Will UP ever restore its Gas-turbine locomotive?

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Posted by tdmidget on Saturday, December 16, 2017 12:57 PM

Saturnalia

One other thing to consider would be that who would work on this unit? There just aren't many (if any) who worked on them back in the day to work on them now. Steam has benefited from the fact that there have always been "old heads" who knew how the stuff worked and could pass down the knowledge. The steamer's wisdom was never extinguished. Same with diesel many thousands of people know how the diesel-electrics from EMD, GE and even ALCO tick. 

Not so with the turbines. Which means even with skilled mechanical forces, they'd be going into it with a machine and some drawings. That's not much to go on. 

The 4014 team has the benefit of working on a very similar 844, they're used to big steam, and my feeling is that they see the 4014 as a scale-up from the 844 and Challenger. Not a ton new to learn. 

But Gas Turbines? Just too different. 

 

Saturnalia

One other thing to consider would be that who would work on this unit? There just aren't many (if any) who worked on them back in the day to work on them now. Steam has benefited from the fact that there have always been "old heads" who knew how the stuff worked and could pass down the knowledge. The steamer's wisdom was never extinguished. Same with diesel many thousands of people know how the diesel-electrics from EMD, GE and even ALCO tick. 

Not so with the turbines. Which means even with skilled mechanical forces, they'd be going into it with a machine and some drawings. That's not much to go on. 

The 4014 team has the benefit of working on a very similar 844, they're used to big steam, and my feeling is that they see the 4014 as a scale-up from the 844 and Challenger. Not a ton new to learn. 

But Gas Turbines? Just too different. 

 

Who would work on it? Me, for one. Millwrights like me work on frame 5s all the time. They are still being built. Here is the one at the Training center in Las Vegas, donated by GE:

http://42mzqz26jebqf6rd034t5pef-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/IMG_0228.jpg

 

No there is no need for A&Ps or black magic. We do it all the time. The aero derivative units however are not field serviceable and are serviced on a exchange  basis.

Jerry , how can you say that the frame 5 was "not suitable for moving platforms"? Yes, it's heavy as hell. BUT, it's not going into an airplane or truck. It does permit field serviceability, long life, and the weight would be there regardless as ballast. The only plus for aero based engines is rapid start. The frame 5 is claimed to have 10-15 minute start time but longer is better. Faster start times of the aero derivative engines will came at the expense of field serviceability. All moot when fuel consumption is 20% higher. LNG as a fuel? LNG is not a fuel, it is a means of dense storage and transport. No engine runs on LNG, it must be vaporized prior to injection.

Jim200 , nothing is "out of sync" in your link. That is a "wet start", caused by fuel input before the engine is up to speed for starting. The fuel accumulates in the hot gas path and ignites when the engine starts. Per Pentrex, the owner of the image, it is a start up.. This was VERY common with early aircraft engines.

In short, until the 20% fuel consumption penalty is overcome, it ain't gonna happen.

I have finally determined what engines were used. The second order , in 1958, did in deed use frame 5 engines. The first order , i suspected used a variation of the Belle Isle engine, The first commercial power generation by combustion turbine in the U.S. I was close. The Bell Isle engine is a National Mechanical engineering landmark. In the citation it states that GE had been working on a locomotive application for years and  when the opportunity arose they adapted it to utlity use. It was in service for 31 years and routinely developed considerably more than it's rated 3.5MW:

http://42mzqz26jebqf6rd034t5pef-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/IMG_0228.jpg

This link won't copy and past but a search will get you there, all parts illustrated:

History of the Industrial gas turbine part 1: the first 50 years

 

So the locomotive engine preceded the Bell Isle, at least in developement.

The fuel consumption is the stumbling block. Even if natural gas was free there is no infrastructure to store it, dispense it, or transport it. The general public is scred to death of it, rightly or wrongly.

 

 

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Posted by erikem on Saturday, December 16, 2017 1:31 PM

tdmidget

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.

