CAD Railway Industries repairs, refurbishes and upgrades rail locomotives and freight, passenger and tank railcars. David Soyka reports on how this unique Quebec-based company recycles rail vehicles nearing the end of their service life to provide “good as new” transport that meets all current performance, safety and environmental standards.
The “Loco-Motion” originally sung by Little Eva in 1962 has been recycled down through the years by a variety of artists, most notably by the aptly named Grand Funk Railroad, as well as Kylie Minogue. Of course, anyone who can sing can try to reintroduce “a brand new dance…and do the locomotion.”
CAD Railway Industries, Ltd., “does the locomotion” as well, but delivers a track record that very few can cover. This Canadian-based company refurbishes and rebuilds aging freight and passenger locomotives and railcars to meet current operational requirements for environmental, safety and performance standards. The result is effectively a new vehicle at considerably less cost.
To fully comprehend the magnitude of such an endeavor, consider a few of these facts listed by locomotive manufacturer GE Transportation on its Web site:
- Fully-serviced locomotives weigh up to 440,000 pounds.
- The longest locomotives are 74 to 76 feet.
- Locomotives average 15 feet and 5-1/4 inches in height.
- The total number of unique parts is approximately 13,000.
- Fully-serviced locomotives carry up to 6,150 gallons of fuel, 580 gallons of lube oil and 530 gallons of water.
- The life expectancy for locomotives is approximately 20 years, depending on service and maintenance schedules.
Indeed, given the size and complexity of locomotives, it’s no wonder that “CAD Railway Industries is the only company in Canada capable of completely refurbishing locomotives,” says Guy Déry, senior director of major refurbishment programs.
Based in Lachine, located on the periphery of Montreal, Quebec, CAD Railway Industries was founded in 1968 as a general rail car repair and engine overhaul shop. It was privately owned until Global Railway Industries, an Ontario aggregator of North American railway services companies, acquired the company in 2007. Previously, in 2005, CAD Railway had been awarded a $100 million (Canadian dollars) contract from VIA Rail Canada as part of its “green” capital investment program to identify the technical issues and completely rebuild one of its 54 aging F40PH-2D locomotives as a prototype. CAD Railway delivered the prototype in November 2006. After one year of successful revenue service, CAD was given the go-ahead to overhaul the remaining 53 locomotives. This past April, CAD started to release the production series locomotives and is currently moving forward to refurbish the remaining railroad engines in a regular replacement schedule of one every six months, from receipt to delivery.
Déry explains, “The typical age of these locomotives is 21 to 23 years. A refurbished locomotive is expected to have a lifespan for another 20 years or so, which is the same as a new one fresh out of the factory. The obvious advantage is you get essentially a new locomotive for less capital expense. But it is also a significant recycling initiative. Ordinarily what would happen with an old locomotive is it would just be scrapped, and while some steel might be reused, most of it winds up in the waste stream. At the same time, we’re also taking out of service a locomotive made 20 years ago that emits pollutants and installing new environmental controls that reduce toxic gas emissions. In addition, we’re putting in a new engine with significantly improved fuel consumption. So, this truly is a green initiative on a number of levels.”
CAD Railway’s facilities in Lachine are visited for service daily by both the CN (Canadian National) and CP (Canadian Pacific) Railroads. The facility extends over 1,500,000 square feet and is capable of accommodating more than 200 cars for maintenance and routine repair, in addition to 50 to 60 cars in the shops for more extensive repair work. The shops cover an area of 190,000 square feet and are equipped with 10 overhead cranes of 20- to 90-ton capacity, an automatic blast shop, a manual blast shop and a painting and curing shop. CAD Railway is a certified new railcar builder by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and has qualified for all requisite AAR credentials, such as Quality Assurance Program M-1003 and Tank Car Facility Certification, among others.
