The sounds of Metro…

2 minute read

January 18, 2020, 10:37 AM

Back on July 8, 2007, my friend Matthew and I went on a railfan adventure with a different purpose than we would usually do.  Normally, a railfan adventure involved lots of photos and videos.  This time, instead of a camera, we brought a laptop and a microphone.  The goal was to get some audio recordings of the trains from the interior, for use in BVE, which is a train simulator program for Windows.  We worked from the double-ended seats, which were located more or less directly over the wheel trucks and traction motors.  I worked the laptop while wearing headphones, while Matthew held up the mic.  I’ve never been a big train simulator enthusiast (I prefer watching the real thing vs. operating a simulator), so I don’t know if these recordings ever got used in any of the final versions of these trains, but I loved doing the field work for these sorts of community-built projects.  I also did a set of Red Line announcements for the simulator.  As I know, there has never been a commercially available train simulator for the DC Metro, so for that, I enjoyed contributing in a small way to what was the only WMATA train simulator out there.

Our adventure that day took us on the Red, Orange, and Blue Lines, and we got recordings of cars 3273 (Breda original), 3185 (Breda rehab), 5028 (CAF), and 1130 (Rohr).

Original Breda car 3273 from Forest Glen to Silver Spring

Original Breda car 3273 from Takoma to Fort Totten

Original Breda car 3273 from Brookland-CUA to Rhode Island Avenue

Original Breda car 3273 from Union Station to Gallery Place-Chinatown

Original Breda car 3273 from Farragut North to Woodley Park-Zoo

Original Breda car 3273 from Cleveland Park to Tenleytown-AU

Rehabilitated Breda car 3185 from Van Ness-UDC to Cleveland Park

Rehabilitated Breda car 3185 from Woodley Park-Zoo to Farragut North

CAF car 5028 from McPherson Square to Foggy Bottom-GWU

CAF car 5028 from Rosslyn to Court House

CAF car 5028 from Clarendon to Virginia Square-GMU

Rohr car 1130 from Judiciary Square to Union Station

Rohr car 1130 from New York Avenue (now NoMa-Gallaudet University) to Rhode Island Avenue

Rohr car 1130 from Brookland-CUA to Fort Totten

Rohr car 1130 from Takoma to Silver Spring

Looking back in 2020, these recordings are a real blast from the past, since a lot of these sounds can’t be heard on Metro anymore.  The Rohr cars have been gone for almost three years at this point.  Likewise, the CAF cars were retired in 2018.  And the Breda cars’ rehabilitation was finished nearly twelve years ago, meaning that, combined with the 4000-Series’ retirement in 2017, the sound of the old DC chopper motors is now extinct on Metro (but Baltimore still has them for now).  Meanwhile, here’s something to think about as far as how much time has passed since these videos were made: that kid that you hear making noise on some of the Rohr videos is now in middle school.

All in all, this was a fun adventure.  Good memories.