceramic turbines, and including substantial bottoming heat recovery making them in essence small GTCC plants).  Whether there are advantages to that, vs. modified positive-displacement piston engines making the same effective hp, remains to be seen; personally, I think the turbines may be a better solution for high horsepower if burning LNG or CNG.  But do not expect those locomotives to be Bigger Blows!

 

NO. There will not be any application of turbine engines in locomotives. It is a dumb idea. The fuel consumption of a GE LM500, the nearest thing appropriate in output, is 19.7 % higher than an ES44AC and that is at sea level with no parasitic loads. That is at full out put where the turbine is most efficient. at lower or varying loads the Diesel engine gets better and better.

No to any fantasyland fuels. Ethanol is only used in motor fuels due to politics, not economics. Methane has such a low BTU content that a tender would be required. Add to that the total lack of infrastructure and it is a dead loser.

I still question the frame 5 because my research indicates that all except the coal burner used the same engine. They were introduced in 1953, 4 years before the frame 5 was introduced. Possibly a development stage of the frame 5 but more likely based on the power generation engine first installed for OG&E in 1949.

 

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