When a locomotive is received for refurbishment, Déry explains that the first step is to completely strip it of all hardware down to the bare body structure, which then gets a “full grid blast” to rid it of any deterioration or attached debris. “Then we modify the sheet metal to accommodate the new hardware we will be attaching, and then apply a corrosion protection painting process to the locomotive body,” he says. “Then all new wiring is installed. In the meantime, while this is going on, the main engine has been pulled and is reconditioned in a similar process. We do a complete teardown. We replace all power packs with the ‘Ultra low Oil Consumption’ power assemblies, ECOTIP® Superstack Injectors, named ‘The Smokeless Fuel Saving Injector,’ and four pass after coolers, giving a better improvement on the locomotive emissions and brake specific fuel consumption.”
Déry points out that in addition to the main engine that powers the locomotive itself, there is a second engine that serves as a 500-kilowatt power feed to the rail cars the locomotive is pulling. “For that component, we subcontract with Hewitt Industries to supply a Caterpillar engine equipped with a 500-kilowatt alternator for this purpose. We also subcontract out the electrical cabinet, which we ship out to be refurbished to accommodate and better control the large amount of wire connections involved with the new electrical design.”
An entirely new electronic air braking and traction control system is provided by Wabtec Corporation, while a new Kim Hotstart® heating system provides for improved water and oil circulation during Canada’s cold weather’s days. “One of the biggest challenges we face in doing this refurbishment is to effectively integrate the 500-kilowatt generator set and its associated cooling system into tight spaces that the original locomotive was not designed to accommodate,” Déry says. “This alone is a reason why not many repair shops would even think about attempting this kind of work.”
With the locomotive itself repainted and all components reinstalled, the final step is testing to ensure all components effectively interface and operate as required. This is accomplished in CAD’s fully equipped test facility for engine break-in and locomotive load box testing. The test facility is mainly dedicated to applied research and testing of medium speed diesel engines, engine components, fuels, and lubricants. It is recognized by the EPA as one of the most advanced locomotive emission test centers in North America. “The entire overhaul process takes about half a year,” Déry says, adding, “The prototype is in service and we’ve already begun the second phase of refurbishing 53 more locomotives. We’ve released two additional locomotives and are scheduled to release a third in August. While the plan is to receive one locomotive a month, the timing depends on VIA’s seasonal needs: They can’t have too many locomotives out at one time, particularly when they anticipate busy periods. Overall, though, we expect to complete all refurbishment by 2012.”
MAINTENANCE AND REPAIR
While this is all going on, CAD Railways is also engaged in three other activities involving regular locomotive and railcar repair and maintenance work. “We perform repairs and complete refurbishments of freight cars. That’s always been a big part of our business; in fact, we’ve reached a peak of nearly a 1500-carsper-year output. Normally we have the capacity to complete repairs on about 20 cars a week. Secondly, we perform regular maintenance and specific repairs for the CP, CN and AMT (Agency of Metropolitan Transportation) railways. Third, we provide repair services and parts for locomotive diesel engines.”
While locomotive refurbishments are currently exclusively Canadian, the engine repair business extends beyond the continent to supply railroad companies in Africa with spare parts for their diesel locomotives. The railcar repair and maintenance business also extends below the 49th parallel to the United States. “The American market right now is a little soft; about 50 percent of all freight cars are leased from GE Transportation and when rail traffic is slow, the railroads lease fewer cars. Consequently, there’s less demand for repairs and refurbishment.”
While CAD Railways has felt the repercussion of the current economic downturn, Déry notes that the locomotive refurbishment contract has helped offset some of those difficulties. While the company currently employs 250, about 125 of those jobs were created directly as a result of the VIA locomotive refurbishment contract. “There are less cars in circulation because all of the Class 1 and regional railroads are parking cars they don’t need right now. Consequently, from late 2008 throughout most of 2009, there was less need for our maintenance and repair services. However, we are starting to see a significant change of direction in this trend as the railroads seem to be starting to increase capacity, and we are anticipating a jump in the need for our services.”
These days, it’s all the more important to make the best use of equipment to minimize expenses. By converting aging locomotives and railcars into “good as new” equipment, Capital Railways not only helps railroads become greener, but to save “the green” by reducing bottom line costs. It’s a song a lot of business would like to sing: CAD Railways has demonstrated its capabilities to hit all the right notes.