A bright orange and black train, powered by a battery, has been traveling a 1.8 mile stretch of railroad tracks in Rockhill Furnace, Pa. in recent weeks. The environmentally friendly train, the first battery-powered train in the U.S., is the latest project of Princeton University alumnus Henry Posner III, whose company operates regional rail systems in the U.S. and abroad.
Posner, who graduated from Princeton in 1977 with a degree in civil engineering and earned an MBA from the Wharton School, is the chairman of the Railroad Development Corp. (RDC), a Pittsburgh-based, privately held company that focuses on emerging railway networks.
His orange, two-car train is the pilot project for his latest venture, Pop-Up Metro. Posner imported remanufactured passenger railcars from Britain to Rockhill Furnace for the project and had the cars retrofitted with battery technology by RDC affiliate Vivarail. The modular trains can be inserted onto existing rail infrastructure quickly and cheaply, making it easy to demonstrate and test proposals for new train systems or new train equipment. The battery-powered train plugs into the wall and can be charged using a fast-charging system. Posner estimated the range of the train on one charge to be about 80 miles.
“With Pop-Up Metro, you can do a project quickly on a demonstration basis. You don’t have to spend $100 million,” Posner said.
Trains can be leased from his company, Posner said, and the pricing is very competitive with other options. He also said a public-private partnership is possible for the operation of the system.
The train being demonstrated in Rockhill Furnace just so happens to be able to operate on NJ Transit rail lines, and is the proper height for the agency’s platforms at train stations like the ones in Princeton and Princeton Junction. In other words, the train could be an alternative to replace the Dinky train, the shuttle that runs between Princeton and Princeton Junction that NJ Transit has said will soon become obsolete. A transit study is currently underway about the future of the Dinky train, which could be replaced by other train equipment or a bus.
Posner said citizen groups, politicians, NJ Transit officials, and anyone else who is interested in the future of rail can come to Rockhill Furnace to watch a train demonstration. Rockhill Furnace is about a three-hour drive from Princeton. “Anyone who wants to see the train is welcome to come and do so,” Posner said.