Category Archives: video

Rail grinding

Got multiple emails from people saying “Hey, have you seen this yet?” I knew this has been going on but no, I hadn’t seen these particular videos yet. The videos, taken by cjd1701, show rail grinding being done on Interstate. A specialized machine called a rail grinder goes over sections of the alignment after revenue service hours and evens out irregularities in the rails caused by normal wear and tear. For MAX passengers, this translates to a smoother ride.

Grinder by day (picture from BikePortland‘s Twitter)

Videos taken by .

Rail operation in the news

Really nice segment about MAX operation done by KATU.

Watch it, love it, show it to all your friends. It’s so rare for the public to be able to get any glimpse of “what it’s like” to be a rail operator, so I’ve been looking forward to KATU publishing this story. And Pat is easily one of the best ambassadors I can think of for this job. He and I have talked before about how there needs to be more outreach for the public to see things from this perspective – both in terms of safety and just for a general “here’s why things work the way they do”.  But there’s a limited number of things that we are able to do on our own, so any big news coverage like this is fantastic.

NJ Transit rail safety

Nice train safety video recently put out by New Jersey Department of Transportation.

These accidents are almost always avoidable if people make safe choices. Pedestrians and commuters have a choice to avoid being hurt or killed, and respect the law around railroad tracks.

Rail-related deaths in NJ average a little over 2 per month, and so NJDOT formed a safety committee to try to address this. Recommendations include everything from signs warning of multiple trains where there is more than one track, “skirts” on crossing gates to prevent people from ducking under them, increased police enforcement, and suicide hotline signs (21 of the 51 deaths on NJ tracks in the last two years are confirmed suicides).

But I like how this video is called “It’s Your Choice” – no one makes a person duck around a lowered crossing gate, cut across tracks where there is no pedestrian crossing, or ignore warning signs because of headphone or cell phone distractions. Those are choices (and stupid ones) made by the individual, and they can be fatal around trains. Just the other day I saw a man on a cell phone come within a foot of getting hit by a train coming into BTC because he started to cross from the center platform toward the bus stops without bothering to look or listen, as you can hear the Lombard crossing gates from the platforms at BTC that make it clear an eastbound train is coming in. He laughed to whoever he was talking to on the phone “Hey, I almost got hit by a train just now!”

It’s not funny. It’s not funny for the operator, for witnesses, for the medical teams that show up, or for you – even if you do survive being hit. We can put up all the Z-crossings and “STOP HERE” signs in the world (and I do think we should!), but we can’t make people choose not to do stupid things around railroad tracks.

Gresham, 1995

A break in the labor negotiations discussion – I don’t intend to drop the topic completely because it is relevant, but I wanted to share this video shot by Mr K.

The place: the far-flung reaches of Gresham. The year: 1995, back when men were real men, women were real women, and the alignment through the cut east of Ruby Junction was just a single track.

Video courtesy of Mr K

Lots of things are shown here that don’t exist anymore in addition to things that have changed in the alignment and surrounding areas (e.g. no Civic Drive platform). You can see the wheelchair lifts on the platforms as there won’t be low-floor train cars for another two years, there’s no Jodi Lorimer telling you that the doors are closing, similarly there are no automated stop announcements, and also no stopping at every platform unless requested – the video ends soon after the train bypasses the Ruby Junction/E 197th platform because no one was waiting to board and no one pulled the cord to get off, but you can hear the sound right before the video stops that indicates someone pulled the cord for the Rockwood/E188th platform.

For comparison, here’s a video I recorded along part of the same stretch of the alignment some 15 years later:

Also interesting are videos from Barcelona, 1908 and San Francisco, 1906 - not TriMet, but very fascinating to see for a historical perspective.

Of ice and electricity

Photo of what winter weather may look like, westbound at Hawthorn Farm

Steven Vance recently forwarded me a question about why CTA‘s rails have been sparking. Unlike MAX trains which get power from an overhead wire system, their trains get power through a third rail system. However, arcing in both kinds of power systems during winter weather is typically caused by ice. Ice building up on the wire (or third rail as the case may be) acts as an electrical insulator, preventing the carbon shoe from making contact with the wire where the ice accumulates. This interruption in the flow of the current from the wire to the pantograph is visible as arcing.

Here’s a video of a MAX train pulling into & out of a platform where there was some ice on the catenary, and you can easily see the effect that it has:

To help clear ice from the overhead wire & prevent it from accumulating, a few of the Type 1s (107-112) are equipped with ice cutters which are put into use for major freezing rain/ice events. I don’t have a picture of any of them in use (though I’m willing to accept donations!), but they look like a second pantograph and function by heating/scraping ice from the overhead wire. Unlike the pantographs, ice cutters only draw current to heat the elements and not to provide power to the train, so they won’t arc the same way the pantographs do in ice. Their function is strictly to clear ice from the wire.

Pantograph (left) raised, ice cutter (right) lowered

If you’d ever seen one of these cars and wondered why it has two pantographs, wonder no more! It doesn’t – one pantograph, one ice cutter.

View from above; the ice cutter is the one closer to the coupled end, the pantograph is the one in contact with the wire closer to the vantage point. Bonus cameo appearance by car 235