I reviewed the drawings of the turbine locomotives in Thomas Lee's book Turbines Westward, the combustion chamber "barrel" was a bit over 5' diameter on the 4500HP turbines and close to 8' diameter for the 8500HP turbines. I don't know if they were on the same frame, but the 8500HP turbines have very substantial differences from the 4500HP turbines. Another significant difference is that the exhaust on the 4500HP turbines went though a 90 degee bend and a ~45 degree bend on the 8500HP turbines.

Where gas turbine locomotives may make sense is where LNG is substantially cheaper than diesel and air pollution regulations require drastic reductions in PM2.5. Having a battery on board may help in allowing for fewer start/stop cycles and letting the turbines run at close to full output when running.

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Posted by Saturnalia on Monday, December 18, 2017 11:50 PM

tdmidget

 

 
Saturnalia

One other thing to consider would be that who would work on this unit? There just aren't many (if any) who worked on them back in the day to work on them now. Steam has benefited from the fact that there have always been "old heads" who knew how the stuff worked and could pass down the knowledge. The steamer's wisdom was never extinguished. Same with diesel many thousands of people know how the diesel-electrics from EMD, GE and even ALCO tick. 

Not so with the turbines. Which means even with skilled mechanical forces, they'd be going into it with a machine and some drawings. That's not much to go on. 

The 4014 team has the benefit of working on a very similar 844, they're used to big steam, and my feeling is that they see the 4014 as a scale-up from the 844 and Challenger. Not a ton new to learn. 

But Gas Turbines? Just too different. 

 

Who would work on it? Me, for one. Millwrights like me work on frame 5s all the time. They are still being built. Here is the one at the Training center in Las Vegas, donated by GE:

http://42mzqz26jebqf6rd034t5pef-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/IMG_0228.jpg

 

No there is no need for A&Ps or black magic. We do it all the time. The aero derivative units however are not field serviceable and are serviced on a exchange  basis.

 

I stand corrected. I didn't understand how many of these sorts of turbines were still in operation. Thanks for your response - it was great reading! 

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, December 19, 2017 9:54 AM

tdmidget
LNG as a fuel? LNG is not a fuel, it is a means of dense storage and transport. No engine runs on LNG, it must be vaporized prior to injection.

And you're implying that we're to refer to, say, gasoline or Jet A as 'means of dense storage and transport' instead of simply calling them fuels because they, too, must be vaporized/carbureted prior to combustion?

It is quite possible to preheat and 'mechanically' inject LNG into a combustion chamber; you have to use special means to promote it, similar to what's required for CNG in a similar application.  It's a wholly different question whether that represents the most economical way to implement 'natural gas' dual fueling on compression-ignition locomotives -- it almost certainly is not, at least not on contemporary engine designs.

Much of the argument for 'turbines' in railroad equipment is not associated with pure fuel economy, just as arguments for steam power aren't.  In the '50s I think there was the assumption, carried over later into Kneiling's thinking, that innovations in metallurgy and fabrication driven by the 'aircraft industry' (read this largely as 'Cold War defense concerns') would produce reliable and relatively costed-down small, lightweight engines that would run long hours with minimal required maintenance, then be quickly swapped out on an 'exchange' basis (probably on sleds, like RDC engines) to keep equipment out on the road.  I think that dream was expiring as early as the practical HPIT designs and the late Cripe trains, and I think modern high-speed diesel technology has largely eliminated most niches for turbines with even the highest level of regeneration that can be packaged in a practical vehicle. 

I agree ... somewhat ... with the point on distribution architecture.  On the other hand, after the disasters that basement "gasolene" storage for electric generators caused in San Francisco and other places early in the century, precisely the same comments, with somewhat greater objective fact behind them, could have been made for eight-carbon hydrocarbon fuels.

Unfortunately (or, I spoze, fortunately if you're an Earth Firster or renewables addict) things like LPG and non-degassed Bakken crude have given transport of any dense form of natural gas a bad name ... one which I still consider justified for CNG, but that's another story ... which just doesn't apply to properly-transported cryomethane or LNG.  In a specifically railroad context, building out a distributed LNG fueling infrastructure once transport of LNG by rail becomes legal is neither particularly difficult nor particularly involved, although there are some detail-design concerns requiring care and, probably, some refinement with experience over time.  Much of the required liquefaction capability has already been developed for export gas, and is if not in actual construction (see the discussion on problems with the F125s in California) can be expected online by the time any serious use of LNG on a railroad larger or more complex than FEC were approved.

