Inside look at testing of new Metro rail cars - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Inside look at testing of new Metro rail cars

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WASHINGTON -

A fleet of new Metro rail cars is on order. But before they can hit the tracks, the new 7000-series trains must put in thousands of hours on the tracks and undergo a battery of tests.

It's an around-the-clock operation to test the new rail cars. While out on the tracks at night, the four-car train is pushed to the max.

"We'll run from about 12:30 to 4 o'clock in the morning,” said Joseph Reynolds, the chief of Metro’s Vehicle Program Services.

Then every inch is inspected by day. Reynolds gave FOX 5 a first-hand look at how it's done. Everything inside and out goes through the ringer.

"That's what I usually do – I try to break things to make sure that it's passenger proof,” Reynolds said laughingly.

Things such as electronic screens on the train.

"Hitting it with sharp objects to see how it reacts or kicking it,” said Reynolds.

For the windows, Reynolds said, "They will shoot an object to make sure it won't break.”

A computer wired to the control systems monitors every move -- from 0 to 75 miles per hour. Since the trains can't carry passengers, solid metal blocks inside the rail cars do the job.

But if real passengers were on the train, they surely would have complaints about one problem uncovered in the testing: the trains were too tightly sealed. Poor air circulation means it could get stuffy. But that has been fixed.

The cars were built with passengers in mind. The aisles are wider. The seats have lumbar support. There is even a cutout on the back of chairs to give you more leg room and it is open underneath to stash your belongings.

But can those seats stand up to the wear and tear as well as bumps and spills?

“They have equipment that will simulate someone sitting over and over again onto the car,” said Reynolds.

What about weathering a deep freeze?

"Part of the design was to operate at -30 degrees,” he said.

And a sweltering summer day?

“We have designed equipment to withstand that kind of temperature or in excess of 120 degrees,” said Reynolds.

Can it ride out a snowstorm or downpour?

"We actually submerge the motor in water,” Reynolds said. “So you submerge the motor and you test it for insulation."

Once Metro signs off of the trains, they will ramp up production.

"By the end of the year, we will see these cars in service,” Reynolds said.


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