Five days a week, every week, two GE Evolution diesel locomotives motor north from Florida to New Jersey, pulling half a million gallons of Tropicana orange juice loaded on a train of 41 refrigerated freight cars half a mile long. That’s enough to serve a glass of O.J. to everyone in New York City.
But that’s only part of the story. The powerful Evolution (it’s strong enough to move a line of 170 Boeing 747 jumbo jets) is to an old-fashioned locomotive what a modern passenger jet is to a propeller plane. Every five seconds computers inside the high-tech cabin collect gigabytes of data like GPS coordinates of the train’s location, speed, and mechanical performance. The engine can feed the data to a central brain located at a railroad headquarters that blends it with information like train schedules and open tracks. The system can turn a vast rail web to into an “intelligent” network that helps pick the best train speed and route and improve track capacity. Such “industrial internet” can save a railroad operator millions in fuel costs through better scheduling and engine and car utilization.
GE tried to visualize the system, tapped into the data, and followed one Tropicana juice train on its 1,200-mile long northern run. A film crew mounted two HD cameras in weather-proof cases on the front locomotive and captured video for the entire 48-hour trip. Two camera assistants remotely monitored and controlled the exposure of the cameras by a custom-made rig.
The crew then synchronized the timing of the video footage with information coming from engine and created a video and data time-lapse that illustrates the train’s entire journey.