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Norfolk International Terminal’s hybrid locomotive

Norfolk International Terminal’s hybrid locomotive

On-terminal locomotives – sometimes called a road or yard switcher – are the workhorses in the train-building process: they push heavy loads short distances at low speeds; make frequent stops; operate in forward and reverse and sit idle for long periods as they wait for railcars to be sorted.

The unit, called the Green Goat, “went into service without issue and has been on a regular schedule ever since,” said Heather Mantz, VPA’s director of environmental affairs. “It is living up to expectations: it has plenty of hauling power, it is very quiet at idle because that is when it is operating on battery power and it uses significantly less fuel than the locomotive it replaced did.”

It is estimated that Green Goat will save around US$143,000 in annual fuel costs and reduce the amount of diesel emissions coming from the terminal’s rail cargo operation. The unit is the first of three new yard locomotives that will replace the 1970s-vintage lease units being used at NIT. The remaining locomotives are scheduled for delivery in late winter or early spring 2009.

The purchase package includes two RP Series road switchers and the Green Goat yard switcher. The road switchers employ three high-efficiency diesel engines and battery power that can be used in multiple configurations. The Green Goat is a battery-dominant hybrid that uses diesel engines to maintain optimal battery power, yielding fuel savings of 30% to 40%, according to the port authority.

The total purchase price of US$3.6m is being financed in part by a US$750,000 grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The VPA will pay US$2m and its operating company, Virginia International Terminals, the US$850,000 balance. For the first three years, the units will be leased from the manufacturer, Railpower Hybrid Technologies Corp. When the lease expires, they will be purchased by the VPA.