August 2019 • The latest from the Pacific Northwest
BNSF Leads the Charge for Battery-Electric Locomotives
In a world where fuel efficiency and environmentally friendly products are in increasingly high demand, BNSF is staying ahead of the curve by developing a battery-electric high-horsepower road locomotive. With the help of our project partner Wabtec, BNSF is expected to begin testing this emerging technology late 2020 once all the equipment and support systems are in place. Test runs will take place between Stockton and Barstow, California.
“What’s different about today’s batteries is that they are significantly more powerful than before, and manufacturers have improved battery quality, reliability and technology so we’re able to test their power for our road locomotives,” said BNSF’s Michael Cleveland, senior manager, Emerging Technologies.
Once fully developed, the battery-electric locomotive will offer environmental benefits and efficiency for the entire locomotive ‘consist’, the term used to refer to two or more locomotives attached to each other. The consist will idle other locomotives while in the rail yard when possible, and the battery will lower local emissions and noise pollution. The consist can also “graze” on battery power while cruising through open landscape, ultimately saving hundreds of gallons of diesel.
The prototype will use a battery cell similar to what you’d find under the hood of an electric car, only on a much bigger scale. It’s a lithium-ion energy storage unit with cells that contain a combination of nickel, manganese and cobalt. The technological leap could provide the next generation of locomotives additional advantages over trucks and reduce current operating costs.
Much like the transition from steam to diesel-electric locomotives, it will likely take years to support an all battery-electric fleet.
BNSF’s rail network covers much of the American West, where wildfires are common due to high winds and frequent drought conditions. To combat wildfires, we have water-filled tank cars staged in fire-prone areas across the country.
In Washington State, BNSF has two unique firefighting apparatus in our toolkit: specially equipped trains that represent innovative approaches to tackling fires. The Pasco train consists of two tank cars, a “fire” car and a caboose that serves as a command center. Thousands of gallons of water are stored in the tank cars, while the fire car contains aqueous firefighting foam. The caboose is equipped with an onboard generator that provides power and can also be used to run work lights, radios and other emergency equipment.
Meanwhile, the Wishram train’s generators, pipes and pump systems are located under three tank cars. The caboose is equipped with a spray bar and water cannon and serves as the command center when called into service. The Wishram train’s focus is the south-central portion of Washington, including arid Benton County which has limited road access.
BNSF coordinates closely with local firefighter crews. The caboose transports firefighters to places firetrucks can’t reach and where there are no water sources. Since the train’s tanks carry 30,000 gallons of water compared to a firetruck’s average of 500 gallons, our trains are useful tools for firefighters battling remote blazes.
Helping Oregon’s Industries Deliver their Products
BNSF’s rail network serves Oregon’s timber and agriculture industries by moving the state’s freight to domestic markets such as California and Washington State, and by linking them to overseas markets. As part of the Great Northern Corridor, which straddles the northern United States from the Pacific Northwest to Chicago, Oregon is a key part of our system.
BNSF is focused on creating growth in Central Oregon and the Portland region, with major facilities in Bend, Klamath Falls and Portland. We’ve expanded facilities in the state, created jobs and made approximately $64 million in investments. Projects include Plastic Express in Portland, Seneca Sawmill Company in Eugene, and Wilbur-Ellis in Madras.
The BNSF Railway Foundation continues to invest in the communities across the 28 states through which BNSF operates, and where BNSF employees live, work and volunteer. Recent contributions include:
Providing Beds in Snohomish County
BNSF Railway Foundation is honored to support efforts to end the cycle of homelessness and poverty. To help achieve those efforts, BNSF provided a $5,000 grant to Housing Hope, a Snohomish County organization that supports families dealing with homelessness and poverty. The funds will help the organization meet the needs of families living under Housing Hope; last year 91 percent of their families maintained housing.
Supporting Recovery and Healthy Futures
BNSF Railway Foundation donated $3,500 to Spokane Valley’s Healing Lodge of the Seven Nations. The lodge is a 45-bed adolescent residential chemical dependency treatment center that serves youth aged 13-17. While it focuses on the Native American population, the lodge’s services are open to all youth.
Funding Emergency Medical Services
BNSF supports the communities we work in with jobs and philanthropy. The BNSF Railway Foundation recently donated $10,000 to the Klickitat County EMS District 1 to purchase auto defibrillation devices called “Auto Thumpers.” They provide consistent high quality compression to people who need CPR.
Housing Families in Need Mary’s Place provides safe shelter and services that support women, children and families on their journey out of homelessness. With nine emergency family shelters in King County, Mary’s Place ensures daily basic needs are met with meals, showers and laundry facilities. BNSF Railway Foundation donated $25,000 to support these valuable emergency shelters services.
Emergencies – Call 800-832-5452
To report a vehicle stalled on a crossing, suspicious circumstances, malfunctioning crossing gates and lights, or any other emergency, call 800-832-5452 immediately.
Have a Question for Us?
Do you have a question about BNSF or rail in the Pacific Northwest that you would like addressed in future issues of Inside Track? Send them to [email protected].