How Much Fuel Does A Diesel Train Use?

The formula for our 2018 fuel economy rating is as follows: (Source: CSX R-1 Report 2018)

  • Lines 1+3 (Line 4) of Schedule 750, Diesel Fuel Consumption (Freight + Switching) = 423,998,863 gallons

Over the previous decade, CSX has spent more than $2.8 billion on improving locomotive fuel efficiency and lowering emissions.

The ton-mile-per-gallon is a unit of measurement used to compare the effectiveness of various types of transportation while moving freight.

The rail business keeps track of revenue ton-miles and publishes them “Surface Transportation Board Annual Report” (commonly referred to as the R1 Report). ‘The’ “The annual value of “Ton-Miles of Freight” is recorded in Schedule 755, line 110 of the R1 Report. In the R1 Report, Schedule 750, line 4, the rail sector also tracks and reports annual fuel usage. The system-wide train efficiency value is calculated using these two stated values.

For example, CSX recorded 208,712,027,000 ton-miles of freight in the R1 Report in 2018, and the combined line haul and switcher reported fuel usage was 423,998,863 gallons.

In other words, based on our 2018 revenue ton miles and fuel use, CSX trains can move a ton of freight nearly 500 miles on a gallon of fuel.

A freight truck’s fuel economy can be calculated in a similar method. For example, assuming an average 7 miles per gallon truck fuel efficiency and a typical truck payload of 19 tons, a heavy-duty diesel truck moving 19 tons of freight over 500 miles would burn approximately 71 gallons of diesel fuel. This freight haul’s efficiency would be computed as follows:

This efficiency could be described as follows: “On a gallon of gas, a truck can transport a ton of freight 134 miles.”

Similarly, a normal train might transport 3,000 tons of freight for 500 miles while using 3,049 gallons of diesel fuel. This freight haul’s efficiency would be computed as follows:

This efficiency could be described as follows: “On a gallon of fuel, a train can transport a ton of freight 492 miles.”

As illustrated by the ratio of 492 train ton-miles per gallon split by 134 truck ton-miles per gallon in this example, the train is nearly 3.7 times more efficient at moving freight.

How much fuel does a diesel locomotive use per hour?

Locomotives spend far too much of their service life idling, posing a problem for railroads in terms of unnecessary excess fuel consumption and GHG emissions, as well as a “bad neighbor” badge from the general public who live near railyards with a lot of excess idling and associated noise and emissions.

“It’s easier to keep it idling than to shut it down and have to restart it later, restarting a locomotive takes a long time,” or “I can’t risk it not starting again when I need it – what if the batteries are weak, or it has a poor starter?” are common operational reactions.

Is this a major deal or a minor difference in terms of fuel savings?

Let’s pretend I’m a railroad that uses 500 million gallons of diesel per year and has 4,000 locomotives in service, including both high-horsepower line-of-road locomotives and lower-horsepower yard locomotives.

Choosing a conservative 4 hours per day for each of these locomotives to idle, where they might have been shut down without affecting operations. Do we have your attention yet? Using an average of 3.5 gallons of gasoline used per hour idling per locomotive, some simple math shows a yearly consumption of over 20 million gallons of excess idle, which is over 4% of the total annual fuel consumption for that particular Class I railroad. If diesel fuel costs $2.00 a gallon, the savings would be $40 million — and this is an ongoing savings, not a one-time savings. That’s a lot of fuel, and it may have a big financial impact.

There are certainly technologies available and in use that assist in addressing the problem of excessive idle time.

Auto-Engine-Stop-Start Systems, or AESS Systems, have been in use for several decades.

Auxiliary Power Units (APUs) have also been in use for years in various capacities.

APUs typically use a small installed diesel engine to perform all of the functions that a larger prime mover engine would otherwise perform (water heating, battery charging, air system priming, and power to sub-systems) for a fraction of the diesel consumption (usually between one quarter and one half gallon per hour).

APUs just do not have enough power to propel the locomotive.

Why don’t these technologies always perform to their full potential?

Let’s start with AESS: there’s a limit to how many times a large diesel engine may be shut down and restarted in a 24-hour period; otherwise, your engine starting system components, such as starters, batteries, and contactors, would prematurely wear out.

The cost impact of road failures caused by starting system problems is magnified dramatically for railroads — it’s not just about maintenance and component prices.

