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32456Re: Dumb Question

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  • jim_manley_alpha_six
    May 1, 2005
      Hi Don and All the Other Dandy DudetteZ 'n DudeZ,

      The average cost of a brand-spanking-new GE or EMD diesel-electric
      locomotive is about $2 million today, but, as with any other mode of
      transportation, your mileage may vary a few hundred thousand dollars
      either way, depending on options (which I'm sure includes things like
      dealer prep, undercoating, rust-proofing, a moon roof ... The
      big-ticket options in reality are, as with everything else these days,
      in the electronics (including computer control for max fuel
      efficiency, which in some cases includes - are you sitting down? -
      WindoZe XP! Yikes!).

      The really big deal in loco technology lately, as in autos, is hybrid
      diesel/battery technology (yep, a Toyota Prius with a ~1,600
      horsepower prime mover!). The federal EPA has finally gotten around
      to mandating that the railroads get with the pollution-reduction
      program, and hybrids are the obvious choice, especially when it comes
      to switching in urban areas. One switcher (and they tend to be the
      oldest and worst polluters) can generate as much pollution as about
      7,000 modern automobiles, and that's pretty bad. Hybrids make a lot
      of sense for this application, because swithchers spend the vast
      majority of their time accelerating from a stop (when DC motors have
      the most torque - at stall), doing a lot of braking (which regenerates
      most of the energy back into the batteries), and otherwise driving
      along at relatively low speeds that electric motors are pretty good at
      handling. When the batteries run low enough, or the speed demand gets
      high enough, the diesel starts up and does its thing at up to full RPM
      (and therefore, max efficiency) until the batteries are charged, or
      the speed demand drops back down to "city driving". The companies
      that are making them can't do so fast enough, just like with the
      hybrid cars. Since they're not big road hogs, the price tags are down
      in the sub-million buck range, but the cost of all those batteries and
      the electronics, as in a Prius or Civic hybrid, makes them initially
      more expensive than an old-tech switcher does. However, as you might
      expect, the fuel savings are even more substantial, proportionately,
      compared with the autos, so they will probably pay for their higher
      price tags in fairly short order.

      As for scrap recovery, I would say the railroads are second only to
      the naval and merchant marine shipping industries in getting the most
      mileage out of old equipment (and having served on WW-II era ships
      over 50 years after they were commissioned, that's still saying a
      lot). Basically, if something can be righted, bent back into shape,
      rewired, welded, patched, screwed, glued, stitched or otherwise
      mended, it will be. When a loco falls off the tracks, the thing of
      most value is the engine, followed by the generators and motors, then
      probably the frame, the trucks, and the control electronics. The
      bodies/shells are just sheet steel, and there are plenty of body shop
      folks in the depots to bang them back into shape when they get
      dented/mangled. The components of a loco are all pretty robust, so
      unless something gets completely cracked/split/shredded beyond repair,
      it's going to get recycled back into operating equipment, sooner or
      later, and probably sooner. As I pointed out above, switchers,
      especially road switchers, are the old actresses of the industry -
      they get smaller and less significant bit parts until they are
      eventually unceremoniously sold for scrap, and they're generally well
      beyond being operational at that point, having anything that still
      works scavenged/cannibalized for use on other equipment. The
      railroads should get some kind of recycling award, that's for sure.
      Even most of the scrap metal is pretty useful high-yield steel, copper
      from the motors, and lots of good ol' resmeltable iron.

      BTW, as far as I'm concerned, there are no dumb questionZ here - just
      dumb answerZ, like mine! I have lots of my own dumb questionZ, and
      have kept the geniuseZ here entertained for years on end.

      All Z BeZt,

      --- In z_scale@yahoogroups.com, "zbarr474" <d.f.avila@a...> wrote:
      > I realize this question is about as smart as asking "how high is
      > up", but what is an "average" or "typical" price that a railroad
      > might pay for some of the new mainline engines with and without all
      > the "extras" that we see around the countryside? Also if you have a
      > BAD accident is there apt to be any salvage value other than scrap
      > metal.
      > ...don
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