Location: Park Boulevard at Market Street, San Diego, CA
Operator of Vehicle: San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS)
Date of Photo: July 17, 2014
In recent years, streetcars and light rails have been experiencing a renaissance in the United States. Just last year, three new streetcar systems opened in Kansas City, Cincinnati, and Washington, DC. However, the San Diego Trolley was the first of these “second generation” streetcar and light rail systems to open in the United States. Its initial segment opened in 1981 and it has expanded to include three lines serving 53 stations. In 2015, the system became entirely low floor upon the retirement of the original Siemens–Duewag U2 cars, such as the one seen in this photograph. The retirement of these high floor cars was a multi-phase project that involved redoing the station platforms across the entire network, in addition to procuring the new low floor fleet. However, this successful completion is yet another demonstration of how the San Diego Trolley has proven itself to be a successful part of the city’s transportation network.
For more photos of the San Diego Trolley, please click here.
Location: Beach 25th Street Station, New York, NY
Operator of Vehicle: MTA New York City Transit
Date of Photo: June 28, 2010
Today at noon, the Second Avenue Subway will open for revenue service in New York City. The Second Avenue Subway was first conceived in 1929 as a six track line running the length of Manhattan. Needless to say, it took a long time to turn this line from sketches on maps in to reality. So long in fact that several classes of subway cars that were designed with the intention of operating them on the Second Avenue Subway were introduced, operated elsewhere on the subway, and have already been retired. One of these car classes was the R44, which is featured as the photo of the month for January 2017 in honor of the opening of the Second Avenue Subway.
The R44 was the first New York City subway car to be 75 feet long, under the premise it would be more efficient to operate 8 75 foot long cars as a single train instead of 10 60 foot long cars (both trainsets are 600 feet long). They were also the first cars to feature bucket seats, audible door chimes, and lacked the traditional straps that standing passengers held on to. They were introduced on the F line in 1971, overhauled in the early 1990s, and remained in service until their retirement in 2010 due to structural integrity concerns, having never had the chance to operate on the line they were expected to serve. Instead, the Second Avenue Subway will be served by the R160s that currently operate on the Q line.
For more photos of the R44 subway cars, please click here.
Location: Addison Road Station, Seat Pleasant, MD
Operator of Vehicle: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
Date of Photo: April 5, 2003
Yesterday, the about to be retired WMATA Orion V buses were featured in the bus photo of the month. The rail photo of the month also comes from the DC area, but this time, the featured equipment’s era has already come to a partial end. Last month, in response to a safety issue, WMATA began to “belly” its 4000 Series railcars in the middle of train consists. In other words, the 4000 Series cars will no longer be used at the front or rear of trains. Since the 1000 Series cars have been operating in this manner since 2009, this new policy means that the “original” look for the DC Metrorail will no longer be seen at the front or rear of trains. No longer will we see flip dot destination signs, American flags, or decals commemorating Metro’s 25th anniversary at the front or rear of a train. There will be no more trains featuring the “classic” interior color scheme with orange and yellow seats and sand colored walls as the lead or tail cars of a consist. Instead, if you choose to ride at the railfan window at the front of the train, you’ll be guaranteed the newer interior scheme of burgundy, blue, and yellow seat cushions and cream colored walls.
Obviously, safety concerns are to be taken seriously, and I understand why the average Metrorail rider probably prefers the newer equipment over the old. However, with the 1000 Series cars already relegated to the middle of consists, being able to sit at the railfan seat on a 4000 Series car was a last vestige of sorts of the Metro that I grew up with and that was very much a part of making me in to a transit enthusiast. By comparison, the newer 7000 series cars lack a railfan seat entirely. They may be the most unreliable cars in the fleet at this point, but the 4000 Series cars were the last link to the Metrorail I grew up with. Not seeing them at the front of trains anymore will take some getting used to.
Although the 4000 Series cars will no longer be at the front or rear of trains, they aren’t being retired just yet. After the 1000 Series cars are retired, the 4000 Series cars will be gradually retired as additional 7000 Series trains arrive. Metro is attempting to have all 1000 Series and 4000 Series cars retired by the end of 2017. Hopefully, a pair of 1000 Series cars will be saved for historic preservation purposes, though I don’t feel nearly as strongly about preserving a 4000 Series car.
For more photos of WMATA’s 4000 Series railcars, please click here.
Location: Green Street Station, Boston, MA
Operator of Vehicle: Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority
Date of Photo: May 2, 2011
Boston’s Orange Line has been in the news recently, and those stories have reminded us all that this line continues to operate the oldest stock among Boston’s three heavy rail lines. The current Hawker-Siddley cars entered service and are very similar in their design to the now retired PA-3 cars, also built by Hawker-Siddley. In 2014, the MBTA announced that it signed a contract with CNR, a Chinese company, to build replacement cars for the Orange Line. The first of these replacement cars is scheduled to be delivered in 2018.
In the meantime, we can still enjoy riding these cars. They are very similar to the now retired Hawker-Siddley equipment that used to run on the MBTA Blue Line, though they only have third rail collector shoes and never had overhead pantographs like their Blue Line counterparts. They also are longer and wider than what ran on the Blue Line. However, they shared many mechanical components, and several Blue Line cars were saved so their shared parts could be used on the Orange Line fleet. Also, if you never had the chance to ride the Hawker-Siddley equipment on the Blue Line, the interior of the Orange Line fleet is very similar to what you missed on the Blue Line.
For more photos of the MBTA Orange Line, please click here.
