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Norfolk Southern locomotive conversion program continues to expand A.C. traction fleet

By Bill Stephens | June 8, 2021

Railroad converting more than 100 D.C. units per year; A.C. locomotives now 54% of road fleet

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Black locomotives lead train through curve
Black locomotives lead train through curve
Norfolk Southern D.C.-to-A.C. conversion No. 4261, an AC44C6M, leads a train at Otis, Ind., on June 19, 2020. (Trains: David Lassen)

NORFOLK, Va. – Norfolk Southern continues to convert older D.C.-traction locomotives into A.C.-traction units at a pace of just over 100 locomotives per year.

Some 54% of the NS road fleet is now A.C. traction, Chief Financial Officer Mark George told an investor conference today. That’s up from a third of the fleet at the end of 2018. The railroad aims to have 65% of its road locomotives feature AC traction.

The D.C.-to-A.C. conversion program provides NS with a like-new locomotive for half the cost of buying a brand-new road locomotive. The A.C. units are more reliable, have reduced maintenance costs, are more efficient, and have better tractive effort than the D.C. locomotives they replace.

NS continues to add energy management systems to its road fleet, as well, as a way to improve fuel efficiency. About 80% of the road fleet is equipped now, as the railroad moves toward a goal of 90%. The railroad aims to put locomotives with energy management systems on the point so that the software can reduce the fuel consumption of the entire consist.

NS also is relying more on distributed power as it boosts train length and weight, George says. Just under half of NS’s road trains now operate with distributed power, a figure that will grow as train length increases.

NS continues to seek ways to combine trains, blend different types of traffic, and tack new volume on to existing train starts, George says.

The average NS train is just over 7,000 feet long, George says, and only 10% of its trains are 10,000 feet or longer. The railroad set quarterly records earlier this year, however, for both train length and weight as it aims to move tonnage on fewer but longer trains.

George spoke at the UBS Global Industrials and Transportation Conference.

3 thoughts on “Norfolk Southern locomotive conversion program continues to expand A.C. traction fleet

  1. The 4000 series converted from the dash 9’s are scrap. They vibrate like crazy and ride poorly. The didn’t isolate the generator like the Evolution series from GE, so they are fairly loud in the cab. The 1800 series converted from the older SD 70’s are super quiet and run well. No shaking or vibrating like the 4000’s. NS should convert more of the EMD’s and junk all of the dash 9’s. Both pull rather well and their dynamic braking is quite strong, but the 1800’s are just much better all around.

  2. And they keep mentioning the excuse that rebuilding is cheaper than buying new (although true) when it’s really because the Tier 4s are still having issues and aren’t reliable yet, even though Progress Rail’s T4 ACe’s are preforming better then the T4 Gevos from Wabtec/GE from what I’ve been hearing.

  3. They must run the 7000 foot trains when I’m sleeping. Every train I see passing thru my town (Slidell, LA) is at least 135 cars long. Nothing to do except count the cars while waiting to cross the tracks. Every other train has at leas one DPU in it. Those trains are a minimum of 190 cars with the the highest, by my count was 254 cars. I know these trains have got to be way longer than any siding on NS former New Orleans & Northeast line from Meridian MS to New Orleans.

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