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Norfolk Southern is going to start a rebuilding program for their Dash 8's and Dash 9's

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Norfolk Southern is going to start a rebuilding program for their Dash 8's and Dash 9's
Posted by Leo_Ames on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 10:35 PM

From Progressive Railroading...

"Through a six-year program, NS plans to rebuild 84 GE Dash 8 locomotives that were manufactured in 1989 or 1990, and lack modern electronics and amenities. Pegged to become the railroad's first-ever Dash 8.5 locomotives, the rebuilt units will feature custom wide-body cabs and high-tech engines designed to boost fuel efficiency and reduce air emissions."

http://www.progressiverailroading.com/norfolk_southern/article/Norfolk-Southern-Railway-to-roll-out-modified-GE-locomotive-model-as-part-of-multiyear-rebuild-program--40373

Interestingly, they're also considering converting Dash 9's from DC to AC.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, May 29, 2014 7:00 AM

A rebuilding program for GE locomotives??  This may well be a first for NS (or anybody else).  Almost all of the rebuilding programs with which I'm familiar involved various EMD locomotives or repowering of minority makes (usually Baldwin and Alco).

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Posted by NorthWest on Thursday, May 29, 2014 9:16 AM

Interesting! I wonder if they will start to pick up more Dash-8s like CN did. They sure do look a bit odd with that cab.

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Posted by Leo_Ames on Thursday, May 29, 2014 10:56 AM

CSSHEGEWISCH

A rebuilding program for GE locomotives??  This may well be a first for NS (or anybody else).  Almost all of the rebuilding programs with which I'm familiar involved various EMD locomotives or repowering of minority makes (usually Baldwin and Alco).

There haven't been many in North America. Numerous experiments and one offs that didn't extend into a production run like Southern Pacific's two U25BE's and then the four Sulzer repowered experiments, but there have been two fairly successful programs that come to mind.

Santa Fe rebuilt 70 U36C's and reclassified them as SF30C's at Santa Fe's Cleburne shops during 1985-1987 and then there's GE's Super 7 program, which as I understand it was successful thanks to Mexican customers although US customers didn't embrace it. Only the Monongahela order that Conrail inherited for 17 B23-7R's was it, I believe, for US orders.

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Posted by carnej1 on Thursday, May 29, 2014 11:21 AM

One of the most interesting proposals mentioned in the article is the idea of converting some or all of of the rebuilt locomotives to AC traction by installing new electrical systems including inverters and traction motors.The railroad hasn't yet committed to the idea but they have solicited proposals from several companies including GE.

 I've always been under the impression that the costs of such conversions are very high, approaching the cost of a brand new locomotive. AFAIK, the only Diesel Electric units to be so converted in North America were Metro-North/Connecticut DOT FL9s, and the re-manufacturing cost per unit for the program was very high. I do realize that Amtrak converted a significant number of it's AEM-7 electrics to AC drive. 

It will be interesting to see if NS goes ahead with such a radical concept...

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Posted by Leo_Ames on Thursday, May 29, 2014 11:33 AM

This one is likely possible due to the commonality between the C44-9W and the AC4400CW. I suspect for something like a SD60, cost would remain prohibitive even with a significant production run. 

There have been other AC conversions besides the FL9AC rebuilds. Amtrak F40PH #202 was rebuilt as such and the sole MLW M640 also comes to mind as another experiment.

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Posted by D.Carleton on Thursday, May 29, 2014 7:29 PM

Actually, they have been working on the Dash 8.5 program for over a year.

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Posted by caldreamer on Saturday, May 31, 2014 1:34 PM

What locomotive type will NS classify these engeines as?  They are called Dash8.5's, but what will the really be called?

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Posted by Leo_Ames on Saturday, May 31, 2014 1:58 PM

They like tagging an E at the end of a designation, so perhaps they will end up being known as C40-8E's.

