Electrify Me... Rail On!

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#22
What about the "fuel cell" that an engineer developed no larger than a slice of bread, powered by natural gas or some other equivalent? He sandwiched then together into a block about the size of a Rubik's Cube and the power generation was enough to power a house. They are experimenting with larger blocks of fuel cells at a large office complex and the power generation is very effecient, quiet and saves energy...I believe the story was carried on "60 minutes" or something. That would bear some studying...

I like the thought of an "Disco-Swimming Pool Observation Car", April. If limos can have it, why not trains?
 
#23
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.
See this post:
http://www.railroadforums.com/forum/showpost.php?p=268852&postcount=4
 
#24
First of all, exactly what you do foresee being automatically maintained?
The question was in regard to economies of scale. In the event that a national electrification initiative was enacted, with the expectation to electrify 36,000 miles of mainline RR, would MOW equipment manufacturers build / design such units to build / maintain catenary power lines.
I already know about the track laying MOW machines that a single operator can control. (I saw one demonstrated on "Extreme Trains").

Secondly, don't you think that every power company in the world would be doing it if it existed?
If "what" 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.
I foresee that in the near future, petroleum costs (inc. diesel) will severely impact the mainline RRs and spur a transition to all-electric.

In fact, I foresee that a large percentage of truck cargo will be sent via electric rail.

The age of cheap and plentiful oil is over.
 
#25
What about the "fuel cell" that an engineer developed no larger than a slice of bread, powered by natural gas or some other equivalent? He sandwiched then together into a block about the size of a Rubik's Cube and the power generation was enough to power a house. They are experimenting with larger blocks of fuel cells at a large office complex and the power generation is very efficient, quiet and saves energy...I believe the story was carried on "60 minutes" or something. That would bear some studying...
It's known as a "reforming" fuel cell in that it strips the carbon from the methane (natural gas) and liberates the hydrogen to generate the electricity. Hydrocarbons are a lot more convenient to handle than pure hydrogen. This type of fuel cell has been around for years, up to megawatt sizes.

The "Bloom Cell" seems to be a cheaper version that doesn't require expensive catalysts like platinum and may be more tolerant of trace impurities in the fuel stock. Extra points if you can make use of the waste heat (building heat, evaporative air conditioning, hot water supply).
 

April

Reality escapee
#27
I always wondered about Supertrain's time setting. From their images of contemporary freight railroading it must have been about 1930.

The series was set in the present day (1979?) so I think they went with the grimy/drab/non-modern railroad equipment either as a counterpoint to the ultramodern Supertrain and/or they didn't want those flashy diesels and brightly painted boxcars competing for attention.

I came across some publicity photos from the show on Teh Internets. I can guarantee you the show was set in the late 1970's. The clothes everyone is wearing. Can you say Polyester! And I won't get into it about the hairstyles...

:D

April
 
#28
But that assumes that we eliminate all truck/rail reloading, which is a totally separate issue. What is your plan to eliminate intermodal transport and go back to boxcars loading right at loading docks? What is your plan to have hundreds of thousands of shippers relocate to rail-side locations, that currently do not have rail service? Or shippers that have been so fed up with rail service and went to truck - electrification doesn't solve the service problem.

And the issue of transloading equipment from truck to train (and vice-versa) doesn't use electricity...so you STILL have the issue of dealing with the increased electric demand caused by your trains. True, less oil will be used, but there's a difference between oil put in a truck or locomotive's fuel tank and oil burned in a power plant. Just because you save the oil from going into a fuel tank, doesn't mean you suddenly have excess capacity on a power grid or excess generation from a coal or nuclear or hydro or wind or solar power plant.
 
#29
The question was in regard to economies of scale. In the event that a national electrification initiative was enacted, with the expectation to electrify 36,000 miles of mainline RR, would MOW equipment manufacturers build / design such units to build / maintain catenary power lines...If "what" existed?
I thought I was pretty darn clear, but let's try this again.

IF there was a device, machine, product, whatever, out there, that could automatically maintain overhead power lines, don't you think every electric utility in the nation would be using it? What about all of those countries in Europe, and Japan, that have extensive overhead wire systems - they maintain all that wire - BY HAND.

