Category Archives: About

A short course in light rail safety

From the archives…

Fake MAX train for April Fools Day

Happy April Fools Day! Doing something like last year’s WES post would be too much work (besides, I don’t really have anything new to add), so instead, here’s a fake train. I’ve mentioned how a MAX train was featured in the movie The Hunted, except it’s actually an articulated bus made to look like a Type 1. Reader Mr. K had been able to take some fantastic photos of that mock-up train and sent them here to be posted. I’ve been meaning to get these up for a while, keeping with the theme of a perspective that most people don’t get to see.

These photos are posted here with Mr. K’s explicit permission.
Please do not claim for your own use.

As with nearly all the pics on my blog, all of these can be clicked for larger versions.

Rooftop shots, including fake Hawthorne Bridge

Under the bridge shots & close-ups

Compare that with a real Type 1 – the mock-up looks pretty good!

As an added April Fools Day bonus: Restroom oddities of the Green Line!

This is in the Clackamas break room. I mean, break oom.

So naturally, someone did the obvious to the janitor room sign:

Then over in the Jackson turnaround:

I’m not really sure how that’s an accessible bathroom despite the sign, given that there are 5 steps up to the platform and then another step into the doorway…

Bonus #2 – Exclusive at Portland Transport, a first look at the new Type 5 LRVs!  Exciting!

Two years later

Posts like this are a good excuse for these sort of non-sequitur images

MAX FAQs has been around for two years now, and just about everything I said this time last year still applies. I still like sharing rail-related information and putting it out there for people who want to learn more about MAX at TriMet or light rail in general. As I’ve said before, I figure that if you’re taking the time to read about the trains and learn how the system works, you’re not going to be that person who does something stupid around them. So I do what I can to help show people a different perspective than the public generally sees, and it’s really nice in turn to see that a lot of people are interested in the topic. Everybody wins!

I still skim Twitter for rail-related questions/complaints, and although MAX FAQs is not an official TriMet publication, it’s handy having a resource to link to when some of the common questions are asked (e.g. “Why is TriMet running a single-car train during rush hour?” or “When does MAX stop running?“). Some other questions that people ask don’t have answers in posts here (yet), but on the whole Twitter has been a great place for MAX questions and conversations, both the serious and the silly.

It’s been neat seeing where MAX FAQs is turning up online: someone cited my post about track layouts as a reference on Wikipedia; over at Reddit in a thread about the multi-vehicle accident a few nights ago that didn’t involve MAX trains but blocked the right of way, someone said they had just been reading a MAX blog about the dangers of inattentive people around trains. And in the top searches of the past year, people are now finding my blog by name! “max faqs” and “maxfaqs” were at the top of the list of the most frequent search engine terms that brought people here, along with “pantograph“, “automatic train stop” and amusingly enough, “service horses“.

Overall it has been a good year. Year 1 had been a lot of basic intro-level stuff (and if you’re new to the blog or rail, a lot of those things like the types of trains or all the different signals are also linked at the top of the blog as a good starting point for things that come up in more recent posts). In the past year I built on a lot of those original posts for more detailed Q&As (the signals around Rose Quarter, how trains know where to go, etc). And yes, I’ve also taken to writing about the budget issues including the ongoing contract saga between TriMet and ATU 757.  It’s not directly train related, but similar to the rail stuff, I think it’s a perspective that the public should be able to see. That topic also led to a fantastic guest post by a contributing author to MAX FAQs (and like I said last year, I didn’t set out with the intent for this to be a one-man show, so the input and thoughts of other operators, controllers, supervisors, managers, etc that read here are also welcome).

Now some site stats, to compare with next year:

  • 65,724 site visits
    • In all of March 2010 I had 349 visits, which is less than I got on just March 1 of this year.
  • 156 posts (up from 100 – my posting rate apparently dropped significantly over this past year)
  • I’ve uploaded 888 images
  • 784 comments (up from 375)
  • 2451 spam comments (up from 572). Some of them are pretty fantastic, even as far as spam goes:

This has nothing to do with storage tracks. And yet, it’s not like what they said is inaccurate…

Rules, train orders, and more gets more spam than any other post, no idea why. I liked this one in particular because no one has ever described me as “Reasonably unusual” before, but I think it actually fits.

Anyway, thank you all for your interest, comments, and questions. Looking forward to the next year!

Clear track. Have a good day out there.


MAX FAQs is joining the sites going dark today in protest of SOPA / PIPA. More info on the blackout and on SOPA / PIPA in general.

Everything should be back to normal here. If something isn’t working right, please let me know.

Dispatches from Twitter

Some readers here know that MAX FAQs has a Twitter account, which is primarily used to link to new content on the blog. However, I’ve sometimes posted things or linked to other interesting content on Twitter without mentioning it here. Then I realized that those of you who have been only following along with the blog were missing out, so here are some items from Twitter that you might find interesting:

First, test your knowledge! How many MAX stops can you name in 10 minutes? No extra credit given if you can do each line in order, but regular commuters should have an easy time with at least part of this.

Over at TriMet Diaries is a fantastic open letter to the Type 4s by Dr Jeff (to whom I had once supplied the official model name of those trains so that he could properly curse them.)

“If you were a restaurant, you’d be one of the places that looks all charming and rustic on the outside and then serves canned gravy and frozen beets on the inside.”    Pic is mine, words are Dr Jeff’s.

Also worth the read at TriMet Diaries by Dr Jeff is “The Tunnel: Threat or Menace?”  I like the tunnel – it is a technological marvel, but I also understand that for a lot of passengers, it’s their least favorite part of the commute.

Convention Center at sunset

I’ve got a lot of pictures that I haven’t figured out how to work into one post or another. This is one of them, and it’s a perspective most people don’t get to see.

In Wakayama, Japan, a cat named Tama was named stationmaster of an unmanned railway station. According to Wikipedia, the position comes with a hat and she’s paid in cat food. She has an office (a converted ticket booth) and her primary duty is to greet passengers. Not a bad gig if you can get it, I guess.

Over at Reddit, Portlanders discuss their transit fantasy line wish lists. Not all of it is TriMet related, but an interesting post for transportation wonks.

Bill Lascher started a project riding different TriMet lines and blogging about them. It doesn’t look like it’s been updated in a while, but you can listen to his entry on the west side portion of the Blue Line.

WordPress provides some basic stats for bloggers, including how many visits there are per day/week/month, which pages were visited and which links were clicked, and what search terms people put into various search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc) that brought them to your blog. I always like seeing the search terms – often they’re TriMet specific (“how fast does trimet max go”), sometimes they’re general rail terms (“insulated joint”, “train dynamic brakes”), sometimes it’s the sort of thing calls “statistically improbable phrases” (“service chickens”), and sometimes it’s things like this:

Kinda hope that guy changed his mind after visiting…

Yachts on rails: FRNs with a half million dollars to spare buy their own private railcars and hitch them on to Amtrak trains. The gallery of photos is pretty nice.

Graphic designer takes on map of TriMet rail system, and in my opinion, greatly improves it. More detailed pictures available at his blog.

Firefighters periodically do training drills at the yards (link goes to a Portland Fire & Rescue blog post with pictures of a drill at Ruby) to familiarize themselves with the trains and practice how to rescue a person who has been struck by the train and is trapped under it. During a drill this past June, they were called into action when a person was struck by a train on Burnside.

And finally, I liked this post from Punkrawker Blogs On: “Driving a Bus Is”  I think it applies to transportation operators in general, not just bus operators, and it’s a nice overview of what it’s like.