Official US Government Icon

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure Site Icon

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Modernizing Rail for the Department of Defense

Since 1989, Volpe has provided expertise to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) helping to modernize locomotives and rail equipment critical to the mission of the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy.

This project encourages transportation solutions that protect national security and promote public health and safety by working toward eliminating train-related deaths and injuries. This project also protects and enhances communities and the natural environment that are affected by transportation and the DoD’s aging rail fleet.

The Challenge

The DoD rail fleet contains more than 120 locomotives with an average life span of 50 years. This fleet is in critical need of new, modern equipment to increase the efficiency, reliability, and safety of operations on U.S. Army installations and U.S. Navy facilities.

An aging rail fleet means increased toxic emissions and poor operational readiness due to maintenance costs and the need for replacement parts for older trains. This modernization program is a priority for DoD that requires the involvement of numerous commands. Because of project duration and the level of funding required, the biggest challenges facing this initiative are time and program costs.

The Solution

Volpe is working to increase DoD’s locomotive mission capability by providing technology and expertise that support this rail upgrade. In addition to providing overall program management of the DoD rail modernization effort, Volpe

  • Identifies requirements
  • Develops technical specifications
  • Provides technical and cost analyses
  • Conducts engineering and safety compliance inspections
  • Performs quality assurance inspections
  • Ensures proper integration of new equipment with existing DoD railway infrastructure
  • Provides acquisitions expertise
  • Oversees delivery and final acceptance of railroad rolling stock for DoD

In conducting this work, Volpe collaborates with DoD and its partners, participating directly in planning meetings, inter-service meetings, and site inspections, and plans and maintains master schedules. Volpe’s support of this rail modernization program is active and continues to grow.

The Impact

With its broad range of expertise, from engineering to acquisition management, Volpe is assisting DoD’s mission to modernize an aging railroad infrastructure and replace locomotives that are nearing the end of their service. Volpe’s efforts have helped accomplish the following:

  • Deliver new locomotives that are quieter, more reliable, emit fewer pollutants, and require less fuel.
  • Improve operational readiness by eliminating downtime due to finding replacement parts for older locomotives.
  • Reduce the overall expense to maintain and operate an aging fleet.
USAX 6515: a three-engine 2,100-horsepower GenSet Road-switcher U.S. Army locomotive, shown here on a track at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

USAX 6515 is a three-engine 2,100-horsepower GenSet Road-switcher locomotive built to meet the requirements at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. This U.S. Army locomotive will be used to transport wheeled and tracked vehicles and other equipment maintained at this location.

GenSet technology is preferred on DoD locomotives because it offers many benefits over conventional diesel-electric motive power for the type of operations they support. With a multi-engine GenSet locomotive, depending on the design, two or three engines are utilized to equal the motive power of a conventional single-engine locomotive. For example, if you have a conventional switcher locomotive offering a 2,000-horsepower engine, a comparable GenSet would have three 700-horsepower diesel engines. When pulling a relatively light load with a GenSet locomotive, not all engines need to be operating, and thus, the locomotive conserves fuel in the process when compared to a single-engine locomotive.

Other benefits include better emission control, higher tractive effort with better wheel slip control, quieter operations, and lowered maintenance costs.

Last updated: Wednesday, July 8, 2020