Norfolk Southern begins major GE locomotive rebuild program

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Norfolk Southern begins major GE locomotive rebuild program

Postby MEC407 » Tue May 27, 2014 8:45 am

Who says you can't teach an old dog, or an old Dash 8, new tricks?

Norfolk Southern Railway will soon begin a major rebuild program to renew, upgrade, and modernize its fleet of GE Dash 8 and Dash 9 locomotives.

From Progressive Railroading:

Progressive Railroading wrote: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.
. . .
The 4,000-horsepower Dash 8.5s will be very similar to Dash 9s, except they won't feature low-weight transfer trucks. The Dash 8.5s will incorporate electronic systems — such as electronic fuel injection — and be configured to wirelessly issue health-status reports, says Graab.

The first Dash 8.5 is expected to roll out of the railroad's Roanoke, Va., shop and roll onto a test track sometime in May. NS will need to obtain U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval for the unit's new engine configuration, says Graab.
. . .
In the meantime, the department is considering the next potential outgrowth of the rebuild effort: converting motors from DC-traction to AC-traction on a portion of NS' 1,200 Dash 9s. Proposals from three companies on three continents are under analysis, and GE is one of the proposers, says Graab.

"The conversion would make the units more reliable and we would gain tractive effort," he says.


Read the rest of the article at: http://www.progressiverailroading.com/n ... ram--40373
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Re: Norfolk Southern begins major GE locomotive rebuild prog

Postby Allen Hazen » Tue May 27, 2014 2:12 pm

Given the amount of design commonality between the Dash-9 and the AC44, rebuilding some Dash-9 (of which Norfolk Southern bought a huge number AFTER most other Class-1 railroads were going for AC power…) should be more or less do-able. Fairly minor equipment re-location to make room for the rectifiers, etc (since NS can build new cabs for its rebuilt locomotives, adding the rectifier "box" behind the cab on the left side would be easy for them). The AC44 and the Dash-9 have different model numbers on their traction alternators: I don't know if the actual design is close enough to allow one to be converted into the other, but GE can advise them on that. No major problem below the deck: the Dash-9 truck (the "roller blades" truck) was designed so it could accommodate either 752 DC motors or GE's AC motor.

As for the upgrade of Dash-8 to (close to) Dash 9 standards… I think British Columbia Railway, before being taken over by CN, had a plan to upgrade its C40-8 (and variant?) fleet: raising the rating to 4100 hp (as on production C41-8 built for UP, ATSF) was an immediate step, raising the power to 4400 hp was supposed to come after a rebuild in which the units would be given Dash-9 (and very late Dash-8) style "split cooling" radiators.

(The builders aren't coming out with new models as often as they did in the 1950s and 1960s, but the current locomotive scene is not without interest!)
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Re: Norfolk Southern begins major GE locomotive rebuild prog

Postby v8interceptor » Wed May 28, 2014 11:37 am

I'm somewhat surprised that NS is conducting this program at the Roanoke shops rather that at Altoona but then again, IINM they are the only Class 1 left with more than one full capability (i.e able to undertake complete locomotive rebuilds) back-shop...
The most interesting part of this is the potential to convert older units from DC to AC traction;I've always read that doing so was considered too expensive compared to purchasing a new unit but maybe NS will figure out the economics and it certainly helps that they have the capability to do the work in-house.
The only diesel electrics in the US converted to AC traction that I'm aware of were Metro North/Connecticut DOT FL9's and I know the total cost per unit was almost as great as buying new power (although there were also accusations that the program was mismanaged).
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Re: Norfolk Southern begins major GE locomotive rebuild prog

Postby 161pw165 » Wed May 28, 2014 11:48 am

Isn't Altoona used primarily for EMD's and Roanoke for GE's?
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Re: Norfolk Southern begins major GE locomotive rebuild prog

Postby MEC407 » Wed May 28, 2014 11:59 am

v8interceptor wrote:The most interesting part of this is the potential to convert older units from DC to AC traction;I've always read that doing so was considered too expensive compared to purchasing a new unit but maybe NS will figure out the economics and it certainly helps that they have the capability to do the work in-house.


I agree that the DC-to-AC Dash 9 conversion is the most interesting part of this announcement. I think Mr. Hazen's explanation about the similarities between the Dash 9 series and the AC4400CW is the most likely reason why NS deemed the conversion to be worthwhile. And that's probably why there haven't been any announcements about converting SD60s or SD70s to AC traction... they're too different from their factory-built AC cousins, making the conversion too difficult and/or too expensive.

Overall I think this is a very interesting and exciting project. My only quibble is with their choice of designation for the rebuilt Dash 8s — "Dash 8.5" — it just sounds a little silly to me. "Dash 8E" would be a bit more elegant, and would be consistent with the designations they've used for similar upgrades on the EMD side of the fleet (SD40E, SD60E, etc).
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Re: Norfolk Southern begins major GE locomotive rebuild prog

Postby chrisf » Wed May 28, 2014 12:37 pm

MEC407 wrote:"Dash 8E" would be a bit more elegant, and would be consistent with the designations they've used for similar upgrades on the EMD side of the fleet (SD40E, SD60E, etc).

