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The night shift on the SkyTrain guideway

The night shift on the SkyTrain guideway

Speeder Crew repairs loose LIM cap bolts at Main Street SkyTrain Station.  File photo.
Speeder Crew repairs loose LIM cap bolts at Main Street SkyTrain Station. File photo.

This article is by Dave Miller, guideway supervisor for the British Columbia Rapid Transit Company (that’s our subsidiary in charge of WCE and Expo & Millennium Line!) As you’ll soon see, it’s all about working on the SkyTrain guideway late at night.

Michael Chernyh, Guideway Serviceperson and Carson Schmidt, Guideway Technician have signed up for the Guideway Olympic Response coverage at Waterfront SkyTrain Station this week. It is 4 p.m. and it’s time to get ready for work.

Pack the lunch bucket, fill the thermos and hit the road because this is an extended shift and Carson and Michael need to relieve the day shift crew at Waterfront Station in a seamless turnover. Plus, the day shift guys are eager to get home to catch the day’s Olympic highlights on the tube. They’d heard the roar of cheering Canadian fans echoing through high-rises in downtown Vancouver every time Canada potted a goal in the 7-3 win over Russia in Men’s Hockey.

Back on the guideway, two other Response Crews are covering the system, one at Commercial-Broadway Station and another at SkyTrain’s Operations and Maintenance Centre (OMC) for points east. These crews are ready to respond to any problem in the guideway within minutes. They are equipped with spare parts, several specialized cleanup and repair kits and linear induction motor (LIM) tapping sticks.

Michael Chernyh, Guideway Serviceperson, making repairs.
Michael Chernyh, Guideway Serviceperson, making repairs.

At 2:15 a.m. the last train leaves Waterfront Station and Carson and Michael board a Speeder at the Waterfront tail-track for a patrol to Commercial-Broadway and back. During this shift, they will be focusing on the LIM reaction rail around the stations where the trains generate the greatest thrust.

It’s a big job. Up to 100 LIM panels will be checked at each station platform and there are 36 cap bolts securing each LIM cap panel to the back-iron sleepers. Using a LIM tapping stick, they tap the aluminium LIM cap and listen for any loose cap bolts. A loose cap bolt will snap as the LIM cap is tapped. If the cap bolts are really loose, the bolt, nut and washer will jingle like change in your pocket, making it easy to identify which cap bolts need to be repaired or replaced.

Once Carson gets his Occupancy Permit implemented by Control, he heads down the out-bound guideway (the lower level of the Dunsmuir Tunnel) to Main Street–Science World SkyTrain Station. He also authorizes a couple of cleaning crews to access the guideway within his area.

Surge Gill, Guideway Technician, ‘tapping’ LIM panels.
Surge Gill, Guideway Technician, ‘tapping’ LIM panels.

One crew cleans Waterfront & Burrard Stations while the other cleans Granville & Stadium-Chinatown Stations. While in the guideway, the cleaners will remove everything from newspapers, plastic bags, and pop cans … you name it. They will also recover passengers’ belongings like iPods, cell phones, and cameras that could not be safely recovered by staff during the service day.

At the same time, three other Speeder crews are out on the system patrolling the track, performing similar duties and ensuring that all is good for morning service. The Speeders will use the few hours the track is closed to inspect the wayside components and lubricate the track switches.

Speeder Crew performs a jam test on the track switch.
Speeder Crew performs a jam test on the track switch.

The Speeder crews are also keeping an eye on the power rail, checking for burns, pull-a-parts or meltdowns at the splice bar. The power rail and the expansion joints are visually inspected every two weeks, but during the Olympics, the Speeder crews will be checking them every two or three nights.

Before dawn, the cleaning crews complete their work and the other Speeders return to the OMC. Carson and Michael head back to the Waterfront tail-track where the Speeder will be stored until the next night shift. Once staff and equipment are confirmed clear of the guideway and the SkyTrain system can safely operate, the Occupancy Permit is cancelled. But that’s not the end of Carson and Michael’s shift. They will remain in the downtown core ready to respond to any problems in the guideway until the day shift crew arrives at about 7 a.m.