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Fort Worth plant to modernize Union Pacific locomotives for efficiency, environmental benefits

A deal, valued at more than $1 billion, will see a manufacturing plant in Fort Worth update and modernize 600 locomotives for Union Pacific Crop. 

The agreement is the largest investment in modernized locomotives in the history of rail, according to a news release from Omaha-based Union Pacific. 

The deal calls for Pittsburgh-based Wabtec Corp. to modernize 525 of Union Pacific’s AC4400 and AC6000 locomotives, as well as 75 Dash-9 locomotives. Many of those modernizations will take place at Wabtec’s Fort Worth plant. The modernizations will extend the locomotive’s life and increase fuel efficiency by up to 18%. The locomotives are expected to see a more than 80% increase in reliability. 

Grace Olson, general director of locomotive engineering and quality at Union Pacific, said the railroad had been partnering with Wabtec for several years on a modernization program that had proven very successful. 

“It really takes one of the oldest locomotives in our fleet and makes it one of the best in the fleet from a failure standpoint,” she said. “In the last two years, Wabtec has come up with some technology that gets the engine in that locomotive closer to the current engine technology that we have on most of our fleets and also gives us additional carbon dioxide reductions.” 

In addition, Olson said, the increased power allows Union Pacific to move more freight with fewer locomotives, which improves efficiency and reduces emissions. 

New locomotives cost about $3 million, according to Railway Age, a railroad trade publication.  

According to data from Union Pacific, the modernizations will provide about 350 tons of carbon reduction per locomotive per year. The total order will enable Union Pacific to realize about 210,000 tons in annual emission reductions, the equivalent of removing emissions from nearly 45,000 passenger cars per year. 

The modernizations reuse more than half the locomotive’s weight, with about 70,000 tons of steel will be recycled – the equivalent of more than 51,000 passenger cars, according to the railroad. 

“Modernizations are a game-changer for our customers offering the ability to realize significantly more value out of existing locomotive assets,” said Rafael Santana, president and CEO of Wabtec, in a news release. 

The deliveries are expected to begin in 2023.

The modernized locomotives will also feature a suite of digital solutions and

innovations such as the FDL Advantage engine upgrade and Modular Control Architecture, a next-generation controls technology. 

That portion of the modization upgrades the many older electronics and control systems of the locomotive, according to Olson. 

“It is the equivalent of going from Windows 95 on your computer to the latest Windows technology. It’s that big an improvement,” she said. 

Wabtec purchased the GE Locomotive division in 2019 in an $11.1 billion deal. That acquisition included the manufacturing plant at State Highway 114 and Interstate 35W near Texas Motor Speedway. The plant employs about 800 workers. 

Wabtec had sales of $7.82 billion in 2021. 

Wabtec is also partnering with Fort Worth-based BNSF Railway Co. on another project aimed at reducing emissions from locomotives. The project is exploring the potential of battery-electric locomotives. 

BNSF Railway is also partnering with Progress Rail, a Caterpillar Inc. company, and Chevron U.S.A. Inc. working on a locomotive powered by hydrogen fuel cells. 

Union Pacific also has major operations in Fort Worth, with a large rail yard at 5701 W. Vickery Blvd. and more than 5,000 employees in the state.

Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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