As YPTNYC’s Summer Tour Series continues to provide behind the scenes tours of New York City transportation and infrastructure related sites, YPT-NYC member, Gary Roth, presents a recap of the recent Croton-Harmon Shop tour: On a humid August afternoon, a group of 17 members of the Greater New York City chapter of Young Professionals in Transportation (YPT-NYC) took the train from Grand Central Terminal on Metro-North’s (MNR) Hudson Line to the Croton-Harmon Shop. John Militano, Assistant Chief Mechanical Officer of Metro-North’s MNRs Harlem/Hudson Lines in the Maintenance of Equipment / Operations unit was our knowledgeable guide. After a brief stop in the conference room to get our bearings, we headed out to the shop.
Our first stop was the ’21st Century’ Locomotive and Coach Shop which recently won the prestigious 2011 Brunel Awards Jury competition hosted by the Association of American Railroads (AAR). The facility allows for work on coaches, locomotives, and EMUs split into two separate shops, each with six tracks. It was explained to us that all trains come in for 90-day, 1-year, and 5-year inspections. We observed how different rail cars can be accommodated and the use of lifts and a raised track. John pointed out that in the older coach designs the air conditioning unit is housed under the car, which could require hours of back breaking work to repair. The newer coaches had AC units on the top of the coach, which were simply lifted out whole, and sent to another facility for repair. A working unit was dropped in, and the coach was ready to return to service. This is one of the examples showing how the design of rail cars and maintenance are interrelated. The goal for this shop is to repair all cars quickly and efficiently.
There was a lengthy discussion about the contact shoe protruding from the coaches, which serves as the contact for the third rail. We were advised to avoid contact with the shoe, which was covered with a red rubber cover at all costs. Even though the coach is not connected to the tracks, the shoe is still highly charged. MNR’s third rail connects on the bottom of the third rail, as opposed to Long Island Rail Road’s (LIRR) third rail, which rides on top. This small difference allows Metro-North’s trains to operate in more adverse conditions as the contact location is at a slightly higher elevation off the ground. Newly purchased M-8 rail cars purchased by MNR are built to operate on both MNR and LIRR third rail.
From there we stepped back in time to view the ’20th Century’ shop, which was constructed in the early 1900s. The shop floor was considerably more congested, the ceilings were lower and the shop had a cramped feeling. Before heading out we had a chance to peer at the lathe which is used to construct new wheels. There is a desire to upgrade the older part of the shop, but the funding is still not available.
It was a great tour, and we gained new insight and respect for the difficult task of ensuring the locomotives and coaches continue to provide trouble free service.
Gary Roth is a Senior Business Analyst for MTA / New York City Transit, where he works in New Fare Payment Systems. He is developing the plan to upgrade the fare payment mechanism from the mag-stripe based MetroCard to a contactless fare medium.