Jersey, Sure

The Garden State: Junctions, hard work, and…ospreys? 

PATCO trouble. Recent transit delays at a critical junction on the East Coast involved the damage and subsequent replacement of over 20 motors—along with a unique, unforeseen issue for maintenance professionals to troubleshoot.

The PATCO (Port Authority Transit Corporation) Speedline, which links Philadelphia’s SEPTA system to South Jersey via Camden, caught snowfall on January 7 that caused multiple traction motor failures, leading to closures, delays, and hundreds of man-hours of unplanned downtime. PATCO officials likened the lingering snow to dust for its effect on the tracks, only the fallout was sizably worse.

In an official apology issued January 17, PATCO General Manager John Rink sought to convey the difficulty of the situation only after expressing regret to his customers. “It is important to note that we have been taking steps to maintain and repair the trains to counteract the effects of the winter weather. Since the snowstorm on January 7, PATCO staff has been continuously replacing traction motors and making other repairs. A total of 21 motors have been replaced since January 8. A typical motor replacement can take 6-8 hours. If we need to replace both motors, we swap the bad truck with the good spare truck. This work can take 2-3 hours, sometimes 4-6 hours if shimming is needed. During the workweek, PATCO works 3 shifts, day, mid-shift, and night, working on repairs, maintenance, and inspections. In addition, we scheduled overtime to continue with this work and address backlog of repairs. Over this past weekend alone, over 500 person-hours were logged in the maintaining, inspecting, and repairing of the train fleet for service on Monday.”

That Tuesday, PATCO was forced to remove six of its 78 cars from service, causing long wait times and car overcrowding that resulted in some riders on the Philadelphia-South Jersey line to report late for work. It also dealt with an operator error, braking or propulsion issues on other train cars, and mechanical problems during morning rush hour. PATCO officials said moisture caused by the snow continued to plague motors for 10 days following the snowfall.

Update (1/27/17, 11:52 AM): The Chicago Transit Authority experienced the same problems following a snowfall in 1979, leading to a National Academy of Sciences report finding that the issue was “endemic” in transit systems around the country subject to winter snows. Specific corrective actions were successful in Chicago. 

County college offering training program. Middlesex County College in Edison will offer a free training program for unemployed and dislocated workers in industrial electromechanical technology. The course will teach workers how to operate, troubleshoot, repair and maintain a variety of electro-mechanical systems in a wide variety of machines, including heaters, coolers, furnaces, pumps, compressors, blowers and lathes. For more information and to register, call 732-906-4681, or email The course is run by the New Jersey Talent Development Center for Advanced Manufacturing, which is funded by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce.

Osprey protection from Jersey utility. Jersey Central Power & Light of Morristown, N.J., has expanded a program to protect New Jersey’s osprey population. Actions taken by the utility include surveying locations where the birds have begun nesting and building nesting platforms at locations removed from electrical hazards.

Plans for this year include moving nests from transmission structures and placing nesting deterrents. The utility’s previous efforts to protect birds have included setting nesting boxes and the banding of endangered American Kestrels. Editor’s note: Look for more on the above item in the February utilities column of EA’s print edition.


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