The fact that hundreds of companies out there in the United States that do nothing but maintain overhead power lines aren't using such a machine, because it doesn't exist, should tell you something. The fact that Germany and Japan don't have such a machine should tell you something.

Sure, track can be maintained automatically - it also helps that the entire rail structure has been redesigned - jointed rail was replaced with welded rail that can be welded together by a robot; the old tie plates and spikes have been replaced with machine-applied clamps. But overhead wires is a different story. So if you have an idea for a machine to automatically inspect/repair overhead wire, why talk about electrifying the rail system when you have a product that could earn you millions upon millions of dollars?
 
#30
But that assumes that we eliminate all truck/rail reloading, which is a totally separate issue. What is your plan to eliminate intermodal transport and go back to boxcars loading right at loading docks? What is your plan to have hundreds of thousands of shippers relocate to rail-side locations, that currently do not have rail service? Or shippers that have been so fed up with rail service and went to truck - electrification doesn't solve the service problem.
There was no implication that all diesel trucks would be eliminated - just a majority of the long haul. When the new hybrid diesel trucks come on line, they would be ideal for the short haul task - where they are most efficient. I also suspect that containerized freight would be the dominant mode, easily shifted between water, rail, and truck (local).

Container crane stocks should be a good investment.

And the issue of transloading equipment from truck to train (and vice-versa) doesn't use electricity...so you STILL have the issue of dealing with the increased electric demand caused by your trains. True, less oil will be used, but there's a difference between oil put in a truck or locomotive's fuel tank and oil burned in a power plant. Just because you save the oil from going into a fuel tank, doesn't mean you suddenly have excess capacity on a power grid or excess generation from a coal or nuclear or hydro or wind or solar power plant.
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/4301
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.
(Excerpt from an article written by Alan Drake in response to an indirect query from an elected official.)

Restating: if ALL railroads were electrified and ALL truck traffic was transferred, the estimate is 2.3% increase in demand. At 80% electrification and 1/2 truck freight, it is estimated to take a 1% increase.

Note: His estimates are limited to mainline RRs. If we assume widespread local electric traction mass transit, that may bump up another 0.5% or more.
 
#31
I thought I was pretty darn clear, but let's try this again.

IF there was a device, machine, product, whatever, out there, that could automatically maintain overhead power lines, don't you think every electric utility in the nation would be using it? What about all of those countries in Europe, and Japan, that have extensive overhead wire systems - they maintain all that wire - BY HAND.

The fact that hundreds of companies out there in the United States that do nothing but maintain overhead power lines aren't using such a machine, because it doesn't exist, should tell you something. The fact that Germany and Japan don't have such a machine should tell you something.
I was only referring to catenary power lines for railroads - not the electric power industry as a whole.
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/4301
Appendix Three
Electrified (Mainline) Rail in Other Nations
As of 2000 (source Indian Railways*)
Route km Electrified % Electrified
Switzerland 3,284 3,057 93%
Japan 12,668 8,939 71%
Sweden 11,797 7,440 63%
Italy 16,146 10,030 62%
Germany 40,710 16,202 40%
France 34,837 12,611 36%
Russia 88,716 38,600 43%

Japan has 8,839 km of electrified rail
Germany has 16,202 km of electrified rail

If the USA only electrified 36,000 miles (57,600 km) of strategic RR lines, that's about 3.5 times as much as Germany and almost double that for Japan. With such an expectation of workload, perhaps it would be cost effective.

Sure, track can be maintained automatically - it also helps that the entire rail structure has been redesigned - jointed rail was replaced with welded rail that can be welded together by a robot; the old tie plates and spikes have been replaced with machine-applied clamps. But overhead wires is a different story. So if you have an idea for a machine to automatically inspect/repair overhead wire, why talk about electrifying the rail system when you have a product that could earn you millions upon millions of dollars?
I sense sarcasm.
 
#32
You're avoiding the question.

Where is this machine that you claim exists, that can automatically maintain overhead power lines, that would drastically reduce maintenance costs of electrified railroads to make it more cost effective than diesel?