GE already used the -8E designation on some production models so perhaps NS is trying to avoid confusion.
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Re: Norfolk Southern begins major GE locomotive rebuild prog

Postby MEC407 » Wed May 28, 2014 12:50 pm

True, although GE never built a Dash 8-40CE, so technically NS wouldn't be stepping on GE's toes. There are other letters they could use too... U and R have been traditionally used by many different railroads for major rebuilds and upgrades.

Regardless of nomenclature, I'm glad to see these locomotives being given a new lease on life.
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Re: Norfolk Southern begins major GE locomotive rebuild prog

Postby mtuandrew » Wed May 28, 2014 4:39 pm

If Roanoke Shops is able to make a cost-effective and reliable AC-traction Dash 8.5-40C, I'd love to see them give Amtrak's P32-8BWH fleet the same treatment... followed by the P40 and P42 fleet. Probably a forlorn hope, but one can dream.
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Re: Norfolk Southern begins major GE locomotive rebuild prog

Postby MEC407 » Wed May 28, 2014 4:51 pm

I don't believe they are attempting to convert the Dash 8s to AC. The article seemed to imply that the AC conversion is only for Dash 9s, which would make sense, given their many similarities to the AC4400CW.
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Re: Norfolk Southern begins major GE locomotive rebuild prog

Postby Engineer Spike » Wed May 28, 2014 6:48 pm

I think the -8 upgrade program makes sense. The -9 to AC4400,seems strange. NS knew fully the benefits of AC traction. I'm sure that the AC power which has run through from other railroads has given them a chance to play with it, and see what it is capable of.My point: why the sudden 180?
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Re: Norfolk Southern begins major GE locomotive rebuild prog

Postby MEC407 » Wed May 28, 2014 6:55 pm

I'm not sure if I would call it sudden. They started buying ES44ACs six years ago, and they've been buying ACs ever since. NS did come to the AC game later than most of the other Class I roads, but the benefits are clear and proven, especially in long-term maintenance costs.
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Re: Norfolk Southern begins major GE locomotive rebuild prog

Postby mtuandrew » Wed May 28, 2014 11:18 pm

MEC407 wrote:I don't believe they are attempting to convert the Dash 8s to AC. The article seemed to imply that the AC conversion is only for Dash 9s, which would make sense, given their many similarities to the AC4400CW.

Ah, my mistake. Still, it might be worthwhile for economy, environmental, and power reasons to upgrade the aforementioned engines to P32-8.5BWH.
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Re: Norfolk Southern begins major GE locomotive rebuild prog

Postby Allen Hazen » Thu May 29, 2014 2:55 pm

Alas, the P32 have 12-cylinder FDL engines, which no Dash-9 units had. You can upgrade a C40-8 to close to Dash-9 standards fairly easily: GE will (I assume) sell you the parts (like: the split cooling radiators). I don't know if the necessary engineering for a 12-cylinder Dash-9 was ever done: if not, the components needed for an upgrade might be hard to source...
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Re: Norfolk Southern begins major GE locomotive rebuild prog

Postby MEC407 » Mon Jun 02, 2014 9:25 am

It looks like the Dash 8.5 program is already well underway.

Here we see a Dash 8-40C whose original standard cab has been replaced with a brand new GE-built safety cab:

http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPi ... id=3858926


Two more Dash 8-40Cs, but these ones received NS-built "Crescent Cabs":

http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPi ... id=3858916

http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPi ... id=3858912


All of the above photos are by Matthew Maurer.
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Re: Norfolk Southern begins major GE locomotive rebuild prog

Postby Allen Hazen » Mon Jun 02, 2014 6:53 pm

Thank you for posting links to the photos of the three rebuilt and/or rebuilding Dash-8!
The radiators…
--- The one with the new GE cab has the fatter radiator "wings" associated with Dash-9 style "split cooling". Not knowing th origins of the unit, I can't tell if this is a new modification or part of her original equipment.
---The 8501 has the older, thin, wings. Note that this unit is still under work: no hood over engine.
---The last one-- still in Conrail blue in places where the sheet-metal work is original-- has fat wings, but they are might be original, since Conrail's final order of C40-8W had the fatter wings. … If, however, it is one of these 1994-built units, it was build with a GE wide-nose cab: the application of the NS "Crescent" cab would be, I suppose, a matter of wreck repair rather than upgrading.

Curious.

(((Hmm. C40-8 have the deck higher above the rail than C40-8W: compare the width of the side sills. If you are converting a narrow-nose C40-8 -- all of NS's original units had narrow noses, as did a few of the ones inherited from Conrail -- you couldn't, therefore, use a stock GE wide-nose cab: it wouldn't mate properly with the long hood. So I'm not sure what NS's plan for them is. … Are we in fact sure that the three units in the photos are early "Dash 8.5" conversions and not just more routing repair jobs?)))
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