NORTH PLATTE, Neb. – A new Union Pacific locomotive maintenance and repair facility is designed to reduce the amount of time that coal trains spend at the Bailey Yard in North Platte, Neb., according to the railroad.
Union Pacific and GE today commemorated the opening of yard in North Platte, Neb. — North America’s largest rail yard. The new locomotive shop will support GE locomotives which carry more than 95 percent of the coal handled by Union Pacific.
“Our mindset is that coal is king and a significant part of our time is spent ensuring coal deliveries are moving as safely and efficiently as possible through Bailey Yard,” said Cameron Scott, general superintendent of train services — North Platte operations.
“With the new state-of-the-art locomotive shop, our employees are better able to handle run-through coal trains with much the same intensity and efficiency as a NASCAR pit crew during a race,” Scott said. “We have already seen significant improvements in both the number of trains we handle each day and the amount of time it takes us to inspect, repair or provide maintenance on coal locomotives.”
The new shop uses wireless technology to monitor the health of the locomotives remotely to determine and plan for unscheduled repairs or maintenance. This crystal ball-like ability allows maintenance and repair crews to prepare and plan maintenance 24 hours in advance of the locomotives’ arrival. An inbound report is generated electronically to provide data on individual locomotive needs for scheduled repairs.
“We worked closely with Union Pacific to create a new facility that helped to increase speed, improve safety and eliminate unneeded steps in handling run-through coal trains,” said Julie DeWane, General Manager, GE Services. “By working together, we successfully applied new technology and continuous improvement techniques to heavy-haul locomotives. This enabled us to streamline and standardize processes for getting trains out of the rail yard to transport more coal.”
The new shop is designed to perform on-going maintenance and repair work on six locomotives each day with a capacity to handle more than 2,000 GE AC locomotives each year. The facility operates 24 hours per day, seven days a week. Overall, the facility is nearly the length of a football field and is approximately 40-feet high with a 192-foot underground inspection pit to see the underside of the locomotive. The facility employs electricians, machinists, pipe fitters, firemen and oiler technicians, a shift supervisor and a technical director.
As the reliance on rail transportation increases, there is growing pressure on Union Pacific to find ways to move trains even more efficiently. Workers responsible for refueling, inspecting and maintaining trains moving through Bailey Yard’s run-through areas employ a unique pit-crew approach to reduce dwell time — average hours a rail car is at the specified terminal location — and speed up the processing of run-through trains.
“We can’t easily build new track, so we’re leveraging Lean methodologies to find effective ways to increase our velocity and train through-put,” said Scott. “What’s most exciting is that the new facility was designed with input from employees in our run-through operations and extensive analysis by members of the Union Pacific and GE continuous improvement teams. As a result of our combined efforts and dedication, we’re able to handle more trains and move more coal. Over time, each new step in the run-through process will become easier and bring even more improvement.”