Anyway in case you all forgot or missed the plethora of photos posted by more up to date Railfans, last September SEPTA invited a selection of about 200 rail enthusiasts to its annual "Rodeo" and Family Picnic at the Broad Street Subway Fern Rock shoppes. Now I know what you all were thinking, but the event turned out to be legitimate and it was not just some sting operation to arrest railfans taking pictures on SEPTA Property. The even consisted of three main sections. You had the BSS Fern Rock shoppe floor where many of the assemblies and heavy components of SEPTA transit vehicles were laid out for inspection. You had the BSS rolling maintenance shop where one could walk in and between BSS trainsets as they waited for minor inspections and repairs before being sent back out and then there was the Fern Rock Regional Rail station where examples of every piece of SEPTA rolling stock (except for PP coaches) was on display.
Now this article will be missing one critical part of the show and that is information regarding the original BSS Cam Controllers and the new IGBT replacements. I feel this deserves its own special segment so if you are impatient you can see it here or just read this first and then view it next.
Anyway you can view the entire set of photos at this link. SEPTA vehicles will be near the top with Fern Rock interlocking and shoppe photos further down.
Alright, we'll begin with a sunny show of Fern Rock tower. The tower was made redundant a few years ago when its operations were taken under control by the dispatch office at 1234 Market, but before then it has hosted a US&S style unit level panel machine, which has fortunately been preserved. There is still a local control station available here for contingency plans, but it us normally under remote control.
While the pneumatic switch machines in the Fern Rock yard had been replaced with electric models back around 2003, the Fern Rock wye interlocking still retains its pneumatics, which were recently upgraded with A-10 machines salvaged from the MFL re-signaling. Here is the #21 switch and you can see the cover for the previous A-5 machine sitting nearby.
As this was a Saturday, Ridge Line train service was still running. Here we can see such a train begining its run around the loop track where one of the direct yard access switched has been removed. Don't worry, the other direct yard access switch and its super diamond are still in place.
Here is a video of the same train emerging from the tunnel portal.
Locals were also running and here we see an example as it emerges from the portal and poses in front of the 14LA, 14LC and 12L signals that divide the yard tracks from the signaled Main Tracks. These too date from 2003 when the terminal area was re-signaled. The original signals were much cooler.
The power operated yard switch machines were changed from pneumatic DA-10s to electric YM2000s back around 2003, but the point indicators remain in their original 1920's housings on high quality concrete bases, although with a modern LED upgrade.
The Fern Rock shoppes were full of everything that a BSS car could ever need. Here we see a collection of BSS axle sets with their attached gearboxes, but note the examples with disc brakes that come from some other vehicle.
As seen with those foreign axles above, Fern Rock is a repair facility for the entire SEPTA enterprise with things like wheelsets, brake packages and gearboxes being trucked in from other shoppes for rebuild and repair. Here we see a truck assembly from an N5 Rt 100 car on display.
Some of the BSS trucks on display were those still attached to BSS cars, like this one seen on a car-lift. Hmmm, not sure I exactly trust that little wooden chock to keep the car from rolling off there :-/
Here we see one of the M-4 trucks that had to have half of their brakes removed for the cars to make weight. If you wonder why the system slowed down after the M-4s were introduced, don't blame the new signaling system, blame the pathetic friction-only brake performance.
The BSS trucks are wonderfully simple compared to the high tech M-5 and N-5 examples. Note the use of "package" type tread brakes that were a step up from older cylinder designs and newer disc designs.
Hmmm, I'll touch that third rail shoe if you touch it first. The General Steel Castings logo means that most of this truck assembly was made in America. WOO!!
BSS cars needing heavy repair are rolled into the back of the shop where they can be hooked up to 600V jumper cables.
Moving over to the Rolling Maintenance shop where inspections and light repairs are carried out we find...AHHHH!! THE DEVIL CAR!! RUN!!
The 3rd rail covers in the yard area were still made from wood and the insulators were of the ceramic mushroom type. It was refreshing that Health and Safety didn't try to intervene to protect the Picnic attendees from these and other such hazards.
Lineup of cars in the Rolling Maintenance shop. Does anyone know what that slanted box under the front of each car is for?
