Sen. Sam Brownback climbed aboard the nation’s first hydrogen-powered fuel cell locomotive Monday morning at BNSF Railway Company’s Topeka System Maintenance Terminal, 1001 N.E. Atchison.
BNSF, Vehicle Projects, Brownback, R-Kan., and the Department of the Army announced plans to develop the locomotive on Jan. 9, 2008.
Funding for the project came from BNSF and the Department of Defense, said Steven Forsberg, BNSF spokesman. In 2008, Brownback announced the department was providing a second year of funding for the experiment $2.4 million for fiscal year 2008 following $2 million in the previous fiscal year.
“The prototype switch locomotive has the potential to reduce air pollution, is not dependent on oil for fuel, and could serve as a mobile backup power source for military and civilian disaster relief efforts,” a news release from BNSF stated.
Brownback was joined by Republican Rep. Lynn Jenkins in addressing a small crowd gathered Monday under a purple and white tent in front of the BNSF offices.
“It is truly an honor to be here with Sen. Sam Brownback for this unveiling,” Jenkins said. “This is a real-world, common sense way to move forward.”
Brownback called Monday a “great day in Topeka.”
“This has been a long-storied railroad town,” he said. “This is a new story.”
After addressing the crowd, Brownback boarded the locomotive and rode up and down tracks in front of the building.
“It is extremely quiet,” he said. “I think this is an exciting process.”
The locomotive will be sent to Colorado for additional testing this summer, said Chris Roberts, BNSF vice president of engineering. Then, it will be sent to California to test the viability of the technology.
“We look forward to this testing,” Roberts said. “At BNSF, we’re proud to be a part of this.”