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Locomotive Engine Research Program Drives Down Train Emissions

General Motors Electromotive Division locomotive engine
EMD Engine

Locomotive engine manufacturers face a unique challenge: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will eventually require both old and new locomotive engines to meet new emissions regulations. In a series of stages, locomotives manufactured since 1973 (and newly manufactured units) will have to meet increasingly tighter gaseous and particulate emissions standards.

General Motors Electro-Motive Diesel (now Electro-Motive Diesel, Inc. [EMD]) has been partnering with Argonne since 1996 to research emissions-reducing technologies for locomotive diesel engines to identify and create new technologies for locomotives to meet future regulations without sacrificing the diesel engine's efficiency. The partnership was created with a Work-for-Others contract.

Argonne is home to the Engine Research Facility, which was built with funding from EMD. The facility, which contains a single-cylinder version of EMD's four-stroke "H" engine, has been generating experimental data used to improve the engine's fuel efficiency while meeting exhaust emissions targets. In addition to this research engine, Argonne also conducts research using a two-stroke, single cylinder version of EMD's "710" engine family.

How This Research Can Be Used

Based on the experimental studies conducted on the "H" engine, Argonne and EMD have identified performance-enhancing improvements for the engine lubrication system, fuel system, and combustion system. These results have helped EMD produce a more reliable, efficient, and environmentally friendly locomotive product. The 1-710 engine is now being used to optimize the engine configurations and operating parameters to meet Tier 3 and Tier 4 emissions standards that go into force in 2015 on production engines.

What Makes This Research Unique

Argonne’s research is unique because it allows for full gaseous and particulate emissions measurement capability. In addition:

  • Both engines use actual locomotive engine power assemblies for excellent correlation to multicylinder engine performance.
  • Researchers use an automated operation which provides the opportunity for excellent data repeatability.
  • Locomotive diesel engines have unique emissions reduction needs and provide the opportunity to explore new technologies that don’t apply well to truck or automotive engines.

New Technology Reduces Emissions and Solves Hardware Issues

This research has provided EMD with unique solutions to locomotive diesel engine hardware problems.

The technology gains in emissions reduction and efficiency improvement were assisted in part by a Department of Energy (DOE) locomotive initiative in 2002. Through this $1.5 million cost sharing program, EMD was able to demonstrate the viability of commercializing a common rail fuel-injection system for locomotive applications.

This DOE investment in locomotive technology, in addition to the more than $11 million invested by EMD at Argonne for the construction and operation of two single-cylinder research engines since the project began, has helped ensure that rail transportation in the U.S. has remained a highly efficient means of moving goods around the country.

Fuel Spray Laser Imaging

locomotive spray
Laser imaging of locomotive-size fuel injector spray

Locomotive spray plumes

The DOE program directly supported the efforts at Argonne to perform state-of the-art laser imaging of locomotive-size fuel-injector spray.

Argonne engineers worked with EMD and researchers from Wayne State University, in Michigan, to use high-speed laser imaging to capture real-time images of the fuel spray during fuel injection at 10,000 frames per second with 30-nanosecond exposure time.

Being able to characterize fuel spray in this manner allows researchers to develop a better understanding of diesel engine combustion, performance and emissions. This enables air quality improvements without increasing the railroad industry’s fuel-related operating costs or dependence on foreign oil.


This project is funded by a Work-for-Others program with Electro-Motive Diesel Inc.


  • Imaging Fuel Spray from Locomotive Fuel Injectors (172kB)
  • Spray Characterization from Common Rail Injection System for Use in Locomotive Engines (abstract; 19kB)

Doug Longman

Essam El-Hannouny

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