Whether you’re a pedestrian or behind the wheel, young or old, it’s important to know how to stay safe near trains and railroads. MBCR recently participated in an Operation Lifesaver presentation for students at the Step Into Learning preschool in Danvers. The lesson provided these young school children with valuable knowledge about railroad safety when they are boarding a train, riding on a train, approaching gate crossings, walking near tracks, and what railroad signs mean.
MBCR staff shared these safety tips with the students:
- Stay alert: Trains can come from both directions, so always stay clear of the tracks. Also, never go around or under gates when they are down.
- Trains do not stop quickly: It takes a long time to stop a train – you can’t just put on the brakes and stop like in a car. Trains can take up to a mile to stop! Locomotive engineers may not stop in time if a person or car is on the tracks.
- Stand back on the platform: Trains can extend three feet or more beyond the rail. Stay behind the painted lines or raised markings at the platform edge and never sit on the edge of a station platform. If your friends want to play on the tracks or on the train – tell them, “No, that’s dangerous!”
- Never get on or off a moving train
- Always listen to the conductor’s instructions – if you have questions or need help the conductor is happy to help you.
The children also learned about riding the train in inclement weather. Station platforms often turn icy when temperatures drop after winter storms.
At the end of the lesson, each child took home a gift bag with an Operation Lifesaver coloring book filled with additional safety tips, an engineer’s hat, and an MBCR toy train.
For more information on teaching railroad safety and to print out lesson plans for schoolchildren of all grade levels, click here.
After 39 years on the railroad, most employees have an eye on retirement. Not MBCR’s Danny Bikos, who began his career in the welding department in Billerica back in the 1970s.
As one might imagine, Bikos is a genuine encyclopedia when it comes to tools of the railroad trade. A lifetime of knowledge made Bikos the perfect choice to lead on a new venture inside the walls of the Commuter Rail Maintenance Facility – the building’s first-ever formal ‘tool room.’
The benefits of a single tool room are clear. From Allen wrenches to pneumatic impact guns, CRMF employees now have a one-stop destination for any tool they will ever need, no matter how unique. Wrenches, sockets, drills, and multimeters rest among the inventory inside the room, awaiting their next assignment. Bikos notes his “best seller” is an exhaust stack wrench, which is used to tighten bolts around the exhaust stack.
The benefits of having Bikos build the room from the ground up are equally apparent. Bikos has utilized every possible tool for more than 30 years while maintaining MBTA commuter locomotives. Who better than Danny to organize dozens of tools that are critical to a unique fleet of locomotives – including engines that date back to the 1980s?
Warning: The new facility isn’t your dad’s toolshed. Bikos is utilizing a computerized barcode tracking system that records use of tools based on the machinists and electricians who checked them out and the equipment they repair. Bikos says the tool room makes a world of difference to the mechanical department because of the high level of operational efficiency it has created.
“Everyone loves the organization the tool room brings,” says Bikos.
The tool-filled drawers and shelves inside Bikos’ chain link cubby look unassuming, but everybody who works in the “big blue” building just north of the Boston Garden knows they are essential when it comes to maintaining the Commuter Rail fleet’s reliability. Bikos’ fellow employees might be surprised, however, why he decided to take on the tool room.
“It was my way of paying [my experience] forward,” he says.
As many commuter rail customers know, ridership on the MBTA system rises and falls with the economy, the weather, the price of fares and the quality of service. MBCR is pleased to report that, backed by strong service performance over the past year, commuter rail experienced a near 7% increase in ridership during peak hours.
Every year, MBCR counts passengers during peak travel times. This exercise, which takes place during the fall and again in the spring, allows MBCR to provide enough coaches to serve commuters during the morning and evening rush hours. Spotters spend weeks on platforms counting customers as they board and disembark trains at South Station, Back Bay, Ruggles, Yawkey, JFK/UMass, Quincy Center, Braintree, North Station, Porter Square, and Malden Center stations. This rigorous process requires gathering data every day for every peak hour train over two consecutive weeks, then creating a snapshot of ridership for every train, on every line.
For the entire system, MBCR recorded an average of 86,300 peak hour passenger trips in September, a 6.9% increase from 80,600 recorded in the fall of 2012. Several lines also experienced growth, including an 8.1% rise on the Worcester Line and a 6.4% increase on the Providence Line.
The single largest segment of customer growth came on the Fairmount Line, which saw a 45% jump during peak hours following the opening of new stations at the Four Corners/Geneva station in Dorchester and the Newmarket stop near South Bay. These improvements are part of an ongoing, eight-year MBTA program to upgrade service only commuter rail line that exclusively services Boston customers in Dorchester, Hyde Park, Mattapan and Roxbury.
