ARM Trip Report

Tour of the Phoenix AZ Light Rail Maintenance Of Equipment (MOE)

By Mark J. Redmond

In December 2006 the City of Phoenix approached the Arizona Railway Museum for help. They needed a vehicle to move the newly acquired light rail cars they received. The museum let them use the Switchmaster 9000 (aka Mule). On March 3, 2007 the members of the Arizona Railway Museum were invited to visit the Metro facility to see our Mule and would be treated to a special tour of the new MOE.

Before I start, a special thanks must go to Matt McMenamin, Valley Metro and the folks at Kinkisharyo for giving us this private and very special tour. It was great for all who went. To visit Valley Metro's Light Rail site click here.

The light rail Operations and Maintenance Center, MOE, is located in Phoenix near the junction of Loop 202 and Highway 143. It sits on 35 acres and houses a 136,000 sq.ft. maintenance building capable of holding 4 trains. 2 of the tracks go to an open bay where light maintenance from the bottom or top can be performed. The other 2 tracks feature hydraulic lifts that can lift a complete train and separate lifts so the trains trucks can be removed and replaced. There is a separate building that is the crew lounge. A place for the train crews to eat, shower and change before and after work. The facility cost about $65 million. The building is 2 stories tall with a basement. The second floor houses offices and operations center. There is also a covered patio that offers a clear view of the first floor repair area. The basement is were the car trucks are repaired and houses the hydraulic lifts. The site will employ about 150 maintenance, operations and train drivers. Train drivers will be specially trained bus drivers and certified to operate the light rail trains. The yard has the capacity to store 40 - 50 cars at this time and future expansion is planned. Currently there are 100 cars on order. The MOE also has a complete body and paint shop, a car wash and sanding facility, The yard is the only place in the entire system that will have its track open and ballasted. Concrete ties were used. All other parts of the system will be embedded in concrete. The rail is standard 115 lb. rail set at 4 foot 8 1/2 inches. 115 lb. rail was used as it is easy to obtain, made in the US and will last for decades without having to be replaced. The building has it's own substation for power and the 750 volts DC needed to power the trains is scheduled to be on line in April 2007. The construction of the 20 mile system and MOE has employed 50,000 people.

The trains are built by Kinkisharyo and shipped as components to Phoenix. The maintenance facility will do all assembly of the train components. The trains trucks are also assembled here. The truck wheels take a tip from the old steam engine era. the wheels have tires. Not rubber ones but metal ones. And just like the steam engines of old, if a tire gets a flat spot or wears down you heat the wheel and replace the tire. The trains are brand new state of the art light rail trains. They are capable of easy expansion from 1 to 4 cars depending on the time of day and special events. They feature video cameras inside and out for security and an intercom so passengers can talk to the driver in an emergency. The doors open out then flush with the train. There will also be no stepping up or down to enter the train as the train and platforms will be flush. Bicycle racks will be offered and will exceed current disabilities standards.

The trains will run at a max speed of 55 M.P.H. on the Valley Metro system but are capable of running much faster. Only the front and rear cars of the train have trucks that swivel. The trucks on the center cars are fixed. The train will literally drag the center trucks through the curves. Yes, the system works and is currently in use on 2 other light rail systems. While most of the route is fairly flat, there is a 6 percent grade going from the MOE to the line as it must climb over the Union Pacific main line. The tightest curves on the route are 85 ft. in diameter. The curves are 100 ft. diameter in the yard. The trains will seat 66 riders on trains 90 ft. long. Current plans are to have the line running 18 to 20 hours a day with estimates that the system will move 3000 to 5000 riders an hour. In the future it will move up to 15,000 riders per hour. Wait times will average between 10 to 20 minutes depending on the time of day and special events. Also on order is a Brandt Road Rail Corp. railcar mover. This custom piece of equipment will be used to move trains that break down or if the power is out.

Trial runs of the trains on the lines is scheduled for later this year. I am hoping the Museum members will be invited to see this.

Now for the pictures. For proprietary reasons I could not get pictures of the drivers cab or close ups of the trucks including the center car truck. We were lucky in that there were crews working and training on doing maintenance so I got some work being done pictures.


The facilities main entrance.

The glass tower houses the operations center. An unobstructed view of the yard is offered.

A look at the view the operations center has.

Looking the other way.

Inside these crates is the trains trucks.

The train cars.

You can see the opening for the trucks.

All packaging is numbered to ID it.

Normally used to pick up freight, it's used here to pick up the cars.

The east side of the MOE. You see 5 bays. The furthest is the body shop.

One of the center cars being prepared for assembly.

The inside of the building is huge.

Here is train number 104.

The first train 101 on the lifts.

A different view of the inside

A close up view of the front of #104.

A side view.

A closer picture of the truck lifts.

A different angle.

Train #101 up on the lift. You can see the truck lift is in place as well.

This is the turntable elevator to take trucks to the basement.

What it looks like under the lifts.

An inside picture of #104.

The other 2 tracks offer light maintenance areas.

Another view.

Here you can see the overhead wire for power in side the building.

A portable lift.

The car wash facility.

The sanding station.

Another view.

A view of the south part of the yard.

Here you can see the 6 percent grade bridge out of the yard and the crew lounge.

The Museum's Mule.

Oops! The mules flanges are wider than the light rail cars.

Museum members Jeff Crosby and Russ Lassuy pose for the time capsule.

Sorry about the glare but the pictures were taken through double pane windows. These pictures were taken from the patio area on the second floor. We were very lucky as crews were training to do maintenance on #101 so you can see them replacing trucks and the overhead crane in use.

The crane is passing by.

You can see the cars pantagraph.

Brute force is used to move the trucks in place.

The frame from the center car truck.

From the basement the hydraulic lift for the train.

The truck turntable elevator.

One of the unexpected things to happen was 16 of us, including me, got stuck in the elevator. After about 30 minutes we all got out. Below you can see Matt McMenamin and Russ Lassuy helping the last person out, Bart Barton.




Back to ARM Trip Reports Page

Have questions, comments then please
E-mail the Museum Webmaster.