Electrify Me... Rail On!

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#1
I am in a heated exchange of communication regarding the necessity to electrify America's railroads.

But I was rebuffed by the argument that building catenary power distribution is laborious and expensive.

Can someone direct me to examples (photos?) of automated MOW equipment that can build / service catenary wiring?

In the event that there was a national initiative to electrify 35,000 miles of mainline track, wouldn't that be incentive to design / build such a machine (*if it doesn't already exist).

In the event that diesel fuel triples in price, due to "Cap and Trade", I believe that there would be a groundswell of support for transitioning to electric power.

In addition, building urban electric traction mass transit, would only increase demand for automated machines to speed the task.

Any thoughts / guesstimates on the number of machines and timeframe to build 60,000 miles of urban rail mass transit?

I am aware of track laying machines that can do over 1 mile per day. Are there machines that can do it faster?

60,000 miles computes to 60,000 days of operation for one machine.
6,000 days for ten machines.
600 days for 100 machines.
300 days for 200 machines.
 
#2
I know that light rail systems have pretty advanced catenary systems for maintaining overhead line tension, which was always a big maintenance headache for earlier systems. Don't know if the counterbalanced tensioning devices would hold up under high speed trains, but certainly looking to the TGV and ICE lines in Europe, or Japanese high speed catenary would give some clues. Or the electrification between New Haven and Boston - that's a fairly recent installation.
 

Eastern Railfan

Ferroequineologist
#3
A highly unlikely situation like that would require a butt load of energy. Where pray tel is all the additional electricity required going to come from?
 
#4
A highly unlikely situation like that would require a butt load of energy. Where pray tel is all the additional electricity required going to come from?
Quoting from :
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/4301

Transferring freight from truck to electrified rail trades 17 to 21 BTUs of diesel for one BTU of electricity. Simply electrifying existing rail freight would trade 2.6 to 3 BTUs of diesel for one BTU of electricity.

Transferring 100% of inter-city truck traffic (impractical) to electrified railroads, plus electrifying all (not 80%) of the existing rail traffic, would take about 100 TWh/year or 2.3% of total US electrical demand.

Electrifying 80% of railroad ton-miles and transferring half of current truck freight to rail would take about 1% of US electricity. 1% is an amount that could be easily conserved, or, with less ease, provided by new renewable generation and/or new nuclear plants.
--------------------------

I do not conclude that a 2.3% increase amounts to a "butt load".
 

Jackrabbit

Preserving "America's RR"
#5
Not to rain in your greenhouse, but you need to research the good ol' Milwaukee RR. There is good reason why they never connected their electrified line in Montana to their line in Washington seperated by a few hundred miles of mainly level track. Development of the system was costly and maintenance was laborious. The only reason they did it in the first place was that the RR's were being looked at as a possible cause of the big Clearwater fire of 1910. France doesn't get the kind of weather that we do here and Japan is arguably as in love with the train as we are with the car. In wind out here wires tend to oscilate. They also shrink and expand in cold and heat. Voltage drops over long distances (the kind that exist out here) necessitate sub-stations not as far as you'd think along the line.

It may happen if things force us to build a largeer passenger rail infastructure, but for now high-horsepower, more fuel efficient diesels are the future. If things were so bad fuel expense wise, they would shut the locomotives down rather than letting them idle all the time. It may happen in the distant future, but my money is on an alternative power source by then or mag-lev.
 
#6
Not to rain in your greenhouse, but you need to research the good ol' Milwaukee RR. There is good reason why they never connected their electrified line in Montana to their line in Washington seperated by a few hundred miles of mainly level track. Development of the system was costly and maintenance was laborious. The only reason they did it in the first place was that the RR's were being looked at as a possible cause of the big Clearwater fire of 1910.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago,_Milwaukee,_St._Paul_and_Pacific_Railroad#De-electrification
De-electrification

In February 1973, and against the advice of studies conducted by both the railroad and independent groups, the Milwaukee decided to scrap its electrification scheme. The board of directors considered the electrification scheme an impediment to its merger and consolidation plans, and that the money required to maintain it would be better spent elsewhere. The high copper prices of time, and the $10 million the railroad estimated it would get for selling off the copper overhead wire, contributed to the decision.

The surveys had found that an investment of $39 million could have closed the "gap" between the two electrified districts, bought new locomotives, and upgraded the electrical equipment all along the line. Furthermore, the displaced diesel locomotives could have been used elsewhere and thus reduced the requirement to purchase new, reducing the true cost of the plan to only $18 million. General Electric even proposed underwriting the financing because of the railroad's financial position.

