I’m surprised that this made it through…

4 minute read

December 14, 2009, 7:48 PM

A friend recently referred me to a Dr. Gridlock column where Les Dorr Jr. of Frederick, Maryland wrote this:

Is Metro trying to increase public confidence by renumbering the 1000-series rail cars? I ride the Red Line every workday, and recently I’ve been aboard two very old, obviously 1000-series cars that had “4000” series numbers on the end doors.

Dr. Gridlock was very cordial about this accusation being slung at Metro, saying, among other things, this:

The 4000 series of 100 cars, built by Breda, entered service in the early 1990s. The 1000 series is scheduled to be replaced beginning in 2014. But the 4000 series also is reaching an important milestone: A midlife rehabilitation needs to be done over the next few years, at a cost of more than $1.5 million per car.

If I were going to fake a number in the Metro fleet, I would have picked something higher than 4000. Still, riders would see through it: The cars are very obviously showing their age.

That letter surprises me on two fronts. First of all, it has been made quite apparent that Mr. Dorr is painfully unaware of his surroundings. There are a LOT of differences between the Rohr cars (aka 1000-Series cars) and the Breda cars as originally built (of which only the 4000-Series remains as built). Sure, they both have a similar color scheme, with orange seats and tan walls. However, that’s about it as far as similarities go. I’m surprised he can’t tell the difference between this:

(Rohr 1162 interior)

And this:

Interior of Breda 4063
(Breda 4063 interior)

Where do I start? First of all, the 4000-Series cars still have a feature unique to the Breda rail cars: brown rubber handrails on the seats. The Rohrs have metal handrails. That, in fact, is what I tell my friends to look for to tell if they’re on a Rohr or a Breda. Then the seating arrangement is different. The Rohr cars have 14 more seats than the 4000-Series cars do, as well as four more windscreens. There are seats and windscreens by the end doors that simply do not exist on the Breda cars. They were done away with on the Breda order (and subsequent orders) to allow for more standees. Plus, while many Rohrs still have their orange carpet, the carpet on the 4000-Series cars has been replaced with the newer pinkish carpet that was first introduced with the 5000-Series.

Then of course, one only has to listen to know what kind of car you’ve got. Rohrs sound like this:

And Bredas sound like this:

Note that the Rohrs make a whining sound that changes pitch, and the Bredas have a consistent buzzing sound. And that buzz is always present, even when the train is at full speed (the Rohrs’ whine goes away when the train is not making a station stop). Here’s what the Bredas sound like underway:

Breda 3273, Red Line from Takoma to Fort Totten (it’s a 3000-Series prior to rehab, but you get the point)

And here’s what the Rohrs sound like underway:

Rohr 1130, Red Line from Brookland-CUA to Fort Totten

Yeah, big difference. I hope Mr. Dorr’s boss sees this comment, and notices how little he pays attention to detail, and what big assumptions he makes. It might be a Breda car today, but what happens if he misses big details or makes a gross assumption like that at work?

And the second part of my point: Noting the above, Metro is neither smart enough or dumb enough to disguise its 1000-Series cars as 4000-Series cars. It’s not like you can just change a “1” to a “4” and be done with it. They’re totally different under the hood, and besides, a lot of people, like my railfan buddies and myself, would notice the difference and let it be known to all. On Metro, Rohrs start with “1”. Anything else would be like saying the sky was green. Truth be told, Metro has only renumbered its rail cars once, and that was for a very specific situation. That happened after the 1996 collision at Shady Grove, where 3190 became 3290 and 3253 became 3291, after their mates were wrecked in the collision. Metro doesn’t even like to run its cars in mismatched pairs if it can avoid it, recalling how Metro ran 3218 and 3193 as a pair because it had to. But then once the proper mates arrived, Metro put them back with their original mates.

That letter certainly amused me. He certainly wasn’t paying attention to his Metro cars. Sure, we all take our lives in our hands to an extent whenever we ride Rohr cars, but this guy certainly made a lot of assumptions…

Web site: Dr. Gridlock: Metro's original rail cars aren't the only ones showing their age

Song: Don't you just love that Breda sound...

Quote: Meanwhile, the 4000-Series rehab, as I understand it, is being done along with the 7000-Series car order (which will replace the Rohrs once and for all). Once they get enough 7000s in there to take up the slack, the 4000s are going to get rehabbed. If Alstom gets the contract, then they will likely go to Hornell, New York to get rehabbed. If someone else gets it, then they will likely go to wherever their rehab facility is to get overhauled.

Categories: DC area local news, WMATA