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McCowan Carhouse Tour

August 1, 2011

A bit of a change of pace from the usual posts today. We’re going away from the neighbourhood walks for this one, and going for a special walk inside the McCowan Carhouse. If you remember from the Scarborough City Centre walk, just past McCowan station, the RT cars head here for storage, cleaning, and maintenance. I went on a tour in early June, and thought I would share it here.

Note: I have added two new menu buttons for special walks and transit talks. I have some other ideas for places I might walk besides neighbourhoods that will go into special walks, and some ideas for transit related posts that I feel fit into the tone of the blog. The focus will still be the neighbourhood walks, but from time to time, I will post some other stuff as well.

Some background. The Scarborough Rapid Transit Line, or as anyone who is anyone calls it, “The RT”, was opened in 1985. Of course no one who is anyone would waste their time riding the RT to get way out into Scarborough. Anyway, the 6 staion, 7.2 km line, has one carhouse to clean and maintain the 28 Intermediate Capacity Transit System (ICTS) vehicles. ICTS was supposed to be one of those made in Ontario type technologies, that everywhere else would want to buy, and then didn’t. Although Vancouver and Detroit use the Mark II version of it. Assuming that’s enough numbers and acronyms for you, let’s get to the pictures.

If you want to get to the carhouse in a way other than riding in on an out of service RT,  the entrance is on Ellesmere, just east of McCowan. Normally it is protected by a gateway. But luckily they opened it for us tour-goers.

I was surprised at just how small a facility it is. There is only one wash track, 2 repair/maintenance tacks, four outdoor storage tracks, and 1 storage track for the work vehicles. They had brought a couple of trains in for the tour, as well as a line up of the parts. Apparently they run 24 of them during peak times, and a bit less during off peak, leaving little margin for error.

Supposedly, this facility was only supposed to be temporary, for future expansion of the RT line, and a bigger facility would be built then. They can only really do light and preventative maintenance and repairs here. For heavy work (every 5 years), the cars have to be craned out onto trucks and shipped to the Greenwood Shop. This will have to happen at least once more before the planned shutdown for retrofitting the line to work with LRT vehicles as part of the future Scarborough Eglinton Crosstown line.

The On Board Computer which controls the RT cars. They run using a Linear Induction Motor powering the movement using magnetism. The trains also have automatic train control (ATC), and can run without operators, however they have been running for a while on manual mode due to some work to increase the safety protocols when running in ATC. They are planning to start running them automatically (with operator on board) again soon.

This wheel turning machine is used to cut the wheels back to a proper profile. Bumps and chips can develop and need to be shaved off. Obviously the wheels would eventually need to be replaced entirely, as they can only shave off so much. I was told the average time is about 3 years for a replacement. The gauge is different than the subway, so he wheels have to be specially made. The apparatus above the turning machine is providing the car with the power it would normally receive from the third rail.

This an ST-1 work car. It is a diesel powered towing car used when doing track work. There is also an ST-7, of which I do not have a good picture. It looks kind of like a bulldozer, and can be used to push RT cars, and plow snow from the track.

The view west towards McCowan station.

The coupler between cars.

That’s right, they let me (pretend to) drive an RT train.

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