Fleet renewal helps CN to improve the safety and reliability of its motive power and enhance customer service, as well as reduce fuel consumption and exhaust emissions.
- In 2012, CN added 25 new AC Traction locomotives to its fleet, part of the company’s multi-year locomotive renewal program aimed at continuously increasing fuel efficiency, improving service reliability for customers, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The AC Traction Motors provide significantly better rail adhesion for pulling heavier and longer trains. Three AC locomotives can pull the same number of cars as four locomotives. They comply with stringent EPA Tier 3 standards and have dynamic brake capability at very low speed.
- CN expects to add 10 more new AC traction locomotives to its fleet in the first quarter 2013 and 30 more in 2014. An additional 97 modern, fuel efficient locomotives from previous owners will also be added for the mainline in 2013.
- Since 2005, CN has added 340 new locomotives to its fleet as well as 137 pre-owned, fuel efficient locomotives for its mainline.
- CN successfully implemented a test program in 2012 to burn natural gas in two locomotives for improved environmental emissions and fuel efficiency. A tender car was added to the train consist to carry the locomotive's liquidized natural gas (LNG) in order to keep the locomotive running over long distances. The program has been invaluable in understanding the basic processes of refuelling, storage and management of LNG as well as enhancing CN’s understanding of using natural gas as an alternative to diesel.
- Testing with LNG will continue in 2013 and CN will also advance the technology for using it in high horsepower locomotives.
Wayside Inspection System (WIS) Hot Bearing Detectors
CN has the most advanced WIS in North America, which comprises various detectors that monitor the network for unsafe operating conditions for trains. Hot bearing detectors sense and report unsafe wheel bearing temperature levels on moving cars or locomotives. The information from the detectors is used to prevent derailments.
- CN continued to reduce WIS spacing to the CN standard of 12 to 15 mile intervals on core routes. In 2012, the company added 12 new WIS locations and upgraded 43 locations across its network. As of January 2013, CN had 811 WIS detectors on its system.
- In 2013, CN’s re-spacing program will include 10 new WIS locations in the Iowa to Chicago corridor and will upgrade 40 locations with the latest equipment, including upgrades to 199 locations for enhanced communication equipment that will enhance the reliability of reporting critical alarms.
- In an effort to detect derailments and immediately alert train crews, CN installed 30 new brittle bar/derailment detectors across the Wainwright, Rivers, Leithton, Matteson, and Waukesha subdivisions in 2012.
- In 2013, CN will install 10 more brittle bar/derailment detectors on the Wainwright subdivision in Western Canada. With the addition of these installations, CN will have 350 locations protecting key corridors and structures.
Wayside Inspection System (WIS): Hot Wheel Detectors
These detectors sense hot or warm wheels which can deteriorate more quickly or fail and lead to derailments as well as shorter in-service life.
- CN continued to be proactive in identifying and repairing cars that recorded multiple hot or warm wheel readings from over 529 hot wheel detectors.
- In 2012, CN performed 41,079 single car air brake tests. The tests enable it to diagnose air brake problems more accurately and to address broken wheels and stuck brakes. The company implemented a new process to identify cars that have multiple occurrences of hot wheels.
Positive Train Control
Positive train control (PTC) is a system for monitoring and controlling train movements to provide increased safety. In particular, PTC is designed to automatically stop or slow a train to prevent train-to-train collisions, derailments caused by excessive speed, unauthorized entry by trains onto sections of track where repairs are being made and movement of a train through a track switch left in the wrong position.
- The U.S. Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 requires Class I railroads to install PTC systems on tracks that carry passengers or toxic-by-inhalation (TIH) materials by the end of 2015.
- In 2012, CN continued to advance work on implementing PTC on specified tracks in the U.S. in compliance with the U.S. Rail Safety Improvement Act. PTC is one of the most technologically complex initiatives the railway industry has ever undertaken and CN is working diligently with other Class 1 Railways as well as railway suppliers to meet the aggressive regulatory deadline. In total, CN will be installing PTC on approximately 4,350 miles of track and 1,200 locomotives.
Electronic Track Occupancy Permits (ETOP)
CN’s Rail Traffic Controllers (RTCs) regularly issue "track authorities" or permits to Engineering field employees authorizing them to access CN’s railway network for maintenance activities. Each year in Canada, the RTCs verbally issue over 380,000 track authorities over CN’s radio network.
- The new ETOP system, deployed in the fall of 2012, allows Engineering employees to request and receive electronic track authorities using laptop computers and special software developed by CN in conjunction with its RTC system suppliers.
- The new ETOP system improves safety by eliminating the potential for data transcription errors during the issuance of a track authority. It also improves the productivity and efficiency of field track maintenance activities. In addition, the new technology reduces the workload on the Rail Traffic Controllers thereby enabling them to focus on managing train operations and improving customer service.
- CN implemented a similar system on its U.S. track network several years ago where 95% of Engineering track authorities are issued electronically.
Wheel Impact Load Detectors (WILDs )
WILDs detect wheels which have surface flat spots and other imperfections that can lead to broken wheels or broken rails. CN uses the information provided by WILD sites to help assess wheel replacement or maintenance needs.
- CN has the largest and most dense network of WILDs in North America.
- The company has 39 WILDs on its network. CN moved one WILD site in 2012 to a more productive location and continues to improve processes to find and remove wheels requiring attention.
- CN experienced 48 broken wheels in 2012 compared to 55 broken wheels in 2011. The decrease is attributed to improvements in the WILDS and to visual inspections.
- In 2012 and continuing in 2013, CN is working closely with the Association of American Railroads research arm to develop and test practical and effective new wayside detectors for identifying broken or cracked wheels. The work is being conducted in collaboration with other Class 1 railroads and equipment vendors.
Cold Wheel Detectors
These detectors provide early warnings of weaknesses in a car’s brake system. CN investigates and repairs cars that record multiple cold wheel readings.
- CN has four cold wheel detectors located at the bottom of long grades where train brakes are applied for an extended period.
Wheel Dimension and Profile Detectors
Using laser-video and strobe-video technology, these detectors capture wheel profiles and wheel dimensions as the train passes over the sites at speeds of up to 65 miles per hour. The technology allows CN to intercept worn or damaged wheels that need replacement.
- CN is updating two of its three state-of-the-art laser and strobe video scanners. It is also continuing work on a wheel wear notification system to enable it to proactively plan wheel removal.
- CN is investing in micro alloy wheels, which resist shelling, to reduce the risk of wheel failure.
During roll-by inspections CN employees monitor a train as it moves slowly out of the yard or intermodal terminal. They look for cars with shifted loads or dragging equipment, listen for unusual noise or try to detect the smell of hot bearings.
- Roll-bys are effective at preventing problems before a train departs a yard, during “meets” of passing trains and as trains pass beside employees along a right-of-way. Be-tween Winnipeg and Chicago, for example, a train can get approximately 30 roll-by inspections, providing many opportunities to detect and prevent mechanical problems.