News & Reviews News Wire Pacific Harbor Line displays battery locomotive at ceremony for engineers

Pacific Harbor Line displays battery locomotive at ceremony for engineers

By David Lustig | May 7, 2023

| Last updated on May 8, 2023

Graduation ceremony includes FRA administrator who spoke about the future of railroading and the SD40JR Joule locomotive

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SD40JR Joule locomotive

Green and white locomotive with black stripes on nose
The SD40JR Joule locomotive beginning testing at Pacific Harbor Line is on display at a May 4 graduation ceremony for locomotive engineers. David Lustig

WILMINGTON, Calif. — Pacific Harbor Line showed off its new battery-electric locomotive as part of a May 4 event welcoming the railroad’s latest graduating class of locomotive engineers.

The Progress Rail/EMD SD40JR Joule locomotive had arrived the week before to start a year-long evaluation on the railroad serving the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, historically the nation’s busiest. The operation switches about 40,000 carloads annually and also includes nine on-dock intermodal terminals, handling more than two million containers by rail per year. The railroad’s recent history has emphasized the use of low-emission locomotives.

Front view of green and white locomotive with black nose stripes
A front view of the SD40JR Joule locomotive. David Lustig

Features of the SD40JR Joule locomotive, rebuilt from an SD40-2 core, include:

  • Six axles in a C-C configuration
  • An 83:16 gear ratio
  • Regenerative braking;
  • Recharging by an EMD Joule Charging Station providing 700-kilowatt and 1,400-kilowatt stationary charging
  • AC traction with individual axle control
  • Low noise and vibration
  • 2.4 megawatts of power for traction
  • Weight of 364,000 pounds

The unit is expected to be the first of series of Joule locomotives in U.S. service. BNSF is said to also be interested in the design.

“Pacific Harbor Line is dedicated to serve the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles with efficiency, safety, and a commitment to do our part to protect the environment,” said PHL President Otis L. Cliatt II. “We are proud to continue our long tradition of excellence by presenting a new group of highly trained and dedicated engineers to serve our community and the maritime industry.”

Two cakes shaped like locomotives
Locomotive-shaped cakes mark the graduation ceremony. David Lustig

Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Amit Bose said he was “honored” to be among those taking part in the engineers’ graduation ceremony.

“I commend each graduate and Pacific Harbor Line for the important role you play in moving goods safely, reliably and efficiently,” Bose said. “To have the best rail service and ports in the world, we need to invest in both modern infrastructure and the workers who keep operating moving.”

To remain competitive and reduce truck traffic, the ports have embarked on several infrastructure projects to increase rail capacity and efficiency, including high-tech on-dock rail facilities and additional track.

The Joule in the locomotive name comes from an international unit of energy, which measures the work required to produce one watt of power for one second, or a watt-second. A kilowatt-hour is 3.6 megajoules. It is named after the English physicist James Prescott Joule (1818–1889).

Updated at 10:15 a.m. CDT to correct photo credit on image below to Pacific Harbor Line; updated at 8:45 p.m. to correct some locomotive statistics.

People lined up in front of green and whilte locomotive
Officials and members of the Pacific Harbor Line engineer graduating class pose with the SD40JR Joule locomotive on May 4, 2023. Pacific Harbor Line

10 thoughts on “Pacific Harbor Line displays battery locomotive at ceremony for engineers

  1. With California’s new proposed locomotive emissions, this looks promising, BUT how many of the California short line can afford these battery locomotives. Unless the short line is owned by a state, county, or local authority who’s financial resources are deep enough to afford the purchase price and associated charging stations.

    Most short lines came about because these branches or routes were marginal at best and spun off by the majors. They purchase used locomotives. I’ve never purchased a running used locomotive but would estimate it would cost somewhere in the $100-250 thousand range depending on age,condition, model, & manufacturer,
    Granted this battery powered locomotive was rebuilt from an SD40 core, it probably costs at least $4-5 million plus cost of charging station with hookup. This will go over like a lead balloon.

  2. How much toxic, heavy-metal residue went into the environment during the manufacture of the batteries (especially if they were made in Asia)? Ditto the solar cells (with the same caveat) that the “zero-emission” proponents claim will, at least partially, provide electricity to charge the batteries. And what powered the manufacturing processes for these items?

