Repair Shop of the New York, Westchester, and Boston Railway (1912)

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Electric Railway Journal · Vol. XL, No. 23, December 14, 1912


Repair Shop, Exterior View of the Building.

A Description of the Building and Equipment Installed for the Maintenance of High-Speed Suburban Cars of Unusually Large Size and Constructed of Steel Throughout.

The repair shop of the New York, Westchester & Boston Railway, a high-speed suburban road which has been described in previous issues of the Electric Railway Journal is an example of the most recent developments in maintenance shop construction and equipment suitable for cars of the largest type. At present the passenger rolling stock consists of thirty motor cars. The shop, however, is designed to care for the ultimate equipment of the road and will eventually handle all repair work on 100 or more cars. The Westchester cars are of steel construction throughout and in fact have no wood whatsoever in their construction except the seat arms and sash.

The cars were described in the Electric Railway Journal of March 30, 1912. Their bodies are constructed on the side truss or pressed-steel unit principle, developed by L. B. Stillwell's office, in which the side frame of the car is composed of pressed-steel panels, including the posts, letterboard and diagonal braces below the sash rest. These units are connected at the side plate and at the side sill, thus forming the side of the car into a continuous girder. Except in the case of wrecks, it is expected that the car bodies will never need any extensive repairs, or at least will require none for a period of many years. In view of the high-speed service and the long runs, both the bodies and trucks are unusually large and are of exceedingly strong and rigid construction, although of light weight. The car bodies are 70 ft. 4 in. long and seat seventy-eight passengers. The weight of the car complete is 119,000 lb. The trucks are equipped with single-phase motors, which are supplied with current at 11,000 volts from an overhead trolley wire, the current being collected by pantographs on the cars and transformed to approximately 320 volts at the motors.

In general the design of the repair shop is based upon the principle that the cars are too valuable to be held in the shop for long periods of time. Duplicate parts including complete trucks are therefore kept in stock so that in ease of a failure of any part the car body need be held only long enough to replace the damaged part. Every facility has been provided for the prompt changing of trucks so that the detention of a car in the shop is reduced to a few minutes.

General Arrangement

The shop consists of a single building, the main portion of which is provided with three longitudinal tracks, each capable of holding two cars. These three tracks are assigned respectively to inspection, to heavy repairs and to trucks. On the inspection track only light repair work is done, and the capacity of the track for two cars is sufficient to provide room for the inspection of the present equipment. The facilities for inspection are unusually good. Provision for inspection of different parts of the car is provided by a pit which extends the full length of the track and by permanent platforms at two different elevations, one at the roof level of the car for work on the pantographs and one at the level of the car floor for cleaning windows and for convenient access to the body generally. The provision of these three different levels permits every part of the car to be inspected with a minimum of physical effort and gives the inspectors every incentive to make their inspections with care. No scaffolding or ladders are necessary for any of this work, and their absence materially adds to the rapidity of operations and the freedom of the various groups of inspectors, as well as to the general appearance of the shop.

On the heavy repair track, located along the center line of the shop, cars which require repair work upon their trucks are handled. Alongside of this track near the entrance door are located permanently two sets of swinging posts which take the place of the usual portable horses for supporting cars while trucks are being changed. These posts are pivoted below the floor level to swing in a vertical plane at right angles to the track, being normally swung back to clear the cars, but swinging in to catch under the side sills when it is desired to support the car. One set of these permanent horses is located on each side of the turntable so that either end of a car body may be lifted off its truck and let down onto one pair of the posts. These posts support the car while the truck is being removed sideways by means of the turntable. This method of removing a truck, by turning it on the table and running it out from under the car to one side, materially reduces the height to which it is necessary to raise the car body up order to remove the truck. In fact, 14 in. of lift is all that is required. In case the trucks had to be brought out at the ends of the cars it would be necessary to raise the body so that the truck would clear the car steps, and on account of the increased height it would be necessary to make two lifts, one for disconnecting the motor leads and the second for raising the body enough to run out the truck. The use of the permanent supports for the car, while not new, as a similar device has been used for some years on the Boston Elevated Railway, is a feature of very considerable value in the operation of the shop, as the crane can be released promptly after making the lift and there exists no necessity for having a number of laborers to handle the heavy portable horses which would otherwise be required. The third track in the shop is used strictly for repairs to trucks and for storing spare trucks and wheels. This track is not furnished with a pit extending the whole length as are the other two, because the necessity seldom exists for going underneath the trucks to make any repairs. There is, however, a short pit, 20 ft. long, provided with the usual steps for access to it in case occasion should arise for doing work on the underside of a truck.

At the northeast corner of the building is a two-story wing used as a storehouse, both floors being available for the storage of heavy material. At present the space is used as a general storehouse, and in it is handled material for all departments, the supplies for the track and overhead departments as well as for the mechanical department being kept there. The northern end of the storehouse opens with a wide door onto a roadway so that material may be delivered direct to the storeroom from wagons. On the east and south sides of the storehouse tracks are extended from the yard at the south end of the shop so that stores for other points on the road may be delivered direct to the cars, or, in the case of bulk material, so that shipments may be received at the storehouse direct in carload lots.

The oil house is included in the storeroom equipment. Oil tanks are located just outside of the wing along the south side and are filled from the outside, being provided with filler boxes for oil shipped in barrels. The tanks are enclosed and the roof of the low enclosure, at about the height of the car floor, is used as a receiving and filling platform. Oil is drawn from the tanks for use in the shop and the inspection pit by means of automatic measuring pumps located inside of the building wall on the first floor of the storeroom. In this way, the danger from fire is reduced to a minimum.

