The hefty Metro Blue Line rail cars make a hard day’s run between Long Beach and downtown Los Angeles, running the 22-mile stop-and-go course to the tune of 87,000 trips a year, 1.7 million service miles and 26 million boardings. Although the rail cars of the Blue Line’s original fleet are not slowing down — some have been running for two decades now — the cars are in the midst of a comprehensive overhaul of rail car components and systems that impact safety and reliability and appearance.
In the works for more than a year now, the $30-million rail car overhaul program will enhance and extend the revenue service life through the projected 30-year life span of the cars.
The work is being done in the cavernous vehicle maintenance buildings of the Blue Line rail yard in Long Beach. Scores of maintenance specialists are poring over rail cars that pull in and out of the rail yard pit stops. With only six years to accomplish the overhaul, the tasks are handled one set of components at a time — in a fashion that keeps the overhaul process moving while providing cars for service each day.
Activities underway for 2012 include overhauls of heavy-duty motor, wheel, articulation, gearbox, overhead wiring and HVAC (air conditioning) systems, along with a complete interior and exterior refurbishment that includes new paint, windows and new passenger seat cushions.
In the electronics shop, where experts modify circuit boards that convert current for overhead power, drawers of replacement parts are regularly mined for intricate tasks such as converting a mechanical relay to solid state circuitry. The in-house electronics shop, a vital function of the maintenance yard for some 15 years now, eliminates the delay of repairs from an outside vendor and a great deal of the cost.
Although procurement is underway to order new light rail cars — including options to purchase some that would replace the original Blue Line fleet — the maintenance program will keep the Blue Line running and in good shape until the new cars are delivered.
The photos here show various components in stages of overhaul, repair and replacement.