All WES all the time


I’ve run out of things to write about MAX. This blog is now about the jewel in TriMet’s crown: WES.

WES is TriMet’s commuter rail system, running weekday rush hour between Beaverton and Wilsonville. The first WES cars – three powered diesel multiple units (DMUs) and one unpowered coach car – arrived in 2008, all from Colorado Railcar which TriMet bailed out for a total of about $22 million to get the cars before Colorado Railcar went out of business.

Car 1001, which we’ll assume was the first car delivered, at BTC

WES opened in February 2009 (5 months late), and TriMet had predicted daily ridership in the first year to be around 2400 passengers per day, but actual boarding was just under half of that. Since then ridership has been increasing, though not at the predicted rates and still well below other service provided by TriMet. This past February, WES averaged 1430 boardings per day. Operating costs per ride hover around $20 (an all-zone fare is required to ride WES, which a passenger pays $2.35 for, so it operates at a loss of roughly $17-$18 per rider)

The WES trains have two cabs, one main cab and one sort of auxiliary small cab that is functionally equivalent to the large cab but takes up less than half the width of the train. Here are assorted pictures of the cabs and controls of the WES trains. I’ve never operated one, so I don’t really have a lot of commentary about what everything does. Some of it is pretty similar to what you’d find in a MAX cab, some of it is not. All pictures can be clicked for a larger version.

Main operating console


Friendly WES conductor

WES operators are not technically TriMet employees – they work for Portland & Western railroad, so if any of them ever wanted to be a MAX operator, they’d have to start as a part time bus operator and work their way up, same as everyone else. Each WES train is staffed by two P&W employees, one operating and the other counting passengers, answering questions, and occasionally checking fares.


Heading into BTCApproaching BTC

The northern end of WES terminates at the Beaverton Transit Center. The trains run on 14.7 miles of track servicing 5 stations (BTC, Hall/Nimbus, Tigard Transit Center, Tualatin, and Wilsonville), sharing the right of way with freight trains operated by Portland & Western Railroad. As a result, the signals for WES are different from what MAX trains use, such as this red over red over green that I don’t think has anything to do with a diverging route like it does for light rail.

Gauntlet track at the Hall/Nimbus platform

Since the alignment is also an active freight line, two of the stations (Hall/Nimbus and Tigard TC) make use of gauntlet tracks which allow for sideways sway of wider freight cars. As MAX has its own right of way, this feature is not used on the light rail alignment.

1003 in Wilsonville, the southern terminus of the line.
WES maintenance facility in the background

But wait, there’s more!

In 2010, WES went ~*retro*~ with refurbished cars from the Alaska Railroad. Built circa 1953, these were purchased by TriMet to be used as filler trains when one of the original ones went out of service, because I guess everyone was growing weary of needing to bus bridge WES all the time.

These sport the first “bike cars” on the TriMet system.

Here’s what it’s like to be a passenger on these vintage rail cars:

Question: Isn’t WES amazing?

Answer: Yes. Yes it is.

What will you do with your WES time? Play the banjo, evidently.

9 out of 10 pirates prefer WES for getting around

You know what’s at the end of the rainbow? A WES platform, that’s what

WES trains got Christmas trees. MAX didn’t get Christmas trees.

Right, like you’ll get this kind of amenity on MAX. Or a bus.

And apparently Yoda was involved in laying the track for WES

Conclusion? WES is clearly far superior to MAX, so there’s nothing more to say about light rail.

Some of these photos are mine, but many thanks to Al MAdri C, & friends from whose blogs I shamelessly borrowed the rest of the pictures & video

And of course, no WES post would be complete without a video of the WES drummers playing the WES theme song!


14 responses to “All WES all the time

  1. Great post – I think it is time I take my first ride on this wonder of a train, huh???

  2. I think those 50s railcars look like they are the nicest trains in TriMet’s fleet. Screw it, we should stick these on a route between Vancouver and Oregon City. People might actually ride that.

    Also, they should totally make those bathrooms functional.

  3. A Red over Green signal is a Diverging Clear. Green = Clear, Yellow = Approach, which means in some cases the next signal is red, unless your following a train vacating the blocks as you come up on them, they will continue the approach indication. In some cases, there are lunar signals, like at each end of the Steel Bridge.

    The Gauntlet Tracks are actually present at every station in which freight trains run, so that adds Tualatin to the list since Wilsonville is also a spur track., otherwise the freight cars would take out the platform, which is why freight railroad prefer the low platforms like Sounder, because freight trains can run through with out disturbing the platform……just stay behind that yellow line!

    Wes Works? Unfortunately this line goes from no where to no where. the Wilsonville station is near a few business areas, but no where near housing, TOD, shopping, the city center. You must transfer to a bus to go anyplace from Wilsonville. Not much is within a reasonable walking distance. The other end of the line does not directly serve the areas biggest employers, Nike and Intel. You must transfer. Hall Station is *near* Nimbus Business Park, but its still quite a walk. Washington Square is a stones throw, but why when the 76, 78, 62 will all get you much closer, and who shops only during Rush Hour? Tigard and Tualatin serve the city centers, but in Tualatin theres a huge industrial park to the NW, in which you need to take a shuttle to get to, and is also not a reasonable walk. And why drive to park at a WES station, if you can simply Drive to your destination, and park for free? Take Sounder up here, the stations downline are in city centers, but have lots of parking, because Sounder parallels I-5, a big gridlock at times. People will drive and park at the stations, and ride to a Downtown core, a place of $10+/day or 150+/month parking. That…is what works!

    This is a fancy 76/78. After living here in Seattle now for a year, I can see one huge thing TriMet has failed to plan, HOV lanes. Why not widen HWY217, and make those new lanes HOV lanes, add new express bus service. they could have used WES $$ for this instead, which would have also yielded new buses (gasp!). HWY26 could accommodate an HOV lave, Freeway Stations, Park and Rides and Express buses. More traffic? sure, but its not the buses problem, nor those who choose to ride it. It would make it very attractive. I-5 is getting wider, why not HOV lanes for buses, you can add, subtract, and reconfigure buses to use HOV lanes in any manner to serve the ridership demands, but light rail, and this WES, its stuck…..and expensive….forever.

    • Thanks for the signal explanations. So what would a red over red over green be in this case?

      I didn’t realize Tualatin also used the gauntlet tracks.

      Washington Square is a stones throw, but why when the 76, 78, 62 will all get you much closer, and who shops only during Rush Hour?

      See I think you’re looking at this all wrong – you take the last morning WES to Washington Square, you spend ALL DAY in the mall, and then you take the first WES back in the afternoon. It’s like a staycation! (I actually know someone who did that to get to Frys).

      Why drive to park at the WES station? Well what do you expect me to do, ride a 1700 series bus to get there? Pshaw!

  4. What a great post!

  5. “You must transfer to a bus to go anyplace from Wilsonville”

    So? The buses are timed to meet the trains so it only takes at most 5-1o minutes more to actually get where you’re going.

  6. OK, so here is the really exciting news of the day:

    Wonderful! See? We are not so short of funds after all… :-)

  7. Any idea if the track charts for WES (and/or those for the entire P&W) are available anywhere on-line or otherwise?

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