Rose Quarter

For reader Matt, who had asked about signals at Rose Quarter some 6 months ago and I’m finally writing about it. In other words, it’s a good thing “Professional Blogger / Fielder of Questions” isn’t what TriMet hired me to do.

The Rose Quarter interlocking is very complex (I’ve heard it’s one of the most complex in the country, but I don’t really have much of a basis for comparison). I’d wager it’s probably also one of the busiest, with trains passing through every few minutes. The complexity of this interlocking’s design allows for a lot of flexibility for trains in the event of a bridge lift or other reroutes.

For simplicity, in this post RQ refers to the Rose Quarter platform used by Blue, Red, and Green Line trains. IRQ refers to the Interstate Rose Quarter platform used by Yellow Line trains.

First, the whole thing from above:

As always, click for larger

Rose Quarter Platform

Starting with the signals associated with the Rose Quarter platform.

Looking west into RQ from OCC

Coming into Rose Quarter from the east (Oregon Convention Center platform), the first signals you encounter are 18A and 18B. 18A protects switches 13A, 11C, and 11D, and will remain red with an active ATS magnet if any of those switches are not aligned to move west or if there is a conflicting move in progress (e.g. a vintage trolley coming in or out of the trolley barn). 18B gives you a choice of routes between the special events track which is the middle platform, the westbound mainline track which is located to the right of the special events track, or the trolley barn.

Now in the RQ platform, looking westbound first:

16B and 16C can display identical aspects for identical routes (remember, it’s not where you are, it’s where you’re going) – the only difference is that 16B is for trains heading west from the special events track and 16C is for trains in the westbound main. A white vertical will send you toward the Steel Bridge; a red over white vertical will send you toward IRQ (Yellow Line). These signals will stay red if the bridge span is unlocked for a lift, or if there is a conflicting move in progress with the Yellow Line.

And then east from Rose Quarter:

18D, which is used by vintage trolleys leaving the barn – a white vertical to continue to the eastbound mainline; a red over white vertical for a reverse move onto the westbound mainline.

18E and 18F (similar to 16B and 16C) can display identical aspects for identical routes, with 18E used by trains in the westbound main and 18F used by trains in the special events track. A white vertical will send trains east on the eastbound mainline; a red over white vertical will send trains east on the westbound mainline.

18G is the signal for eastbound trains in the eastbound mainline at RQ – no choice of routes available here. Memory trick for memorizing signal numbers (though I don’t think they do that anymore in rail training) – “G” for Gresham, and signal 18G will get you there.

Then away from the Rose Quarter platform itself…

Interstate Rose Quarter Platform

16E at the IRQ platform. A white vertical on 16E will send Yellow Line trains over the Steel Bridge; a red over white vertical will send them into Rose Quarter. This is how Yellow Line trains can get from Expo to the Ruby yard at the end of the day. Also, when a Yellow Line train operator forgets to change the route code in their trailing cab from Clackamas’s 12 to Jackson’s 50, they get a red over white vertical here.

Then at the other end of IRQ are N2A (for trains heading north from the southbound track) and N2B (for trains heading north from the northbound track) – like Rose Quarter, IRQ is also set up to allow turnbacks in the event of a bridge lift. A lunar on these signals will send trains on the northbound mainline; a red over lunar into the Broadway Siding – you may have been on a train in the morning where it stops at IRQ, kicks everyone off, but then appears to continue north. It only goes as far as the Broadway Siding before turning around and going back west over the Steel Bridge. (Linked video was not filmed, narrated, or posted by me and does not feature me. Linked video is also old, Train 6 hasn’t done that for a while, but 33 does it currently)

Coming off the Steel Bridge

16G will display a lunar for trains heading into RQ (Blue, Red, and Green Line trains), and a red over lunar for trains heading into IRQ (Yellow Line trains).

Assorted pics of and through the interlocking

Both heading westbound toward the Steel Bridge from Rose Quarter

Can diverge to or from IRQ

You can see how you can get from either track at IRQ to RQ or the Steel Bridge

Switches and crossovers

I also have this video which I’d originally posted a few months ago, showing a view from the cab from 1st and Morrison to Rose Quarter. This was a Red Line train, so we got a lunar on 16G and went through the interlocking at the same time as another Red Line Train.

