Management & Operations

Commuter Railroad Tackles Complex Shop Construction

Posted on March 1, 2004 by Michael T. Lee and Michael L. Sickenius

The Metro-North Railroad, a subsidiary of New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is the second-largest commuter railroad in the United States, providing 250,000 commuter trips each weekday and more than 73 million trips per year. With 384 route miles and 775 track miles, Metro-North serves 120 stations in New York and Connecticut. Its service territory covers approximately 2,700 square miles. Three lines east of the Hudson River — the Hudson, Harlem and the New Haven — operate out of Grand Central Terminal in New York City. The Hudson line extends 74 miles from Grand Central Terminal to Poughkeepsie and is serviced by both diesel and electric train sets. Shop renovation required
Metro-North has an ongoing process to match capital investment with available funding. In the late 1990s, rebuilding the Harmon Shop Complex rose to the top of the list. This complex is Metro-North’s primary equipment repair facility and is located at Croton-on-Hudson in New York’s Westchester County. It is where Metro-North stores, services and maintains the majority of its fleet. The existing turn-of-the-century facilities were not only inadequate to support the expanded fleet and future operations, but their ability to support the current operation was becoming questionable. As part of an operating plan study, the projected train fleet requirements were compared to the existing service facilities. Metro-North’s initial challenge was to determine how to modify and rebuild the existing Harmon complex yard and buildings while maintaining operations at the same time. The existing complex was fully occupied and in full service — 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To complicate matters, a large community of upscale condominiums was rapidly developing adjacent to the site along the Hudson River. Increasingly, these new residents were complaining about noise from idling diesel locomotives. Metro-North knew that improvements should be made, but the question remained as to what needed to be done and how to accomplish it. Needs analysis formulated
Metro-North formed an internal task force to analyze its own long-term needs and requirements. At the same time, it retained the services of Gannett Fleming Inc., which has been designing train servicing and maintenance facilities for more than 30 years, and Parsons Brinckerhoff. The consultant team’s task was to document and analyze the existing facilities and operations, to study Metro-North’s 2020 Plan and then to prepare a sequenced plan of development to guide the future Harmon Shop Complex reconstruction. During an intensive three-month period in 1998, a strategic plan for the complex redevelopment was created. The strategic development plan looked at many alternate site layout schemes. The selected scheme recommended a four-phase, 10-year improvement plan to redevelop the complex while maintaining all existing operations. Phase 1: South diesel trainset storage and service yard reconstruction. Phase 2: Maintenance of way and communications hub facilities construction. Phase 3: New locomotive, coach and support shop construction. Phase 4: Electric car shop reconstruction. When completed, the overall cost of the project will be several hundred million dollars. First phase completed
Metro-North is now well into the implementation of its strategic development plan. Phase 1 was recently completed under budget at a cost of $64 million. This initial and critical phase of the project included the following improvements:

  • Expansion of the diesel trainset storage capacity in the yard.
  • Addition of five locomotive servicing stations.
  • Addition of toilet flushing stations (along each yard storage track).
  • Replacement of the signal system (connecting to the main line tracks to New York City).
  • Addition of a new communication system, including a yard telephone/paging system.
  • Significant reduction of the noise level at the condominium complex (due to the relocation of the idling diesel locomotives and installation of wayside outlets).
  • Addition of an employee overpass (eliminating employees crossing one mainline and multiple yard tracks to report to work). The major operational improvement to the south yard was the construction of five new locomotive servicing stations. Each station provided for one-stop servicing of complete 10-car diesel trains in the yard. This innovative approach to servicing has significantly reduced the time required to fuel, lube and sand the diesel trains. All servicing operations are now performed at one location without moving the trainsets. Operational features of the servicing stations include the following: Fueling: The diesel fuel system, supplied by a new 200,000-gallon diesel fuel tank, utilizes skid-mounted, dual pumps with a delivery system that includes a fuel crane at each locomotive service station. Fuel spill/overfill collection provisions are also provided at each station. Lubrication: The lubrication oil delivery system utilizes skid-mounted, dual pumps. Each service station uses a reel-type dispenser to deliver lubrication to the locomotives. Inspection: Inspection pits at selected service stations are now used to facilitate brake shoe change-outs. Sanding: The elaborate sanding system consists of two storage silos, an air-compressor building adjacent to each storage silo and an associated above-ground pneumatic delivery system. This system conveys sand to elevated sand drums, from which the sand is discharged by gravity to the locomotive sand boxes. Progress in Phase 2
    The $45 million Phase 2 portion of the renovation plan is under way. Railroad Construction Company Inc. was awarded the design/build contract, with Gannett Fleming as the design engineer. This portion of the project addresses a number of key strategic plan elements:
  • Maintenance of way storage facility relocation.
  • Communications hub building construction.
  • Material distribution center expansion. Most importantly, Phase 2 will clear the area where the new coach, locomotive and support shops will be constructed during Phase 3. As was required with Phase 1, all existing operations will have to be maintained during this phase. Metro-North is preparing design/ build contracts for Phase 3. This work will include construction of the following shop facilities: Coach shop: The 126,000-square-foot facility will include two train maintenance tracks, one scheduled periodic inspection track and three unscheduled repair tracks, along with associated repair and storage areas, offices and employee facilities. The shop will be a double-ended, run-through facility with the capacity to inspect or repair 28 push-pull coaches. Locomotive shop: The 85,000-square-foot shop will be located next to the coach shop in the south yard. It will be configured as a double-ended, run-through facility. The shop will have the capacity to inspect or repair 14 locomotives simultaneously. Support shop: The 133,000-square-foot shop will be the primary component repair and rebuild facility. It will be constructed adjacent to the material distribution center, which will facilitate the efficient movement of parts and material between the two buildings. The importance of Phase 3 is that it will separate the diesel and electric maintenance and repair operations that co-exist today. Phase 4 is key to success
    To properly service and maintain Metro-North’s current and future train fleet, Phase 4 of the strategic plan will closely follow Phase 3. Phase 4 will be critical to the overall success of this multi-phase project. It will focus on the replacement of the existing, turn-of-the-century main shop building (which is presently used to maintain both the electric and diesel fleets), reconstruction of the north yard for the storage of the electric trainsets and construction of a new train washer. The new electric car shop will cover approximately 216,000 square feet. It will include two train maintenance tracks to handle a full-length electric train set for the first time. It will also include eight repair tracks, a parts storage area and the necessary support offices. The shop will be a double-ended, run-through facility with the capacity to efficiently inspect and repair 44 electric trainsets simultaneously.
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