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Best Specialty Contracting: GE Manufacturing Solutions Locomotive Manu. Facility

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The $95-million GE Manufacturing Solutions locomotive assembly facility was completed in December 2012, with work led by contractor KBD Group.

Photo by Monty Jones, Walker Engineering Inc.
Cab of locomotive passing through the degreasing / priming booth.
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The assembly plant was created in an unoccupied 600,000-sq-ft facility located next to a Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail line in North Fort Worth. The building was constructed before the commercial real estate market crashed, and it was expanded to 920,000 sq ft for this project, including 10,500 sq ft for chemical storage.

The project included building a connecting spur from the facility to the nearby BNSF line to deliver the locomotives nationwide. It also includes a test track for new locomotives.

Electrical subcontractor Walker Engineering and its team used a new system of "wire in a barrel" rather than the traditional spools of wire. This kept workers from having to pick up 2,500-ft reels and put them in carts, which in turn helped to reduce back injuries among workers. Barrel wire also requires less setup time and fewer man-hours to install.

One of the design challenges that Walker faced was how to feed electrical service to the 200-ton crane. A single feed was not suitable to power the 800-ft-long crane, so the contractor collaborated with KBD to create triple electrical busway feed points.

Working 40 ft to 50 ft in the air was also a challenge for electrical workers, not just because of the inherent safety risks but also the challenge of pulling armored electrical cabling in lengths of 1,300 ft to the cable tray 40 plus ft high. A typical cable tray weighs 6 lb per ft and the reels weigh over 10,000 lb.

The high-bay ceiling and its structural support ranged in height from 45 ft to 55 ft, making this facility ideal for handling the 450,000-lb, 75-ft by 16-ft locomotives.

Transfer tables located outside of the building play an important role in moving the locomotive along the production line. These 250-ton maximum-capacity units allow locomotives to be moved along the outside of the building and in and out of the facility through any of the high-bay overhead doors.

Maintaining the project schedule was critical for the construction team, as the owner had to move in and set up immediately for locomotive assembly to fulfill its customer orders on time.

Walker had no recordable or lost-time incidents on this project, which totaled 82,580 man-hours. Attention to risk awareness, work planning and coordinating a plan of duty with the general contractor and other trades helped keep the project productive and safe for all employees. Team members also continuously adjusted their view of risk assessment to remain aware of potential dangers. They completed daily task-driven job-hazard assessments for all activities.

The facility is expected to produce between 250 and 300 locomotives a year.

Key Players

Owner GE Transportation, Erie, Pa.

General Contractor KBD Group, Atlanta

Lead Design Macgregor Associates Architects, Atlanta

Electrical Walker Engineering Inc., Irving, Texas

Structural Browder & LeGuizamon & Assoc. Inc., Atlanta

Civil Goodwin & Marshall Inc., Grapevine, Texas

MEP Kajima Associates Inc., Atlanta

Fire Protection Engineer Harrington Group, Duluth, Ga.

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