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I got an interesting e-mail from Trains Magazine this morning. Apparently, Canadian Pacific Railroad is building a locomotive that is powered by hydrogen fuel cells. It's called the H2 0EL (or Hydrogen Zero Emissions Locomotive) The engine looks like one of CP Rail's old SD40-2F diesels that they rebuilt and painted in a cool green, blue, and grey pain scheme that kind of reminds me of GE's GEVO Hybrid prototype. This could be an interesting model for MTH or Lionel (Vision Line, anyone?) could make. It would be a great addition to Canadian railroad modelers' layouts. Maybe if CP's hydrogen-powered loco is successful, other railroads may build their own versions.

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Great post Dylan!  Look up Hydrail on Wikipedia and you can learn a lot about it.  The article mentions Stan Thompson as one of the people who help start interest in hydrogen fuel cells powering railroad locomotives.  Stan and I have been in the same Rotary club for several years now and I've learned a lot about it.  Sadly, the US doesn't seem to be looking at it as seriously as it should and other countries are taking off with it.  But maybe as the word gets out there will be more interest in hydrail by US railroads.  As we all know it took years to completely switch from steam to diesel, so it may be for hydrail.

Florida East Coast did a project with LNG powered locomotives. Natural gas is an excellent alternative to diesel on long haul trains. Hydrogen can be easily stripped from natural gas, the problem is with its containment.

I'd vote for LNG over H². Less energy input required to convert to something useable, less modifications required to the prime mover to make it work.

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Last edited by SteamWolf
@Norton posted:

Hundreds, maybe thousands, of scientists including a few on this forum are trying to find an economical way to produce hydrogen. So far no one has come up with a way that requires less energy than the resultant hydrogen would produce.

Pete

Pete,

Excellent point.  However, the conversion, if powered by electricity, is the closest to neutral-impact that you can get.

This brings up two questions:

Q1: Should CP instead just plan for traditional electric locomotives, and start building cat, just skipping the convert-to-hydrogen step?

Q2: How about battery powered locomotives?  Not enough charge capacity yet in today's batteries?

Mike

Pete,

Excellent point.  However, the conversion, if powered by electricity, is the closest to neutral-impact that you can get.

This brings up two questions:

Q1: Should CP instead just plan for traditional electric locomotives, and start building cat, just skipping the convert-to-hydrogen step?

There's the cost of maintaining the catenary and building up the infrastructure to power it (substations) to consider.  It just can't be hooked up to the existing grid with a set of cables.

Q2: How about battery powered locomotives?  Not enough charge capacity yet in today's batteries?

Again: Infrastructure.  Charging stations would have to be built and maintained.  Where do you locate them?  Major terminals?  Minor terminals?  Junctions?   Can a battery locomotive be recharged in the same time as fueling a diesel?   Lot's of questions that need to be addressed.

So far from what I can determine, the BNSF/GE battery locomotive experiments pretty much turn an MU consist into a hybrid consist.  But, will the costs of battery charging infrastructure outweigh the fuel savings?

NS was experimenting with a battery switcher.  I understand that program has ended and the locomotive's been sold off.

I'm all for exploring alternatives, but nothing is a silver bullet.  There will be trade-offs.

Rusty

Mike

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