By Ron VandenBoom
Al Beute, manager of General Electrics locomotive service operation in Havre, told the North Montana Pachyderm Club Friday hes working to help put MSU-Northern at the leading edge of diesel and emissions control technology education by helping to develop a research center on campus.
This is exciting stuff, its very important, we think, to the community, and to the country, Beute said. We want to make Northern known throughout the country as a leading edge technology school.
Work on the center has already started in a small way by developing a core group on campus that are familiar with emissions issues and technology. Emissions will be a big factor in the future because of EPA requirements that need to be met prior to 2005, Beute said.
Two students and one faculty member were sent to the G.E. manufacturing facility in Erie Pennsylvania this summer to study emissions for eight weeks so, as Beute put it, they could get in on the ground floor of what the emissions requirements are in the country and learn about how you collect data from emissions instrumentation ...
Beute emphasized that one of the important things they learned was that there are no current experts in the emissions field.
Whoever develops the next widget will be the expert, Beute said.
Northern Chancellor Mike Rao and his wife are also slated to attend a short line railroad convention in September in New York City and visit the G.E. manufacturing facility in Erie Pennsylvania. They will also attend the class one railroad convention in Chicago.
The purpose of the trip will be to expose people in the industry to what Northern has to offer and for Rao to get an idea of what G.E.s needs are.
We want to offer opportunity to people that have talent, Beute said. Were pushing to recruit people in other places other than Montana.
About 50 of the 150 employees that make up G.E.s field service team are graduates of Northern, Beute told the crowd, referring to them as great ambassadors for Northern and the program. You can see the significance to our business of the college.
Beute acknowledges that there are other institutions in the country that teach diesel technology but he singled out Northern as the only school that teaches hands-on education through their cooperative program with G.E. Currently eight students work in the shop in Havre.
The eight students will join Northern faculty and other interested individuals at a series of lectures that will be held this week at MSU-Northern. The lectures will be presented by an expert on G.E. diesel engines for the purpose of training faculty and students on the latest in G.E. diesel technology.
The session might use a specially made, one-of-a-kind, 4,400 horsepower, diesel engine, with cut away views and the latest technology, that was recently donated by G.E. to the college.
Technology can mean a lot to the railroads. Beute said, If we can achieve a one-percent improvement on fuel efficiency on one locomotive, and if we could do that throughout the fleet of locomotives ..., he said. We can save about $1 million a day.
G.E. is working diligently to expand its involvement with Northern, but it is also working to expand its Havre operation. Beute predicted that Havre will have 400 locomotives assigned to the Havre shop by the end of 1999 and approximately 24 additional jobs will have been created.
Three hundred of the locomotives will be G.E. and about 100 will be older two-cycle EMD SD40-2. Beute said the EMD units are less powerful than the G.E. units putting out only about 3,600 horse power.
He also indicated the EMDs because they are two-cycle will not be able to meet emission control standards soon to go into effect and will have to be replaced by the cleaner four-cycle locomotives.