• 14 Feb 08 NY Times article

  • Discussion of General Electric locomotive technology. Current official information can be found here: www.getransportation.com.
Discussion of General Electric locomotive technology. Current official information can be found here: www.getransportation.com.

Moderators: AMTK84, MEC407

  by Allen Hazen
 
Business section of today's New York Times (pages C1 and C4 of print edition: I don't know whether it is on the NY Times wwwebsite, but suspect it is) has an article about GE's internationalization: more work being done overseas, headquarters of some divisions being moved overseas, more non-U.S.-born people being promoted to high executive positions....

Several mentions of Transportation business (and related), amounting t0 maybe 10% of the article:

"Sales of engines, turbines and other so-called infrastructure items are not only the biggest contributors to GE's profits these days , but also the greatest source of its growth." (The railroad supply part of the business surely counts as infrastructure, doesn't it? It's nice to see a GE article on the business pages that isn't about the television network!)

"This year, in a highly symbolic gesture, GE Transportation, which is based in Erie, Pa., moved its annual sales meeting to Sorrento, Italy, from Florida. 'It was time the Americans learned what it's like to deal with jet lag,' said John Dineen,who leads the unit."

"'In places like China, governments are big customers, and it's the country heads who have the relationships with the governments,' said Deane M. Dray, the GE analyst at Goldman Sachs." ["Country head," if I understand it, refers to the head of GE operations in the country in question.]

"...foreign-born nationals are rising through the business. The executive roster at GE Transportation includes Pierre Comte, a Frenchman who rund Global Signalling from Paris, and Rafael Santan, a Brazilian who manages GE Transportation- Americas from Brazil.
Evren Eryurek, manager of global rail operations, works from Florida, but he is Turkish. Mr, Dineen is American, as is Tim Schweikert, president of GE Transportation China. But their successors, Mr. Dineen suggested, 'might well be foreign-born.'"

"Mr. Comte pushed GE Transportation to make electric locomotives and signalling devices, while executives in China persuaded the company to put cabs at both ends of the locomotives so the locomotive can switch directions without turning around.
'As outsiders, they can focus on what we weren't doing, not on what we'd done well for 100 years,' Mr. Dineen said."

(Comment: cabs at both ends is an option GE has offered on export locomotives for decades. But it says something about how narrow the intellectual sights of the American railroad industry have become that it takes a Frenchman to urge GE to build electric locomotives!)

  by Herr Spreng
 
FYI: GE has a corporate R&D facility in Banglore, India. I believe this is where Alco 251 development takes place.

GE is also going to build an assembly plant in India to supply 6000 hp C-C locos. There is also a plant in one of the Russian Republics that supplies engines. Finally, there is GE do Brasil and an assembly plant located ? in the Phillipines.

How does one build electrics if there are no orders ?

  by Allen Hazen
 
Herr Spreng--
Thanks for comments!
I think the article mentioned the research center in Bangalore, but didn't specifically link it to Transportation Systems, so I didn't mention it. (Alco-engined locomotives are built in Varanasi (formerly called, I think, Benares). Are the 251 engines built there as well? Are Varanasi and Bangalore near each other?)

As for electric locomotives.... All the article said was what I quoted. Maybe the idea was that GE should bid for electric locomotive business in countries where it exists? Maybe that GE should do preliminary research in case economic and environmental changes make U.S. railroads re-think electrification? Maybe the journalist garbled something they were told? Your guess is as good as mine.

  by Nasadowsk
 
Allen Hazen wrote:Maybe the idea was that GE should bid for electric locomotive business in countries where it exists?
Why bother? They have no chance and they know it. Nobody's going to buy a new, unproven, design from a firm that hasn't made a world class electric in decades, and has virtually no presence in Europe. US transit operators aren't going to buy a GE electric after Amtrak and NJT got burned on the E60s. China? China's ordering a lot of locomotives from EVERYONE, but it's a stop gap until they pick and clone a design for themselves.
Maybe that GE should do preliminary research in case economic and environmental changes make U.S. railroads re-think electrification?


What, and open the market up for Siemens, Alstom, Bombardier, etc to come in and walk away with the market? Any of the above could build an equal or better freight (electric)motor than GE, but none have the diesel prime movers to do it - European prime movers don't like US RR non-maintenance, and they're not going to develop one for the US market, since it would likely not be marketable elsewhere, on account of being too low of an HP:ton ratio.

Thus, GE has no incentive to 'rock the boat' - they have an effective monopoly on the US freight locomotive market, and inviting electrification would simply open the floodgates for competitors who have an equally long history of building electrics, and have built many many more over the decades than GE.

Sad, too - GE in the 40's and 50's still thought diesels would be a stop gap measure and that mainline electrification at 60hz had a chance. US RRs typically refuse to look beyond 5-10 years down the road (which, given the speed physical plant changes move at, is insanity), and if they did, we would have seen LOTS of miles of mainline electrification in the 70's and 80's.

Right now, short of higher oil prices and pressure for a few directions at once (EPA, customers, etc), you're not going to see any freight RR seriously consider electrification anytime soon. Maybe if oil stays above 100 for a year or two, you'll hear talk, but more likely, you'll just see RRs passing the cost on to customers, who for the grain and coal ones, just have to eat it anyway since they're captive.