On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

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ThirdRail7
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On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

Post by ThirdRail7 » Tue Dec 20, 2011 2:08 am

As new passenger cars are ordered, should some (if not all) of them be equipped with on board generators for emergencies?

Yesterday wasn't a great day for the NEC in my opinion. There were quite a few disabled trains and a large number of them were without HEP. Even today, a train was wrapped in the wire. Amfleets are very unforgiving in extreme weather, so imagine sitting for 3 hours in hot or cold weather while waiting to be rescued. I'd venture to say the rest of the equipment isn't much better.

I'm sure this is a pipe dream, particularly this would be extremely expensive and would cost an arm and a leg in maintenance. However, things happen. Trains break down. HEP converters fail.

Generators were used years ago. I think it is time for them (or something similar) to make a comeback. It would be nice if the passengers didn't freeze or swelter as they await a rescue.
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Noel Weaver
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Re: On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

Post by Noel Weaver » Tue Dec 20, 2011 2:52 am

Many Amtrak trains rin on rather tight turns and servicing an on board generator would consume more time in terminals and thus reducing the availability of the cars. This would result in increased expenses as well. On board generators were used in years past on a wide variety of railroads from the Long Island Commuter trains to the Southern Pacific long haul trains. Overall the HEP set up on today's trains is far better, cheaper and more reliable than the old time set up of steam heat, belt or axle driven generators or batteries and a mix match of car voltages and electrical set ups and air conditioning as well. Even having generators on coaches for emergencies would be a huge expense that Amtrak really can not afford. I can still remember the days of busted generator belts, dead batteries, cold or hot cars and other problems of the past, the present system is not perfect but as I said it is a big improvement.
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jhdeasy
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Re: On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

Post by jhdeasy » Tue Dec 20, 2011 10:33 am

In the 1970s, Amtrak acquired some Heritage cars that had onboard power generation capability. For example, here in the east, we had baggage-dorm cars and lounge cars rebuilt from US Army troop ambulance cars, which came with diesel generator systems. I believe Amtrak retained the diesel generator systems on these cars, but I am not sure if they maintained them to ensure reliable use when needed.

I could not see Amtrak acquiring new passenger cars with similar onboard power generation cabability. Someone would probably decide that total life cycle (avqusitin plus maintenence) cost of this added capability was not worth the additional value it provided.

Just about every mainline (certified to operate on Amtrak and Via Rail Canada) private car that I know has a diesel generator system as a backup to HEP supplied by a locomotive, power car or ground power. This is because HEP may not be available when needed, and the car owner is willing to spend the $$$$$ to assure availability of electric power when needed. We have a 80KW turbocharged four cylinder Deutz system with a 275 gallon diesel fuel tank onboard MOUNT VERNON. I sized the system to keep us warm and confortable and to power all of the other amenities (electric kitchen, hot water heater, lighting, et.) duing a cold northern winter storm when HEP was not available. A dozen years later, I look back and realize that a diesel system in the 45 KW to 50 KW range probably would have sufficed. However, the 80K system was not significantly more expensive than the next smaller size. I think our circa 2001 purchase and installation cost was approximately $35K to $45K. This included fabricating a new electrical panel, installed "upstream" of the car's main 480 VAC breaker, to select between HEP trainline power and diesel generator power, and to workaround HEP trainline power that is out of phase sequence. For safety purposes, the generator system is electrically isolated, so that the end of car HEP jumpers/receptacles are not energized when the diesl is running. The system has been very reliable. Maintenance has been lube oil changes, filter (lube oil, air and fuel) changes, ensuring coolant is topped off, removing accumultaed leaves from inside the system cabinet, and periodic cleaning of dirt/grime from the radiator coils to avoid engine overheating.

ThirdRail7
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Re: On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

Post by ThirdRail7 » Tue Dec 20, 2011 11:10 am

Noel Weaver wrote: Even having generators on coaches for emergencies would be a huge expense that Amtrak really can not afford. I can still remember the days of busted generator belts, dead batteries, cold or hot cars and other problems of the past, the present system is not perfect but as I said it is a big improvement.
Noel Weave


I'm thinking of what the person below posted.

