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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / UPDATE: Metra board approves locomotive purchase; SD70MACH models to come out of EMD NEWSWIRE

UPDATE: Metra board approves locomotive purchase; SD70MACH models to come out of EMD NEWSWIRE

By Richard Wronski | February 20, 2019

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An artist’s rendition of new-to-Metra SD70MACH locomotives.
Metra, via Facebook
CHICAGO — Metra on Wednesday approved a $71 million contract to purchase 15 remanufactured locomotives from Progress Rail Locomotives with options to buy up to 27 additional locomotives if more funding becomes available.

According to a Metra announcement, Progress Rail will take existing EMD SD70MAC freight locomotives and upgrade and configure them for passenger use. All components will either be refurbished, upgraded or new. The newly remanufactured locomotives will be designated as SD70MACH locomotives.

“Our goals with this locomotive purchase are to increase reliability and improve the state of good repair on our system,” Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski said in a statement. “These like-new locomotives will be replacing some of the oldest locomotives in our fleet, and we would expect to see a significant increase in reliability as these newer locomotives are introduced.”

In a presentation to Metra’s Board of Directors, Chief Mechanical Officer Kevin McCann said 103 locomotives, or about 70 percent of Metra’s current fleet of 147, are rated in marginal or poor condition. The average age of Metra locomotives is 31 years, he said.

The addition this year of 21 used F59PHI locomotives purchased from Amtrak and three F59PHs from Progress Rail will reduce that percentage to about 45 percent. The addition of the remanufactured freight locomotives will reduce that percentage to 14 percent by 2023, he said.

“With this procurement, we’ll start seeing a big improvement in reliability,” McCann said. The newer locomotives will also reduce operating costs, since the older locomotives are increasingly expensive to maintain and operate, he said.

Metra Chairman Norm Carlson pointed out that Progress Rail is a wholly owned subsidiary of Caterpillar, an Illinois company, and that Progress Rail has a research facility in La Grange, a suburb of Chicago.

“There’s a benefit to that,” Carlson said. “We’re using tried and true equipment.”

Metra issued an request for proposals in January 2018 for companies to provide proposals for either new or remanufactured locomotives. Metra chose remanufactured locomotives primarily because it can buy more of them than new locomotives, McCann said.

McCann said a significant benefit from the purchase will be evident in the locomotives’ traction motors, which deliver the power generated by the diesel engine to the wheels. The remanufactured locomotives will have AC traction motors, which are far more durable and reliable than the DC traction motors in Metra’s older locomotives.

For example, Metra currently needs to replace about 160 DC traction motors annually. On Metra Electric cars, the oldest of which have had AC traction motors for 12 years, Metra has not had to change a single traction motor.

The remanufactured locomotives have a similar design to Metra’s F59 locomotives so Metra will be able to use the same parts inventory and won’t need different training and maintenance programs, McCann said.

The new locomotives will have 4,300-hp, a 34-percent increase. Another major upgrade is a microprocessor-controlled brake system.

The remanufactured locomotives will meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s Tier 3 emissions standards, McCann said. Replacing 42 of Metra’s current locomotives that are rated Tier 0+ with 42 Tier 3 locomotives will eliminate 61 tons of nitrous oxide emissions annually – the equivalent to taking 6,600 cars off the road.

UPDATE: Full write through. Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, 3:42 p.m.

UPDATE: Adjusted headline. Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019, 8:54 a.m.

21 thoughts on “UPDATE: Metra board approves locomotive purchase; SD70MACH models to come out of EMD NEWSWIRE

  1. Brilliant idea instead of spending millions on highly technical “special” passenger locomotive there is no reason this should not work. Amazing someone didn’t think of it sooner, maybe called it the FP7 or FP9.

  2. Not P70MACH? Does that look too much like “POOCH” (as in the GE passenger locos Amtrak had back in the 70s)? Will they be nicknamed “Machs” as opposed to “Macs”? How does an SD70MAC handle at high speeds? Where will they put the HEP generator (or was that already figured out in the SD70s used for passenger service in Alaska)? Soooo many questions…

    Seriously, though, will they be regeared with passenger gearing in their traction motors? Current freight gearing has a maximum speed of 70mph which I believe Metra exceeds in some places on its system.

