Light Rail Notes
by James Seamon  Page 2

Canadian Light Rail Vehicle
Canada's Standard Light Rail Vehicle

Add Toronto to the North American cities that have placed firm orders for new light rail equipment. Two hundred cars like the exhibit car above (at the Canadian National Exhibition) have been ordered from the Urban Transportation Development Corporation.
     The meeting, presented by the Transportation Research Board (formerly the Highway Research Board), was well covered by the press and other media. Other sponsors included UMTA, the APTA, and the University of Pennsylvania.
     Several streetcar museums were represented, but only a few remarks were heard about the "good old days." Most participants were concerned about Light Rail's future as a viable alternative for medium density transit corridors, in cities of various sizes.
     Dayton, Ohio , has a plan for Light Rail Transit, and is ready to begin construction as soon as Federal funding is assured.
     San Francisco, of course, is working on its Light Rapid Transit line beneath Market Street, and both San Francisco and Boston have new cars on order. Shaker Heights and Pittsburgh have recently refurbished their PCC equipment, and Philadelphia is beginning a rebuilding program, as is Toronto. 

SLRV Test Ride in Boston
     In the wee hours of the morning of July 12, 1975, 1 rode Boeing's Light Rail Vehicle test car on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's Riverside Line in Boston.
     Tests were conducted on the western end of the grade-separated line, over a section of rebuilt track complete with continuous welded rail. The test runs were made without passengers, a full operating load being simulated with sand bags.
     The car ran a series of starts and stops to simulate operation on San Francisco's Market Street Line. The MBTA track is in excellent condition, and the old PCC car on which I came out rode very well even at speed. Even so, the Boeing car was noticeably smoother with its air suspension.
     Although the Boeing car's acceleration was not as fast as the PCCs, it still performed quite well. Braking was impressive, with the dynamic braking system holding high current down to zero speed. This is a real improvement over traditional dynamic braking, which fades badly at low speed.
     Boeing used a traditional trolley pole to get into and out of the yards, but used pantograph operation on the main line.
     I found the car generally impressive, with one glaring design error. The windshield is so near to true vertical that night operation is impossible unless black cardboard is hung behind the operator's compartment to eliminate glare from the interior lighting. Later model PCC cars had sloped windshields that eliminated this problem.
     The Boeing crew is largely aerospace and electrical engineers, some of whom would prefer to get back to aircraft work. Both the Boeing crew and MBTA people were very friendly and helpful (I had previously cleared with MBTA headquarters by letter). The MBTA people are sold on light rail, and very proud of the Riverside Line.
     The MBTA plans to operate the articulated Boeing cars in two-car trains, which will equal current threecar PCC trains in overall length.

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Last updated Thursday, April 12, 2001