The average age of a diesel powered locomotive in Europe is well over 30 years old, but in fact, many are much older. What other major industry, that is vital to the prosperity of a nation, operates equipment this old?  It is commonly done in the railway industry. This begs the question: Why?

The answer, most often, is cost. The price of a new locomotive is several million dollars or euros. Although there are significant benefits to a newer locomotive, they don’t always outweigh the cost savings of modernization. Getting the many benefits and advantages of new locomotives, with your older fleet, is not only possible, but proven and cost effective.  For as little as a few thousand dollars, you can realize significant and measureable improvements. The goal is to implement a majority of the benefits of a new locomotive on your existing fleet, but keeping cost to a minimum.

The simple diagram shows how renewing your locomotive can offer many of the benefits of a new locomotive at a fraction of the cost. So what are these benefits we are searching for?

Fuel Efficiency

With the volatile fluctuation in diesel fuel costs and the sheer volume of fuel use by locomotives, this is often the most significant cost for a railway. Aging locomotives, 20 years or older, are less efficient than newer locomotives, even if the engines are well-maintained. A 1,000 horsepower (750 kW) yard locomotive will burn over 10 liters of fuel per hour of idling. Typically, an active locomotive in a yard idles over 50% of its day.  If the locomotive works 12 hours/day, 5 days per week, this can amount to over 15,000 liters consumed due to unnecessary idling. Technology exists that can significantly reduce, if not eliminate, this unnecessary idling and can provide significant returns on investment through fuel savings.

Environmental Stewardship

Older locomotives create a disproportionate amount of pollutants.  Specifically NOx, HC’s, POC’s, CO and GHG’s. Reducing unnecessary idling will also reduce these emissions. Older locomotives may have lead in their electrical circuits.  Modernizing the control system can eliminate many of these components.

Enhanced Performance

Locomotives equipped with non-microprocessor based control systems usually do not operate the locomotive at its full potential.  Upgrading the control system can maximize the horsepower as well as the tractive effort or pulling power of the locomotive. Additionally, application specific control systems can be used to improve starting efficiency and performance.

Improved Reliability

Many components on your aging locomotive are wearing out or failing with higher frequency. Some are now obsolete, difficult or expensive to obtain. A locomotive modernization expert can replace them with rugged, readily available hardware. Renewing all, or even just portions of your control system, can significantly improve the reliability and at the same time, reduce the complexity of your locomotive control. An additional benefit is that many of the expensive and large sub component systems on your locomotive, such as the engine, batteries, generators and traction motors, can now be controlled to operate within optimal and/or safe guidelines such as temperature, horsepower, volts and amperage.  The result is that not only is your control system more reliable, but the major expensive sub-components are now also more reliable and require less maintenance.

Increased Maintainability
Intelligent control systems provide several levels of enhanced diagnostics, so that faults or service issues can be more quickly resolved. Upgrading the control system on your locomotive gives you the opportunity to monitor vital parameters and to collect data, report and display the performance potential of the locomotive and execute intelligent diagnostics. This can be made available with on-board operator interfaces to both the driver and to maintenance personnel. Further enhancing this with remote connectivity allows targeted personnel to have the right tools to improve the whole railroad’s efficiency through mobile fleet reports and individual locomotive performance information.

HOW can we achieve these benefits?

At ZTR Control Systems, we know locomotives.  We are a full service provider, delivering locomotive system engineering, integration and monitoring. We evaluate the performance of your locomotive and identify how it can be improved, to maintain its value in your fleet. Then we design hardware and develop the software to deliver solutions to problems hindering your railway from being as efficient as possible.  Beyond the locomotive, we provide remote communication that connects your locomotive to your office and to your people in the field.  We offer round the clock technical support and project management, both from our operation center and, if needed, in the field. Some of our key solutions in locomotive modernization are listed below.

Intelligent Starting Technology + Fuel Savings

The ZTR Intelligent Starting Technologies™ improve locomotive performance through easier, more reliable starts and increased fuel savings. SmartStart®, the most trusted AESS in the industry, has an ROI of less than 12 months and can save $25,000 of fuel per year, per locomotive. This can also be combined with InteLevel®, a highly advanced, reliable and accurate fuel level sensor. Adding remote connectivity and diagnostics to these solutions advances the savings further. These can also be combined with KickStartTM battery assist, which uses supercapacitor technology for more reliable starts and extended battery life which in turn creates increased locomotive availability. 

Locomotive Control Systems + Tractive Effort

ZTR Control Systems understands the need for cost effective and flexible locomotive modernization options. ZTR offers integrated Locomotive Control Systems to improve the performance, reliability and availability of existing locomotive fleets, at a fraction of the cost of buying new locomotives. The new FLEX Platform architecture provides a low cost way to start modernizing your locomotive, with the option of easily adding on greater locomotive control in the future. Plus, improving tractive effort through BOA™ systems or NEXSYS III-I, which are full control systems, can give you more pulling power to possibly free up a locomotive. Not only do you get advanced diagnostics for maintainability, but it’s like you get a new locomotive too!

Diagnostics, Communication + Information Management

More often today, people and assets are being integrated into operation management systems in real time.  Connectivity and communication is integral to this path. Remote connectivity can be as simple as monitoring your fuel savings with SmartStart or as intricate as integrating all of your locomotives’ electronic systems with all of your operations. Value added services from ZTR improve locomotive availability through advanced diagnostics and health monitoring, remote access to locomotive data, and mobile solutions for managing your information. Through customized reports, digital schematics, and wireless notifications, ZTR can help you drastically improve the reliability, maintenance and operation of your fleet.

Locomotive Modernization Services

ZTR has a range of engineered solutions designed to modernize your locomotive and have it performing like new again. ZTR’s novel approach to modernization includes multiple options to provide the upgrades you need with a variety of services to support your locomotive modernization. In addition to our suite of innovative products and component upgrades, ZTR offers added services including expert consultation, project management, diagnostic reporting, information management, intelligent schematic upgrades, training, and technical support to achieve locomotive modernization that is effortless from end-to-end.

Railway Asset Management

Remote connectivity does not only mean connecting your locomotive to your office.  It means connecting your mobile assets to other mobile assets and to your operations center and in-field team, ushering your fleet into the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). One of the significant benefits of remote connectivity is having remote diagnostics. This allows you to utilize your subject matter experts to diagnose a problem without having to travel to the locomotive.  This can result in a simple fix on-site or sending the right people and the right parts to repair a disabled locomotive.

With thousands of installations worldwide and advanced services, ZTR Control Systems and its innovative solutions improve the efficiency and performance of customer equipment to update aging fleets and usher them into a new era of modern performance. These solutions can achieve significant, measurable improvements in reliability, performance, availability and maintainability, at a fraction of the cost of buying new.

With the solutions and services from ZTR, there is no need to throw away your older locomotives, when you can renew them for another 15-20 years at a fraction of the cost of buying new. In today’s challenging economy, those who think intelligently about their fleet are more likely to come out on top! So, don’t buy new until you contact ZTR!

Come visit us at InnoTrans in Berlin for a daily presentation on Locomotive Modernization and to learn more about ZTR solutions.

Written by Aldo Liberatore, Manager of Research and New Product Development for the Railway Division of ZTR Control Systems.

Visit us at InnoTrans in Berlin September 20-23, Hall 6.2b, Stand 507