11/16/2010

Amtrak P-32BWH unit as biodiesel testbed

Somehow I missed (or just ignored) the news back in April that Amtrak's testing one of their GW Pepsi Can P32-8's as a biodiesel unit. I'll bet good money on this: it'll be sidelined within a year of the test being over. The minute it needs a moderately-expensive repair. A never really-successful run of 20 units that are just-unusual-enough to be among the first to get sidelined and then have one converted into a one-off unit with a moderately-unique parts inventory? It's a goner. The one-off testbeds are always the spare units they have lying around with little useful life left that they want to ditch but can't justify retiring quite yet. Biodiesel testing is a headline-grabber that won't catch on for at least another decade, if ever in the north American market. It's not enough-better than conventional diesel and just-enough non-standard to warrant a fleet switchover. In another part of the world maybe, but under the north American practices? Not gonna happen. Oh well, as a way to end it's life, I suppose this is a pretty good end at least and is better than just sitting in storage like many of Amtrak's other units. At least this way it's earning Amtrak very cheap "Green" [washing] publicity.

(Much easier politically for them to get money for brand new units than refurbish perfectly-good 1-2 decade old units that need mid-life overhauls but are too valuable to retire. The same goes for the dozens wreck-damaged Superliners sitting in storage. With no domestic conventional passenger car manufacturers left the damaged cars would be a million or more to replace per unit and are quite valuable given the tight supply of cars Amtrak has left, but it's way harder to get funding for the price it would be to refurb them. So they sit. For decades in some cases.)

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