Posts Tagged ‘NCTD’

How many engineers does it take to change the brakes on a train?

The next step is for us along with our contractors, Veolia and Bombardier, to determine the proper procedure for the installation of the new 100g split disc rotors. Together we will take all safety factors into consideration. Once all parties approve this process, we will begin the installation of the new rotors onto the Sprinter test vehicle. FRA and CPUC officials will observe the installation. We have invited representatives from Siemens (the Sprinter manufacturer) and certified California engineers to observe the installation and the testing and to review the data.

This really gives an idea of how over-regulated passenger rail has become. Representatives from two government agencies are supervising, plus the various contractors and other “invited” guests.

And here is a photo of the test-run. Note how they are paying a flagman to stand around holding a Stop sign — in addition to the perfectly operating crossing gates. Can’t be too careful!

Sprinter Flagman

And this testing is expected go on for months:

Sunday’s test, in which one train ran between Escondido and San Marcos, was the first in what’s expected to be a weeks- or months-long overall evaluation period. “Everything went great” Sunday, transit district spokeswoman Frances Schnall said Monday. “Everyone was really pleased with how things went.”

The train reached speeds of up to 50 mph, she said. State law imposes a 55 mph speed limit on the train.

Yep, 55 mph speed limit. Can’t be too careful!

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This week marks the 5th year anniversary of the NCTD (San Diego) “Sprinter” rail service. But instead of celebrating, the service was abruptly suspended after the Calif. PUC discovered premature wear in the brake rotors.

Embarrassed NCTD officials don’t even know when the service will resume. The outage could be as long as four months. Bus bridges are being run as an interim measure.

Media reporting has generally described this as a management snafu. NCTD subcontracts maintenance to Bombardier and Veolia. Their work was overseen by the district’s rail mechanical engineer. He knew about the problem, but apparently did not act on it. He has since resigned.

However, this does not explain why the rotors wore out so fast in the first place. This Sprinter model is used all over Europe, and I am not aware of any reported issues with premature brake wear.

One possible explanation might be that San Diego’s Sprinters are not quite off-the-shelf models. You see, the CPUC decided it knew better than the vehicle’s designers and spec’ed out their own braking system for the train:

“They’re big brakes, better than (in) Germany,” said Husemann, noting the train’s stopping power.

Bullock said the brawny brakes were installed to satisfy a California Public Utilities Commission requirement.

The cars are diesel-powered multiple units, which are new to California and rare in North America. The commission had specific requests for the brakes, requiring Siemens to engineer them specially for NCTD cars.

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