Ride the eco-engine

Siemens rail in Sacramento takes home sustainability kudos

Siemens is working on, but has yet to complete production of, the Amtrak Cities Sprinter locomotive. This is a rendering.

Siemens is working on, but has yet to complete production of, the Amtrak Cities Sprinter locomotive. This is a rendering.

Photo By Illustration COURTESY OF SIEMENS

Seventeen months after the huge contract was announced, the first of a new batch of electric locomotives built for Amtrak by Siemens Industry Inc., Sacramento is nearing completion.

And this week, the company will also receive honors, a regional Green Leadership Award, for its global sustainability practices.

Siemens announced in November 2010 a $466 million contract to build 70 electric locomotives for Amtrak as part of the country’s largest rail operator’s fleet-rejuvenation initiative.

In addition to a healthy budget, the contract also meant good things in the local job market. An additional 250 workers, according to Siemens, were required for the project, including 200 more in Sacramento and an additional 50 combined in Norwood, Ohio, and Alpharetta, Georgia.

The construction of the locomotives is part of Amtrak’s multiyear Fleet Strategy Plan to replace its entire fleet of passenger rail cars and locomotives over the next 30 years.

“This isn’t your grandfather’s locomotive,” Oliver Hauck, president of the Mobility Division of Siemens, said when the contract was announced. “Not only will we use renewable energy to build them, the locomotives will also include energy-efficient features such as regenerative braking that can feed up to 100 percent of the energy generated during braking back to the power grid.”

The Amtrak order is currently on schedule. “The first car body and frame are scheduled for completion this summer, and the first locomotive delivered to the test track in early 2013,” said Michael Krampe, director of media relations for Siemens, via email.

Siemens’ light-rail manufacturing facility in Sacramento has been in operation for more than 27 years. It’s powered up to 80 percent by 2 megawatts of solar energy and employs 750 people. In addition to its new Sacramento project, Siemens is currently building light-rail cars in Sacramento for Denver; Calgary and Edmonton, Canada; Portland, Oregon; Hampton Roads, Virginia; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Salt Lake City.

Locomotives aside, Siemens also works on high-speed rail and provides baggage-handling systems for more than 100 major U.S. airports and automation systems that help the U.S. Postal Service process 90 percent of the country’s mail.

Although Siemens doesn’t reveal the cost of individual locomotives, the company believes its reputation places it at the forefront of the industry.

“In addition to being faster than other locomotives in the market, our locomotives are lighter, safer, and create less wear and tear on the tracks,” said Krampe.

Beyond Sacramento, other main components of the new locomotive will be made in Alpharetta (motors) and Norcross, Georgia (propulsion containers).

“These locomotives will be built in America using renewable energy and provide cleaner, more efficient movement of people on the most heavily traveled rail route in the country,” said Daryl Dulaney, president and CEO of Siemens Industry Inc.

Siemens currently produces one-third of the light-rail vehicles in the United States. The new Amtrak Cities Sprinter is based on Siemens latest iteration of the EuroSprinter electric locomotive. More than 1,600 units are in operation worldwide. It will be customized to sustain a speed of 125 miles per hour in the new project.