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Light Rail METRO Blue Line

New paint brings new life to light-rail trains

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, June 11, 2015 12:00:00 AM

Brooks Letourneau and Robert Whebbe apply tape before another round of painting on a light-rail vehicle.When light-rail vehicle 113 pulled into Metro Transit’s body shop earlier this spring, it was clear a decade of service had taken its toll.

Scratches and dents were visible up and down each side of the vehicle. Paint was flaking in several spots and, along the bottom, rust was starting to show.

But after a few weeks the train was looking as fresh and clean as it did when it went into service when the METRO Blue Line opened in 2004. To observers, it could even be mistaken for one of the newer Siemens trains that went into service when the METRO Green Line opened.

Such transformations have become a point of pride for the group of electro-mechanic technicians who are working through a refresh of all 27 Bombardier light-rail vehicles, each of which has more than 700,000 miles on their odometers.

More than half of the older Bombardier light-rail vehicles have already been through the body shop and the entire fleet will be restored and repainted by early 2016.

While every light-rail vehicle presents its own unique challenges, the attention to detail remains the same in all cases.

When a light-rail vehicle comes into the body shop, it first goes through a rigorous cleaning. After that, lights and other components are removed and, in some cases, replaced with sturdier equipment that will better withstand another 20 years of all-weather service.

Dents are repaired and scratches are filled before the light-rail vehicle is sanded. When ready to be repainted, the train is moved into a specially-equipped booth, taped and sprayed with layers of yellow, black and blue over the course several days.

The trains are being painted with the same colors and design of the newer Siemens trains, so there is consistency across the fleet.

For Jorge Otanez, one of four electro-mechanic technicians in the body shop, removing the tape at the end of the painting makes all the work that preceded it worthwhile.     

“The personal satisfaction is when you are actually untaping and you can see all the colors meet together,” he said. “You see it and it totally looks like a different train.”

Restoring and re-painting the bodies isn’t just about cosmetics, but about taking pride in the vehicles and giving customers a positive impression when they ride.

“We want our customers to be proud of the vehicles they’re in,” said Chris Royston, Manager of Light Rail Vehicle Overhaul and Special Projects. “They’re a reflection of our service and our organization, so it’s important that they represent us well.”

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