Thanks to federal grant money, S.C. Public Railways retrofitted the engines on two of its cargo-handling locomotives to reduce the diesel fumes they produce, officials announced Tuesday.

Public Railways, a division of the state Commerce Department, received nearly $106,000 in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funding to make the engines cleaner. Officials said the project cuts the harmful sulfur content to 15 parts per million from 5,000 parts per million.

Public Railways operates 10 trains five days a week at Columbus Street and Union Pier terminals downtown. Jeff McWhorter, the agency's president and chief executive, said he hopes to see the entire fleet retrofitted eventually.

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control administered the money, which Public Railways matched for the project. Myra Reece, the DHEC's Bureau of Air Quality chief, said the program aims to make the locomotives safer before the agency upgrades its fleet.

"The good thing about diesel engines is that they last forever," Reece said. "The bad thing about diesel engines is they last forever."

The grant announcement Tuesday marked the next step in a portwide cleanup. The State Ports Authority received two rounds of federal grants to clean up 57 pieces of lifting equipment, 110 trucks, one dredge boat and the two tugs.

The project that spans the waterfront will cost $5.3 million, including $2.5 million in local match money.

Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or