Rejecting this, the railroad dismantled its electrification just as the 1973 oil crisis took hold. By 1974, when the electrification was shut down, the electric locomotives operated at half the cost of the diesels that replaced them. Worse, the railroad had to spend $39 million, as much as the GE-sponsored revitalization plan, to buy more diesel locomotives to replace the electrics, and only received $5 million for the copper scrap since prices had fallen.

The badly-maintained track, which was the part of the system most in need of renewal, was never touched.

Decline to bankruptcy

Circumstances did not get much better after the electrification was dismantled. By 1977, much of the Pacific Extension was under slow orders due to the condition of the track, and transit times had almost tripled. Cars needing repair were being sidelined for lack of money, and locomotives needing major service were being parked. The road filed for bankruptcy for the third time on December 19, 1977.
France doesn't get the kind of weather that we do here and Japan is arguably as in love with the train as we are with the car. In wind out here wires tend to oscilate. They also shrink and expand in cold and heat. Voltage drops over long distances (the kind that exist out here) necessitate sub-stations not as far as you'd think along the line.
So the Trans-Siberian RR, completely electrified in 2002, by a nation that is a gas and oil exporter, shouldn't have done it?

Perhaps I need to do more research...


It may happen if things force us to build a largeer passenger rail infastructure, but for now high-horsepower, more fuel efficient diesels are the future. If things were so bad fuel expense wise, they would shut the locomotives down rather than letting them idle all the time. It may happen in the distant future, but my money is on an alternative power source by then or mag-lev.
I hope you're right about an alternative fuel as cheap and plentiful as petroleum once was. But what if you're wrong?

Mag-lev, while having lower coefficient of friction, has a much higher power consumption than steel wheel on steel rail. If the cost for power becomes the limiting factor, which I believe it will, Mag-lev will not be economical.

The bottom line - with a limited and finite budget for power and resources, based on the laws of Physics and current engineering - steel wheel on steel rail, powered by electricity, is the winner.
 
#8
Voltage drops over long distances (the kind that exist out here) necessitate sub-stations not as far as you'd think along the line.
Since it was the Milwaukee that was brought up... Don't higher voltage systems need less sub-stations? I thought this was the reason third-rail electrification was only used for short distances.
 

kenw

5th Generation Texian
#9
not to rain on your enthusiasm, but any "carbon tax" (and don't EVEN get me started...) reasons or whatever causes diesel to escalate in price will also affect coal which is our predominant means to generate electricity.
 
#10
not to rain on your enthusiasm, but any "carbon tax" (and don't EVEN get me started...) reasons or whatever causes diesel to escalate in price will also affect coal which is our predominant means to generate electricity.
The electric portions of MILW were in the Pacific Northwest and our power was and is primarily hydro.
 
#15
Above a minimum speed, as the velocity of the train increases, the levitation gap, lift force and power used are largely constant. The system can lift 50 times the magnet weight.​
Power constant - but not necessarily LESS power than steel wheel on steel rail.

Want to move 50 tons, you need a one ton magnet...
HMMMM, let me think about that one!

Move a 2500 ton train, you need a 500 ton magnet...
HMMMM.... How big do you think that will be?

An Electric Locomotive, like the Rc http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SJ_Rc
is "only" 80 tonnes and can probably pull a 2500 ton train... or maybe you need 1 or 2 more.
 
#16
What we really need to do in this country is build nuclear powerplants.
Your wish may come true - - -

http://www.businessweek.com/news/20...ts-seek-approval-to-work-in-u-s-update1-.html

Manufacturers of refrigerator-sized nuclear reactors will seek approval from U.S. authorities within a year to help supply the world’s growing electricity demand.

Price Tag

While utility-scale reactors cost about $2.3 billion apiece and produce 1.2 gigawatts of power, Hyperion’s price tag is $50 million for a 25-megawatt reactor more comparable to a diesel generators or wind farms.

Transportable by truck, the units would come in a sealed box and work around the clock, requiring less maintenance than a fossil fuel plant, the developers say. They’d cost 15 percent less per megawatt of capacity than the average full-scale atomic reactors now in on the drawing board, according to World Nuclear Association data.

“A 25-megawatt plant would put electricity into 20,000 homes, and it would fit inside this room,” James Kohlhaas, vice president at a Lockheed Martin Corp. unit that builds power systems for remote military bases, said in an interview. “It’s a pretty elegant micro-grid solution.”

