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Union Pacific Railroad Using Ultra Low-Emission Locomotives in Chicago Rail Yard

Seven Environmentally Friendly Locomotives are working at Union Pacific’s Rail Yard in Northlake, Ill.

SOURCE: Union Pacific


OMAHA, Neb., December 12, 2012 /3Bl Media/ – Union Pacific Railroad today unveiled one of the seven ultra low-emitting diesel locomotives that are being used in a rail yard in the Chicago area. This locomotive was developed by Union Pacific and is part of the railroad's ongoing efforts to continue reducing air emissions in cooperation with federal, state and local environmental agencies.

The new 2,000-horsepower locomotives are called generator-set or "Genset" switchers and are powered by three 667-horsepower ultra-low-emission U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) off-road Tier 3-certified diesel engines. The Genset switcher reduces emissions of oxides of nitrogen by 80 percent and particulate matter by 90 percent, while using up to 37 percent less fuel compared to older switching locomotives. The fuel savings also reduces green house gases up to 37 percent.

"We continue to voluntarily research and develop new technologies to reduce locomotive emissions and this latest version of the Union Pacific Genset locomotive is another end product of that hard work," said Bob Turner, Union Pacific senior vice president - Corporate Relations. "Union Pacific is committed to preserving our environment by reducing emissions to help improve air quality and conserve fuel."

The seven new Genset switcher locomotives are being used at Union Pacific's Proviso Rail Yard in Northlake, Ill. The latest Genset switchers are equipped with six traction motors instead of four traction motors found on a traditional rail yard locomotive. The two additional traction motors gives the new version of the Genset switcher increased "pushing" power over the four traction motor Genset, something that will be useful while the new locomotives are working to push rail cars over the "hump" where gravity then takes the cars into destination-specific tracks at the Proviso Rail Yard.

Union Pacific began studies and tests of the prototype Genset switcher locomotive in 2002 and now has a total of 172 of the ultra-low emission locomotives working in California, Texas and now in the Chicago area. Several other United States railroads continue to follow Union Pacific's lead and are using similar Genset switching locomotives..

Genset Switcher Locomotive

In the early 1930s, electricity began replacing steam as the "power" used to move locomotives. Diesel became the fuel of choice to power the on-board engine that turned electric power generators producing electricity to drive motors attached to axles and wheels.

Since locomotives do not require maximum horsepower use all the time (1,200- to 2,100-horsepower for switch or yard locomotives and 4,000-to-6,000-horsepower for long-haul road locomotives), Union Pacific's Mike Iden, general director of car and locomotive engineering based in the Chicago area, looked into the development of a switching locomotive that would use multiple smaller diesel engines, running in combinations of 1, 2 or 3 engines, to produce the required horsepower levels when needed. Modern off-road diesel engines are capable of providing the lower power required by typical switching locomotives while reducing fuel consumption and, most importantly, exhaust emissions.

Iden's idea was to package the diesel engine, electrical generator and the cooling system radiator in one compact, easily replaced module called a Generator Set or "Genset."

Union Pacific's "Environmentally Friendly" Fleet

Trains are one of the nation's most environmentally friendly modes of moving freight, generating a carbon footprint that is 75 percent less than trucks.

Union Pacific operates North America's cleanest and most modern locomotive fleet and is aggressively working to become even cleaner and greener.

  • Since 2000, Union Pacific has spent approximately $6 billion to purchase more than 3,500 locomotives that meet EPA Tier 0, Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 3 emissions standards.
  • Also since 2000, UP retired more than 2,650 older locomotives and overhauled or rebuilt nearly 4,150 locomotive diesel engines with emissions control upgrades.
  • More than 80 percent of our approximately 8,200 locomotives are certified under existing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Tier 0, Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 3 emissions standards.

Media contact: Mark Davis, 402-544-5459 or

Tweet me: #unionpacific using ultra low #emissions locomotives in Chicago

KEYWORDS: union pacific, Railroad, freight transportation, genset, Mike Iden, environment, Locomotive, Emissions

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