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Passenger Car Generator Control Systems
Phone: (503) 231-4808, Fax: (503) 230-0572, E-mail
See where our equipment is located on a typical passenger car
When a generator set is added to a heritage passenger car, in almost all cases it is put underneath the passenger car floor, with all the other under-car equipment. This is usually an excellent location. However, if the car owner simply places a standard off-the-shelf generator skid under the passenger car, there are problems to overcome. For example: normally these generator sets come with some sort of starting control and monitoring system. All of that equipment is mounted on the generator skid, with the engine. The generator, however, can not be accessed while the train is moving if it is under the car floor. This means the entire train must be stopped if there is a problem of some sort with the generator. Therefore, passenger car generator installations generally have some sort of in-car monitoring and control system that will allow the generator to be started, stopped, and basic engine conditions monitored from inside the passenger car.
Northwest Rail Electric has developed a number of packages to suit the needs of all manner of generator installations on railroad passenger cars. All of these controls include basic remote start and stop, remote sensing and indication of coolant temperature, oil pressure, battery voltage, and other vital engine data. Because the generator is remote, and because it is difficult to give it constant attention, even the most simple Northwest Rail Electric generator control includes automatic shut-down in the event of high water temperature, low oil pressure, and engine overspeed.
Our passenger car generator controls may be broken into several different categories:
Each of these is described in greater detail below. The exact specifics of each system depend on the needs of the customer and the engine of the generator in question. Certain generator engines require a completely electronic control system, while others require relay contacts, and others may use either, while others require a mixture of interface types.
- Generator Control Only no switchgear or other items. This type of system is only desirable if the under-car generator is used for powering systems on that particular car, and already has adequate switchgear for the purpose.
Note that in this example, the switch to feed the HEP system has been blocked out, as the customer wanted a generator control system for a single car without the ability to feed other cars. This example also features an electronic engine control with a number of electronic display features, including engine oil pressure, battery voltage, coolant temperature, and output frequency.
- Car power selection and automatic start systems These are generally used on business cars and Amtrak-operating private cars where automatic start of a generator in the event of HEP failure is desired. Our most popular package in this category is the NW-GC500 generator control system. One of the popular options of this package includes the ability to feed power through the HEP system to other cars.
- Power car systems These are systems that feed power from the generator directly to the HEP trainline. Our most popular system of this type is the NW-GC155 series.
An example of an NW-GC500 control from Northwest Rail Electric for an engine requiring a completely electronic interface. The display screen includes almost all engine indicators, including generator output voltage and current, coolant temperature, engine hours, and even includes a fault history log.
Typical Generator Engine Indicators:
- Hour Meter
- 12 Volt Engine Alternator Meter
- Coolant Water Temperature
- Oil Pressure
- Engine Preheat Indicator
- Engine Started Indicator
- Engine Alternator Indicator
- Engine Overcrank Indicator - Indicates that an attempt to start the engine was made, but due to an engine or fuel related problem it would not start
- Engine Fault Indicators: Generator will automatically shut down when any of the following fault indicators are lit:
- Low Oil Level - Time Delay Controlled to Prevent Engine from shutting down due to sloshing caused by train motion
- Low Coolant Level - Time Delay Controlled to Prevent Engine from shutting down due to sloshing caused by train motion
- Low Oil Pressure - Time Delay Controlled to Prevent Engine from shutting down due to sloshing caused by train motion
- High Water Temperature
- Engine Overspeed
- Optional Feature: Generator Output Meters. Output current, frequency and voltage may be added to most any NW-GC500 package or customized variant of this package.
- Optional Feature: Ground Fault Detection. Above certain generator sizes, this is a required feature. This shuts off generator feed in the event that current appears to be leaking out of the circuit being fed. Any generator control may have this feature added but it requires additional space and equipment beyond the standard models.
- Optional Feature: Overcurrent Detection and Reset. This shuts off generator feed in the event that generator output current is greater than the capacity of the generator. Unlike a circuit breaker, this method of overcurrent protection may be reset using a push button located in the car. This feature is particularly useful in cases where the circuit breakers are located under the car and are not accessible while the train is moving. Any generator control may have this feature added but it requires additional space and equipment beyond the standard models.
Basic Northwest Rail Electric generator control system types are:
Northwest Rail Electric generator control systems have a long history of use, including on railroad business cars on regionals, mainline, and short line railroads, tourist railroads, private cars, and regional passenger services.
- NW-GC500: Power selection and automatic generator back-up system. The generator may be turned on and run as the power source, or the power may be set for HEP or yard power (Yard power is optional: many customers don't need this as an option as many times cars are fed from wayside power systems by connecting to the HEP connectors.). The generator may be set to automatic operation, so that if the HEP or yard power source fail the on-car generator will automatically start and keep the systems on the car operating. An option of this system adds the ability of the on-car generator to feed power to the HEP trainline if the generator is selected as the primary power source. The number of cars able to be fed depends on the size of the generator. For the past 12 years, this has been by far our most popular generator control system. Generally the sytems are designed for use with Stadco Generators but may be altered for use with other types of generators.
- Small Power car systems. This type of generator control is designed to operate a generator that is only intended to feed power to the Head-End power system that runs the length of the train. The car on which the generator is mounted receives its power from the HEP trainline just as it would if the generator were mounted on some other car. As with the NW-GC500 this series is designed for use with Stadco Generators, but may be modified for use with other types.
Basic Northwest Rail Electric power car generator control types are divided into several different model types depending on the particular needs involved. However, the NW-GC155 is a good example of how these packages look.
All of these are very similar in appearance and function, but have slight differences designed to accomodate different types of HEP trainline configurations and HEP capacities. As all of these systems are extremely similar in appearance and function, we only have one example on our web site: The NW-GC155.
- Custom Variations of the Above Two: We have had to build a number of custom systems to fit certain customer needs. Examples of these systems may be seen on our Custom Controls page and our Custom Power Systems page. Most of our control systems for under-car generators are built specifically for Stadco under-car generator sets. However, some customers require special modifications to fit generator sets manufactured by several other companies. Various unusual enclosures have been produced over the years for standard equipment as well, in order to fit the needs of certain cars.
- Larger Power Car Systems. This type of control system is intended for a larger power car. As with the above systems, there are many different types that have been developed to suit various needs. An example of this type of system featured on our web site is the NW-PC550, which is intended to take a generator with an already existing control system and make it compatible with HEP.
- Custom generator control systems. For passenger car situations that have unique needs, we have produced an assortment of custom systems. This has included such things as fuel tank level indication, parallel controls for two under-car generators mounted under the same passenger car, large power car systems for parallel operation of two generator sets in a power car, power selection systems similar to our NW-GC500 that include two HEP selections for the dual-HEP systems used in parts of Canada, custom labels and lettering for various requirements, automatic current limiting systems, ground-fault detection systems, and battery charging and isolation systems that charge generator and emergency lighting batteries but keep them separated during discharge. Examples of these systems may be seen on our Custom Controls page.
Related Products from Northwest Rail Electric:
For those doing a complete upgrade on a railroad passenger car, we also offer:
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