jhdeasy wrote:Just about every mainline (certified to operate on Amtrak and Via Rail Canada) private car that I know has a diesel generator system as a backup to HEP supplied by a locomotive, power car or ground power. This is because HEP may not be available when needed, and the car owner is willing to spend the $$$$$ to assure availability of electric power when needed. We have a 80KW turbocharged four cylinder Deutz system with a 275 gallon diesel fuel tank onboard MOUNT VERNON. I sized the system to keep us warm and confortable and to power all of the other amenities (electric kitchen, hot water heater, lighting, et.) duing a cold northern winter storm when HEP was not available. A dozen years later, I look back and realize that a diesel system in the 45 KW to 50 KW range probably would have sufficed. However, the 80K system was not significantly more expensive than the next smaller size. I think our circa 2001 purchase and installation cost was approximately $35K to $45K. This included fabricating a new electrical panel, installed "upstream" of the car's main 480 VAC breaker, to select between HEP trainline power and diesel generator power, and to workaround HEP trainline power that is out of phase sequence. For safety purposes, the generator system is electrically isolated, so that the end of car HEP jumpers/receptacles are not energized when the diesl is running. The system has been very reliable. Maintenance has been lube oil changes, filter (lube oil, air and fuel) changes, ensuring coolant is topped off, removing accumultaed leaves from inside the system cabinet, and periodic cleaning of dirt/grime from the radiator coils to avoid engine overheating.



Private cars have them. If a private car can have them, why can't a government subsidized company that is on the verge of getting new equipment have them?

The cars are usually taken out of service every 92 days as it is for PM and inspections. The back up generators can be heavily serviced then. In the meantime, the fuel/oil levels can be checked during the calendar day inspection, so I don't see the equipment turns being an issue.

How about this:

Is it possible to install a back-up generator on the engine or ONE car and back feed the entire system? The generator could be used for the HVAC and battery charging. The lights would remain on the battery.

The reason I'm hell bent is 97 was out there for 3 hours with a dead HHP-8. 2257 was out there until 2259 pulled alongside of it for a transfer. Fortunately, the weather wasn't extreme. However, this could have been a mess, and I've seen this show before. If you could keep some of the amenities for the passengers as they are stranded, the cost would pay for itself in customer service.

I remember when we had strategically placed diesels for such emergencies. We could hop on a train and rescue ourselves. Now, you attempt to scramble an engine and hope for the best as passengers sit in a silver shell.

Something has to be done.
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Re: On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

Post by mtuandrew » Tue Dec 20, 2011 11:21 am

I don't understand the necessity either. On corridor trains, a backup motor or locomotive is only an hour (at worst) away. For long-distance trains, there are almost always more than one HEP-equipped locomotive for just such an eventuality, sometimes as many as three. Besides, a freight locomotive can pull a train to the nearest heated station if all else really does fail, and the crew can bring everyone into a warmer car in the meantime.

Amtrak has run the numbers and decided that it is more economical (and most likely safer - no flammables on the passenger cars) to have a single source for HEP. That said, feel free to convince one of the solar companies to install panels on every passenger car's roof as a low-power backup. :grin:

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Re: On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

Post by jstolberg » Tue Dec 20, 2011 11:23 am

I think that what you'll see more often in the future are hybrid locomotives like the PR43C. It has two diesel engines (3600 hp and 700 hp). http://www.progressrail.com/docs/pr-43-c-web.pdf

Then, for further reliability, there will be interchangablity between traction and HEP inverters.
http://www.progressrail.com/transit-loc ... senger.asp

As others here have stated, putting a generator on each passenger car would be expensive and difficult to maintain.

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Re: On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

Post by TomNelligan » Tue Dec 20, 2011 11:33 am

On corridor trains, a backup motor or locomotive is only an hour (at worst) away.


You're being very optimistic. Remember that a crew is also required and they're probably not going to be just sitting around waiting for something to do when a backup engine is suddenly needed.

I'm not sure individual car generators are practical, but I certainly appreciate Mr. ThirdRail7's concern. I can say from personal experience on a stalled NEC train a couple summers ago -- dead HHP8 -- that due to the lack of ventilation, the conditions inside sealed, powerless Amcoaches on a 90-degree sunny summer day can quickly become a physical hazard for folks who can't handle extreme heat. At some point it's not just a comfort issue but a safety issue, especially for seniors.

hi55us
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Re: On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

Post by hi55us » Tue Dec 20, 2011 12:00 pm

I believe the acela has a battery system which keeps the lights on, opens the doors, allows for announcements and (most importantly) keeps the wifi on. Although this does not heat the train, it makes it more bearable.

