Fuel Alternatives

General discussion about locomotives, rolling stock, and equipment

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Re: Fuel Alternatives

Post by MEC407 » Thu Sep 22, 2016 1:03 pm

In addition to the PV panels themselves, you'd also need batteries to store the power captured by the panels. Batteries are bulky and heavy. Do you reduce the coal capacity of the cars, or do you make the cars bigger so that capacity can be maintained?

I can also imagine the panels being at risk of damage or destruction when coal cars are loaded/unloaded.
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Re: Fuel Alternatives

Post by John_Perkowski » Fri Sep 23, 2016 10:03 am

That makes sense.
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Re: Fuel Alternatives

Post by Kilgore Trout » Sat Mar 11, 2017 12:00 pm

Bumping this thread with a far-out proposal from the 1950s I recently stumbled across...

Project X-12: Borst's Imaginary Nuclear Locomotive
In 1954, however, Professor Lyle B. Borst and his colleagues at the University of Utah pursued a concept for a locomotive powered by a nuclear reactor. Babcock & Wilcox Co. co-designed the reactor in a private venture. The project was dubbed X-12 and attracted the interest of five railroad companies, nine manufacturers, and the international media [1,2]. The locomotive was projected to cost 1.2 million dollars in 1954, double the price of four contemporary diesel units coupled together to produce the same horse powers.
Though, the X-12 would theoretically reach 60 miles/h in breath-taking 3 minutes and 32 seconds, pulling a 5,000-ton train, the nuclear locomotive would have weighed 360 tons. The reactor's radiation shielding mustered 200 tons alone. By contrast, the whole afore-mentioned electric Ae 8/8 weighs roughly as much as the shielding of the X-12 (180 metric tons).

The X-12's stream-lined body emulated the diesel locomotive design of the 1950s [1,2]. The two-sectioned behemoth was to consist of a 38-meter long engine, with a cab up front and the power plant behind, plus a 20-meter long 'tender' carrying the radiators for cooling turbine steam. The assembly was conceived to rest on an articulated platform riding on a (Co'Co')(Co'Co')(4) wheelbase (UIC classification).
Economically unfeasible, but a cute look into Atomic Age thinking.
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Re: Fuel Alternatives

Post by Allen Hazen » Mon Mar 13, 2017 9:22 pm

John Perkowski--
Thanks for posting that! (I think we had a discussion of nuclear-powered locomotives a while back, but at the time nobody came up with much in the way of 1950s documentation. I vaguely remember seeing an article in "Popular Mechanics" or "Popular Science" when I was a kid.)

Setting aside the sheer unacceptability of running a nuclear reactor along main-line railroads… (Maybe it could be used on an all-new line that ran exclusively through deserts, with trains switching to conventional locomotives at the ends of the new line before reaching populated areas?(*)) How practical would it be? I don't know enough about nuclear power plants to comment on the "engine" design, but purely in terms of railroad operations...

What's striking about it is how conventional the final drive is. We've got about the same power as a four-unit lash-up of F units (or FA/FB units if you want it to be an Alco-GE product), on the same number of powered axles, with comparable weight per axle. (The unpowered truck at the tail end of the "tender" is extra.) The "tender" is a reasonable design: it will look familiar to anyone acquainted with the South African Class 26 4-8-4 condensing steam locomotive. So I'll give a passing grade on that part of the assignment: student has adopted existing technology in a straightforward way to provide the needed condenser capacity to allow efficient use of a steam turbine.
The "A unit," on the other hand, gets a D-minus. 38 meters long! That's almost as long as a Union Pacific "Big Boy" engine AND tender. No way is a rigid-frame vehicle of that length going to be acceptable on a railroad with normal curves.

The artwork in the sources linked by your link is fun. "Life" magazine's artist had obviously been looking at EMD units: the nose and the 3-axle trucks look E-unit-ish. The nose in the drawing at the first link, on the other hand, is a bit more Alco-ish.
(*) The former Soviet Union had a horrifyingly tolerant attitude toward environmental damage and danger, and parts of the Trans-Siberian Railway go through pretty isolated territory, but somehow I don't think there would have been an American project in the 1950s to design a high-tech locomotive … for export to the Russians!

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Re: Fuel Alternatives

Post by Allen Hazen » Mon Mar 13, 2017 9:37 pm

O.k., looking at the picture in the first link (the "Life" artist doesn't seem to have picked up on this aspect…), maybe it isn't QUITE that bad: there seems to be a platform over the first truck that extends in front of the "nose," and would have swivelled with the span bolster holding the first two trucks. (The "cosmetic design" of the carbody was perhaps inspired by contemporary diesels, but this feature reflects electric locomotive practice.) So the rigid part of the "A unit" would have been a bit less than 38 meters long. (But still, I think, too long for practical operation on many lines: longer, at a guess, than an EMD DDA40X, which is only 30 meters long!)

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Re: Fuel Alternatives

Post by Nasadowsk » Thu Mar 23, 2017 2:26 am

French have been running nuclear-powered trains for decades now...

...Just that they sensibly put the reactor somewhere else, instead.

(Some of their early PWRs were built inside mountains, the rest are all conventional. It wasn't until they started building Westinghouse-designed stuff that they had containment on their plants as a standard feature. Like the British, most of their CO2 cooled plants had none at all)

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Re: Fuel Alternatives

Post by Passenger » Mon Mar 27, 2017 8:59 am

Nasadowsk wrote:French have been running nuclear-powered trains for decades now...

...Just that they sensibly put the reactor somewhere else, instead.
And in general, electrification is the "green" way to go.

That way, as power generation methods get better, no need too keep changing equipment to take advantage of it.

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