The Dayton-Phoenix Group, Inc. (“Dayton-Phoenix”) designs and manufactures motors, heating and air conditioning and braking systems for customers in the railroad and off-highway vehicle industries.
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Such expertise makes this veteran Ohio manufacturer the leading choice for locomotive component repairs and overhauls. David Soyka reports on how Dayton-Phoenix contributes to putting old locomotives back to working on the railroad.
The earliest railways employed horses to draw carts along the track (and is the origin of the term “horsepower” to calculate engine performance). So when a horse got too tired or old to pull its weight, no big deal, just replace it with another horse.
We’ve come a long way since those days, of course. But, when the horsepower of a modern day diesel electric locomotive begins to fade, it can be an expensive proposition to replace it with a new one. Which is why many railroads prefer to overhaul their locomotive’s engine and electrical systems. And when they do, they prefer to have their locomotive electrical systems and HVACs overhauled by Dayton-Phoenix.
“Because we have 75 years of railroad experience and are an OEM supplier of locomotive electrical systems and associated mechanical systems, Dayton-Phoenix is the first choice of railroad companies to service, refurbish and remanufacture their locomotive components,” notes Charles Rivera, Director of Sales and Marketing. “Our customers can be fully confident they are getting the same or improved quality components compared to new OEM components, allowing them to haul their valuable customers’ freight to consumers.”
He adds, “The average repair shop uses what it has on hand, not necessarily what is the best for the long life and durability demanded by the railroads. The repair shop might repair a component with whatever parts they have available to them, such as applying epoxy to fill the gaps on electric motors. On the other hand, Dayton-Phoenix components are completely inspected and reworked to OEM standards to eliminate the defects others cannot resolve. Due to our OEM manufacturing capabilities our customers benefit from these components that are more capable then our competitors. Furthermore, since we’re making these types of components on a daily basis, there are no additional expenses or shipping delays for us to get the highest quality components for repair and satisfy our customers.”
Rivera concedes that while use of high quality components costs more, it more than pays for itself by reducing maintenance intervals and potential failures, as well as time and productivity lost when a locomotive must go off-line for repairs. “To take just one example, we use the same high quality insulation system for our remanufacturing locations that we do in building a brand new component,” Rivera points out. “That higher quality insulation means a repaired motor lasts three to four times longer than a motor repaired with repair procedures and insulation systems used by other suppliers.”
International in scope with a presence in 75 countries but an emphasis on North America, Dayton-Phoenix maintains two manufacturing facilities with 700,000 square feet dedicated to new and remanufactured locomotive components. One of the remanufacture facilities is at its headquarters in Dayton, Ohio, and the other in Gothenburg, Nebraska. An additional manufacturing facility in West Lafayette, Indiana, manufactures new dynamic braking systems that may be part of a locomotive refurbishment program. Dayton-Phoenix is ISO 9001:2008 certified and currently employs about 500 employees.
Investing in Quality
“We’re strategically located to service our freight and passenger locomotive customers,” Rivera notes, “but we’re always looking for the best ways to meet customer needs and are open to considering additional locations. In the meantime, we continually invest in new equipment and processes to ensure optimum efficiencies and provide the highest quality work. We continue to invest in the latest machinery, including robotics, to stay competitive as the industry leader. Also, Dayton-Phoenix has an in-house engineering design staff employing state-of-the-art test facilities to provide customers with the latest advances for all our locomotive parts.”
In addition, Rivera points out, “We’re strong believers in program planning, in anticipating customer needs rather than reacting to them. We look at trends and we assess the state of customer locomotive fleets. We make certain that we have sufficient stock on hand along with the necessary staffing, so we always have the resources required to proactively respond to a customer as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.”
“How much work we have to do frequently depends on how well maintained the locomotive was in the first place,” Rivera notes. “The major Class I railroads maintain their fleets on regular service intervals of three to six years, at most, depending on duty-cycle. That means with Dayton-Phoenix products you won’t be looking at a major overhaul for 12 to 15 years!”
Rivera emphasizes that all technicians are thoroughly trained, undergoing a rigorous 12-week certification program developed by Dayton-Phoenix. “It takes a unique individual with certain aptitudes to work on the winding of electric motors used on today’s locomotives,” Rivera says. “When you pull one of these motors apart, you have to deal with proper analysis, disassembly, cleaning, and the latest techniques in remanufacturing and testing that is complete with regard to every detail. When placed back into railroad service, the components are expected to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
Dayton-Phoenix is also a leader in locomotive HVAC systems. Rivera characterizes Dayton-Phoenix’s rooftop and underfloor units as “workhorses of the industry”, keeping operators around the world cool in the summer and warm in the winter. “If you’re not keeping that locomotive cab cool, that’s going to lead to problems.” He adds that customers are looking to upgrade heating and air conditioning systems to take advantage of improved products offered by Dayton-Phoenix that interface with external handheld diagnostics or contain built-in diagnostics for better maintenance, operational control and efficiency. “If our customer has a locomotive in for remanufacture and the HVAC is antiquated, as a part of our service program we will perform an upgrade for our customers. It’s better for the performance of the locomotive cab and you can get everything done at once, as opposed to taking the locomotive out of service again at a later date to provide HVAC upgrades,” Rivera advises.
Such new technologies are making one of the oldest forms of modern transportation more, well, modern. “Motor drives are increasingly more sophisticated,” Rivera says. “In the old days, motors were run continuously or cycled on/off as needed. Today we have motor drives that increase or decrease motor speed as needed. That means they run more efficiently (fuel savings), with less wear and tear on the parts, which means fewer maintenance issues and less of a chance of a major malfunction resulting in a locomotive failure. We will be releasing Motor Driven Air Compressor systems by 2H’14 that will further improve railroad operations.”
Staying on Track
Dayton-Phoenix refurbishes locomotive components of all ages, some dating back to the 1950s. “The major reason to refurbish a locomotive is, obviously, it’s less expensive than to buy a new one,” Rivera explains. “In the North American railroad market, there are over 20,000 locomotives in service, and there are 90,000 across 75 countries worldwide. It’s a matter of economics; you simply can’t afford to replace most of your fleet. And, there’s no reason to do so. A remanufactured locomotive gives an existing tired locomotive another 15 years of life. Combine this with Dayton-Phoenix products and you get a remanufacture that is ‘as good as new’.”
The good news for Dayton-Phoenix is that railroads continue to maintain their fleets and are all aboard with remanufacturing their locomotives using durable and reliable products. “In 2015 new emission standards go into effect,” Rivera explains. “No one really knows how much these standards will add to the price tag of a new locomotive. However, if it is similar to the trucking industry, it may slow new locomotive sales for a short period of time and encourage use of existing fleets. So the railroad companies are really incentivized to look carefully at their fleets and assess which locomotives are at or nearing their life cycle.”
Once the new regulations go into effect, older model or remanufactured locomotives need not satisfy the higher emission standards set for new locomotive engines. This will continue the rebuild or upgrading of older model locomotives that Dayton-Phoenix is prepared to support. According to Rivera, tier 4 compliance will be required for new locomotive engines, while rebuilt locomotives are likely to have a less stringent standard in the near term.
“Railroads are a great industry with proven stability,” Rivera says. “Dayton-Phoenix helps the industry achieve the best ROI possible, with quality engineered products backed by our in-house capabilities to make any locomotive more efficient, more modern and more reliable. We’ve been in this business using our experience since 1939, and we remain on track with our customers to make the journey to whatever challenges are facing them.”