On Saturday, June 20th, 1998, a group of members of the IEE Southern California Center visited the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Agency's MetroRail Blue Line Maintenance Shops, located along the Los Angeles River just south of the Del Amo Blue Line station. The Blue Line, and its sister Green Line, typify the modern light rail (or tramway revival) urban transportation system that has sprung up in recent years all across North America and Europe.
In common with those other operations, the Blue Line uses overhead catenary (or trolley wire) collection of 750V DC power, using the running rails for the return. Electric current is converted to tractive force using truck-mounted traction motors (taking up to 350A maximum current, each) driving the two axles on each truck through a gear arrangement. Each Blue Line "car" comprises two identical halves facing in opposite directions, with an articulated connection. Each car has four trucks. Cars have Multiple Unit capability. Although each Blue Line car has an operator, in normal operation speed control is effected by electronic controls taking their speed directive from lineside signaling arrangements. Overrides can be effected after consultation between operator and controller located at the central operations room.
Members visited the heavy repair shop and the paint shop at the Maintenance Shops. Great interest was shown in the disassembled parts of various trucks and traction motors that had been removed from cars under repair, and in how all of these fit together on reassembly. Next, we visited the paint shop, where some of the existing fleet of cars were being repainted in the MTA's new color scheme. Of greater interest to the members was the first example of the new fleet of cars being built for the MTA by Siemens, with assembly in Sacramento, CA. This car had been delivered for acceptance testing, and was inspected by the members in great detail, including the electronics that not only pick up speed control from lineside signals, but will permit completely automated operation (when on the Green Line, which has no conflicting traffic flows) in the future.