If the North American railroads electrified.........

Kurt Moose Jul 29, 2017

  1. Kurt Moose

    Kurt Moose TrainBoard Member

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    ....could they easily modify they're diesel/electric locomotives by removing the prime mover, and adding a pantograph to the roof to power the traction motors?? Or would it be more involved?? Besides the obvious of putting up miles of catenary, substations, etc., would it be feasible? One day, diesel will get to the point of being expensive like back in the early 2000's at over $5.00 a gallon, so you'd think it be cheaper in the long run to electrify, like the Milwaukee Road was for over 65 years.

    Hmmm.........:confused:
     
  2. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    Long distance transmission of electricity is most efficient at high voltage and nearly impossible with direct current. Motors seldom operate at huge voltages, and the high torque AC motor is a pretty recent invention. So, diesels must be replaced with huge transformers to convert high voltage/low current electricity to low voltage/high current so the motors can use them. Locomotives with DC motors also need rectifiers, though many already have them. Custom conversions could cost as much as a new locomotive, yet not rebuild the whole locomotive. So, it's an expensive process and the result might not be reliable.

    Stringing catenary overhead costs about as much per mile as grading and building the railroad itself, and roughly doubles maintenance costs. That's a lot of money.

    Trains are incredibly fuel efficient. Steel wheels on steel rail is so free if friction that it made large-scale overland commerce profitable. Fuel costs have to go completely insane--much more than just double--to become a major portion of a railroad's cost. Railroads' competitors, trucks and air freight, will be hiking prices a lot faster if and when fuel cost skyrockets.
     
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  3. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Once strung, catenary is remarkably inexpensive. When pulled down, (starting in later 1974), some of the trolley on the MILW was the same as when it was first put up during WWI! And it still worked, perfectly.
     
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  4. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

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  5. Kurt Moose

    Kurt Moose TrainBoard Member

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    Cool paint scheme on those locos, but I've seen it somewhere before, hmmmmmm........

    Sad to see another electrified railroad fallen, but those locos look like an exciting new chapter!! Hopefully one of the E60C's get saved for display atleast.
     
  6. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    For trivia's sake, in the early 1960s when the SOU spent $30+ Million to modernize the busy "Rathole" between Oakdale, TN and Danville, KY, they engineered clearances to allow electrification. SOU later studied the economics of stringing wire multiple times, with the most promising era during the Arab oil embargo in 1974, but the financial return wasn't there and hasn't been since. The investment paid off though, as the line was later able to accommodate stacks with little fuss.

    Even the PRR worked various studies on extending catenary west of Harrisburg, around Horseshoe Curve, up and over the summit at Gallitzin and on to Pittsburgh.

    All very cool to think of what might have been.
     
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  7. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    When the Norfolk and Western took over the Virginian in the late 1950s, they ripped the existing electrification out. This in spite of the fact that the N&W was highly motivated to use the coal produced by their biggest online customers as fuel, even staying committed to steam power longer than any other road, and experimenting with coal-fired turbine-electrics. Obviously, fuel prices have seldom been lower than they were in 1959. But when the Virginian ran on electricity produced by coal-fueled plants, and the N&W wound up selling brand new Virginian electric locomotives to the New Haven for pennies on the dollar, it's hard to see how that made economic sense. Apparently it did, though.

    This may well have been a factor...

    The Pennsylvania/PennCentral/Conrail struggled with clearance issues under the wire a lot. There's a reason you just don't see old pics of Pennsylvania vista domes--there weren't any. Raising bridges and making tunnels taller to accommodate taller cars is expensive enough. But raising mile after mile of catenary, and possibly modifying all your pantographs, is an enormous expense.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2017
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  8. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    I have some books with great photos of the DL&W's suburban electrification in 1930 and how construction crews dealt with it all. Interestingly, the DL&W hired the same guy who had worked the IC's suburban electrification just a few years before. In 1980 I rode a special 50th Anniversary of DL&W electrification train west from Hoboken, sponsored by a local railroad group. It was a fun trip. In 1984 the old 3000V DC system and original DL&W cars were removed from service and the new 25000V AC system was cut over.

    To celebrate the electrification, the DL&W coined this sweet verse featuring their Pheobe Snow:

    Hello hello says Pheobe Snow
    We welcome you to our new show
    Today steam steps aside and now you ride
    Upon a road electrified
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2017
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  9. ddechamp71

    ddechamp71 TrainBoard Member

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  10. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

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    it was Black Mesa and Lake Powell.....not sure about now
     
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  11. RBrodzinsky

    RBrodzinsky Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    I was fascinated by that road as we were driving through the Navajo Nation at the beginning of June (Durango to Flagstaff). Was wondering about a catenary system way out there.
     
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  12. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

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    it's a line that takes coal to a power plant....now they will need to truck in diesel fuel.
     
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  13. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    This is the really goofy side of such decision making. And it sounds like the same foolhearted idea which the MILW used- which backfired big time, financially.
     
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  14. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    There's something perfectly satisfying about a railroad hauling its locomotive fuel. I'm assuming that the MILW's generating stations were coal fired?

    story-fuel-satisfaction-norfolk-and-western-railway_192187193753.jpg
     
  15. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    They were hydroelectric. Sadly, they sold them off to regional power companies, and costs thereafter escalated- But were still far better than petroleum. Just another of the boneheaded moves Chicago made, to temp fix their bottom line and kiss the rear ends of stockholders.
     
  16. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    I first thought of hydroelectric, but then thought that in 1909 none of the major western dam projects completed in the 30s had been built. To merge the energy efficiency of trains with hydroelectric power achieves perfection. The MILW's power bill must have been pretty thin.
     
  17. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Too tired to think right now. One of the hydro sources was at Great Falls, Montana. My mind is blank on another.... This was during World War One. About 1915-1916, when they were built. Privately done and owned. Long before the public owned big dam era, which too many in error credit to FDR. They were idea, concept, planning and many started before his first term. That's why Hoover Dam was so named.... Pre-FDR!

    The first segment of MILW electrification was placed into service during 1916.
     
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  18. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Happened upon this and I thought it was cool - The New Trail, as from the 1911 Official Railway Guide. Too, I'd never seen the road's name as Chicago, Milwaukee & Puget Sound Railway.

    MILW1911.jpg
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2017
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  19. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Short lived post-construction company name. Absorbed at the beginning of January, 1913.
     
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  20. CarlH

    CarlH TrainBoard Member

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    I think I read an article in Trains (in 2013?) describing how during the late 1970s or early 1980s Conrail considered extending electrification further out west - as far as Pittsburgh? - but that part of the reason they did not do this was the financing this project would have needed, and they had other projects that also needed capital. I had not realized how extensive the Pennsy electrification had been in PA NJ and MD, on lines outside the current Amtrak NEC, until I read that article.
     

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