A DREAM COME TRUE: Union Pacific employee designs durable trailers

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A Union Pacific track renewal manager could help the railroad expand its use of renewable energy.

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When Shane Karsten, Track Programs Manager, Engineering, encountered a problem in the field, what started as a simple solution could now open up new avenues to help Union Pacific’s commitment to building a sustainable future.

It all started one night in Iowa in 2019 when someone broke into a mobile office trailer. The thief stole the trailer’s 7,000-watt generator powering air conditioning, heating, laptops, printers and other necessities for field crews.

“I could spend $5,000 on a new generator or install solar panels for about the same price,” Karstens said. “Choosing solar panels meant we would never have to pay for gas or oil changes, or listen to the sound of a running generator.”

“After discussing it with my manager, it seemed obvious to me to opt for solar energy. We ended up with a fully autonomous, mobile and environmentally friendly office.”

The trailer was a hit. It wasn’t long before Karstens added another solar-powered trailer for the group with the help of Engineering’s James Osberg and Nick Turnmire.

Karstens and his teammates believe he may have perfected his design with the band’s third solar-powered trailer, what they call the “DREAM trailer.” It uses larger batteries, which keeps the trailer lightweight for mobility.

Karstens said when you step into the DREAM trailer, it makes an impression.

Karstens’ DREAM trailer design uses larger batteries, allowing the trailer to remain lightweight for mobility.

“I have been approached by several team members asking for advice and help with setting up their trailers so they can also detach from the generators and reduce our carbon footprint,” he said.

Karstens wanted more company trailers to benefit from green energy. He was soon in contact with Drew Bokenkamp, General Manager of Track Programs, Engineering, who was already reassessing the plans for the track program’s trailer fleet.

Bokenkamp said Karstens’ research and ingenuity is exactly what he expects from a member of Union Pacific’s engineering team.

“We challenge our employees to think outside the box,” Bokenkamp said. “When we implement something new, it usually comes from our people on the ground. Those seem to be the best ideas. I’m always proud of team members who take on things like that. Karstens is one of them. a perfect example.”

Bokenkamp’s team are months away from finalizing plans for the trailer fleet, but adds that Karstens’ renewable designs will likely be part of the results.

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