Two US short line railroads have selected the Lat-Lon Locomotive Monitoring Unit (LMU) for their fleet of locomotives. Both Iowa Interstate and Indiana Harbor Belt are equipping Lat-Lon LMU’s on their locomotives. The GPS equipped LMU is designed to improve locomotive utilization, reduce locomotive dwell and idle times, eliminate dump valve releases, improve fuel management, create dark territory visibility, improve one-man-crew safety, improve crew productivity, and streamline maintenance.

The LMU sends a real-time message whenever a locomotive’s status changes, such as when the engine is started. In addition to event messaging, the unit has the ability to send messages while moving based on time or distance. The unit’s parameters can be controlled from a desktop, and can include the receipt of a location status report every 60 seconds. With Lat-Lon’s dispatch webpage using detailed street or aerial views, Iowa Interstate can see their entire fleet of 32 equipped locomotives in motion, from Omaha to Chicago.

With every message, the LMU reports the locomotive’s status including battery voltage, temperature, fuel level, four customizable inputs, two control relays, engine run status, and engine hours. The GPS gives the unit the capability to record speed, course, elevation, distance, and maximum speed. Important metrics can then be derived from this data, such as average speed, daily or trip fuel usage, idle times, and moving times.

The LMU has the internal memory capacity to store over 2,000 active geofences. This can be used to trigger a message when the locomotive enters a yard or a customer site, or crosses a state boundary. Passive geofences can be customized to create the requisite management reports for fleet analysis.

With Lat-Lon’s flexible query builder, reports can be defined to benefit all departments within the railroad, including dispatch, operations, maintenance, marketing, and human resources. Data can also be integrated into existing systems, making cooperation with in-house systems seamless. Lat-Lon has the highest resolution maps available on the internet, and birds eye view photography is available for most populated areas.

The 7.5”x 5.5”x 2.5” LMU is specifically designed for a locomotive, setting it apart from other systems. It has a built-in isolated 74 volt power supply for ease of installation, taking the guess work out of integrating additional power equipment. The LMU has been design by locomotive customers over the last five years and has the flexibility to be configured for specific customer requirements. Iowa Interstate is using the system to improve operations and reduce operating costs, while Indiana Harbor Belt will be tracking crew productivity on their fleet of 50 equipped locomotives.

The LMU communicates through the digital Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) network – the technology that underpins most of the world’s mobile phone networks. GSM has become the world’s fastest growing communications technology of all time and the leading global mobile standard, spanning 214 countries.
Today, GSM technology is in use by more than one in five of the world’s population – by June 2006 there were over two billion GSM subscribers, representing approximately 80% of the world’s cellular market. The growth of GSM continues unabated, with almost 400 million new customers in the last 12 months alone.

The LMU two-way communication can be used to request a message, send new business parameters, or reprogram the system with new firmware. The LMU will stay up-to-date with the latest firmware, reducing the risk of being rendered obsolete, and cutting long term operating costs.


Iowa Interstate Railroad Ltd. (IAIS) operates over 500 miles between Omaha, Nebraska and Chicago, Illinois on the former Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific mainline, with a branch line from Bureau to Peoria in Illinois.

IAIS was created on November 2, 1984, and is one of the oldest regional railroads in existence, with connections to all major Class 1 carriers at various points on its line. As a result, IAIS customers are able to ship their goods to or from anywhere in the US.

In North America’s heartland, the IAIS primarily transports grain, agricultural products, steel, scrap, appliances, inter-modal containers and trailers, chemicals and lumber.


The Indiana Harbor Belt (IHB) railroad is the largest switch carrier in the US, with 54 miles of mainline track (24 miles of which is double main track) and 266 miles of additional yard and siding track.

The IHB provides a wide variety of services, including industrial switching with 160 customers, generating 170,000 carloads of business annually. The IHB interchanges daily with 16 other rail carriers in Chicago.

The IHB main line circles Chicago from near O’Hare to Northwest Indiana and roughly parallels Interstate 294 (Tri-state Expressway) and I-80/94. From East Chicago, the IHB operates east for an additional 16 miles on trackage rights to access Burns Harbor, IN and Portage, IN, which includes Indiana’s International Port.