Maintaining an overhead power line is virtually identical to an overhead catenary line, yet no railroad, and no power company, has such a machine that you propose. Electric utilities all throughout America have overhead power lines that must be maintained by hand; imagine if we had the machine you propose that could maintain overhead power lines, and cut America's electric bills dramatically. It doesn't exist.

Likewise, of the dozens of electric subway and light rail systems, and the Northeast Corridor - all of the overhead wire is maintained by hand. So is in every other country.

You are proposing a solution to a problem, in that your solution doesn't exist nor can you name an example of such; when I ask for more information you skirt around and try to nitpick my comment. So let's try this one last time.

Where is this automatic overhead wire maintenance machine that you speak of?

Meanwhile, you claim that by converting all current truck shipments will increase electric demand by just 1%? That doesn't sound like a lot, does it? Have you built a power plant lately? Even a small, 50MW wind facility takes years to permit and construct. Despite our attempts to cut energy usage through conservation - our usage still goes up (until the economy took over.) When the economy recovers, usage will spike up again.
 
#33
In the whole "Rails vs. Rubber" war, trucks would haul for distances less than 100-200 miles or so, and for longer distances trains would take over, especially with the extensive use of TOFC trains. (My point--rubber tires and long distances DON'T mix!)

Especially when you consider the feds and many states are trying to convince many businesses to move their goods by rail to reduce the amount of trucks on the road (which can cause congestion as well as pollution), electrification will help stimulate that process. And when you think of some of the commodities that railroads lost to trucks in the later half of the 20th century--livestock, refridgerated goods and the mail--these just may return to the rails--maybe, maybe not. Only time will tell.
 
#34
You're avoiding the question.
What question?

Where is this machine that you claim exists, that can automatically maintain overhead power lines, that would drastically reduce maintenance costs of electrified railroads to make it more cost effective than diesel?
Where did I claim such a machine existed?
I was asking if anyone else knew of such a machine!
YOU CLAIM I SAID I KNEW OF THE MACHINE.
I did not, have not, and can't figure out how you keep misreading these posts.

This is what I posted in #1:
Can someone direct me to examples (photos?) of automated MOW equipment that can build / service catenary wiring?


Meanwhile, you claim that by converting all current truck shipments will increase electric demand by just 1%?
No, I do not claim it. It was from another article by Alan Drake. And the 1% figure was based on only electrifying 80% of the mainlines, and transferring HALF of truck freight.

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.
(Excerpt from an article written by Alan Drake in response to an indirect query from an elected official.)

Here's the link
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/4301
Please read it first. I'd suggest you argue with him, but since that article no longer accepts comments, you will have to seek a different way to complain to him.
 
#35
For whatever it's worth, despite my interest in electric railroading, I've never encountered a picture or description of any "automated" catenary installation/maintenance equipment. A close examination of a modern catenary installation doesn't suggest to me any way such an installation could be maintained by a machine to any meaningful degree. At most, there seems to be equipment to assist human workers in these chores, mostly by carrying and feeding wire, pretty much the way power lines are installed and maintained.

By the way, the rails are part of the wiring, too.
 
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mixolydian

typedef char badiron;
#36
yes, the size and shape of the vehicle are very important (which is why i posted both links).
http://tritrack.net/horsePower.html
Transit Energy Use (.pdf)
Optimization of Transit System Characteristics (.pdf)


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.
 
#37
yes, the size and shape of the vehicle are very important (which is why i posted both links).
http://tritrack.net/horsePower.html
Transit Energy Use (.pdf)
Optimization of Transit System Characteristics (.pdf)
The Halbach array is intriguing. I watched a few YouTube demonstrations. I get the impression that building small arrays is not too difficult, but that assembling a large unit, approaching the size necessary for moving a train car, is the sticking point.
 
#39
On the topic of substation issues, the Texas and electric railway the ran from Dallas to Waco a distance of about 130 miles, the city street car systems ran off of 600 volts dc while the main line out of town ran off of 1200 volts dc to increase distance between substations.
 
#40
Wanna see the King County NIMBYS go completely bonkers? Get BNSF to announce electrification of Stampede. The screeching and hooting in the Auburn-Kanaskat segment over catenaries and support structures would be enough to power several large buildings or trains...
 


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