Up close: UGL Rail’s C44ACi locomotive
Producing a locomotive that can operate on the largest allowable portion of Australia’s diverse rail network was a major driver in UGL Rail's design of the standardised C44ACi locomotive.
Freight rail operators face numerous “haulage hurdles” due to the diversity of Australia’s rail network including differences in track and outline gauge, mass restrictions, environmental requirements and varying industry standards.
These factors all work against a successful rail operation, which may include multiple locomotive fleet types to combat the varying conditional requirements.
A locomotive purpose built for coal haulage operations for example, would not be utilised for interstate intermodal freight tasks due to its build configuration.
Having identified that freight rail operators required a product that would be readily available, reliable, cost-effective and flexible to meet the various service needs of these demanding sectors, UGL Rail took on the challenge of designing a new flexible locomotive – the C44ACi.
Design & manufacturing strategy
UGL collaborated with technology partner GE Transportation to design the standardised 4400 THP (Horse Power) AC locomotive. The C44ACi can operate both heavy haul applications (including coal haulage within the Hunter Valley of New South Wales) and high-speed freight operations across the national standard gauge network.
The design and manufacturing strategy was created after significant research into the true requirements of both operators and regulators.
UGL says its two-year investigation was critical in developing the base locomotive product established to become the new C44ACi locomotive, designed to accommodate for both bulk haulage and intermodal applications.
“Essentially, our plan was to produce a locomotive that would operate on the largest allowable portion of the Australian rail network whilst meeting our customer requirements," UGL Rail product manager for locomotives David McCabe said.
“We also implemented ‘LEAN Sigma’ processes to reduce manufacturing costs and lead times”.
LEAN Sigma manufacturing reduced time in production line movements (TACT) times from 25 days to eight days allowing one completed locomotive to roll out of UGL’s main production facility at Broadmeadow, New South Wales, more frequently.
“The result of this locomotive design not only achieved the highest customer satisfaction rating through superior performance and reliability, but also provided lower costs, higher throughput and improved quality” McCabe said.
The C44ACi locomotive Solution
The C44ACi provides a technology baseline for superior performance using AC control, which easily extends to meet greater future operational demands using simple “add on” options. Fuel efficiency, safety, and performance are just some of the parameters that can be enhanced through the use of these add on options.
Depending on the options selected, the capacity limitation could be easily modified at a later date, if operating conditions alter. This has made it possible for UGL to deliver on operator demands for flexibility, to move a locomotive from heavy haul bulk freight tasks to long haul intermodal operations, maximising the utilisation potential of the locomotive.
In heavy haul operations, the locomotive can maximise a fuel loading of up 13,500 litres, increasing the mass to 139 tonnes, which consequently creates greater track adhesion.
For high-speed intermodal applications, the fuel tank capacity is lowered to 7,300 litres, which equates to 134 tonnes of mass. In this case, additional locomotive power can be utilised to reduce the travel time of the train.
A unique feature of the locomotive’s AC traction system is an individual inverter group per traction motor. These accommodate for wheel diameter variations between axles and bogies, from new to fully worn. This configuration provides a benefit to rail operators and track owners, as locomotives can stay in revenue service for longer periods.
Another advantage of the six inverter system is that if a traction motor becomes inoperative, the locomotive can complete an assignment with five operating traction motors.
The C44ACi has been designed to enable an impressive 4500 gross horsepower with the engine operating under the ambient conditions of 0°C to 44°C.
Simulations indicate that for coal haulage operations, three C44ACi’s can pull a greater total number of wagons, when compared to other locomotive types in its class. For Intermodal applications, it has been determined that the C44ACi Locomotive can haul an additional 20% in trailing loads with less fuel consumed, when compared to the older Cv40-9i NR Class locomotive.
The standardised locomotive achieves greater fuel efficiency through various means, such as, the Bosch electronic fuel injection system and auxiliaries driven by AC motors. Further enhancements in fuel efficiency can also be realized by incorporating GE’s ‘iBased’ advanced fuel saving products, such as ‘Consist Manager’ and ‘Trip Optimizer’.
A major safety-enhancing feature on the base C44ACi model is GE’s LocoCAM. This is a forward-looking video and audio recording system that integrates with a range of locomotive systems. This easy-to-use system captures, retrieves and plays back critical event information to aid in accident investigations and help defend fraudulent claims.
Being able to order larger quantities of consolidated locomotive components and raw materials, provides the supply chain team with purchasing leverage providing greater economies-of-scale. Frequent ordering and delivery of standard components supports just-in-time operations.
Costs are reduced by deploying spontaneous resupply of parts and materials. This is in contrast to forecast-based purchase orders, which requires large inventories to be held.
Satisfying customers and Track Requirements
The C44ACi provides a base product that has been designed to meet the requirements necessary for operating on Australia’s interstate standard gauge network, including those of: ROA, Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), WestNet Rail, FreightLink, QR Network Acess and RailCorp.
The C44ACi can be built to meet many customer requirements in an efficient manner, using UGL’s standard set of available options.
The locomotive can also operate effectively in a broad range of haulage tasks due to the design philosophy that has been incorporated into the product.
At present, UGL has successfully delivered the C44ACi to QR National (12 units), Australian Railroad Group (8 units), Pacific National (15 units) and Xstrata (10 units).
UGL rail executive general manager marketing and business development Jim Griffiths says the benefits of the C44ACi Locomotive are many.
“Ultimately our customers could be offered a high quality product at optimally lower prices, delivered in a short time frame. We knew that lower costs could be achieved through greater economies of scale and quality assured from the experience gained on multiple build projects”.