Union Pacific's Proviso Locomotive Shop Overcomes Winter Weather Challenges to Keep Freight Moving

Provisio Rafal Nikolajuk | LR

Proviso Locomotive Shop Electrician Rafal Nikolajuk keeps his work truck stocked throughout winter, doing his part to keep Union Pacific's low-horsepower locomotive fleet moving.

Located adjacent to the nation’s largest rail hub, Union Pacific’s Proviso Locomotive Shop plays a critical role maintaining a locomotive fleet on the move – approximately 1 million rail cars travelled through Illinois in 2022.

Each season presents a new set of challenges, and winter is no exception for this high-performing shop – when Chicago temperatures drop, the Mechanical team turns its attention to the railroad’s low horsepower locomotive fleet.

Low horsepower locomotives typically are used to move cars within the railroad’s yards and customer industries. In the winter, condensation in their air brake systems can cause components, like the A-1 charging valve, to freeze.

Using his 16 years of Union Pacific experience, Electrician Rafal Nikolajuk recently devised a smart solution to minimize delays – by stocking air brake parts in his truck during the winter, he can complete the repair within about 20 minutes of receiving the call.

Provisio Air Brake Charging Valve | MR

Used in locomotive air brake systems, A-1 charging valves respond to actions initiated inside the cab, like power cut-off, that support safe and responsive train movement.

“This is a much more efficient solution that keeps our locomotives moving,” Nikolajuk said. “Instead of an hour delay as I retrieve the part from supply and make the trip back to the yard, I can replace the part as soon as the problem is identified so the crew doesn’t need to swap out the locomotive.”

When it comes to moving goods communities rely on – from intermodal containers filled with clothing and electronics to commodities such as corn, soybeans, finished vehicles and auto parts – every minute counts.

“This is the perfect example of an employee closest to the work leveraging their knowledge to drive efficiency,” said Daniel Hendry, senior manager-Locomotive Facility. “Our team is self-motivated and empowered to make decisions that improve the day-to-day aspects of our operations.”

Proactively preparing to maintain the low horsepower fleet is just one piece of the Proviso team’s winter planning. Other steps include pre-weather briefings with the facilities team; restocking personal protective equipment like boot spikes and thick winter work gloves; job briefings with on-site team members; and staging switch brooms so personnel can clear snow from the yard’s switches.

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