Metra to purchase 15 locomotives

Feb. 21, 2019
Metra's board approved the purchase of the remanufactured locomotives with the option to buy 27 additional locomotives.

Metra will purchase 15 remanufactured locomotives from Progress Rail Locomotives with the option to purchase an additional 27, if funds are available, following approval of $70.9 million contract by the Board of Directors. 

Metra explains that about 70 percent of its current fleet of 147 locomotives are rated in marginal or poor condition. The purchase of the 15 remanufactured locomotives from Progress Rail will help with fleet renewal efforts. The railroad added 24 used but new-to-Metra locomotives that were purchased from Amtrak this year that will reduce the percentage of marginal or poor condition locomotives to about 45 percent. The addition of the remanufactured freight locomotives will reduce that percentage to 14 percent by 2023. Metra explains that newer locomotives not only will increase reliability, but they will reduce operating costs, since the older locomotives are increasingly expensive to maintain and operate.

“Our goals with this locomotive purchase are to increase reliability and improve the state of good repair on our system,” said Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski. “These like-new locomotives will be replacing some of the oldest locomotives in our fleet, and we would expect to see a significant increase in reliability as these newer locomotives are introduced.”

Progress Rail will take existing EMD SD70MAC freight locomotives and upgrade and configure them for passenger use. All components will either be refurbished, upgraded or new. The newly remanufactured locomotives will be designated as SD70MACH locomotives.

Metra’s RFP allowed companies to provide proposals for either new or remanufactured locomotives. Metra chose remanufactured locomotives primarily because it can buy more of them than new locomotives. A greater number of newer locomotives means Metra can replace a greater number of older locomotives and operate a greater number of trains with more reliable locomotives.

Metra says one big improvement will be in the traction motors. The remanufactured locomotives will have AC traction motors, which Metra says are far more durable and reliable than the DC traction motors in its older locomotives. For example, Metra currently needs to replace about 160 DC traction motors annually. On Metra Electric cars, the oldest of which have had AC traction motors for 12 years, Metra has not had to change a single traction motor. The new locomotives will also bring a 34-percent increase in horsepower and Metra says the microprocessor-controlled brake system will be another major upgrade.

Metra will be able to utilize the same parts inventory and will not need to update its training and maintenance programs because the remanufactured locomotives have a similar design to Metra’s F59 locomotives. 

The remanufactured locomotives will meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s Tier 3 emissions standards. Replacing 42 of Metra’s current locomotives that are rated Tier 0+ with 42 Tier 3 locomotives will eliminate 61 tons of nitrous oxide emissions annually – the equivalent to taking 6,600 cars off the road.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Editor in Chief

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the magazine’s editorial direction and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.