After logging more than 700,000 miles, Metro Transit’s first generation of light-rail vehicles is getting some extra attention.
Electro Mechanic-Technicians at the Minneapolis Operations and Maintenance Facility recently embarked on a comprehensive overhaul of the so-called trucks that are bolted to the bottom of each vehicle, containing all of the mechanics that move trains down the tracks.
"It’s a lot like getting a car overhauled after 200,000 miles," Rail Maintenance Supervisor Keith Meisinger said. "Every single part is taken apart and checked, replaced if necessary."
At 12,500 pounds, each truck includes a traction motor, brake pads, calipers, gear boxes and an axle. Each of these parts will be removed and replaced with new or refurbished equipment. The stripped frames will be sandblasted and repainted, and new wiring and suspension components will also be installed.
The fleet overhaul is considered preventative maintenance that doesn’t necessarily indicate that the vehicles have dangerously deteriorated. Swapping out salt-corroded and worn parts is instead intended to help avert in-service breakdowns that can lead to delays.
Year-to-date, light-rail vehicles are traveling an average of nearly 39,500 miles between service calls.
This is the second time the trucks on the Bombardier vehicles have been overhauled. In 2009, specific parts were replaced through a less-intensive maintenance effort.
Taking the trucks apart for the first time, mechanics relied on diagrams to get the work accomplished. That experience will help speed things up this go around, but it will still take up to six weeks to complete work on each truck.
"There was a learning curve the first time around and this one will be too," said Neal Rambeck, one of five Electro Mechanic-Technicians working on the overhaul. "It’s a different process and a little more intense."
With 27 Bombardier passenger cars, and two trucks per car, it will take at least three years to overhaul the entire Bombardier fleet. By that time, work will likely be getting underway on the newer Siemens vehicles that went into service when the METRO Green Line opened in 2014.
The Bombardier trains are expected to stay in service through at least three additional overhauls, which occur roughly every 350,000 miles. Light-rail trains are expected to be in-service at least 30 years.
In other words, Rambeck and his peers will have their hands full for the foreseeable future.
"I’m definitely going to be able to retire here," Electro Mechanic-Technicians Clarence Blackmon said.
In addition to the truck overhauls, the exteriors of each Bombardier passenger car are being restored and repainted. An interior refresh will likely begin in 2016.
"Our goal is to keep these vehicles in the best condition possible so they can continue to stay in service for future generations," said Rick Carey, Director of Light Rail Vehicle Maintenance. "They’re big, long-term investments and we treat them as such."
Electro Mechanic-Technicians working on an overhaul of the Bombardier light-rail vehicles briefly paused for a photo at the Minneapolis Light Rail Operations & Maintenance Facility. They include, from left, Will Fetterly, Daryl Long, Mike Lund, Neal Rambeck and Clarence Blackmon.
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