Tennessee Patent of the Month – January 2024

The first full-scale working railway steam locomotive was unveiled in 1804. Over 200 years later, and the locomotive industry is still experiencing a commitment to innovation. Knoxville Locomotive Works, Inc. (KLW) have collected over 300 collective years of expertise in the industry, building, operating, and maintaining locomotives since 1998. While new to the scene compared to the history of trains, KLW is still bringing new designs to the field. Recently, the company has been granted a patent for their tri-mode locomotive.

This invention is set to redefine the efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and environmental impact of fuel-electric locomotives. The locomotive utilizes three different operating modes including a prime mover mode, mother/slug mode, and mother/inoperative mode.

Firstly, the prime mover mode allows each locomotive to independently operate its prime mover engine, generating power for its own traction motors without the need for a high voltage electrical connection. This mode optimizes individual locomotive performance.

Secondly, the mother/slug mode introduces a collaborative approach where one locomotive’s prime mover engine is turned off, and the high voltage electrical connection is activated. The operational locomotive not only powers its own traction motors but also channels electrical power to the traction motors of the inactive locomotive. This mode enhances fuel efficiency by utilizing the power generated by a single engine.

Lastly, the mother/inoperative mode maintains the inactive locomotive with its prime mover engine off, and the high voltage electrical connection inactive. The operational locomotive powers its own traction motors but refrains from supplying power to the inactive locomotive. This mode allows for a flexible and dynamic operational strategy.

This locomotive innovation is not only about efficiency but also about reduced emissions, lower maintenance costs, and enhanced fuel economy. By intelligently managing the operation of the collective fuel engines, the locomotive minimizes waste and optimizes performance.

KLW has considered the nuances of dynamic braking, ensuring that the electrical connection in the mother/inoperative mode provides power during dynamic braking to cooling fans associated with the traction motors of the inactive locomotive. This attention to detail speaks to a holistic approach to locomotive design and operation.

In a field where fuel efficiency, reduced emissions, and operational cost-effectiveness are paramount, KLW has steered the industry towards a future where locomotives operate smarter, not just harder.

Are you developing new technology for an existing application? Did you know your development work could be eligible for the R&D Tax Credit and you can receive up to 14% back on your expenses? Even if your development isn’t successful your work may still qualify for R&D credits (i.e. you don’t need to have a patent to qualify). To find out more, please contact a Swanson Reed R&D Specialist today or check out our free online eligibility test.

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