Or perhaps they will be C44-8E's. They're talking about how these rebuilds will be similar to Dash 9's. Since they've been changing settings on their Dash 9's and Evo's to get the full 4,400 HP out of them in recent years, perhaps their Dash 8's will also be getting a horsepower boost as part of this program to match that level of horsepower. 

I doubt the Dash 8.5 tag that they've labeling this program as will translate to what they're actually designated as. 

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Posted by Lyon_Wonder on Sunday, June 01, 2014 3:15 PM

If NS’s Dash 9 conversions to AC prove cost effective and reliable, it would also be viable to convert ES44DCs into ES44ACs too.

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Posted by Leo_Ames on Sunday, June 01, 2014 4:59 PM

That sounds like a reasonable assumption that their ES44DC's will eventually follow if the Dash 9 program is successful. 

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Posted by McMinn TN on Monday, June 02, 2014 7:05 AM

Also, I know the 500 numbered D8-32Bs are not the target of this rebuild, but why not do a few of them?  They are working the large locals in this area such as Chattanooga to Charleston/Calhoun.  I am certain that the crews would appreciate the new cooling system that NS will probably install if it were to be repositioned to improve visibility over the current radiators that block the back windows.  The clearances are high enough, just raise it up 2-3 feet so they could look under it.  

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Posted by carnej1 on Monday, June 02, 2014 11:12 AM

McMinn TN

Also, I know the 500 numbered D8-32Bs are not the target of this rebuild, but why not do a few of them?  They are working the large locals in this area such as Chattanooga to Charleston/Calhoun.  I am certain that the crews would appreciate the new cooling system that NS will probably install if it were to be repositioned to improve visibility over the current radiators that block the back windows.  The clearances are high enough, just raise it up 2-3 feet so they could look under it.  

Probably because the program in question is aimed at road units.

I don't know if the RR is planning on retiring or rebuilding the DASH 8-32B fleet, although if any Class 1 does a capital rebuild project on 4 Axle GE's (which are quickly disappearing on the other Class 1's) it would be NS..

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Posted by YoHo1975 on Monday, June 02, 2014 6:22 PM

Adding AC to a DC unit probably is really expensive, but I bet it is a lot less expensive than dealing with Tier 4 locomotives.

That's all I can think is that all the things that NS is doing is really just an attempt to reduce the impact of Tier 4.

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Posted by Leo_Ames on Monday, June 02, 2014 8:18 PM

I'm sure Norfolk Southern will continue to order new locomotives.

I think this has more to do with them being a late AC convert and taking steps to rectify their short sighted decision to stick so long with DC with 1.500 or so Dash 9's and GEVO's that have decades of life left in them but aren't as capable as they should've been due to NS wanting to skimp to save a few hundred thousand on each unit at the time of their purchase. 

If they want more AC and since there's nothing wrong with these, as long as they can be upgraded for a fraction of the cost of a brand new GE or EMD, it makes perfect sense. 

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Posted by GDRMCo on Tuesday, June 03, 2014 8:44 AM

Gone are the days of AC being much more expensive than DC, notice the lack of new DC locomotive orders post 2010? I'm guessing we're at the point where AC rebuilds of DC locomotives that are 10-15+ years old aren't as expensive as years past.

ML

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Posted by YoHo1975 on Tuesday, June 03, 2014 2:31 PM

Leo_Ames

If they want more AC and since there's nothing wrong with these, as long as they can be upgraded for a fraction of the cost of a brand new GE or EMD, it makes perfect sense. 

But that's the point, it is a significant fraction of the cost of a new unit.

And you're ignoring industry trends. Everyone is scrambling to get as many Tier 3 orders in as they can due to the uncertainties around Tier 4 and beyond. What was too expensive in the past is now worth the cost compared to the cost of Tier 4. I've seen no comentator, industry insider or foamer who is bullish on Locomotive orders once Tier 4 kicks in. 

Of course orders will happen, but the big orders are now, before Tier 4. Get everything running that they can now.

