(Update: click here for the rail rodeo results!)
I spent all day Thursday and a bit of Friday out with the International Rail Rodeo participants!
Teams from other rail systems compete in tests of their operations and maintenance skill—operator teams compete in train operations, and maintenance teams challenge each other on diagnosing and fixing train problems.
Eight teams are competing this year: Houston, Denver, Los Angeles, Canada Line, New York, Dallas, SkyTrain, and Philadelphia. The official competition is on Saturday, June 5, but Thursday and Friday were a crash course in SkyTrain operation. Competitors needed to learn all about the SkyTrain system, as that’s what they’re going to be tested on!
I spent the last few days with the operations teams, following them as they learned the ins and outs of how to drive a SkyTrain, and all about our procedures.
Thursday morning was spent in a classroom with the SkyTrain training department, as instructor David ran everybody through SkyTrain’s safety messages, track overviews (did you know SkyTrain’s power is provided by power rails along the side of the tracks?), track switches (who ever knew about frogs and points?), and radio and clearance procedures. SkyTrain attendants need to know a huge amount to work on the system and operate the train safely!
For the most part, the basic principles of the SkyTrain system were old hat for all the experienced operators in the room. But everybody was studying hard to get a grip on the nuances of our terminology and procedures. As well, there was the occasional “Can you convert that speed into in miles?” question that kept cropping up :)
Then we were off for some hands-on training! I followed the teams from Dallas, New York, and Canada Line on a tour of SkyTrain control, where they saw who they would be communicating with over the radio. Here’s the vestibule outside SkyTrain’s control room: the monitors show a Pac-Man like diagram that mimics the train movements out on the system.
Here’s another shot inside the actual control room. The TV screens all show split screen views, providing camera views that let SkyTrain Control see both ends of the platform at once. The bigger monitors at bottom show the train movements along computerized blue lines, just like in the monitors outside the room. (You can see more about how SkyTrain and Control works in this video, btw.)
Then we were off to examine the new SkyTrains in detail, learning all about the interiors, the emergency features, and especially the doors—they’re going to be tested on this!
And here we are under the SkyTrain! We went down a set of stairs to go below the SkyTrain, and obviously this allows maintenance staff to work on the bottom of the train.
While down under there we got a look at the linear induction motor (LIM) system that serves as the engine behind SkyTrain. The panels above are part of the LIM system.
Then: the simulator! Yes, it has an exterior that looks like the real train!
The back’s a little bit less impressive :) But still, it gave competitors a read on what driving the trains feel like. Our trains were certainly different from other systems, but one operator who had been to about 10 rail rodeos said basically every system he’s been to has been totally different.
By the way, the simulator used real footage of the SkyTrain line on its screen: apparently they mounted a camera on the SkyTrain to capture the whole system! A TV on the wall nearby duplicated the simulator feed, and that’s pictured above (it’s showing the tracks in the yard, if it doesn’t look familiar). As you’ll recall, the simulator I tried in Chicago used a 3-D graphics simulation of the system.
Then we went out to the train yard to actually try driving the trains, but there was a bit of a delay. So I snapped a few pictures of our competitors: here’s Melanie and Craig from Canada Line!
Here’s John & Carroll from Dallas. (Carroll said his strategy would be to take no prisoners, as he plays to win.)
And here’s Karl and George from New York City :)
Then we boarded the train, where everybody got a chance to drive it in the yard. Dave the trainer is showing everybody the training yard map in this picture.
So we drove out into the yard, and it was quite nice to see the sun come out. And I made sure to take some photos, as I was thinking you would very rarely get to see this particular view of the SkyTrain in the yard.
That was it for Thursday. But this morning, I went down to VCC-Clark and snapped a photo of the maintenance competition tent parked in the 84’s usual spot. No photos of the insides though, as the maintenance challenges were all set up, and we wouldn’t want to give anyone an unfair advantage :)