    Let’s assume, rightly or wrongly, that climate change is real. Those who claim that hydroelectric, solar and wind will be sufficient to cover our energy needs prefer to selectively ignore the fact that a changing global climate will also engender local meteorological (i.e., weather) changes. So you’ve got big wind farms in the Midwest, plus some in California and elsewhere. You have solar farms in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and so forth. You have various dams with hydroelectric generation capacity. Then the climate changes, affecting the weather as it does so. Now, will your windy areas stay windy? Will the sunny areas still be sunny? Will there be sufficient rain on the watersheds to fill the rivers and lakes to power the hydro turbines? If not, then what do you do? Move all the wind and solar farms? Build dams elsewhere? And what are you going to use to power all this relocation and construction effort?

    Granted, fossil fuels aren’t terribly clean (although there are ways to help with that); they are, however, quite energy-dense compared to wind and solar (nuclear is even more so, but that’s fodder for another discussion elsewhere). Furthermore, fossil-fuel deposits don’t tend to move around much (only as fast as plate tectonics), so you can be pretty sure things like the Powder River and Permian Basins will be where you expect them to be regardless of what’s going on in the atmosphere.

    Another thought: pretty much everything you read these days, particularly in the food and packaging worlds, uses the phrase “plant-based” like it’s some kind of magic mantra. OK, then, dig out your “Geology for Ignoramuses” book and look up “coal.” Golly gee, it’s plant based! So’s petroleum. Maybe digging and drilling and pumping are the right things to do after all. Who’d a thunk it?

    1. I’ve seen a lot of boomers booming in these news stories, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen something so egregious.

      Fossil fuels come from organic compounds, while including plants, also come from animals. The process to create fossil fuels takes millions of years. Burning fossil fuels is not sustainable because we humans don’t have millions of years of fossil fuels to burn. Fossil fuels are not the way of the future.

      Young minds, fresh ideas. Be open minded.

    2. Nathan,
      You get points for using (and spelling) “egregious” correctly (although you may have had digital assistance for the latter). However, you did not interpret my last paragraph correctly (probably because you are a youngster who takes himself far too seriously). I was being sarcastic. “Plant-based” is just another annoying buzz-phrase that has already been worked to death. By the way, I’m going to have a big ol’ juicy steak tomorrow for dinner, because cows are also “plant-based”. Care to join me? If so, and if you’re over 21, bring a nice bottle of wine. Otherwise, I guess you’ll bring whine.

      I don’t mind fresh ideas, or even young people. I worked with and mentored a bunch of them during my career, and I was even young myself at one time (and just as arrogant and self-centered as you are now). So what if the batteries are charged with “renewable” energy? The stuff that goes into making those batteries is anything BUT renewable. Lithium and titanium are pretty limited resources, and recycling won’t recover anywhere near enough to be helpful.

      Fortunately for both of us, I’ll be dead before the whole house of “green energy” cards collapses. I’ll be fortunate because I won’t have to see the resulting mess; you’ll be fortunate because you won’t have to hear me say, “I told you so!”

  3. Hopefully those batteries are not like the batteries in EV’s. If not, and they start on fire, it’ll take days for the fire to burn itself out.

  4. Braden…well, I have now heard back from three people who were involved with the Joule unit. One says it’s a 70, to your point another called it an SD40JR, and the third simply referred to it as the Joule engine. Until the dust settles I’m going to refer to it as a Joule engine.
    Thanks for your input.

    1. SD40JR is its official moniker per the EMD website. When they start production if/when the trials pan out it may end up in an SD70-style engine, maybe that is what your friend was thinking of. I doubt they would want to build an all new engine that might get scrapped if it fails to deliver the advertised. Some say that is what EMD and GE did when they jumped into the 6000 HP locomotive race without considering if it was actually worth it. Yes they did sell a few but most if not all of what was built have been or are being converted to lower horsepower models in the SD70Ace-AC44-4500 variations…

  5. Braden…I just double-checked with personnel involved in the project and they are calling it an SD70J. It’s on the spec sheet.

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