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Norfolk Southern, Wabtec to modernize 330 NS locomotives

Improving fuel efficiency and reducing carbon emissions are goals

A Norfolk Southern train heads to its next destination. (Photo: Shutterstock/Joseph P. Brennan)

Norfolk Southern plans to modernize 330 more locomotives with help from Wabtec as part of NS’ broader initiative to reduce carbon emissions and improve fuel efficiency.

Wabtec (NYSE: WAB) has already modernized 500 locomotives belonging to NS (NYSE: NSC), both companies announced last August. By 2025, Wabtec will have modernized more than 950 of NS’ locomotives through a multiyear order that began in 2015. This week’s order is the third order of that agreement.

The retrofit consists of an FDL Advantage engine upgrade and the installation of a suite of digital programs, including Trip Optimizer, SmartHPT and Distributed Power. The modernization will occur on D9-44CW locomotives that are more than 20 years old. They will be retrofitted to become AC44CMs, which will add another 20 years of incremental life to each locomotive, NS said.

By modernizing the locomotive, fuel efficiency will improve by as much as 25%, reliability will increase by more than 40%, haulage ability will grow by up to 55%, and maintenance, repair and overhaul expenses will fall by 20%, NS said. Each modernized locomotive will also reduce its carbon emissions by more than 500 tons per year, NS said. 

“Modernizing locomotives in our fleet will improve operational performance and reliability,” said Tom Schnautz, NS vice president for advanced train control. “Importantly, it will also help us achieve our science-based target of a 42% reduction in emissions intensity by 2034. Wabtec’s proven modernization program allows us to maximize the value of our locomotives, minimize the use of new materials and reduce the environmental impact of our operations.”

Wabtec has delivered more than 1,100 modernized locomotives in the Americas. These locomotives altogether have reduced carbon emissions by more than 1.4 million tons since 2015, which is the equivalent of removing emissions from 340,000 cars, Wabtec said. 

“Wabtec has developed a portfolio of modular technologies for a variety of retrofit solutions for middle-aged locomotives. This has been done in a strategic way, analyzing the fleet and needs of our customers. Our modernization program allows Norfolk Southern to enhance its existing fleet by bringing the aging locomotives’ performance to the latest standards,” said Pascal Schweitzer, president of Wabtec Freight Services. 

Tuesday’s announcement is just the latest in efforts by the Class I railroads to reduce carbon emissions. Earlier this month, Wabtec in separate announcements said it would be testing the use of biofuels and renewable diesel in locomotives owned by BNSF (NYSE: BRK.B) and Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP).

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.