Making a parallel move with a westbound train

Given the design of Rose Quarter, what’s ideal for train movement are parallel moves, where trains can move in opposite directions at the same time. Scheduling trains to do this reduces the need to wait for other trains (e.g. sitting at RQ waiting because a Yellow Line is going through, so the switches are set against you) as well as reducing the impact that trains moving through the intersection has on auto/bike/pedestrian traffic.

Yellow Line trains making a parallel move


10 responses to “Rose Quarter

  1. Thanks for all of the great information! I never had any idea it was one of the most complex interlockings in the country!

    • Thanks! I think I heard that you had the opportunity recently for some up-close learning about the trains, is that right? If so, I hope it was a good experience!

      • Actually, I did! I went in to show the training supervisor (I won’t post his name online) and some other people in the training department the simulator I had been working on because the training supervisor mentioned online a few years ago that he wanted a simulator for use in training classes. Unfortunately, what I had didn’t meet what he wanted. It’s okay, though because I didn’t get my hopes up..I wasn’t expecting it to be usable in class. Some of the things he wanted to be able to do to the trainees in the simulator (e.g. throw a garbage can in the right of way or throw up a red signal) couldn’t be done in the program anyway.

        I know a rail supervisor so he set up a tour of the control room and the yard for me. When we got out to the yard, the trainer told me to sit down in the seat and he said I was going to run the train from storage track 4C to 4A and back. It was totally unexpected and a great surprise! The trainer said that I had some pretty smooth and precise stops (at the walkways and the v-tag at 4A).

        For me, operating a two car 209 ton train for the first time was easier than my first time driving a car! I’ll always remember car 246B, 239A, and 402A.

        The trainer was also trying so hard to figure out who writes this blog. He was baffled but very impressed with it too! He made a comment something along the lines of, “You could almost teach a training class off of this guy’s blog!”

        • Oh nice, that’s about what I thought had happened for you. I’m glad you had the opportunity to do that! It really does give a different perspective of things, doesn’t it?

          I know what you mean about remembering some of the train cars. I still remember which car I had for my graveyard test (the last night of graveyard week in training where you have to show that you can operate without a trainer telling you what to do, and any rule violation means you fail), and I think I still remember what the very first car was that I operated when they took my class into the yard and taught us about notching, and the first type 4 I operated when I did my Type 4 certification class. But those two were much lower-stress than the graveyard test so I wasn’t as hyper-vigilant!

          And thanks for relaying the compliment, that’s nice to hear :)

  2. I’ve never been on the right side of the river to see train 33 before it crosses the bridge, so does it use a yellow rollsign on Yamhill? Or is there a blue rollsign that says “Interstate Rose Quarter”? (I would actually be interested in knowing what all the rollsigns are, but I’d settle for this one for now.)

    Keep up the great work, I thoroughly enjoy learning more about the system.

  3. I was looking at service on the 18th for the Race for the Cure. There are three extra service trains (92, 95, and 96) that only go as far east as Rose Quarter.

    I’m wondering how they turn back, given that the Special Event track at RQ isn’t accessible from the eastbound mainline. Do they pull forward to the Convention Center to use the switch between there and RQ, or do they have to go up to the old Trolley Spur at Lloyd Center?

    • I know there are going to be 12 extra service trains from the postings for RDO work, but I haven’t looked at the specifics in detail – it’s just 3 that are doing turnbacks there? You don’t need to go all the way up to OCC to do a turnback from the eastbound mainline – the crossover switch is right before the intersection at 2nd, so I know what has previously been done for EB turnbacks (like during the streetcar tie-in work) is that trains go past those switches, and then pull back into the platform at Rose Quarter to go back west.

      • I just noticed a 4th train, #94 that also turns back there. Is that switch manually thrown, or is there a call loop for them to use there?

        Also, would pulling into the Northbound IRQ platform, and them pulling back into the special event track or WB mainline be a possible way to reverse a train there?

        And, completely unrelated, something that crossed my mind, would putting in a route code for the RQ special event track while at Albina/Mississippi put you onto the opposing track to IRQ and then east into RQ, or would you just never get a signal?

        Once again, I love the info. Thanks for being so willing to answer such odd questions?

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