Location: Martigny, Switzerland
Operator of Vehicle: SBB CFF FFS
Date of Photo: March 15, 2008
No matter what rolling stock you may encounter while traveling in Switzerland, chances are it will arrive right on time. The stereotypes of Swiss railways running on time are not undeserved, though I do have to admit that I have been on a few delayed trains. However, whether the train is pulled by the Class 460 locomotives that perhaps are most associated with SBB, or one of the trainsets such as the RBDe560 featured here, rest assured your fellow passengers are likely to be anxious if the train slips even just a few minutes behind schedule.
These RBDe560 trainsets can be found on S-Bahn services in the Basel area as well as on suburban and regional services elsewhere in the country. They were first delivered starting in 1984 and while some of the cars have been retired, others were recently rebuilt and will remain in service indefinitely.
For more photos of SBB’s trains, please click here.
Location: Quincy/Wells, Chicago, IL
Operator of Vehicle: Chicago Transit Authority
Date of Photo: July 9, 2014
The Chicago L is one of my favorite rail systems in the United States. The mostly elevated system twists and turns its way through the Chicago skyscrapers in the Loop in a way that no other transit system does in this day and age. Right in the middle of downtown, it feels like you can just reach out and touch the passing buildings. And to top it off, at Tower 18, you have one of the busiest train junctions in the country, and it is a flat junction at that!
I have yet to ride the CTA’s newest rolling stock, the 5000 Series, pictured here. The 5000 Series introduced a number of features to Chicago for the first time, such as AC traction, which is pretty much standard on new rail vehicles these days. However, some of the features proved to be a bit more controversial. Gone were the colorful roll signs that identified a train’s line color and destination, replaced with amber LEDs. That didn’t last long, as the CTA opted mid-order to have multi-color LED signs installed on cars that had not been delivered prior to the decision to switch being made. Cars that had the amber LEDs received colored LED signs through retrofit. Another change was a mix of transverse and longitudinal seating. Unlike the amber LEDs, this feature was not modified, though Chicagoans might prefer otherwise.
As I said, I haven’t been on one of these trains yet, though I look forward to having the opportunity the next time I find myself in Chicago.
For more photos of CTA’s 5000 Series cars, please click here.
Location: Temple University Station, Phiadelphia, PA
Operator of Vehicle: Southeastern Pennsylvania Area Transit Authority
Date of Photo: April 19, 2012
Philadelphia has been in the news a lot in the past week, having just hosted the Democratic National Convention. Philadelphia has also been in the news in the transit world as its Silverliner V fleet was sidelined due to structural issues discovered in the cars. The Silverliner Vs were ordered in order to replace railcars dating back to before SEPTA operated the Philadelphia area commuter rail lines. Upon their arrival and the retirement of this older equipment, the average age of the Regional Rail fleet decreased significantly. These cars featured LED destination signs and automated announcements, as well as a railfan seat (albeit now modified) rarely found on commuter rail trains. While SEPTA continues to operate as much Regional Rail service as it can with its Silverliner IV fleet, as well as equipment leased from Amtrak and other commuter rail systems, Philadelphia area commuters will be glad to see the full fleet back in service.
For more photos of SEPTA’s Regional Rail Rolling Stock, please click here.
Location: Spadina Avenue at King Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Operator of Vehicle: Toronto Transit Commission
Date of Photo: March 11, 2007
Seeing as today is Canada Day, it seemed appropriate to select a Canadian photo to be the rail photo of the month for July. The Toronto streetcar network is the largest streetcar network in North and South America in terms of track miles, fleet size, and ridership. Like in many European cities, the streetcars are the primary surface transit in the city center. However, unlike many other North American cities, proposals to eliminate the streetcar network in the 1960s did not gain traction. A few lines were abandoned, but beginning in 1989, the TTC began to introduce new routes once again. The Toronto streetcar’s 21st century revival is the renewal of rolling stock, as the aging CLRV and ALRV are being replaced by modern Bombardier Flexity Outlook trams, similar to those in many European cities.
For more photos of Toronto’s streetcars, please click here.
Location: Gare du Nord, Paris, France
Operator of Vehicle: THI Factory
Date of Photo: June 12, 2008
Happy 20th birthday to Thalys! Thalys was initially established as a joint venture between SNCF, NMBS/SNCB, Nederlandse Spoorwegen, and Deutsche Bahn. Service began on June 2, 1996, the inaugural train operated from Paris to Amsterdam via Belgium. Today, Thalys is one of several international rail services provided through a joint venture of several different national railroads that help to make the European high speed train network as far reaching and comprehensive as it is today. Here’s to the next 20 years!
Location: Expo/Western Station, Los Angeles, CA
Operator of Vehicle: Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA)
Date of Photo: July 14, 2014
Despite having a reputation for having a less than stellar public transit system, the Los Angeles Metro has been expanding quite a bit recently. In March, the Gold Line was extended from Pasadena to Azsua, and later this month, on May 20th, the Expo Line will be extended from Culver City to Santa Monica, terminating just short of the famed Santa Monica Pier. There are aspirations to extend the Gold Line even further to Montclair in San Bernardino County in the future. In the nearer term, projects such as the Regional Connector will allow through routing of Blue, Expo, and Gold Line trains, which is not possible at this time. Once that project is complete, an Expo Line train like the one featured here, could operate from Azusa and Pasadena across downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica, currently a three seat ride.
For more photos of the Expo, Blue, and Gold lines in Los Angeles, please click here.