Portland Streetcar Crash - 4/21

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Portland Streetcar Crash - 4/21

Postby Vincent » Wed Apr 22, 2009 12:52 am

I was down in Portland again today (4/21) and I caught a Streetcar from the Northwest neighborhood at about 3:00, heading back downtown. We were trailing another streetcar that was out-of-service, heading back to the maintenance base, by about 2 blocks. As our streetcar approached the base, we suddenly lurched to the left and t-boned a Subaru SUV, heading in the opposite direction of our train. I was looking out the wrong window and didn't witness the collision, but the Subaru was apparently operating legally. We slammed into the driver's door on the Subaru and pushed the car up onto the sidewalk. The streetcar, unit 010, didn't derail and didn't appear to have any damage. (We stayed on the track to the base.) There were no injuries on the streetcar or in the Subaru.

I didn't stick around to investigate the accident, but apparently the switch heading back to the base was still lined for the left turn made by the previous streetcar. Does anybody know how the streetcar switches are controlled: from the streetcar, by the driver or from the maintenance base? What went wrong?
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Re: Portland Streetcar Crash

Postby wigwagfan » Fri Apr 24, 2009 9:50 pm

They're controlled by the Operator using a coded system which is identical to that used by MAX.

I can't seem to find a photo online, but if you are fortunate enough to ride in a Streetcar when the Operator leaves the cab door open, you'll see a series of four buttons which are orange and yellow...they will be "L", "R", "CALL" and "CANCEL" - if I recall correctly. These are also used to request traffic signals (on the Streetcar, most notably between the PSU Urban Center and Harrison). The buttons will light up when the train is over a signal receiver which is hidden in pavement, but on open track are the large flat gray boxes inbetween the rails (as opposed to the yellow ATC/ATS magnets).

There are also two dial switches that have a series of numbers, these are used to select the route. You can see some references on the MAX route and I believe also near the Streetcar shop, where signs are installed to tell the Operator which route to select for which track.

If you ride the Vintage Trolley, the signal controller is located in a panel above the Operator's head and since the cab is open, is easy to watch.
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Re: Portland Streetcar Crash

Postby Vincent » Mon Apr 27, 2009 11:06 pm

Thanks for the description. I took a ride on a South Lake Union Inekon today and located the button panel you described--they were marked "L", "R", blank and "call". As we approached a signal I noticed that all 4 buttons illuminated for about 5 seconds. I presume that pressing one of the illuminated buttons would activate a switch.
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Re: Portland Streetcar Crash

Postby wigwagfan » Tue Apr 28, 2009 10:37 pm

Vincent wrote:I presume that pressing one of the illuminated buttons would activate a switch.


Exactly, when the buttons light up, the train is passing over one of the antennas and the Operator can call a signal or throw a switch.

When not lit...they do nothing. Occasionally in downtown Portland (more so on MAX than on Streetcar), the train might not be directly on top of the antenna and thus the Operator will have to close the doors, inch forward (make sure you're holding onto something if you are standing!) until the buttons light up...and then be able to call the traffic signal.
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Re: Portland Streetcar Crash

Postby AgentSkelly » Mon May 04, 2009 7:37 pm

wigwagfan wrote:
Vincent wrote:I presume that pressing one of the illuminated buttons would activate a switch.


Exactly, when the buttons light up, the train is passing over one of the antennas and the Operator can call a signal or throw a switch.

When not lit...they do nothing. Occasionally in downtown Portland (more so on MAX than on Streetcar), the train might not be directly on top of the antenna and thus the Operator will have to close the doors, inch forward (make sure you're holding onto something if you are standing!) until the buttons light up...and then be able to call the traffic signal.


I've heard ONCE an operator call out on the radio to for some sort of override because the train even when on top of the antenna, was still not working.
New Westminster to Amtrak 516, whats up with the extra 4 axles, over?
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Re: Portland Streetcar Crash - 4/21

Postby wigwagfan » Wed May 06, 2009 12:30 am

I believe that all switches can be controlled from the Ruby Junction dispatch console, but as far as signalling goes, track in downtown Portland/Lloyd District and in downtown Hillsboro is "dark".

The Streetcar is entirely "dark", although I believe that the stretch from Gibbs (OHSU/Tram) to RIver Parkway (Riverplace) is essentially an automatic interlocking, as is the short single track between 4th/Harrison and 5th/Montgomery. Whoever shows up first (and presses the call button) gets the green. If these systems were to fail, trains would have to be flagged through or a manual (staff) system employed.
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