Posting in Cities
Cars and planes can run on biomass. Why not trains as well?
If the Twin Cities-based Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR) has anything to do with it, trains will soon run carbon-neutral.
This week, the Coalition, a project of the University of Minnesota's Institute on Environment, teamed up with Sustainable Rail International, a non-profit advocacy group, to announce the launch of an initiative to build the world's fastest biofuel-powered steam locomotive.
If successful, the prototype won't just be carbon-neutral; it will also eclipse the current steam locomotive world record by traveling at 130 m.p.h.: providing a compelling alternative to diesel-electric trains used today.
“This project presents a novel approach to U.S. locomotive development," said Davidson Ward, president of SRI, "looking to technologies of the past to inspire solutions for today’s sustainability challenges."
Paving the way for the project was the creation of torrefied biomass, a carbon-neutral coal substitute. Engineered by the University of Minnesota's Natural Resources Research Institute, the new fuel has the same energy, density, and material properties as coal -- without the sulfur, metals, or carbon footprint.
If those involved have anything to do with it, the project's impact will extend far beyond the creation of a successful prototype.
“Once perfected, creating the world’s first carbon-neutral locomotive will be just the beginning for this technology which, we hope, will later be used for combined heat and power energy in the developing world as well as reducing the United States' dependence on fossil fuels," said Rod Larkins, Special Projects Director of the University's Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment.
Mr. Conductor would be very proud.
May 26, 2012
This is a modern twist on an old school fuel. Before coal became popular, wood was used in steam engines. Most of the big rail companies owned huge forests to ensure a steady supply of wood for both rail ties and fuel. I will bet if they used a modern bio pellet fueled power plant could easily beat the world record set in 1938 while being far more efficient in the process.
This is a modern twist on an old school fuel. Before coal became popular, wood was used in steam engines. Most of the big rail companies owned huge forests to ensure a steady supply of wood for both rail ties and fuel. Though not as fast as the UKs A4s, US built steam engines in the 1940s ran the Boston to NY City to Washington DC route in times that would shame the Acela. I will bet if they used a modern bio pellet fueled power plant could easily beat the world record set in 1938 while being far more efficient in the process. http://www.squidoo.com/the-mallard Now the problem becomes, where to run the trains? The US ripped up thousands of miles of express rails in the 1960s and 1970s. Only a handful remain in service mostly out west. There in lies the problem for Acela making it a billion dollar waste of money. Built for speed and no where to go.
Track maintenance now is pitiful..no where near the degree it was during steam. Steam does pound the rails much harder...but the power is so much more efficient. There will have to be a lot of improvements made in the track systems that are left in order to take advantage of steam. I'm guessing balance on the drivers and links will be much better - perhaps not pounding as bad. Never-the-less I hope they experience wild success. Funny, the loss of the highball express tracks is becoming similar to all of the trolly and express inter-urban tracks that were paved over and now the billions of dollars that are being used to replace them...and in the areas where there is light rail, no one rides and it's bleeding money... However I think that freight will be much different...
At one point in time you could board a trolley in southern NH near the Massachusetts state line and be in Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod 4 hours later. This past weekend people sat in 4 hour, 15 mile long backups just getting onto and 3 days later getting off of Cape Cod. Add in the hour it took to get to P-town once on the Cape and another 3 hours of traffic from NH and you are looking at 8 hours driving to make the trip a train did in 4 hours. Efforts to bring back the trains have been stopped because most of the railbed on the Cape is now a hiking trail.