There’s also the human aspect to consider: any of these systems can be manually deactivated by humans for a variety of reasons that may seem reasonable at the moment, but when combined, can significantly diminish system efficiency and fuel savings.

System reliability eats into savings as well; sustaining systems that aren’t “mission important,” such as APUS, can leave these devices with lower availability statistics than intended.

Another issue with AESS operations is cold weather, as locomotives utilize water-cooled engine systems that can quickly freeze during harsh winter operations, making AESS ineffective.

One of the motivations for the introduction of APU technology was to address this issue.

However, having another diesel engine to maintain with regular tune-ups, engine oil changes, belts, and dependability difficulties is a common complaint for these systems.

There’s no denying that technology can assist reduce engine idling, but more work is needed to maximize the amount of gasoline saved.

Many professionals are involved in the maintenance, operation, movement, and inspection of locomotive diesel power.

Each of them may – and should – play a key role in reducing locomotive idling.

We’ll go through each trade in the Transportation and Mechanical divisions and talk about how they might help reduce locomotive idling.

  • Locomotive Engineer — After taking command of their train and reviewing their paperwork, they may identify which locomotives should be pulling the train and, weather permitting, which locomotives should be shut down.
  • Locomotive Yard Hostler – Depending on when a locomotive in a yard is scheduled to go onto a train or into the shop for maintenance, if the duration is longer than a defined parameter, usually in the 30 to 60 minute range, the locomotive should be shut down.
  • Locomotive Maintainers — Depending on the volume of traffic on any given day, a locomotive shop is frequently highly busy.
  • Typically, locomotives will wait outside a maintenance shop for an open bay to undertake necessary maintenance.
  • If the locomotive is not expected to move for 30-60 minutes, it should be shut down using a similar tight timeframe.
  • Even in the middle of winter, low temperatures do not prevent locomotives from being shut down for a few hours, because there is enough latent heat energy left in the locomotive engine water to delay the risk of the locomotive dumping water owing to below freezing temperatures for several hours.
  • Local regulations for that store should set the unique rules for that network region, depending on their geographic location.
  • Fuel analysts and other management employees collaborate with the IT department to design and maintain a reporting dashboard or scorecard that tracks fuel savings.
  • Management must direct and choreograph the process, as well as marshal the many departments and craft workers and define acceptable future goals.

Everyone working together to eliminate idle time is the key to a coherent effort. Walking through a locomotive yard and counting the number of locomotives idle is an excellent technique to check this. Some visual observation audits of how effectively the shutdown regulations are being followed over the course of an hour or two, noting time and locomotive road number, can offer some good visual observation audits.

The GPS location and idling state of the majority of the locomotive fleet can be relayed in real time thanks to on-board electronics on most current high horsepower locomotives.

A scorecard can be created using specified geofenced restrictions for any given yard that measures compliance with the local shutdown laws – how long has a locomotive been idling without moving.

When shared with management and the workforce, this scorecard can help to develop business processes and focus efforts on reducing excessive locomotive idling within the yard limits, where the majority of idling occurs.

Furthermore, these systems can deliver text or email notifications to operating management with suitable increasing time triggers to drive and encourage the behaviors required to achieve a greater degree of compliance.

Whatever grade or percentage compliance a particular location achieves can be improved, and yearly goals for improvement can be created and met with all workers working together to reach the system or location goal.

Different shops’ performance management teams can also be directly compared, and local best practices can be shared across the network.

Figure 1 displays an example of a scorecard that counts both excess idle time in minutes and associated fuel expense by location, as well as the number of excess idle incidents broken down into discrete time measures.

Figure 2 depicts historical temperature by month as well as the amount of excess idle hours over the course of a year.

Goals have not been shown for both Figures since each railroad will have different goals and timetables for improvement.

Long-term significant change is feasible with the backing of local shop management and the development of appropriate improvement goals when all employees do their part to eliminate idle.

Idling reductions of 50% or more are undoubtedly possible with adequate training, tracking, and reporting.

Maintenance and servicing of the existing AESS and APU technologies should also be included in the overall improvement strategy.

Human involvement is always preferable to relying on technology to solve problems.

Working together, with an approved training plan and a real-time reporting scorecard with drill down warnings and performance measures, human and machine will undoubtedly achieve the desired result of reducing locomotive idling.

Where technology is accessible, well maintained technology can be an outstanding servant in assisting in the achievement of realistic and ambitious long-term goals.

All yard staff, including the locomotive crew, have a distinct role to play in ensuring that they are personally accountable for their areas of responsibility.

