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Western Railroad Discussion > BNSF Hybrid/Genset Locos in Texas

Date: 07/09/19 12:56
BNSF Hybrid/Genset Locos in Texas
Author: RRTom

Ft. Worth, Texas, today.
I counted 11 of these BNSF hybrids in a line.  No. 1280 (looks like 1230) suffered a fire.
Two more units were on another track, possibly in use.
See the informative comments by the next few posters below for more on these units.  Thanks, guys, for the info!

Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 07/09/19 16:10 by RRTom.

Date: 07/09/19 12:58
Re: BNSF Hybrid/Genset Locos in Texas
Author: RRTom

Some more stored hybrids plus active BNSF units switching.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/09/19 13:05 by RRTom.

Date: 07/09/19 14:38
Re: BNSF Hybrid/Genset Locos in Texas
Author: Txtrainman60

Sadly, the Gensets you saw were probably one of the biggest waste of money BNSF ever spent! From what I understand and have read, they were absolute junk from the get go! I doubt they (BNSF) could even get a fraction of there money back by scrapping them since scrap prices are in the toilet. MANY people....(myself included) are just wondering if the new Progress Rail (EMD) SD70Ace T-4 is going to suffer the same fate!

Date: 07/09/19 15:33
Re: BNSF Hybrid/Genset Locos in Texas
Author: fr8kar

From what I understand, the majority of the cost of these gensets were paid for by a grant from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. If they were basically free, it would have been foolish not to have tried them out.

They're a good idea poorly executed. In certain types of service they excelled, but it just wasn't practical from an operating perspective to keep them isolated in the service they fit best. They were looked at like any other 2100 HP locomotive, but they were not interchangable with a GP38-2, for example, if the service was hauling anything heavy for an extended time. It's unfortunate they were used on the 110 (North Yard to Alliance and back) hauler for so long because they were a terrible fit in this service if they were operating near or below 1.0 HPT. By contrast, they were very effective (when operating at 100%) on industry jobs with a modest number of cars to handle. They accelerate quickly, stop quickly, they're easy to see out of, etc. They are not insulated well against sound (or cold, for that matter), so it could be awfully loud inside. BNSF 1294 was in town for a short time (one of the Phase II units) and after operating it a couple days it seemed the noise issue was addressed on that version.

The mechanical crews in Fort Worth did a pretty good job maintaining them over the years. Since a crane would have to be hired to remove and reset the individual gensets in the locomotives, this work was planned for and special fixtures and cradles were fabricated to make the process go smoother and quicker. There are a lot of little things you'd have to do and check on to keep them running well and that doesn't fit well with the almost indestructible EMDs from either a mechanical or operating point of view. Eventually there were failures that were too expensive to repair. In the past couple years more and more have been added to the "dead line" in 9374 track. Lately it looks as though the air brake equipment is being removed from each one, but I'd have to get up in the cab to know for sure.

The south out unit was identified as 1230 in a recent issue of Diesel Era, but it's actually 1280 (1230 is farther back behind the silos). It caught fire on a remote-controlled lead job after the draw key fell out of a bulkhead flat resulting in the entire drawbar falling in between the rails. The fuel tank on the locomotive it was attached to was ruptured when it rolled over the drawbar and the sudden rush of fuel caught fire as 1280 rolled over it. The fire was hot enough to damage cars in the nearby parking lot.

Date: 07/09/19 15:56
Re: BNSF Hybrid/Genset Locos in Texas
Author: tomstp

UP tried running them from the UP    BOP yard in Arlington to Ft Worth.  In the summer they would overheat and die about half way in their trip.  At one time they were used on a Ft Worth city traveling local and I think they were OK on that due the number of cars being small. And they were used as drill engines cleaning out bowl humped cars.

Yes the state did contribute a lot of money to them.  I have a friend who inspected them on the railroads property and assignments and reported back to the state..

In a couple of years a good number of them disappeared from Ft Worth.  I heard they were failing at a lot jobs.

Date: 07/09/19 21:26
Re: BNSF Hybrid/Genset Locos in Texas
Author: HistoryBuff

UP has mothballed most if not all of theirs too. Many are in storage in Grand Junction Colorado and a few are in Denver's North Yard.

