Tuesday, June 4, 2013

New MBTA locomotives: Is the order on track?

Rendering of MPI HSP-46
Courtesy: MBTA
In July of 2010 the MBTA board of directors approved the purchase of 20 new locomotives. The $115 million order was placed with Idaho based Motive Power Inc. (MPI) . Under the contract, MPI was tasked with designing a unique locomotive specifically for the T,  while also meeting the EPA's tier-3 emissions guidelines. Their result was the HSP-46 locomotive.

Over the past three years the T's order with MPI has been changed quite a bit. In July 2011 a new paint scheme was voted on by the public, the MBTA then added 7 more locomotives to the order in July 2012, and most recently this past April, thirteen more units were added. These changes bring the total order up to 40 locomotives.

Back in 2010, when the contract was granted to MPI , they were given two and a half years to produce a prototype unit and have it sent here to Boston for testing. That date was later pushed back to June of this year.

Well it's June, and the MBTA has yet to sent out any updates on the status of the order.

The T has not released any official statements saying the order is delayed, but sometimes delays do happen with orders like this. Look what happened with the Rotem bi-level order.

F-40 #1004 built in 1978
These new locomotives are vital if the T wants to maintain reliable transportation for Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Currently the MBTA's oldest in-service locomotives date back to 1978. They are loud, unreliable, and highly inefficient. When the 40 new HSP-46 locomotives replace the oldest units in the MBTA's fleet they will be reducing diesel fuel consumption by over 1,700,000 gallons per year, according to GE.

I guess we shall see what the month of June brings. Hopefully we find out that the order is on track and we will see a prototype here in Boston within the next few months.


  1. You know what would reduce diesel fuel consumption even more? Electric locomotives (or EMUs) for the Providence line. But for some reason, the MBTA doesn't seem interested, nor do they seem to be thinking at all about any electrification of the rest of the system.

    1. Electrification would be cheaper than the Big Dig, but would require an equivalently large capital investment on the part of the MBTA. Electrification is in the MBTA's best interest for faster-accelerating, higher frequency commuter rail service, but would also require re-training of a significant amount of their maintenance staff to include catenary engineers with MBCR and staff trained on electrics.

      The MBTA has had DMUs and EMUs on the capital budget for several years, but they've gone unfunded until recent legislation apportioning $200 mil to 'experimental' fleets. I first spoke with Rich Davey when he was GM about DMUs and it was something he already had on his agenda, but it has always been squeezed out by projects deemed more critical to system safety.

    2. It would require about a mile of new wire on Track 3 in Attleboro, and wiring the yard north of Providence, and they could start running electric service on the Providence line. And since Amtrak is already responsible for maintenance on that line, they don't need to train any maintenance staff. Indeed, if they finished those two tiny gaps in electrification, they could just borrow an electric locomotive from NJ Transit and try it out on a couple of trains just to see how well it works.

  2. The Mbta has had Dmus and Emus on the capital plan for a few years, however they've gone unfunded until later enactment allocating $200 mil to "trial" armadas. I first spoke with Rich Davey when he was Gm about Dmus and it was something he had on his driving force, however it has dependably been crushed out by undertakings esteemed more basic to framework security. boston proper coupons


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