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Tuesday, June 03, 2014 6:31 PM

Leo_Ames

I'm sure Norfolk Southern

If they want more AC and since there's nothing wrong with these, as long as they can be upgraded for a fraction of the cost of a brand new GE or EMD, it makes perfect sense. 

 
One thing is that as they convert DCs to ACs any parts unique to DCs can be recycled into existing DC locos.  Those parts will save a bundle not having to be purchased especially DC traction motors.
 
Any idea percentage of DC motors fail in a year ?
 
IF they surplus out can always sell to other RRs.  This may almost kill DC traction production ?
 
 
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Posted by Leo_Ames on Tuesday, June 03, 2014 7:18 PM

YoHo1975
But that's the point, it is a significant fraction of the cost of a new unit.

Even Norfolk Southern is just at the exploration stage with this, so I don't see how you can be so certain that it's not financially sensible. There's a heck of a lot there in common already with these and AC4400CW's. They wouldn't be considering it if there wasn't some sense there. 

They may or may not find a similar conclusion as you've formed, but they're well setup for it if it's green-lit thanks to their extensive shop facilities that can undertake the work rather than paying a premium for a 3rd party facility to undertake the job. 

GDRMCo
Gone are the days of AC being much more expensive than DC, notice the lack of new DC locomotive orders post 2010? I'm guessing we're at the point where AC rebuilds of DC locomotives that are 10-15+ years old aren't as expensive as years past.

Seeking universal power is why many lines have switched over exclusively. And at least one dedicated DC buyer, BNSF, has switched to a different concept for what previously would've been DC orders. With the C4, they're able to enjoy the advantages of AC traction motors at a similar cost and at a performance level as equal or better to that of a ES44DC.

YoHo1975
And you're ignoring industry trends. Everyone is scrambling to get as many Tier 3 orders in as they can due to the uncertainties around Tier 4 and beyond. What was too expensive in the past is now worth the cost compared to the cost of Tier 4

We saw a similar thing the last year or so before Tier 2. And there hasn't been that huge of a spike with orders and I'm sure new locomotive business will continue on normally.

I doubt this has much to do with avoiding Tier 4. Rather, this is more about Norfolk Southern being the latest convert to AC traction motors. This program, from my take, appears more about wringing the greatest amount of use out of a huge investment that has been made by Norfolk Southern in the late 1990's and early 2000's which is still young with a lot of miles left, now that they've realized the errors of their ways and realize just what the advantages AC brings to the table really are.

It makes sense to be exploring retrofitting a portion of this investment to a similar level of capability since there's nothing fundamentally wrong with these locomotives and NS wants to grow the size of their AC fleet and start righting that wrong. 

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Posted by JayPotter on Wednesday, June 04, 2014 6:13 AM
I have no insight regarding NS's plans; however this discussion puts me in mind of plans that CSXT had for upgrading conventional AC4400CWs into high-tractive-effort units (i.e. counterparts of its "AH" AC4400CWs and ES44ACs) by the addition of slightly more than nine tons of weight and other features. After GE determined how the upgrades could be performed, the railroad began a pilot program in which four units would be upgraded and then tested. Three units were upgraded between April and September of 2008. The pilot program was a success, in that the performance of the three units matched the performance of the preexisting "AH" units. However neither the planned fourth unit nor any additional conventional AC4400CWs were ever upgraded. This was largely because the railroad decided that an upgraded older unit remained, in many respects, an older unit and that its long term interests were better served by continuing its program of incrementally acquiring new units.
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Posted by GDRMCo on Wednesday, June 04, 2014 6:16 AM

I thought it was also a case of the GFC hitting and putting a strain on the finances meaning they didn't spend the money to continue.