Date: 07/09/19 22:12
Re: BNSF Hybrid/Genset Locos in Texas
Author: pennsy3750

I've wondered about Genset units.  Is the whole underlying concept inherently bad, or is it just not fully matured/debugged?  Is the issue that the engine sets aren't reliable enough or don't produce enough power?  Or is it simply that Gensets are not as good as a GP38-2?

Date: 07/09/19 23:42
Re: BNSF Hybrid/Genset Locos in Texas
Author: MrMRL

pennsy3750 Wrote:
> I've wondered about Genset units.  Is the whole
> underlying concept inherently bad, or is it just
> not fully matured/debugged?  Is the issue that
> the engine sets aren't reliable enough or don't
> produce enough power?  Or is it simply that
> Gensets are not as good as a GP38-2?

I operate these things 5 days a week...

1.) Crucial components including oil and air filters are simply too small for the day to day demanding use these Gensets are typically put through. Utilizing multiple smaller HP diesel engines may save fuel costs and limit carbon emissions due to limited consumption while idling (using only 1 out of the three motors on board...). But, when under multi-thousand-ton dragging loads, the excessive demands on the smaller motors routinely overwhelms the capabilities of the engines themselves. The 6-axle NRE 3GS21C Gensets used by the BNSF in Southern California are constantly rotating through Diesel Service for replacement oil and air filters every 48-72 hours.

2.) Along with that, the on-board 100% computer monitored systems will trip any number of a couple dozen different breakers and shut down at the slightest detection of a fault or issue causing near daily delays while crews attempt to reset or reboot the various systems. This does often prevent irreparable damage to the units, but hampers productivity compared to older EMD or GE switchers which would typically run until they burned to the ground.

3.) A third issue is overheating, the under-powered air compressors overheat and shut down during summer months, the electrical cabinets lack sufficient air flow again causing power-grids to cook and shut down.

4.) There is a lack of trained personnel on site at regional diesel service locations to address, fix, and maintain the units as they are deemed to be lower priority concerns compared to rapid shopping and servicing of high horsepower road units for their next cross-country runs.

5.) Finally, local state funding/subsidizing/tax breaks from the early to mid 2000s for using these "green", "eco-friendly" technologies are in many cases approaching and/or passing expiration dates from 10-15 years ago, leading the big RR players to second guess the profitability of keeping them around.

6.) there are other smaller issues that i could keep listing on, and on, but they may as well kinda all be roped into a 'last nail' category...

* edit*
7.) The pathetic "three year warranty" NRE provided for these units when delivered to the BNSF back in 2007-10 (for the 4 axle units) and 2010-14 (for the 6 axle units) proves just how little faith they even had in the technology. Now they are the sole responsibility of the BNSF, and the BNSF is rapidly running out of band-aids...

Other than the paint jobs, the best parts of the 6-axle fleet of Gensets the BNSF has on hand are the frames, trucks, fuel tanks, and cabs retained from the 40+ year old donor EMD SD40s and SD45-2s they were built off of.

~ Mr. MRL (lots of edits, I keep thinging of additional problems...)

Edited 5 time(s). Last edit at 07/10/19 00:56 by MrMRL.

Date: 07/10/19 00:16
Re: BNSF Hybrid/Genset Locos in Texas
Author: Evan_Werkema

MrMRL Wrote:

> I operate these things 5 days a week...

Thank you for taking the time to write this up.  A lot of us appreciate these kinds of details.

Date: 07/10/19 00:21
Re: BNSF Hybrid/Genset Locos in Texas
Author: fr8kar

I have also been operating these things daily for years, up until they started getting parked en masse anyway, and I can echo MrMRL's experiences. Unless they are operated in a light to medium duty environment and serviced as needed, they will fail. The units that enjoyed the most success in Fort Worth on BNSF were used as remote control units on the south lead at Alliance where they are used to pull 20 car cuts and kick cars down the lead.

Date: 07/10/19 08:52
Re: BNSF Hybrid/Genset Locos in Texas
Author: junctiontower

I said from the VERY begining that an EMD ECO repower would make 100 times more sense than the genset units.   Maybe not as flashy emission numbers, but they would have been solid reliable performers, a big improvement over the units they replaced, and would have been fully at home in the railroad's repair shops.   It's usually far better to hit a solid double than strike out trying to hit a home run.

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