Anatomy of a MAX car, Part 2

Train Car Anatomy, continued.

Coupler head

bullnoseThis is a Type 2, but the setup looks more or less the same on the Type 1s (and the coupler heads that fit these are folded under the cab of the Type 4s).  Under here you can see the bell, and then at the bottom going horizontally across the tracks is a bumper that prevents something that the train hits from going further under the train. The coupler head (bullnose) is at the end of a deformation tube which allows a coupled train to bend around curves and is collapsible in case of a collision.

deformation tube bendThis should’ve been straightened out as part of the ground inspection, but if for whatever reason this car needs to be coupled at this end, an alignment check is part of the coupling process that’s done to ensure that the deformation tube is straight


CyclopsEastbound approaching the Fair Complex as a westbound train is leaving.
Bonus – rainbow!

The cyclops, sometimes called the railroad light serves two purposes.  One, helps the operator to see in the dark. Two, clearly identifies you as a train! A foot pedal inside the cab lets the operator turn the cyclops off – this is used at night when passing other trains (or buses on the Steel Bridge) the same way you turn your bright headlights off when passing other cars on the road so you don’t blind oncoming drivers. Many operators will also kill the cyclops when they’re stopped at a platform at night so that in the event a train passes through in the other direction, their light is already off.


anticlimber, type 2

I’ve never seen one of these in action, nor do I particularly want to…  in the event of a train-train collision, the anti-climbers theoretically lock together and prevent one train car from climbing the other. The type 4s have these too, but they’re hidden underneath the shell that covers the coupler head. A combination of the ATS magnets, rail operator attentiveness and skill, and good direction from rail control is what prevents these accidents from happening in the first place (and therefore no need to test the integrity of the anticlimbers on our own any more than you want to test the integrity of your car’s airbags on your own)

And let’s take a look at the bottom of the train:

This is from a couple of years ago when a train derailed downtown – ordinarily you won’t see the wheels on a MAX car like this – they’re covered with a panel called a skirt. But the skirts were taken off this train in order to get it back on the rails, so now you can get a nice look at the wheel trucks.  That rectangular thing between the wheels (that in this picture is pressed against the ground) is the track brake. This heavy magnetic brake normally hangs just above the rail.  When the operator uses it, it makes a sort of clunking sound as it drops and a beep that you’ll hear if you’re sitting up by the cab, and it quickly slows the train down, stopping the train if the brake is continuously applied. It’s often used coming into platforms on slippery track surfaces such as leaves, ice, or water to stop the train. And of course, the wheels are found here.

In that above picture, the sanding tube is visible (it’s sort of visible in the first picture in this post of the coupler head just behind the bumper, though on the Type 2s and 3s it looks more triangular). You’ve probably seen the sandboxes on the trains even if you never thought much about them. I’ve been asked a few times what those are for.

Sand boxes in a Type 2 under the seats

Sand is automatically deployed to give the train better traction – it makes a sort of buzzing sound. You’ll notice this when the rails are wet, especially when trying to pick up speed going up a hill (e.g. entering the tunnel westbound from Goose Hollow).

track brake, wheels, sanding tubeWheels, track brake, sanding tube (visible on right)

Maybe I’ll add more to this anatomy… maybe not..  there are a few things I didn’t get into but it’s getting harder to find the time to blog these days and there are a lot of other things I want to write about.


13 responses to “Anatomy of a MAX car, Part 2

  1. About that cyclops.
    I drive home down the Jefferson St ramp late at night and that damn cyclops is on the westbound train and it blinds the DUCK out of me!

    Are they supposed to do that?

    Damn informative post, as usual.

    • I know you weren’t asking me, but I’ll answer to see if I understand the rules of it, and, hopefully, he’ll correct me if I’m wrong.

      My understanding of it is that it’s Federal guidelines to have the cyclops on (on all trains) and it’s only to be dimmed when passing other trains (and buses, in this case too) in attempting to not blind the other operator.

      I have shared the same frustration before, it is really bright and annoying to cars.

    • Yeah, and it’s the same thing on the Banfield, I know it blinds cars there too, but you can’t go down that entire stretch of the alignment with the cyclops dark.

  2. Those trains have head lights too!
    Is it necessary to blind the auto traffic?
    There should be some sort of rule about that, I wonder how many accidents it has caused, if any.

  3. I know there was a post earlier about the signals, but I noticed one that wasn’t covered before. There’s a signal along the north bound yellow tracks just south of the Lombard stop, across from the southbound Lombard stop. Anyways it’s a white light that’s on, and below that white light there’s a light with an X on it with a sign that says “SW” Just kinda curious what that is for. I noticed there’s a cross over track just north of the platform, so I’m assuming it stands for switch?

  4. nope not gonna do it

    TriMet did not have railroad lights (cyclops) on its fleet until the arrival of the Type 2 cars, when the entire fleet was retrofitted with them. Initially, the railroad light was controlled by a switch on the lower console adjacent to the headlight switch (if I remember right) and could be either ON or OFF.

    Someone realized that there was a “spare” foot pedal (used for manual application of sanding – something that was never done at TriMet) and thought it would be better to set the cyclops to always on, with a momentary off via the foot pedal.

    To hear the old timers tell the story, the addition of the railroad lights was a life saver on the Banfield.

    It’s been a long time since I have had the opportunity to pay attention to the section of track in LS3 (commonly known as “section 1”) heading eastbound out of Lloyd Center. But… there used to be reflective strips tacked onto the ties to improve visibility and add contrast to help operators see trespassers walking IN the tracks — a novel solution to the problem, but one that was not sustainable. The Railroad Light solved the problem nicely though.

    Keep up the good blogs!

    • Mr. Nope not gonna do it –

      Maybe I’m confused, but wasn’t the foot pedal at one time (in at least the type 2s) used as another horn? I thought I recalled an operator commenting about how he hated having it as another horn because, as he said, “it’s not a foot rest, and also, if you slightly bump it, it goes off. it’s very annoying.”


  5. nope not gonna do it

    I hadn’t realized that they removed the horn function from the foot pedal – I actually liked that back in the day, but…

    The answer to your question can be found here:

    You were correct – it was the horn foot pedal that was repurposed to the railroad light off feature – they removed the sanding pedal at the same time they completed this mod. (The sanding pedal had been previously disabled with type 2 mod T01.)

    • Unfortunately, I don’t have an account with TriNet so I can’t log in to read any of that.

      • Yeah, that’s the intranet for TriMet employees, and it’s against policy to post content from there to a blog (as another blogger recently found out.)
        There are quite a few TriMet people who know my blog is here, and so far, I haven’t posted anything that’s given TriMet cause to request my blog be removed or altered, and I’d prefer to keep it that way!

  6. I remember there being some discussion of the light issue when they built the Green Line.

    And given the number of people that are hit, the cyclops is kind of necessary as they do seem somewhat dark when its off.

  7. pdx77, I don’t know if your question ever got answered.
    That signal is indeed for those crossover switches, which are timelock switches. It normally displays the lunar aspect, but if the lock is removed from the switch, it changes to a yellow x, basically meaning “stop, switch is unlocked”. That switch makes you wait for a set amount of time before it can be thrown to diverging for a crossover move. Incidentally, those switches have another interesting feature, a spring-return frog. I’m not sure what else it is good for besides the smoother ride over the switch that it provides.

    • Thanks for catching that – sometimes comments go through and it takes a while for me (or someone else!) to respond and then they end up falling by the wayside. But yep, those summary switch indicators have been featured in a couple of posts here – the time lock switch post, and a post from a year ago when expansion joints were put in on Interstate & east of BTC.

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