Progress Rail signs deal on Metra battery locomotive

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William C. Vantuono, editor

Metra has awarded Progress Rail a $34.6 million contract to convert up to six of its oldest diesel-electric locomotives to zero-emission battery power.

The contract calls for a base order of three locomotives with options for three more. The conversions, which will be done in Patterson, Georgia, are expected to take approximately 3.5 years. Metra plans to test the units, which will have an estimated range of 150 miles, on its Rock Island line. The agency said the charging stations will be designed after the design of the locomotives are placed in its main yard in Chicago and at an outlying point. “The duration of a full and partial recharge of the batteries will not be known until then,” Metra said.

Metra said the locomotives must be fully compatible with its railcar fleet and existing diesel locomotives, and must be capable of a maximum operating speed of 79 mph. In addition to propulsion, the locomotive batteries must also provide HEP (head power) for on-board car systems such as lighting, intercoms and HVAC. A livery has not been finalized, but Metra said the locomotives “could be painted a green version of our paint scheme, per concept artwork (above), to indicate green technology.”

“This purchase places Metra at the forefront of battery-powered technology and demonstrates our commitment to innovation and cleaner energy,” said Metra CEO and Executive Director Jim Derwinski. “If these locomotives prove themselves, they could play an important role in our fleet and in our future, and the concept could serve as a model for other railways to follow.”

“By replacing diesel power with battery power, Metra will significantly reduce its carbon footprint and significantly improve air quality for its passengers and the Chicago area,” the agency noted. “These battery-powered locomotives are expected to be quieter and have lower operating and maintenance costs than diesel locomotives.”

Metra said it has taken other recent steps to reduce its diesel emissions. The agency plans to purchase six switchers that meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tier 4 emissions standards and one battery-powered switcher. It has ordered 15 refurbished EPA Tier 3-compliant locomotives from Progress Rail, with an option to purchase up to 27 more, to replace the Tier 0 locomotives currently in service. The first of these units (rendered below) should be delivered before the end of the year.

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