Alternative fuels that reduce carbon emissions are a hot topic in transportation these days, and with good reason. But it’s not a new issue for the railroad industry, which has been investigating emissions-reduction technologies for some years. Now visitors to the Oklahoma Railway Museum can get a first-hand look at one of that industry’s longtime tools for driving environmental innovation.
The Oklahoma City institution recently took delivery of BNSF 1205, a famous locomotive that served for years as an alternative fuel testbed. The well-traveled engine was most recently operated by BNSF Railway as a hydrogen fuel cell-powered switcher in Southern California, but it has a much longer history.
Built as Canadian Pacific GP9 8637 in 1957, the unit was rebuilt by CP in the mid-1980s and used in regular service until 2006, when it was converted to a “Green Goat,” an early form of battery-electric switcher. In 2007, the unit was acquired by BNSF and rebuilt in Kansas as a hydrogen fuel cell-powered switcher, then moved to Pueblo, Colorado, for testing prior to entering service in BNSF’s Hobart Yard in Los Angeles.Until it was retired in 2014, BNSF 1205’s mission was to collect data to help determine whether hydrogen fuel cell-powered switcher locomotives could fulfill the duty cycles and operational demands of yard service while producing zero emissions. Those early results looked good, and BNSF, together with partners Progress Rail and Chevron, is planning a mainline hydrogen fuel cell-powered locomotive demonstration for 2024 as it continues its efforts to adopt alternative energy technology.