The Four-Car Type IV MAX Train

(Or, unfortunately, not a good afternoon for TriMet employees and customers.)

Video after the jump…

Yesterday was one of those “may you live in interesting times” sorts of interesting times. TriMet had a relatively-new Type IV light rail train (a variation of the Siemens S70) which became stuck at the NE 60th MAX station, right as Friday rush hour was warming up. This is the central I-84 corridor which carries the Blue, Red, and Green line trains.

I subscribe to TriMet’s rider alerts via email for the lines which run near my house, and as it happens this station is within a few blocks. I noticed the alert about a mechanical failure at around 4:45pm, and then an hour or so later it occurred to me that I didn’t see the alert which usually follows to note that all is up-and-running again.

With a quick double-check of TriMet’s web site, I confirmed that service was still interrupted and TriMet was running shuttle buses instead. I decided to grab my camera and walk over to the station for a closer look.

What I found was that a disabled eastbound Blue Line train was going nowhere.

I took care not to disturb the employees while they were working, but what I was able to pick up from casual remarks I overheard, and what was being told to curious passers-by outside the station area, was that an electrical and/or software problem was preventing the train from moving. It appeared that whenever it was attempted to move the train just a few inches, the brakes on one of the two cars would automatically fully kick in.

I’m not sure what all they tried before I arrived, but at this point they were attempting to couple another train (a type II or III) to the rear of the disabled train, and give it a push out of the station. But there were problems during and after the coupling process, and that train eventually left.

More attempts were made to inspect and manipulate the brakes and control connections between the two halves of the Type IV train, but it still exhibited the sticking problem.

Eventually, another Type IV train was brought in from the east, and through a carefully-orchestrated maneuver, was coupled to the disabled train and slowly pushed it to a spare track at the Hollywood Transit Center station. This provided a rarely-seen glimpse of a (slightly inoperative) four-car MAX train operating on the main tracks.

It took some time after this for service to be fully restored, with the final email update going out around 8:45pm, four hours later.

I imagine there’s going to be some interesting chats back and forth between TriMet and Siemens in the near future. :-)

Special thanks to the TriMet personnel who tolerated the presence of a camera nearby when it was optional for them to do so.

19 responses to “The Four-Car Type IV MAX Train”

  1. nice coverage.

    surprised that they can not use the crossovers to move around the stalled train at the station. i do not know where they are, but they seem to be all over the place. Was it not true that the original East/West line had many areas of single trackage?

  2. Kitten –

    There is a crossover with a short third track in the middle (long enough to hold a single 2-car MAX train) at Hollywood. That’s where they wound up taking the train, not sure what happened after that.

    I don’t that crossover is not powered/equipped for automated or regular operation. Unless it got upgraded (there was chatter about it once, not sure), personnel standing outside of the train have to operate the track switches.

    There weren’t many areas of single-trackage in the original line, but there was a single, long stretch out near Gresham — the wooded area where you head eastbound into what is now the Gresham Station development.

    I would be curious to know, if fully-equipped crossovers were added between all I-84 stations and then a few beyond gateway, how much throughput in terms of trains (and passengers!) per hour could you get in a situation like yesterday’s?

    It obviously wouldn’t have nearly the same headways as 2-track operation, and I’m wondering if therefore shuttle buses are still the way to go, given enough available shuttles and operators.

    At an early Transit Mall public meeting I suggested adding more options adjacent to the mall for storing/removing a disabled train — so that a stuck train wouldn’t disrupt the whole transit mall, and asked how a train could be towed if it was stuck. I was told that “every MAX vehicle is a tow vehicle”, and after yesterday I see that this is true, but in this particular situation it wasn’t as easy as that phrase implied.

  3. It depends on the line frequency and the signalling–on a busy section of track like along the Banfield, with trains running through every four minutes or so (each direction) during peaks–switching trains around a blockage is probably not going to work well.

    OTOH, it may well shorten the amount of track needed to be taken out of service (and replaced with busses), as when a blockage occurs, the entire section between the surrounding crossovers generally has to shut down–as trains have to be able to reverse at or after the last stop before the blockage for the line to remain in service.

  4. Special thanks to the TriMet personnel who tolerated the presence of a camera nearby when it was optional for them to do so.

    I didn’t realize that we lived in the soviet block…

  5. Dear “kgb” — It was optional because I was in the station area which had been closed to the public when MAX was shut down. I could have filmed it from up on the overpass but then we wouldn’t have all these nice, steady, close shots of people working, would we? They were gracious enough to let me hang around and look over their shoulders while they were working under rather high-pressure circumstances. It’s not like I have much to offer in the way of diagnosing S70 braking and propulsion systems. Sheesh.

  6. Excellent video and editing! Fantastic quality too on YouTube’s 720p hd setting.

    There is so much technology built into these million dollar machines that it’s a miracle they work at all. Thanks for the fascinating look under the carriage.

  7. Thank you, Steve.

    And in reply to Dan’s comment about HD quality, the video was shot with a JVC GY-HM700, although mine is in the shop (4.5 weeks and counting!) so this is a loaner unit from JVC with a different lens which, in my limited experience with it, produces images that are a bit soft. Additionally, Apple’s Final Cut SmoothCam plug-in is a life saver for run & gun events like this.

  8. I know this is a bit late, but while I didn’t go out to Hollywood and film them bringing the train into the pocket track (and that would be interesting to see given that only half of it would make it in), I did listen to what I could on’s Police Scanner and got a lucky shot of the train from ODOT’s traffic camera (note: URL may change).

    Lastly, to make it clear, the problem was that their first attempt to move the train (by pulling it) failed.

  9. Now if this line had been built as a busway (as was the original plan in the 70s) things like this (mechanical failure of one vehicle) would not be much of a problem.

  10. Now if this line had been built as a busway

    Maybe so, but the efficiencies would be much lower (including people carried per operator and energy used) and there would be additional localized pollution, worse ride quality and probably less ridership.

  11. Bob, just ran across your extemely well-done video, congratulations! Your shots were well thought out to convey maximum information, sound was excellent, and you know how to hold a camera steady! (so unusual today). A technical piece like yours is actually a work-of-art, useful documentation I’m sure to TriMet also. Very, very good job.

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