Sill gets Army on board 'green train'-ing
July 17, 2014
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FORT SILL, Okla. (July 17, 2014) -- As the Army goes green, so too, does its loading and unloading operations.
Fort Sill hosted training on the Army's newest fuel-efficient ultra-low emmitting N-ViroMotive locomotives, July 7-11.
The National Railway Equipment Company manufactured locomotives feature three 700-horsepower, computer-controlled engines that use 60 percent less fuel than the older locomotives, and put out 80 percent less emissions of nitrous gas and particulate solids.
"The Army wanted to start buying new. At the onset of this, the fleet's age was 47 years old; in rail age that's pretty old," said Barry Mickela, Volpe National Transportation Systems Center mechanical engineer and program manager.
He said to meet the Environmental Protection Agency's standards they turned to the new locomotives to run the rails.
Darrell Kuhlman, Fort Sill Rail Operations supervisor, compared the older locomotives to an aged Volkswagen.
"You put the key in the ignition and it either starts or it doesn't," he said.
However, the new GenSet locomotives are like a brand new Cadillacs, with giant computers.
The locomotives run on a system called Enforce. The mechanic/operators simply plug a laptop into the system and it gives a code for any mechanical issue.
"It's a lot more complex. Techs today need to know computer technology. With a good instructor like Ron (Trewhella) it's really easy to understand," said Larry Hicks, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, heavy mobile equipment mechanic. "It's something I wouldn't want to figure out by myself. It's like walking up to a person and trying to guess their name. You have to know the command and you've got to be able to read the information it gives you back."
This is the first hands-on class for five mechanics from Utah, who do annual and biannual maintenance on the machines, and 13 operator/mechanics from Fort Sill; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Joint Base Lewis-McChord; and Fort Riley, Kansas.
The group spent three days working with the computer system, and the rest of the time perfecting basic maintenance, like changing fuel filters, resetting the fuel pump, restarting the system and repressurizing it.
"The bottom line is, we want to get these things operating, and if there are any maintenance issues, we want them taken care of as fast as possible," said Kuhlman.
Nine posts have these new locomotives, with Fort Sill receiving its first in 2011; its second in 2012, and another one is expected to arrive this year.
Kuhlman said learning the ins and outs of the trains is vital for the Army's mission.
"What do we load? Anything and everything the Army goes to war with," he explained. "During Iraq and Desert Storm, we were [working] 24-hours a day, seven days a week, for about eight weeks straight. We cleared this post out. So anytime the flag goes up, we go to work big time."
Mickela said besides using less fuel and putting out less emissions, the new locomotives are also more efficient with an automatic start and shutoff.
"During the winter, in conventional locomotives, if you're not operating them you keep them running to keep the oil circulating, and to keep the battery voltage up. On these, it has an engine automatic shutoff. So if all the parameters are met and it's just sitting outside in the wintertime and it's cold, and you're not using it, you put it in idle limited. If the voltage is up and the air pressure in the tanks, whatever parameters are required are met, it will automatically shut down after 15 minutes of not being used."
He said if the battery voltage begins to drain, the computer system automatically turns the engines back on to recharge.
He said even while hauling heavy loads the microprocessor technology can fire up each engine as necessary, and if a wheel begins to slip on the rails, the computer will spread out the traction to the other wheels to minimize the effect.
"It's a lot more technical than the conventional locomotives, and that's why we're having this training," said Mickela.