In 1956, Johnny Cash heard the train a coming from his prison cell as he sang “Folsom Prison Blues.” Now, 50 years later, trains have changed a bit from the coal-eating, smoke chugging locomotive that Johnny must have witnessed.
Today, several companies are developing hydrogen fuel cell trains a coming down the track. One such company is Vehicle Projects, which is switching a switcher train from diesel-electric to hydrogen fuel cell. The 109-ton locomotive is being retrofitted with Nuvera PEM fuel cell stacks to power the 1.2 megawatt train.
Vehicle Projects from Golden, Colorado is credited with producing the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell train. In 2002, Vehicle Projects retrofitted a battery-powered 3.6 metric-ton mining train with a Nuvera fuel cell stacks (17-kilowatt) for use in an Ontario, Canada mine.
Vehicle Projects has also supplied a 150-KW fuel cell powerplant to Railway Technical Research Institute in Tokyo, Japan as the company hopes to bring forward the first hydrogen fuel cell passenger train in that country. They are facing stiff competition from Japan Rail East, though, who is also vying for that title.
North Carolina also wants in on the hydrail (hydrogen railway) action as it is already planning to convert a 30-mile stretch from Charlotte to Mooresville, N.C. from a freight line to a passenger line by 2009. The local transit authority now wants that line to run on hydrogen.
Denmark has high ambitions as well. Ringkøbing County and the Danish Technological Institute are pushing forward with Europe’s first hydrogen train. On June 7, 2006 Denmark held the 2nd International Hydrogen / Hydrail Conference (the first was held in Charlotte, NC) promoting hydrogen trains as a green, economically-feasible alternative to fossil fueled locomotives.
In Johnny Cash’s song, he wants out of prison so that he can hop aboard a train and ” … move on over a little farther down the line.” Who would have thought back 50 years ago, that Johnny or anyone else may one day be hopping aboard a hydrogen train?