--------------------------------------

Can someone spell "A-t-o-m-i-c T-r-a-i-n"?
Whoooosh
and
GLOW in the DARK!
 
#18
not to rain on your enthusiasm, but any "carbon tax" (and don't EVEN get me started...) reasons or whatever causes diesel to escalate in price will also affect coal which is our predominant means to generate electricity.
1. Diesel will rise in price regardless of carbon taxation. The rising demand versus rising cost to produce means only one thing --- budget busting prices.


2. Coal is an interim solution - until other sources come on line.



3. Another reason why it is important to transition to electric rail - scalable capacity.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_rail
One line of light rail has a theoretical capacity of up to 8 times more than one lane of freeway (not counting buses) during peak times. Roads have ultimate capacity limits which can be determined by traffic engineering. They usually experience a chaotic breakdown in flow and a dramatic drop in speed (colloquially known as a traffic jam) if they exceed about 2,000 vehicles per hour per lane (each car roughly two seconds behind another). Since most people who drive to work or on business trips do so alone, studies show that the average car occupancy on many roads carrying commuters is only about 1.2 people per car during the high-demand rush hour periods of the day.

This combination of factors limits roads carrying only automobile commuters to a maximum observed capacity of about 2,400 passengers per hour per lane.The problem can be mitigated by using high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes and introducing ride-sharing programs, but in most cases the solution adopted has been to add more lanes to the roads. Simple arithmetic shows that in order to carry 20,000 automobile commuters per hour per direction, a freeway must be at least 18 lanes wide.

By contrast, light rail vehicles can travel in multi-car trains carrying a theoretical ridership up to 20,000 passengers per hour in much narrower rights-of-way, not much more than two car lanes wide for a double track system. They can often be run through existing city streets and parks, or placed in the medians of roads. If run in streets, trains are usually limited by city block lengths to about four 180-passenger vehicles (720 passengers). Operating on 2 minute headways using traffic signal progression, a well-designed two-track system can handle up to 30 trains per hour per track, achieving peak rates of over 20,000 passengers per hour in each direction. More advanced systems with separate rights-of-way using moving block signaling can exceed 25,000 passengers per hour per track.

Since a light rail track can carry up to 20,000 people per hour as compared with 2,400 people per hour for a freeway lane, light rail could theoretically deliver 4 times the congestion-reduction potential per dollar as incremental freeway lanes in congested urban areas.​

------------------

A four track system (2 local, 2 express), would have the equivalent carrying capacity of over 100,000 passengers per hour (replacing 50 lanes of superhighway).
 
#19
I was rebuffed by the argument that building catenary power distribution is laborious and expensive. Can someone direct me to examples (photos?) of automated MOW equipment that can build / service catenary wiring?
First of all, exactly what you do foresee being automatically maintained?

Secondly, don't you think that every power company in the world would be doing it if it existed?

The problem with the U.S. is that there are so many low-density branchlines and shortlines that electrification of those routes make absolutely no sense. If you electrify just the mainlines, you'll need a diesel locomotive for each branchline, or you'll have to tow around a diesel locomotive to serve the branches, or you end up running diesel under wires.

The railroads that electrified years ago did so because the electric operations were less costly than the other options (steam in long tunnels = massive ventilation systems, reduced capacity); however that was offset by having to run dedicated fleets of equipment. With diesel locomotives they could run through. Fewer locomotives equals less cost. Union Pacific and BNSF sure know how to run their locomotives at maximum efficiency and send them throughout the system.

Can electrification make sense? Possibly. However we are already running up at maximum generation, so there'd be the issue of who builds the power plants, where they will be built, and what fuel they'll be burning. Wind and solar are going to be out for the railroads because they are inconsistent. Hydro is out because of massive environmental impacts. Don't even think about coal. Nuclear is way too difficult. That leaves us with natural gas. Which is subject to all of the same issues with diesel fuel.
 
#20
The electric portions of MILW were in the Pacific Northwest and our power was and is primarily hydro.
Funny since someone else brought up light rail...

In Portland (the so-called king of light rail), less than 50% of the power comes from hydro. In fact a significant amount comes from coal; despite being in an area that is rarely equated to having coal resources. One of the largest polluters in the entire state is a coal plant built in eastern Oregon whose construction was timed specifically to evade a new anti-pollution law that took effect shortly after construction.

Seattle gets a lot of power from hydro (close to 90%) but the suburbs don't; most of the Willamette Valley doesn't, and large parts of eastern Washington don't.
 


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