Expecting someone else to handle things will only result in aggravation and dismal consequences.

Depending on the baseline level of performance already in place, a 2 percent to 3 percent or greater increase in fuel efficiency is possible. This results in year-over-year fuel savings, cost savings, and additional benefits such as reduced exhaust and noise pollutants.

How many Litres of diesel does a train use?

For all passenger and cargo trains, the average fuel consumption per kilometer is 7.97 L/ km. 7.92 L/km is the value for local, trafficking, railway track laying, and maneuvering trains.

How much fuel do train engines use?

Fuel consumption for typical locomotives can range from a low of roughly 3 gallon per hour (gph) while idling to a high of 188 gph while at maximum notch, as shown in the table in Figure 5. Switch engines similar to the GP 9 or GP 38 locomotives are commonly used in intermodal yards.

Why train engines are not turned off?

Because trains are so enormous and heavy, they require the highest possible brake line pressure to stop safely. Loco pilots never compromise on brake line pressure for obvious reasons. Another incentive to keep diesel train engines running is the engine itself. The diesel engine in a train is a huge machine with roughly 16 cylinders.

How long can a diesel locomotive idle?

In June 2017, the federal government passed measures to combat locomotive pollution and idle. Here’s a sample:

10 (1) A railway company shall ensure that locomotives in its operational fleet do not idle for more than 30 minutes, subject to subsection (2).

(a) prevent locomotive engine damage, such as damage caused by the engine coolant freezing;

(d) heat or cool the cab if it is necessary for health and safety reasons;

(e) if necessary for passenger health and safety, provide head end power;

3) A railway business is required to

(a) having a written anti-idling policy that indicates the railroad’s commitment to decreasing locomotive idling.

The line about not letting an engine idle for more than 30 minutes is one of my favorites.

CN left their locomotives running for nearly 11 hours nonstop on a recent hot day in this community. The crew left the yard with the engines running, and they kept running until the next crew arrived, about half a day later, and just deadheaded out of the yard with the engines running.

The locomotives were left to burn off gasoline for at least 6 hours of nonstop idle the day before. These events are not isolated, and it appears that nearly all locomotives now in use in the United States are affected.

That’s all there is to Smartstart. These engines would have been turned off in minutes, not hours, just a few years ago.

Compare this to CN’s website, which claims to be “Driving Emission and Energy Efficiencies.”

Our train operators and rail traffic controllers are instructed on best practices for fuel saving on a regular basis, including locomotive shutdowns in our yards, streamlined railcar handling, train pacing, coasting, and braking methods. We reduced train idling by 14 percent in 2016.”

How far can a train go without refueling?

A railroad water stop, sometimes known as a water station, is a location where steam locomotives may refill their water tanks. A “water halt” refers to when the train comes to a complete stop. The word comes from the days when vast amounts of water were required for steam engines. Because it was customary to replenish engines with fuel as well as water while adding water to the boiler, they were also known as wood and water stops or coal and water stops.

Water stops were required every 7–10 miles (11–16 km) in the early days of steam locomotives, and they took up a lot of time. Tenders (a special car storing water and fuel) allowed trains to travel 100–150 miles (160–240 km) between refills.

Water stops used water tanks, water towers, and tank ponds to collect the water. Windmills, watermills, and manual pumps were used to pump the water at first, which was often done by the train crew themselves. Small steam and gasoline engines were later employed.

As the railroad system in the United States grew, a huge number of tank ponds were built to provide water for water stops by damming numerous minor rivers that intersected the rails.

Tank ponds were frequently stocked with largemouth bass.

Many of the water stations along the new railways became new communities. The boilerman swung out the spigot arm over the water tender and “jerked” the chain to start watering when a train stopped for water and was positioned by a water tower. The term “jerkwater town” was coined in the nineteenth century to describe settlements that were too small to establish a regular railroad station. The town of Coalinga, California, formerly known as Coaling Station A, takes its name from the initial coal halt at this area. However, as steam engines were replaced by diesel locomotives, many of the then-obsolete water stops, particularly in deserted locations, became ghost towns.

Isolated water stations were a frequent ambush spot for train robbers during the days of the Wild West.

Are trains more fuel efficient than trucks?

On average, freight railroads in the United States move one ton of freight over 480 miles per gallon of gasoline. Railroads use three to four times less fuel than trucks on average. This means that shipping freight by rail rather than vehicle reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 75% on average.