WSOR Going Green

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WSOR joins the U.S. railroad industry to elevate the importance of environmentally-friendly forms of freight transportation. Although railroads continue to lead in environmental preservation, WSOR is dedicated to reaching even greater achievements in areas such as increasing fuel efficiency and reducing emissions. Click the links above to see how WSOR is committed to the long haul, addressing today and tomorrow’s environmental concerns.

What If?

What would happen if a 25 percent shift of freight from road-bound trucks to rail occurred in urban areas throughout the U.S. by 2026? By removing the trucks from roads, On average, it would:

  • Save each commuter 41 hours a year
  • Save $985 in congestion costs per commuter each year
  • Save each commuter 79 gallons of fuel each year
  • Reduce air pollution by nearly 920,500 tons each year

Environmental Facts

Today’s freight trains carry nearly 43 percent of our nation’s long distance freight, and are the most energy-efficient way to move large volume products that Americans use every day – from lumber to toothpaste, coal to plastic, salt to sugar, and other household items. The facts at right highlight why railroads are one of the most environmentally friendly modes of freight transportation around.

  • Today’s trains can haul 1 ton of freight 436 miles on just one gallon of diesel fuel (up from 235 miles per gallon in 1980)
  • For every 27 gallons of diesel consumed by trucks to haul one ton of freight, railroads burn 7 gallons to reach a similar distance making railroads almost four times more fuel efficient than trucks
  • If just 10 percent of the long-distance freight moving by truck today were shifted to rail, national fuel savings would exceed one billion gallons a year
  • Since 1980, freight railroads have become 80 percent more energy-efficient, reducing their fuel consumption by 48 billion gallons
  • In 2008, railroads moved almost twice as much freight as they did in 1980 – while consuming the same amount of fuel
  • According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a typical truck emits roughly three times more oxides of nitrogen and particulates per ton mile than a locomotive
  • One 100-car train can take nearly 400 trucks off our state and local roadway networks

Improving Fuel Efficiency

WSOR continues its efforts to reduce carbon emissions and cut fuel consumption from its fleet of 42 locomotives.

“Smart Start” equipment is being installed on WSOR’s fleet of locomotives. This equipment automatically shuts down the locomotive engine when it hwsor_fuel_efficiencyas idled for a predetermined amount of time while not in use. The engine automatically restarts to warm the engine coolant in cold weather and also when power is demanded from the locomotive. Idle reduction devices will reduce fuel consumption and emissions by 50-70 percent.

WSOR continues a program to retrofit low-horsepower engines prone to heavy carbon build-up with Harco Spark Arrestors. The spark arrestor is designed to trap red hot carbon particles which are emitted out the exhaust stack. Baffles inside the arrestor deflect carbon particles where they are trapped in a chamber, thereby allowing only exhaust gases out of the top of the stack. Spark arrestors have proved very effective in collecting particulates harmful to our environment as well as reducing the frequency and severity of grass fires along our rail corridors.


Engineer Training

Engineer Training is another important part of our Green initiative. Applying the throttle and braking systems of freight trains at appropriate times can increase fuel efficiency by up to 10% when certain conditions are favorable. Taking into consideration a number of factors such as terrain, train speed, track conditions, industry and yard locations, WSOR engineers can use their knowledge of various braking systems (dynamic vs. air brake) to maximize fuel efficiency. The WSOR conducts routine crew checks, efficiency testing and re-certification training to ensure train crews are using proper train handling techniques.

WSOR engineers also follow fuel conservation procedures in warm weather. Locomotives are shut down when they are not in use or are expected to idle for more than 30 minutes, thereby saving fuel and reducing emissions.

Economy for our Customers

“Rail is by far more efficient than other modes. We can load a 25-car unit train of corn (approx. 85,000 bushels) in only four hours as compared to loading ninety semi trucks taking in upwards of a day in a half.”
Dave Cramer of United Cooperative

Each year, Wisconsin & Southern hauls close to 60,000 carloads of commerce on its rail system. If moved by public roadways, this volume would require nearly 250,000 semi trucks, equating to nearly 3,200 miles of trucks if lined up end after end. This is similar to a distance between Seattle, Washington and Miami, Florida.

“Reducing our cost means the difference of staying in business or going out of business. Using the larger 286k rail cars is one way of keeping our transportation cost down and under control, which allows us to compete competitively in the commodities market.”
Paul Olsen of Olsen Mills