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Upgrading Locomotives using Re-power Kits

Locomotive repowers in the past have been about either replacing the engine with a new or re-conditioned version of the same type, or several small engines in an effort to improve the reliability and extend life.

Driven by strict new environmental targets, the world has now moved into a new era where equipment other than the engine is also replaced providing an end to end upgrade rather than just an engine repower. As a result, single large engine options (up to 3300hp or 2460kW) that meet US EPA Tier 3 and Tier 4 requirements are now available from specialised diesel engine manufacturers. Bogies and traction motors can be replaced or overhauled under routine maintenance regimes, with virtually all potentially troublesome items above the deck replaced with new technology. This also eliminates compatibility problems between components.

Although the holy grail of rail operations – minimum maintenance with high availability continues to be the centre piece, a wider range of operational targets are now a base requirement for operators:

- Improved Fuel Consumption

- Improved Performance

- Improved Noise Levels

- Improved Emissions

- Improved Reliability

- Improved Costs

- Improved Access for Maintenance

- Smaller Fleet Sizes

As an alternative to buying new, rail operators who want to take back control of their locomotive assets are now able to purchase full repower kits to install in their own workshops. Facilities had often been downgraded to ‘rescue and overhaul’ centres, as new locomotives are built by large companies under contract to either General Electric, EMD or other offshore companies. These workshops can now re-vitalise their activities with local investment, training and control with no compromise on quality or level of technology.


Fig. 1: All key items are replaced for total reliability, compatibility & performance – not just the engine

Repower kits provide a modern platform for workshops like those in Australia and New Zealand to get back into heavy maintenance and ultimately the locomotive building business, with a greatly reduced design and development risk. By doing so they offer an opportunity to bring the work back into the country that would have otherwise been carried out offshore.


Fig. 2: Modern components take up far less space above deck providing improved access


Fig. 3: Example: A narrow gauge 1000hp Locomotive re-powered with a 1500hp kit being returned to White Pass & Yukon Railroad in Alaska and a 4.2% gradient

When a locomotive operates reliably, across the network everyone’s lives are made easier.

Thanks to Mike Jacobs of Global Locomotive.


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