FORT STEWART, Ga. (Army News Service, Nov. 26, 2010) -- It's common knowledge the Army has tanks, armored vehicles and a variety of heavy equipment. Not many know the Army runs own railroad, however.

A new $1.5 million, 134-ton, N-ViroMotive Ultra Low Emitting Switcher locomotive arrived Nov. 17 at Fort Stewart. The new engine is manufactured by National Railway Equipment Company.

The new locomotive will be replacing one of two older, less fuel efficient diesel locomotives, which operate now on 17 miles of Army-owned railroad track.

"Due to the rising cost of fuel and the maintenance involved in maintaining a dated fleet, especially with as much usage they have received due to deployments, it was time for a replacement," said Mark Weitman, the rail operations supervisor and an engineer with the container handling facility here. "The new locomotive will not only save fuel, but will be greener for the environment due to the lower emissions."

The locomotive being replaced, which is from 1959, operates on a conventional single engine. The new locomotive's engine operates in stages, thus saving fuel, reducing emissions and extending the life of the engine.

"The new locomotive has three separate diesel engines, which operate more efficiently than older models, and as the need for power increases or decreases the engines will kick on or off depending on the horsepower needed," said Weitman. "Almost like a hybrid car."

According to the manufacturer's website, the three-engine, 2100 horsepower locomotive, has a 700HP continuous engine that averages a fuel savings of 40-65 percent (dependent on application) and can reduce emissions of nitrous oxide compounds and particulate matter by 80 percent when compared to older locomotives.

While the new engine will take over the old engine's job, the old engine isn't retiring just yet. There are plans for the half-century-old locomotive.

"Defense Generator and Rail Equipment Center at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, will be receiving the old engine where it rebuilds trains every seven to nine years and then places the locomotives back into service elsewhere," said Weitman. "Hill Air Force Base will also responsible for the annual inspection and maintenance as they are with the other locomotives for the Army."

The locomotives owned by the Army transport Fort Stewart equipment and vehicles to the CSX rail where it will continue on to various locations throughout the United States and various ports.

(Sgt. Robert Schaffner writes for The Frontline staff)