Coast Engine and Equipment Co. (CEECO), located in the Port of Tacoma, Wash., is the northwest's leading repair and rebuild shop for locomotives, rail cars and heavy diesel railroad engines. Barbara Kram reports.
oast Engine and Equipment Co. (CEECO) keeps the Western railroads rolling with service, repair, refurbishing and rebuilding of locomotives, cars and engines. CEECO’s services range from minor field service calls, running repair and component replacement through major wreck and damage repair, rebuilding vintage locomotives, and complete remanufacturing of locomotives and rail cars for major rail systems and manufacturers. The company works with rail giants Electro Motive Diesel (EMD) and GE. CEECO is the authorized EMD warranty and repair facility for the West Coast.
“We work on everything that rolls on steel wheels, whether it was built at the turn of the [20th] century or a couple of weeks ago,” said CEECO President Dave Swanson.
The company was founded in 1947 as a family-owned company serving the marine and fishing markets in the Pacific Northwest. In 1988 it was purchased by industrialist Dennis Washington at about the time the company transitioned from marine to rail service.
Located on a 14-acre site in the heart of the Port of Tacoma, CEECO is one of the fastest-growing and largest container facilities in the United States. Its bolster shop is the largest in Washington and one of the largest on the West Coast, able to handle freight, passenger and specialty car repairs and rebuilds.
CEECO’s certified professional crews
are often called out to work sites to perform mobile repair and service, inspection and testing, handling daily servicing of locomotives, railcar inspection and testing, engine repair and freight car repair.
The company is famous for its paint work, the benchmark of quality in the industry. CEECO paints wrecks or damaged locomotives and restores classic equipment to mint condition. In addition, EMD, one of the top OEMs, sends its cars to CEECO for painting.
“EMD will send us locomotives that have been primed and we commission and do all the final testing on the locomotives, paint them, and then release them to EMD’s customer, the end user,” Swanson explained. “We’re painting brand new locomotives and we’re also refurbishing and doing extensive coach repair and refurbishment.”
Only CEECO could be trusted with the recent refurbishment of two classic Union Pacific coaches from the 1920s, including the Leland Stanford (rail cars, like boats, have names).
“We do all sorts of coach and car repair, including very special interest refurbishing of heritage or historical equipment. They appear, when they’re done, as though they had just been refurbished, but of course we have to update the cars to current standards with structural work to reinforce them without changing their appearance.”
Locomotive & Engine Shops
The company’s locomotive heavy repair facility is a 23,000-square-foot shop with three run-through tracks each with six locomotive spots. The facility is equipped with a 30-ton bridge crane plus small cranes, full-length inspection pits, and other capabilities. Services range from modification programs and general repairs to complete remanufacturing and rebuilding. Wreck repair is a specialty.
“We repair in-frame engine overhauls, major wreck and accident-damaged and fire-damaged equipment,” he said. “We in essence rebuild locomotives from the wheels up for the OEMs and rail roads [Union Pacific and BNSF Railway].Technicians are factory trained, knowledgeable specialists in each system to turn the largest job into an efficient workflow, backed by quality assurance and warranty.
Locomotive performance and enhancement modifications include tier 0 emission conversions, locomotive control microprocessor conversions, locomotive auto start-stop conversions, and locomotive remote control conversions, along with tests and inspections to satisfy federal regulatory requirements.
CEECO’s Engine Shop is another a point of pride. “We are a major component supplier to Electro Motive Diesel and we remanufacture engines for them, which they then sell to another end user, the third party clients [railroads],” he said. “We also rebuild GE engines and we have our own customers.” Specifically, General Motors EMD 567 – 645 & 710 engines are a specialty as well as EMD-265H and GE-7HDL-16, 6000 horsepower engines.
Rail Car Shop
An active and growing segment of the company is its rail car shop, which performs inspections, repairs, and federal tests at the port. The company has programs with both Union Pacific and BNSF to service cars.
CEECO services hundreds of cars each year and each is an enormous job. “We are basically taking the cars completely apart, the wheels and trucks out from under them, doing all the repairs, getting them all back together in a 31/2-day turn around time,” Swanson said. “It’s all high-mileage, very serious overhaul.”
CEECO’s proximity to Port of Tacoma makes it a convenient repair stop for unloaded intermodal cars and the company has a dedicated track to accommodate the extra length of these types of cars.
Also certified for bolsters and side frames, production and QA practices ensure the completed components meet or exceed dimensional requirements mandated by the OEM and the AAR. CEECO also performs warranty service work for many new car manufacturers. Field service is available on call for emergencies or performed on a scheduled contract basis. CEECO currently performs AAR/FRA car inspections, associated rip track repairs for a local railroad, scheduled field service inspections, and maintenance and repairs for a refrigerator car fleet in the Northwest.
CEECO Railroad Industry Certifications include:
• AAR M1003 (CEECO/AAR Quality Assurance Program Format);
• AAR M-214 (B-18) (Reconditioned freight car bolsters and
• AAR M-992 (Auto rack car satellite repair facility);
• AAR M-9A (Axle roller bearing inspection and end cap re-torque);
• AAR B 41-b (Reconditioned locomotive engine power assemblies);
• AAR B 43-b (Reconditioned locomotive engine cylinder heads);
• AAR B 51-b (Reconditioned locomotive engine water pumps);
• AAR B 53-b (Reconditioned locomotive engine oil pumps);
• AAR B 61-b (Reconditioned locomotive engines);
• AAR B 25 (Heavy Freight Car Repairs);
• AWS – D15.3 (American Welding Society Railroad Welding Specification for cars and locomotives).
Parts & Trends
In terms of parts, CEECO has an agreement to purchase EMD parts directly from the OEM’s supplier. “We are EMD’s designated West Coast repair and modification facility so we perform any warranty repairs that EMD has on new equipment or modifications for their fleet. “Due to general locomotive shortages in the industry lately, parts are in high demand to keep the cars in service, as are CEECO’s refurbishing and rebuilding services.
In addition, repairing cars and keeping them running helps the railroads contain costs. “Locomotives were built with a 20-year life expectancy and in every case, every model of locomotive that has ever been produced has long out-lived their expected life,” Swanson reported. “They can be remanufactured almost indefinitely, which is more cost-effective than purchasing new.”
Despite the environmental soundness of rail shipping and travel, the EPA is expected to impose tough new emissions regulations in the near future. “We will see a major shift in the railroads because a lot of the older equipment will no longer comply or be able to be used or refurbished to meet emissions changes,” Swanson predicted. “We see that as opportunity. Regulatory changes are going to create an entirely new market evolving to meet requirements.”
Global trends of increased costs of carbon steel, copper, and aluminum create some shortages and costs for the industry overall. Fortunately, CEECO endures as one of the most respected names on the rails.
“The biggest thing that separates us from the competition is our quality. Our warranty-to-claim ratio for the last four years for all of our product lines is zero,” Swanson said. “That speaks for itself.”
As a result, the company has enjoyed growth of over 20 percent for the last four years.
“We are bringing technology to the railroads to come up with some really innovative and cost-effective solutions,” Swanson said. “We think we have the right sized company to do the experimentation and investment to help them generate increases in efficiency and reductions in costs.”