Locomotive renewal gets underway

  • 2001-11-01
  • Kairi Kurm
TALLINN - Oleg Ossinovski, head of railway maintenance and rental company Skinest, last week unveiled two new Czech CME3T shunting locomotives.

"These are the first new shunting locomotives acquired in Estonia in the last 14 years," he said, proudly. "They are the best of their kind in the whole world. Today marks the beginning of a new trend in the development of the Estonian economy."

Skinest has seven locomotives to rent and also repairs roads and railway lines and supplies locomotive spare parts to public and private companies, all of which brought the company a 9 million kroon ($500.000) profit on a 40 million kroon turnover last year. The company expects a turnover of 100 million kroons this year.

Skinest also represents Czech locomotive manufacturer Zos Nymburk - successor to the famous but now defunct CKD Praha locomotive producer in the Baltic states, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Because work on the two CME3T locomotives was begun by CKD Praha, Ossinovski paid less than half of the current $1 million list price per locomotive, he said.

From its opening in 1977 until its collapse in 1996 CKD Praha produced over 7,000 CME3Ts, most of them for the Soviet rail system, making its output the highest of any locomotive factory in the world.

Estonia's rail freight company Eesti Raudtee, the passenger rail operator Edelaraudtee and a couple of oil terminals together have 44 CME3Ts, most of which are 20 years old.

"These old Czech locomotives are better than Russian-made ones," said Oskar Kalmus, director of rolling stock at Eesti Raudtee. "Their maintenance costs are between 30 percent and 50 percent less and they take 30 percent less fuel and four times less oil."

Antonin Ruzicka, managing director at Zos Nymburk, said that the new model was more economical and would not need any repairs for 10 years. The shunting locomotive CME3T is slow compared to ordinary long-distance locomotives, because it is used for splitting and putting together trains. It can shift 4,000 tons of freight.

Most of Eesti Raudtee's locomotives are due for replacement, but how and when this will be done has yet to be decided. The new supervisory council of Eesti Raudtee has decided to buy 74 used locomotives from the United States in the first quarter of 2002, prompting criticism from the Estonian press and some former managers of Eesti Raudtee who accuse BRS, the company's new majority owner, of unjustifiably favoring U.S.-made engines over Russian ones.

Earl Currie, head of Eesti Raudtee, told the Eesti Paevaleht newspaper the 18-20-year-old U.S. locomotives would be refurbished, fitted with new engines and have their electronic systems replaced prior to delivery. Unlike the Czech locomotives these machines would be used for long distance journeys.