Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hawker-Siddeleys are falling short.

Yup! You guessed it I'm talking about the Orange Line. You know, it's that line that you've ridden on that you probably got talked to by some crazy people on, had to evacuate for a fire, had your train breakdown and got stuck in a tunnel, the door you were standing at that didn't open, or you were new to the city and thought, because an outdated map at one of the stations told you so, that you could connect to the Green Line at Forest Hills.

The Orange line that we know today, was finished in 1987 and runs from Forest Hills to Oak Grove right through the heart of Downtown Boston. It also has the highest ridership out of the three heavy rail lines in the system. Today, as you might have heard, the MBTA has many problems it is dealing with, but in my opinion, a huge number of their problems lay with the ever-aging Orange Line. In this post I hope to share what I feel are the largest and most concerning problems on the Orange Line and what the MBTA is trying to do in order to fix some of these problems.

New (1981)
First and foremost the largest issue that has been plaguing the Orange line over the past few years and especially this winter is it's fleet of rolling stock. The entire Orange line fleet consists of 120 Hawker-Siddeley (now Bombardier Transportation) 01200 series cars. These cars were bought brand new and were implemented in phases between 1980 and 1981. These cars have reinforced roofs for pantographs (much like their sister cars which were the old Blue Line cars). It was thought that if the Orange Line was extended, they would opt to use overhead collection, but since these extensions were never built, pantographs were never installed. 

Today these cars are really showing their age. These once shiny and state-of-the-the-art trains are now rusted out clunkers in need of a serious overhaul or complete retirement. This past year has been a very trying time for the Orange Line fleet. Many of the trains tried to slug through the winter, but hardly made it out alive. There were a multiple of breakdowns caused by the cold and the snow and also just the overall age of the trains. In many instances snow clogged the air intake for the trains propulsion, causing them to stall out (which is a horrible design, if you ask me, because the Orange Lines undercarriage, where this intake is located, has very low clearance with the ground especially when there is snow on the tracks).

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying bash the Hawker-Siddeley's. These were wonderful and revolutionary cars when they first entered the MBTA system, but because of negligence to the fleet on the part of former MBTA heads, these trains are definitely not going to last much longer especially through our tough New England winters.

You're probably wondering if the T is taking any steps toward revamping the current fleet or introducing a brand new fleet. The truth is I did lots of research on the subject and came up with only one answer--being that the T was looking into replacing the entire fleet, but there was no projected time line for it. In my opinion, the replacement of these cars should be a very high priority for the T. Also, if they were to choose a train to base the new Orange line cars off of I would think they should use the new Blue Line cars manufactured by Siemens. These are the nicest, and cleanest cars I have ridden on. This is just my opinion though. Well anyways that's my little (or fairly large) rant about my take on the status of the Orange Line.

Heres a little video about the Orange Lines winter update!

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