Port of Tacoma Accepts Grant to Help Repower Tacoma Rail Locomotive

By John Gillie, June 6, 2014, The News Tribune

Tacoma Rail will soon begin repowering its oldest locomotive thanks in part to a grant accepted Thursday by the Port of Tacoma from the Environmental Protection Agency.


The repowering project on the 58-year-old General Motors-built GP-20 locomotive will reduce diesel particulates by 62 percent, cut idling time by 50 percent and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption by 25 percent.


The port won the $601,949 Diesel Emissions Reduction grant in a national competition with other ports. That grant will pay part of the estimated $1.5 million cost of the repowering cost.


Tacoma Rail, part of municipally owned Tacoma Public Utilities, will pay an additional $902,000. The utility has received a $200,000 grant from the State Department of Ecology to help offset that cost.


The port will provide a $30,000 in-kind contribution to manage the project.


Tacoma Rail expects the repowering project will be complete at the end of next year.


In a typical repowering and updating project, an outside contractor replaces the 2,000-horsepower ’50s-era diesel that powers the generator that creates electricity for the electric motors that turn the wheels of the locomotive. In some repowering projects a small additional diesel engine is also installed that keeps warmed water flowing through the main engine and provides power to restart that engine after it has been shut down.


In most older locomotives, the main engine is rarely shut off because restarting is difficult once the engine has cooled down and because older locomotive engines are cooled internally by circulating water which would freeze and damage the engine in cold weather.


Tacoma Rail’s chief mechanical officer Alen Matheson told the Port of Tacoma Commission that three of the short line railroad’s 14 locomotives are now equipped with modern emission controls. The locomotive scheduled for repowering would be the fourth.

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