  3. Wow, that came out of absolutely nowhere! This really looks like the kind of thing a freelance modeler would come up.

    I have one question, though. Whose SD70MAC’s are these?EMD doesn’t have 15 SD70MAC’s just sitting around, do they?

  4. “To come out of LaGrange”…really? I suspect that the headline is a trifle misleading. They may come out of Muncie, perhaps.

    And, yes…who’s getting rid of SD70MACs?

  5. Can’t help remembering the last time someone tried to make a freight motor into one that would work for pax (SDP40F/E60).

    What’s the acceleration on these things?

  6. (February 20, 2019) –
    The Metra Board of Directors today approved a $70.9 million contract to purchase 15 remanufactured locomotives….
    COULD THAT BE RIGHT, $4.7 MILLION PER ENGINE?

  7. Well, METRA obviously doesn’t need them to be able to hit 125mph, so they don’t need the Siemen’s Charger, which seem to be doing just fine in Florida and the PNW/California.

    As for the $4.7 M per engine, that sounds about right when you compare to the $6 m or so per new engine, and regearing as well as all the other work being performed doesn’t come cheap…don’t forget the upgraded software as well.

  8. Also to answer the previous questions on where these 15 SD70MAC’s are coming from, I don’t know for sure but they might be the 15 Ex BNSF (née BN) engines that BNSF returned to Progress Rail back in late 2017 and then were leased to Norfolk Southern for a little while that carried reporting marks PRLX #’s 9551-9564.

    Now that NS is no longer leasing them, I’d say that Progress Rail is finding other opportunities for these old freight engines they acquired from CSX and BNSF.

  9. Wow, I didn’t know you could take a Freight Engine and retrofit it to a passenger locomotive. I know a few years ago Metrolink tried something similar by taking the prime movers out of Ex Amtrak F40PH’s and put them in Ex CNW (UP) SD60’s but it didn’t work.
    Way to go Metra, that’s better than buying New cheap Siemens garbage. Give the F125s some time to have the problems resolved.
    So yes Progress Rail is NOT dying.

  10. These engines should pull away from the station fairly quickly since the AC traction motors can take full amperage from a standing start.

  11. The Crandall cab lives!!! (https://www.american-rails.com/crandall-cabs.html)

    This is the type of power that Metra has needed for a long time to push / pull the long express trains. I’m guessing that these units will start on the BNSF line and then the Rock Island and Milwaukee District lines. I’m not sure if we’ll see these engines on the ex CNW lines because of bridge weight restrictions in Chicago.

    Chris

  12. What???? Freight body? NOOOOO!!! So wrong, put a carbody, it’ll look like F40C on roids. Metra could of just sent the F40c & F40ph and rehashed the whole fleet. Drastic visual change, freight body pulling bilevels. I hope they have separate HEP, at least.The noise of a blaring engine is so inefficient.

  13. For sure not on CNW lines till all the bridges are replaced at least. If these had carbody Id love it but it dont so I hate it.

  14. So the railfans are worried about the “important” stuff such as what type of body they will have and what type of horn. Meanwhile, we engineers are concerned with evidently the “non important” stuff such as how they will pull and cab noise. Not that I will ever see them on the lines I’m on. Metra will just get rid of some of ours (the yet to be rebuilt F40’s) and replace them with their displaced F40’s.

  15. It least these 15 are not coming from the competitor that stole the order from CN & KCS for 250 new locomotives

  16. Metra top speeds are 78mph. Metra got burned when the Motive Power models came out overweight and were banned on the CNW lines. The SD70 MACH will come in somewhere between a standard MAC (400klbs) and a ACe4 (430klbs) due to the HEP requirements. The MP36PH-3S is rated for up to 295klbs, but I think they actually came out at 320klbs for Metra and were never seen on UP lines.

    So if history repeats itself, you will never see these on any legacy CNW commuter lanes. They are just too heavy.

  17. It will be interesting seeing how these locomotives will hold up under passenger service. The vibration of the prime mover will rattle a few windows along the route. Will the engineer on the west bound runs be buzzing at the end of their run?

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