I would not be surprised to see future passenger cars have a similar system.

electricron
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Re: On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

Post by electricron » Tue Dec 20, 2011 12:49 pm

What would be wrong using the Talgo model for new trains (Hiawatha and Cascades), where the cab car has an HEP generator? Where the locomotive on the opposite end of the train may not have to have HEP installed or working.
Eventually, Amtrak should want to do the same for trains under catenary wire on the NEC. Of course, using diesel generators within tunnels for HEP may not necessarily be safe. But it seems to me that cab cars would make the perfect place to place backup HEP generators.

litz
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Re: On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

Post by litz » Tue Dec 20, 2011 2:02 pm

We have generators under each car on the Blue Ridge Scenic ... works pretty well, but when you consider the cost of a genset ... then figure one per car, and there are multiples of cars ... well, it adds up fast.

We don't have all the extras that "Mount Vernon" has, but all of our enclosed cars need power for lighting and full HVAC, and that HVAC has to be able to hold against a Georgia summer. So they're decent sized gensets.

Ours are in service march through new years, each year. That's a lot of run time, and as they get older, maintenance becomes an issue ... just like with automobiles. You just have to plan for it, like needing new wheels, brakes, etc.

It's worked well for us, though. Just being able to move passengers from a 'dead' coach into a nice cool comfy coach in the middle of summer is worth it ... if we ran HEP, and it died, we'd have 400+ sweating unhappy passengers. And when you're a tourist railroad, that's not good.

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Re: On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

Post by John_Perkowski » Tue Dec 20, 2011 2:19 pm

Amtrak went to Head-End Power because they wanted out of the business of having generators on each and every car.

What do folks think ran the air conditioning before Amtrak? Auxiliary power. Axle generators weren't enough.

It's a cost control thing.
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Re: On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

Post by Gilbert B Norman » Tue Dec 20, 2011 2:19 pm

electricron wrote:Eventually, Amtrak should want to do the same for trains under catenary wire on the NEC. Of course, using diesel generators within tunnels for HEP may not necessarily be safe. But it seems to me that cab cars would make the perfect place to place backup HEP generators.

Back to the Future?

http://www.hebners.net/amtrak/amtE9B/amt686.jpg

Take it from one who has "been there done that"; YOU would not want to "go there do that".

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Re: On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

Post by Tadman » Tue Dec 20, 2011 2:36 pm

I think we're confusing two things here.

1. Normal operations HEP
2. Backup emergency power

I don't think anybody with a decent grasp of history and operations would advocate going back to non-locomotive-supplied HEP for Amtrak revenue equipment. It's costly from many perspectives, including acquisition, installation, and maintenance. You'd also have to fuel all 9 cars of each train, not just the power. Imagine what that would do to train schedules.

That said, some sort of backup power might be smart for when the motive power dies. If it takes three hours to rescue a stranded corridor train, should there be a power alternative? Not enough to run the full heat/lights/outlets, but enough to power every third light and run the blower fans in order to keep trains safe? This is the critical issue in this thread. Would you advocate installing a small genset on each lounge or diner that could supply emergency limited power to 4-5 cars? When the food service car is restocked at the end of each run, it's also fueled, rather than having a generator on each car that must be fueled and maintained.

I'm not necessarily in support of such, but it's important to straighten out what we're arguing here. There's no reason to reinvent the HEP wheel, but there might be reason to add a limited backup.

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Re: On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

Post by Jtgshu » Tue Dec 20, 2011 10:10 pm

There have been and will be in the coming years relatively large numbers of former passenger Geeps and other model locomotives that were used in commuter service, being retired. Most of these locos have seperate HEP motors. They could be purchased for relatively cheap, installed in a baggage car and kicked on when needed by the flip of a switch. A certified, safe container could be used to hold the diesel fuel in so risk of an accident or spill in an accident would be minimized. Many are Caterpillar motors, and there are Caterpillar technicians all over the country that could come and fix it, as the parts are relatively standard and not really specialized for the railroad.

it wouldn't be used all the time, only when needed, and could also be used when locos are being serviced or swapped. They wouldn't take up that much room, and while not every train has baggage cars, an Amfleet could be half closed off and the motor housed in that closed off portion of the car. Im assuming there will be some surplus rolling stock when the new cars finally arrive in a few years.

I think its a good idea and something should be done, adn i think if they were there, they could be used more often than you might realize. Also, it might allow for fuel savings on diesel trains, as the P42s wouldn't need to run at such high RPMs to provide HEP, and could be idled down.
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Re: On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

Post by Adirondacker » Wed Dec 21, 2011 1:14 am

Jtgshu wrote: ...an Amfleet could be half closed off and the motor housed in that closed off portion of the car....


Half a car of revenue on every run lost to the occasional need for emergency power....

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