ML

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Posted by JayPotter on Wednesday, June 04, 2014 6:33 AM
I think that it's safe to say that economics was a factor in CSXT's decision not to continue the AC4400CW upgrade program -- at least in the short term. The performance testing of the first two upgraded units began on 9-15-08, which was the same day that Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy; and the Dow Jones dropped 500 points.
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Posted by oltmannd on Wednesday, June 04, 2014 6:45 AM

Wonder if the DC to AC conversion might be 4 AC motors replaceing 6 DC?  NS really doesn't need more TE than they currently have on 4400 HP locomotives for Intermodal and general merchandise service.  The extra two motors would only buy some flexibility in application.

I'll have to ask around.

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Posted by oltmannd on Wednesday, June 04, 2014 7:10 AM

blue streak 1
Any idea percentage of DC motors fail in a year ?

I used to know this...

 It's road dependent.  The western road with long, hard climbs over the continental divide or a preponderance of coal trains had the shortest life.  Flatland roads had longer life.  Conrail was doing about double the life of BN in the early-90s for example.  The avg life range was something like 2 to 6 years per motor.  An SD40-2 coming in for a 5-6 year overhauls would typically only have one or two of it's original traction motors still in it.

Four axles used in yard and local service faired much better.  Failure rates were very, very low.

Traction motor maintenance ranged from roughly 1/3 of total locomotive maintenance cost to 60% in the early 90s.  I imagine the prevailance of thermal overload protection has helped the cause of the DC motors some, but I wouldn't be surprised if the overall failure rate change much over the years.  In fact, the trend toward lower HP/ton probably has made things worse.

-Don (Random stuff, mostly about trains - what else? http://blerfblog.blogspot.com/

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Posted by JayPotter on Wednesday, June 04, 2014 7:34 AM
I'm inclined to think that a DC-to-AC conversion would involve all six traction motors. The ES44C4 is built like a 432,000-pound "heavy" GE locomotive; but it doesn't weigh that much because it has two fewer traction motors and axle gears. So in order for a standard-weight six-motor DC locomotive to be converted to a four-motor AC locomotive and continue to produce the same amount of tractive effort, between nine and 10 tons of weight would have to be added to offset the loss of motor-related weight.
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Posted by GDRMCo on Wednesday, June 04, 2014 7:47 AM

I would expect it to be a 6 motor for 6 motor DC-AC rebuild, NS has plenty of mountains and the C4s aren't the best on those...

ML

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Thursday, June 05, 2014 12:58 PM
Don interesting numbers. 6 year average life with 6 years modification. At least other RRs will have to continue buying replacement DCs and overhauls. Couple questions are passenger DCs longer lasting and what has to be done to DC motors that get flash overs and ground outs due to snow ?
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Posted by Leo_Ames on Thursday, June 05, 2014 4:50 PM

I suspect that the closest you're going to get to new DC freight power are medium duty roadswitchers like EMD's ECO line or major rebuilds like some of Norfolk Southern's programs. There's no sign that anyone is going to ever start buying new heavy duty 4,000HP + six axle DC's again. The only question is if these four motor six axle AC locomotives take off past BNSF's love affair with GE's C4 or if AC CC's are the future for all road assignments.

DC motors in passenger service are definitely longer lasting than they are in heavy freight service, that's why DC motors have been longer lived for passenger power here although that's starting to quickly change. The adhesion benefits aren't as important nor is the higher short-time rating of AC. The primary advantage of AC for conventional passenger power typically is the higher mean time between failures over DC traction.

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Posted by caldreamer on Thursday, June 05, 2014 6:20 PM

Does anyone know what the starting an continuous tractive effort wil lbe these locomotives?

  Thanks

     Ira

  

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Posted by oltmannd on Friday, June 06, 2014 7:03 AM

GDRMCo

I would expect it to be a 6 motor for 6 motor DC-AC rebuild, NS has plenty of mountains and the C4s aren't the best on those...

NS needs lots of locomotives with 4000-4400 HP and about 100,000# TE.  They are a good fit for intermodal and merchandise service.  The extra two AC motors would just be extra cost and complexity...

-Don (Random stuff, mostly about trains - what else? http://blerfblog.blogspot.com/

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