Electric vs. diesel vs. other energy sources.

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Electric vs. diesel vs. other energy sources.

Postby Yellowspoon » Tue May 20, 2014 11:31 am

Electric vs. diesel vs. natural gas

As I was traveling between Tuba City, AZ, and Kayenta, the road follows a single track for about 30 km. Although I saw no trains, I found it unusual that there were overhead wires for electric power. So I trotted out an Arizona atlas. The train line runs about 125km from the Navajo Power plant near Page, AZ, to a loading terminal near the Black Mesa Coal Mine. But why is it electrified?

What's the advantage of running a train with electric power vs. diesel (or coal or even natural gas)? Do the benefits outweigh the cost of installing all that wiring?

So that got me to thinking about different forms of power. Are electric trains more economical if the wiring is already in place? Forgetting the danger factor, which is cheaper to install: overhead wires or 3rd rail?

And another thought: Do any trains run by natural gas? I would think that a engine could easily tow a tank car full of compressed (or liquid) natural gas. Natural gas is relatively cheap compared to diesel fuel today, I'm surprised no one has tried it (or have they?).
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Re: Electric vs. diesel vs. other energy sources.

Postby Eliphaz » Wed May 21, 2014 12:42 pm

Wholesale electricity is much cheaper by the btu than diesel fuel.
Natural gas is too.
Electric trains are common around the world, so the comparative costs must be at least somewhat similar.

electric trains have no diesel engines to maintain and no fuel storage and handling facilities so there are additional savings to contemplate.
I have no detailed info on the cost of maintaining the overhead, clearly the arguement has been made many times in many places over the years.

here is a thread about natural gas burning locomotives viewtopic.php?f=6&t=89307 with links
another viewtopic.php?f=8&t=78092
and here is one with some discussion of electric vs combustion viewtopic.php?f=137&t=80936
Last edited by Eliphaz on Wed May 21, 2014 1:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Electric vs. diesel vs. other energy sources.

Postby dowlingm » Wed May 21, 2014 12:56 pm

In this particular case I would imagine the cost of constructing, maintaining and supplying a diesel fuelling depot is an offset to maintaining the electrical overhead. That particular line is electrified at 50kV AC.
http://www.trainweb.org/southwestshorts/bmlp.html
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Re: Electric vs. diesel vs. other energy sources.

Postby Yellowspoon » Wed May 21, 2014 3:42 pm

It just surprised me to see an electrified line west of the Mississippi. Outside of the Northeast Corridor and local transit, are there any other electrified lines of this magnitude in North America?
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Re: Electric vs. diesel vs. other energy sources.

Postby JayBee » Thu May 22, 2014 10:29 am

Yellowspoon wrote:It just surprised me to see an electrified line west of the Mississippi. Outside of the Northeast Corridor and local transit, are there any other electrified lines of this magnitude in North America?


The railroad you saw in Northern Arizona is called the Black Mesa & Lake Powell RR. It is a private railroad owned by the Electric Utility that it serves. It runs from a coal mine on the east end to a powerplant on the west.

There is one other electrified private railroad located in the Unita Basin in NE Utah called the Deseret Western. It also connects a coal mine and an electric powerplant.

Both use electric locomotives similar to Amtrak's now retired E60CH locomotives, with the exception that they only have one control cab.
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