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Stories Along the Line: New home for new trains

Every day more construction progress can be seen along the East Rail Line between Union Station and Denver International Airport, as well as the Gold Line between Union Station and Arvada and Wheat Ridge.

Where the railcars go for upkeep

An important piece that goes with all of those new rail lines is the construction of a modern commuter rail maintenance facility (CRMF), which is scheduled for completion in late 2014 or early 2015.

Commuter Rail Maintenance Facility
Commuter rail maintenance facility under construction at I-70 and I-25 in Denver

At this site, rail cars will be maintained, cleaned and repaired as they serve communities along the East Line, Gold Line, Northwest Rail and North Metro lines.

'Mousetrap'

The $224 million facility is located on 30 acres at the northwest corner of I-25 and I-70. Folks who have been in Denver for a while know this location as the "mousetrap."

Long-time traffic reporter Don Martin came up with the name in the 1960s because of the unusual circular ramps that connected the different directions of the two big, busy highways. He called it a "maze that could trap a mouse."

The mousetrap was redesigned and rebuilt starting in 1987 in part because a U.S. Navy truck carrying torpedoes overturned in the maze in 1984. That incident shutdown the mousetrap and paralyzed traffic for thousands of commuters for eight hours.

Keeping it green

RTD FasTracks has applied for Silver LEED certification for the building. LEED is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design designation for "green" or sustainable design, construction and operation.

RTD commuter rail maintenance facility under construction
RTD commuter rail maintenance facility under construction
At full capacity, about 240 train operators, mechanics, technicians and administrative staff will work 24/7 to ensure that up to 40 married pairs, or 80 railcars, are always ready for service. A married pair of cars is 170 feet long, 10 feet wide and 15 feet tall.

In addition to the outdoor rail yard, six tracks will run through the 230,000 square-foot building in which the railcars will be stored and maintained.

A separate building acts similar to an automated car wash. The railcars will roll through for exterior high pressure cleaning and the water is recycled and reused.

Little known facts: Flawlessly shaped train wheels

Niles-Simmons-Hegenscheidt, a machine tools manufacturer based in Chemnitz, Germany, makes a large underfloor wheel lathe, which measures and grinds the railcars' steel wheels to re-shape and keep them perfectly round.

By keeping the wheels flawlessly shaped, RTD meets standards established by the American Disabilities Act which require that railcar doors match up with platform heights and do not obstruct passengers entering or exiting the vehicles.

Moving trains single-handedly

The facility will feature a 5-foot diameter turntable, or turnplate, that is flush with the floor. The design relies on precision bearings which allow one person to turn the railcar by hand 90 or 120 degrees.
RTD <br />commuter railcar in Philadelphia assembly plant
RTD commuter railcar undergoing assembly in Philadelphia
Imagine pushing around a railcar that can weigh between 120,000 to 150,000 lbs.

Assembled in the USA

The railcars are manufactured at Hyundai Rotem's plant in Changwon, South Korea, and assembled at the company's U.S. plant in Philadelphia. They will be powered by 25kV alternating current on an overhead electrical system. The cars can hold up to 90 passengers seated and 142 standing, and will move at speeds of up to 79 mph.

It takes a region

RTD is committed to building out FasTracks sooner rather than later so people in the region will have more transit options as they choose where to live, work and play.

See more Stories Along the Line features




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