While we are in the inspection area why don't we get a close look at one of the Wabco horns that give these and the PATH cars such a wonderful throaty yet melodic note.
One special event at the Rodeo...and the thing that actually let this be called a Rodeo instead of a plain old Family Picnic, was the Rodeo Train, where SEPTA operators would try their hand at a sample run filled with various "obstacles" and get scored accordingly. Now because it would be way too cool to run the Rodeo Train in actual service, a course was set up on the Yard Loop track.
This course included fake stations, ADA boarding and Stop boards. The route consisted of leaving from between, the two shop buildings, around the back of the yard, along the north storage yard, through the fake station, then around the wye track before arriving back between the shop buildings.
Here is a photo of the Rodeo train passing the 24LA signal onto the Wye track at Fern Rock interlocking, which does involve a fried trip through a tunnel.
And a video of the same.
SEPTA received some stimulus funds to rebuild both of the ready storage yards at Fern Rock. This work included new 100lb rail, ballast, third rail equipment and electric trip stops. The original dwarf signals were retained.
Heading back into the component repair area we find an M-4 axle assembly being positioned in the horizontal lathe.
And a really cool display on bearings.
Fern Rock isn't just about heavy rail rapid transit equipment. Here is the drive unit from a PCC II.
And the drive unit from a Silverliner IV. The motor is attached to the left side of the frame which drives the axle, mounted in the large opening,, through a series of reduction gears.
Here are some non-exploded B-4 car drive units.
And a modern M-4 drive unit. All those helical cut gears is why modern rapid transit vehicles don't make the growling noise that MU's up through the 1940's did.
Of course Fern Rock has a vertical wheel lathe.
And pallettes full of package brake units for the BSS fleet. The Silverliner II, III and IV cars use these same brakes, but they are maintained at Wayne Electric shoppes due to federal regulations that pertain to Railroad brake equipment and inspection. To the right are M-4 drive units that are waiting to be repaired or installed. They sure don't look as nice as the example ones :-D
Stepping back outside as we leave the shop area for good we catch BSS car #531 departing south on a BRS run.
If you were wondering what that hew IGBT propulsion package looks like from the outside here is a new example under B-IV car #563. While they may not stay white, the cooling fins on either side are a dead giveaway. Expect the rebuilt PATCO cars to have something similar.
Here we see the stimulated North Ready Yard about half filled with 5-car trainsets.
Moving over to the Regional Rail station, SEPTA had parked one of each of its Silverliner type cars as well as some locomotives on the rarely used third track just south of Tabor Junction. First up was arguably the most famous unit on the property, PENNSYLVANIA car #269!!! Talk about knowing how to throw a party!
Next up was special "Airport Edition" Silverliner III #233.
Ahead of that was Silverliner IV single unit and prototype LED display sign car #280!!
Not to be outdone, we have hot off the boat Silverliner V #802, complete with the thankfully discarded full cab concept. 701 was unavailable to match the other single units because it was undergoing climate testing in Canada.
Ahead of the 801-802 pair we find SEPTA's odd man out, ALP-44 #2008. #2008 comes equipped with the NJT style Cab Signal Display Unit that supports the high density 8 aspect system used on approach to Penn Station.
Finally we have SEPTA's newest Lemon (Silverliner V's excluded), an NRE 2GS14B. Genset flakiness aside, SEPTA bought the extra special 2 engine, low power model instead of the more standard 3 engine model. I am sure they'll find just as much success with it as the purchasers of the other 6 units.
While farting about the photo line SEPTA Silverliner III #223 pulled into the station opposite #233. Nice to see the old units out in service on a weekend.
Shortly thereafter an inbound Airport train showed up, this with sporting a pair of IV's, #428 in the lead.
Finally it was time to catch a BSS local back to Center City where some Sikh group was offering free vegetarian food on the Benn Franklin Parkway. Wow, what a day. Two free food opportunities, a shop tour, #269 and perfect weather. Can't ask for much more than that!
Next week I get screwed on another trip to Georgia, but this time it doesn't involve a bus, but stay tuned for a special segment on the SEPTA Broad Street Subway B-IV Car Propulsion Upgrade.