Class 1 railroads and Short Line railroads will typically auction off their used locomotives inventory. This auction process can be in person or by webcast. There are a number of companies in North America that usually purchase the locomotives from auctions and/or Class 1 railroads or Short Lines and then resell them into the secondary market. These locomotives are sold “As Is”, “Reconditioned” or sometimes “Rebuilt”.
Used locomotives are sold in the following condition:

  • “As Is- Where is”. These units are sold in the condition they are at the location specified. There is no implied guarantee that the unit is in operational or can be made operational. The seller does not assume any responsibility for the usefulness of the unit.
  • Qualified. This means that the locomotives are in general running condition for railroad operation.
  • Rebuilt. These units have major components rebuilt with new or reconditioned parts. These units are a step above qualified units and typically cost more.
  • Remanufacturing. The unit stripped and rebuilt with the same major components with the possibility of some upgrades. This usually involves rewiring of the unit.
  • New. Brand new components and design. This involves engineering design work. Meeting emission standards. (This is the Pacific West Systems/Tractive Power approach)
Used locomotives are not built/engineered for industrial applications. They have too much horsepower for the application. Typically industrial switching is operated at 10 mph or less and the conventional locomotives can operate at speeds of 70 mph. The horsepower in these units ranges from 600 to 3000 hp. The added horsepower leads to increased fuel consumption for unnecessary reasons and is hard on the engine because it is operated at low speed which causes “souping”. The addition fuel burn can cost the industrial operate as much as an additional $1 million USD or more over the lifecycle of the unit and the locomotives are difficult to maintain late in the lifecycle.
The horsepower required for your operation depends on the number of loaded cars being moved and tractive effort required. As well the curvature of your track and grade can impact the horsepower required.  The horsepower required will range from 300 hp to 600 hp.
Tractive Effort is the pulling force at the coupler. In industrial applications weight and adhesion are critical to achieving effective tractive effort. Inclement weather and poor track conditions (i.e -contaminated rail) can cause loss of adhesion and hence why weight is important.
Used locomotive can last 30 plus years with proper maintenance.
Beyond the general monthly maintenance requirements a used locomotive can will involve power assemblies, fuel injectors, loss of starter motors and other major engine components. Rewiring, loss of generator and the replacement of the compressor are also a factor.  All of which can be very expensive to repair or replace.
When your railcar mover or locomotive is down it has a financial impact on your operations. This is why pro-active maintenance is critical to your business. Items to consider when purchasing your equipment is the availability of parts, mechanical expertise to complete repairs and how quickly they can get your unit up and running properly and warranty coverage. In many situations it comes down to “pay now or pay more later”.
The genset method of power control has the engine driving the generator running at a constant speed and uses power electronics between the generator and traction motors to control the desired engine power output.

Genset systems are complicated, difficult to support, and have higher life cycle costs. This is caused by high speed idling and greater thermal cycling that will impact the engine life when compared with the standard method of operating an engine in a locomotive that has load control.

Tractive Power uses a load regulator to control the load on the engine. The load regulation maintains a constant load on the engine throughout varying engine speed range and additionally the speed of the locomotive. There is less wear on the engine, less “ups & downs” and thermocycling which leads to longer engine life.
Tractive Power uses all new components and qualified or rebuilt traction motors which will last 30 plus years. Engine overhaul or replacement maybe required after 25,000 hours. Warranty of 4 years. Typical maintenance is oil changes, filters and lubrication.
The State of California offers Carl Moyer funding through the California Environmental Protection Agency. The Air Resources Board (ARB) has developed and implemented a number of measures to significantly reduce locomotive and railyard emissions in California, including regulations, enforceable agreements, and funding of clean technology. The Carl Moyer Memorial Air Quality Standards Attainment Program (Carl Moyer Program) provides grant funding for cleaner-than-required engines and equipment. Local air districts administer these grants and select which projects to fund. ARB works collaboratively with the districts and other stakeholders to set Guidelines and ensure the Program reduces pollution and provides cleaner air for Californians. The Carl Moyer Program achieves reductions in emissions of key pollutants which are necessary for California to meet its clean air commitments under regulatory requirements. Eligible projects include cleaner on-road, off-road, marine, locomotive, lawn & garden, light duty passenger vehicles being scrapped and agricultural equipment. Funding requires an application and in order to qualify there must a reduction in harmful emissions through improved engine technology. In order to qualify the user needs to replace existing gross polluters. Please contact us to review your qualification for this funding. Further information can also be found at
To safety move railcars the proper equipment is needed. Using tractors, loaders, or other jobsite equipment this is not specifically approved for moving railcars is extremely dangerous to workers, and may damage the railcars (not to mention the equipment itself). The operator should carefully inspect the locomotive or other equipment used to move cars before each use, with a special focus on testing the brakes other safety devices.

Pacific West Systems and Tractive Power offer operator training on locomotives and railcar movers.