Behind the scenes with Brightline

“Brightline readies for launch” on pages 22-23 of TRAINS’ April issue, looks inside the trainsets that All Aboard Florida is set to debut along Florida East Coast Railway’s main line between Miami and West Palm Beach sometime this summer. What TRAINS experienced on January 11, 2017, at the company’s operations facility, dubbed “Workshop B,” was also chronicled in editor David Lassen's “Big times for Brightline” blog.

Though pricing and specific service details will be disclosed about 60 days before a firm start date is set, images on the property and interviews with All Aboard Florida managers reveal additional aspects of how potentially transformative Brightline promises to be as the first new privately operated U.S. intercity rail passenger service since Amtrak's debut on May 1, 1971. Here’s a glimpse at what we discovered.

Brightline trainsets will stop at high-level platforms at the West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami stations. To create a seamless and bump-free passage from the platform while allowing a space wide enough to allow FEC freight trains to move through the stations (a bypass track is available for wide loads), the Siemens-built cars utilize motorized bridge plates extending from each doorway once the train stops.

Manager of Operations Planning Mike Lefevre says, “By engineering a device that comes out and tilts, you eliminate a threshold next to the car so there is no gap — no bump for a wheelchair or stroller. On most light rail vehicles, you have an inch of threshold between the car floor and the pocket where it rests and another gap to the platform. Tilting the gap filler up means we don’t exceed the tolerance for what a wheelchair would reasonably expect to get over.”

Bob Johnston
When Trains first visited a former Florida East Coast rail yard north of downtown West Palm Beach on March 6, 2016, work was underway in digging the inspection pits that would be covered by a new open-air train shed next to an existing shop facility. On January 11, the shed had been completed and the previously gutted brick building behind it had been renovated with offices, storage space, and facilities to support servicing functions.

Once operations begin, the trainsets will enter Workshop B for an inspection over the pit. The cars and locomotives are semi-permanently coupled, so they will be inspected together. If there are issues that can’t be corrected immediately, another trainset of the five initially ordered will substitute. Although West Palm Beach-Miami service will run with four-car sets, the pits are long enough to accommodate the seven-car trains expected to operate when the service expands to Orlando International Airport.
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