Having said that: it's been well-established in the utility industry that for any use where substantial operation below about 34% of peak shp is anticipated, positive-displacement engines are superior to turbines -- and that description describes how modern locomotives are almost always used.  Much as I'd like to find a niche for locomotives run like the Rio Turbio 2-10-2s were, steady at what corresponds to most effective cruise power in an aircraft application, there's really not enough such duty to justify construction of even a limited fleet of 'turbine-advantage' power, even if by that time a LNG supply architecture suitable to support them were in place.

And yes, even liquefied, natural gas has a low energy density compared to better carrier fuels, let alone 'fossil' sources.  And yes, there's a relatively large number of folks who would find common cause in ramping up the demonization of LNG dangers if and when that fuel came into widespread transportation by rail.

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Posted by aegrotatio on Tuesday, December 19, 2017 11:28 PM

Pardon me if I'm talking out-of-school, but from what I know about liquified gas tank storage, be it LPG or LNG, the tanks are only ever filled to 80%.  The excess unused capacity of the tank is reserved for the boiled-off gas which is where the pipe is tapped to deliver the fuel to the engine.  Nobody's feeding liquified anything to an engine.  They're taking the gas from the (warmer) gas bubble at the top of the tank.

 

If the fuel is still too cold, it would be heated with glow plugs at startup and by the fuel line being plumbed near or through the engine exhaust while the engine is running, like in a "white gas" camp stove.

 

Unless I'm misreading your posts.

 

 

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Posted by tdmidget on Wednesday, December 20, 2017 9:10 PM

"It is quite possible to preheat and 'mechanically' inject LNG into a combustion chamber;"

No. It must be kept below -260 degreesF to be a liquid. Explained by better than me here:. Nevermind apparently this childish website is afraid that someone might find another site more informative. See "LNG: fuel of the future?  in International Railway Journal.

"

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Posted by erikem on Thursday, December 21, 2017 11:03 PM

Critical point for methane is -116F at 673psia. That means that methane can be a liquid up to -116F given sufficient pressure. At pressures above 673psia, there will be no phase change as the methane heats up, but there will be an increase in volume. The variation with specific volume with temperature and pressure would make precise injector metering a bit of a challenge.

The -260F is for methane at standard atmospheric pressure.

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Posted by tdmidget on Monday, December 25, 2017 2:54 PM

erikem

Critical point for methane is -116F at 673psia. That means that methane can be a liquid up to -116F given sufficient pressure. At pressures above 673psia, there will be no phase change as the methane heats up, but there will be an increase in volume. The variation with specific volume with temperature and pressure would make precise injector metering a bit of a challenge.

The -260F is for methane at standard atmospheric pressure.

 

True, but the problem remains. You would be taking the liquid methane at -116F to a cylinder head and approx 200F. You have a 300 degree difference  that will result in premature and likely dagmaging vaporization. The only reasons I can see for delivering the liquid to the cylinder are the maximum energy density of the charge and possibly lubrication of the injector. I think that they will have to accept a less tham maximum charge. Then they could get creative. The incoming air charge has to be (after) cooled. Maybe cool it by injecting LNG into it. Not sure that the proportions would match up but -260F will cool a fair amount of air. Of course this requires piping an explosive mixture about but that might be overcome mechanically though public image might be tougher.

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Posted by erikem on Wednesday, December 27, 2017 2:24 PM

As long as the pressure is well above 673psia, there will be no abrupt change between liquid and gas. The flip side is as I mentioned earlier is that the density of the supercritical methane will vary with temperature, so precise metering will require good temperature control. I probably should see if I can run across a Mollier chart of Methane to see how it behaves as a supercritical fluid, e.g how compressible is supercitical methane below the critical temperature.

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Posted by wanswheel on Friday, February 16, 2018 12:25 PM

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