Big things are happening in an understated warehouse at south Goulburn.
If PowerRail president and founder, Paul Foster has his way, the local operation will only grow, employing more people and expanding the company's reach into the Australian rail industry.
Mr Foster recently visited the Robinson Close premises from his US headquarters. The company manufactures new parts and components for locos, re-manufactures parts with 'a green theme,' is a global distributor and develops new rail technologies.
"We see double digit growth year after year," Mr Foster said.
"The writing is on the wall. We'll outgrow this facility (in Robinson Close) in a year but we'll stay in Goulburn."
The local premises is PowerRail's Australian headquarters and is headed up by director, Mick Cooper. It employs five people and distributes rail parts and components Australia-wide. Manufacturing doesn't occur in Goulburn yet but it may in the future, Mr Cooper says.
The company has facilities in Pennsylvania, Indianapolis and Atlanta, Georgia.
As Mr Foster explains, it isn't a new technology but this loco is "unique."
"The battery can last three to four days without being charged and can pull one million US pounds in freight, which is huge. The average (current) battery would last six to seven hours," he said.
Their average cost is $2.5 million. PowerRail currently has orders for 30 of the battery-operated locos for IRT. Mr Foster says PowerRail takes old diesel engines out of sometimes 50-year-old locos, installs couplets, rewires them and builds them up with the battery.
Mr Cooper said the technology reduced carbon footprint by the equivalent of 7000 cars annually and meant fewer locos were required.
"A couple Australian companies are trialling it and one we're dealing with has come to us to potentially build a few locos," he said.
Mr Foster said the technology was unique in that IRT produced a kit that PowerRail shipped to different countries for manufacturing. If Australia took it up, the work would require specialist engineers, electricians and other associated trades. Goulburn's PowerRail office is overseeing a TasRail contract for the battery-operated loco.
"Even if a job is Port Hedland or New Zealand it would all go through this warehouse. It would all be improved or developed here, which would be pretty good," Mr Cooper said.
Other PowerRail technologies are also aimed at reducing carbon footprint and fuel usage. An LED manufacturing line includes a controller that operates the headlight and the ditch light (shining on the rail line). Mr Foster says it's the first of its type in the world.
The Goulburn operation has been an integral part of its development. Rail First, which has a hub in the city, is a major customer.
The company has a patent on the LED headlight, with its "specialist circuitry." If one burns out, power is transferred to the working lights and gives the same output. It's a transformation taking off in the US and transferring to Australia.
In Canada, the company is removing the mechanics of 30 to 50-year-old locos and introducing a micro-processor computer, making it "cleaner" for the environment.
Recently, it also supplied parts to get four additional locos in Poland running again. They were used to evacuate people from Ukraine.
Mr Foster, who lives in Virginia, said he was always fascinated with trains. He set up PowerRail in 2003 after a career with General Electric. Today PowerRail is an almost $100 million global company, with about 300 direct employees.
"I like the challenge of solving problems for customers, taking things and making them better," he said.
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He joined PowerRail seven years ago. He is now the Australian operations director and says Goulburn offers "huge advantages" in terms of location.
During his visit, Mr Foster toured the sites, including Rocky Hill War Memorial and Museum. He said PowerRail had a bright future in the city, evidenced by the fact it was outgrowing its second premises. This will be extended over the Christmas break.
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