MBCR is used to all of the challenges Mother Nature brings our way. Whether keeping coaches cool during summer’s scorching heat or clearing the snow off more than 400 miles of track, MBCR has a plan in place, ready to go. In New England, the weather brings another service-challenging phenomenon every autumn: falling leaves and the ‘Slippery Rail’ that results from a greasy combination of leaf oil, rain and muck.
Yes, here on the rails, falling leaves don’t have quite the reputation that gorgeous foliage enjoys among so-called leaf peepers. The average mature tree can hold 50,000 leaves, and the rail corridors are lined with these trees. The height of the ‘slippery rail’ phenomenon is typically October through mid November.
When water and leaf oil are mixed together by pressure from passing trains, a sticky black ooze forms atop the rails, making them too slick for train wheels to gain traction.
Long-time customers know that severe build-up of the slippery residue impacts On Time Performance. When the problem arises, especially after a heavy rain, engineers must brake earlier to make stops. The condition forces engineers to accelerate more slowly to limit wheel slippage.
Left unchecked, ‘Slippery Rail’ can cripple equipment, result in significant repair costs and unwanted delays for customers.
To prepare for ‘Slippery Rail,’ our work crews spent the summer cutting back trees and shrubs along hundreds of miles of track. Starting well before the leaves fall, crews began the annual use of our unique, made-by-MBCR high-pressure rail sprayers that navigate the track to blast away pesky leaves and residue. This method safely removes leaf residue using 15,000 pounds per square inch of water pressure without causing damage to the rail.
To help mitigate impacts of Slippery Rail, this fall, MBCR is testing a new traction gel on the Newburyport/Rockport and Worcester Lines. Once the train passes over a sensor, the gel is pumped out of a strategically placed solar operated hopper through a hose onto the rails and picked up by the train wheels. The gel is carried along treating both the wheels and the rails providing continuous conditioning. OSHA classifies the product as non-hazardous biodegradable and having no environmental or physical health hazard.
While MBCR has taken extensive preventative action, customers are still warned to expect some delays from the “Slippery Rail” condition.
Thank you for riding with us!
After immense success last year at North Station, this year we’re bringing our “Train-sylvania” blood drive to South Station to benefit patients at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Eligible blood donors can book appointments between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24th and will then board the stationary “Train-sylvania” on South Station’s Track 8 during their assigned donation time.
Snacks and drinks will be provided to volunteers after donating blood—as well as a special Halloween-themed gift.
Book an appointment by phone at 617-222-8127 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. (And don’t forget a photo ID on donation day!)
Generally, donors 17 years of age or older who are in good health and over 110 pounds are eligible to donate blood, however, it’s always best to double check. Contact Brigham & Women’s Hospital at 617-632-3206 or by email at email@example.com for more information.
Planning on taking a trip to Salem for this year’s Haunted Happenings events? Extra commuter rail trains will be running between Boston and Salem making it easier for you to head to the haunted and historic sites.
On top of regular weekend service, 14 extra trains will run from North Station to Salem and back throughout the day on Saturday, Oct. 26 and Sunday, Oct. 27. Additional inbound and outbound trains will also operate on Halloween (Thursday, Oct. 31). With the last weekend trains leaving Salem for Boston at 11:30 p.m. and the last inbound train on Halloween departing at 11:24 p.m., there’s plenty of time in the day to explore the many attractions, eateries, and shops in this walkable city.
Although you may be able to step off the train and into a witch trial in the year 1692, we’re remaining modern by introducing special event round-trip tickets for the extra trains that can be purchased through our mobile ticketing app, mTicket. Special event round-trip tickets can also be purchased on board the trains or at Beverly and North Stations.
There are dozens of unique Haunted Happenings events planned throughout the month of October, click here to check out the official list of Halloween happenings in Salem.
Amid a summer season filled with days of searing temperatures, MBCR’s commuter rail fleet had no problem keeping cool as shown by another year of record high air conditioning performance.
The mechanical department recorded a nearly perfect cooling record – 99.7% – for the third consecutive summer after posting 99.74% and 99.81% rates during 2011 and 2012.
Although we operate a fleet of coaches that average more than 23 years in age, including several cars that are nearly 35 years old, the mechanical department reported an average of only one air conditioning malfunction per day from June 1st until September 15th for the 356 passenger coaches used in daily service.
“Cooling an older fleet of passenger rail vehicles during the summertime, especially extremely hot months like those Massachusetts experienced in June and July, is no easy feat but our mechanical crews have proven more than equal to the task,” said Marie Breen, Acting MBCR General Manager.
But as we said our goodbyes to summer, we had already begun preparing our fleet for winter. In August, mechanical crews began inspections and testing of heating units, ensuring the highest levels of functionality during those frosty winter months.
No matter what Mother Nature throws our way, you can be sure that our crews are working tirelessly to give our commuters the most comfortable ride all year long.