A portion of the second floor of the storeroom wing is used for the fan and coils of the indirect heating system. Adjoining this is a small room in which pantograph repairs are made. This pantograph room is at the level of the upper one of the two inspection platforms or at about the elevation of the roofs of the cars. The men working upon pantograph repairs are thus enabled to carry their work between the cars and the repair room without having to leave that level. It is manifest that the saving in time through this arrangement is a very material item.

At the opposite or west side of the shop is an addition two stories high, of which the upper story is used for armatures and other electrical repairs, and the lower story for housing the lighter machine tools. At one end of the first floor of this addition is a small tool room and at the other end is the blacksmith shop. On the second floor a complete air-brake testing equipment has been installed.

Along the north wall of the building are the offices of the superintendent of car equipment and his clerical force and also a washroom for employees. These rooms are located in an addition one story high extending across the full width of the building. Along the north wall of the two-story portion of the main building a balcony connects the second floors of the additions on the east and west sides. This balcony also serves as a landing platform for material which is handled by the crane to and from the second-floor level. A stairway to this balcony is located alongside of the partition between the shop and the office and underneath part of these stairs the washroom is extended in order to eliminate waste space. There are no solid partitions in the main shop or its extensions except around the blacksmith shop. This arrangement avoids obstruction to light and air and enables a full view of all parts of the main shop and extensions from all points. The entire working force is, therefore, always in sight of the shop foreman.


The entire main floor of the shop is served by a 25-ton Whiting electric crane with a 5-ton auxiliary hook. This crane is used primarily for lifting car bodies and is provided with a specially designed steel yoke and tongs which catch under the side sills of the car body. The yoke when not in use is kept standing up at the north end of the building and leaning against the balcony so that it occupies practically no room in the shop and can be handled by the cranemen alone. The 5-ton auxiliary hook is used for removing the motors from trucks and for general transfer work about the shop. As both bridge and trolley have high-speed travels, the crane is very generally used even for handling light pieces. The crane is operated throughout by three-phase variable-speed induction motors, as three-phase current is available from the power transmission system for the railroad running alongside of the shop.

That the tool equipment is unusually complete and is intended for making rapid repairs is shown by the following list of machine tools which are installed: 42-in. Pond center-drive car wheel lathe. 48-in. semi-universal radial drill 51-in. boring mill 400-ton wheel press. 36-in. x 15-ft. engine lathe. 13-in. x 5-ft. Blount lathe. 16-in. Stockbridge shaper. Double dry grinder. Small tool grinder. Wet tool grinder. 16-in. x 6-ft. Leblond lathe. Robertson hack saw. Three-spindle Barr sensitive drill. 24-in. Aurora drill press. Blacksmith's forge. 600-lb. air hammer.

There is also a motor-driven air compressor having a capacity of 96 cu. ft. of air per minute for supplying compressed air for general shop use. The car wheel lathe, radial drill, boring mill, wheel press and large engine lathe are located in the main portion of the shop and are served by the overhead crane in order to permit heavy work to be handled to and from them with a minimum of manual labor. These tools are, in consequence, driven by individual motors. All of the motors are of the three-phase induction type, and where the requirements of the tool demand it they are arranged for variable speed. The speed variation is obtained by changing the number of active poles in the machine and in this way producing a change in the rotative speed of the so-called revolving field. This in consequence changes the speed of the armature in direct proportion. The use of these variable speed induction motors, which were furnished by the General Electric Company, is a feature in the shop equipment originally necessitated by the availability of only three-phase current. It is stated, however, by R. R. Potter, superintendent of car equipment, that there is an incidental advantage in the decreased maintenance of the motors, as they are less subject to damage than the d.c. type, which in the past has been generally considered to be the only satisfactory means for obtaining variable speed drives. In addition they require no more attention than constant-speed induction motors.

The smaller machines in the shop are operated from a line shaft running longitudinally for the full length of the small machine tool bay. The shaft is hung from the second-story floor beams and is driven by a 20-hp motor also hung from the floor beams and belted to the line shaft.

In the blacksmith shop the hammer is driven by air instead of steam in order to eliminate the necessity for high-pressure steam in the shop, low-pressure steam being used for heating. As shown in the general plan of the shop, the hammer is so located with reference to the doors of the blacksmith shop that long rods may be run under the hammer through the door openings. Its use makes possible the handling of heavy repair work which might otherwise have to be sent to some local contractor and is another example of the precautions taken to provide every facility for making rapid repairs and reducing the time during which cars are held in the shop.

One of the most interesting features of the shop is the use of the vertical boring mill instead of the customary wheel-boring machine. The object of this substitution was made in order to provide in the boring mill a practically universal machine which could be used not only for boring out wheels but for boring tires and gears, turning wheel centers and, in fact, handling all work of large diameter as well. Thus the inconvenience of supporting such pieces while they are being bolted to the vertical face plate of an engine lathe is avoided. A large portion of the work of the mill consists in boring tires, as the cars are equipped with steel wheel centers and shrunk tires of 42-in. outside diameter, solid rolled-steel wheels not being available for wheels of this size.

It will be noticed from the photographs of the shop that no overhead trolley is carried inside of the building. This has been omitted on account of the high voltage used on the overhead line, which if taken into the shop might be dangerous for the workmen. The clear space under the roof in consequence permits the unrestricted use of the crane. Since the cars are always dead when being moved, an electric switch locomotive is used to move cars in and out of the shop as required. This locomotive is also used for freight service over the line and for transfer work to the tracks of the New Haven system. The overhead contact wires for the yard tracks outside the shop are dead-ended about 50 ft. away from the shop so that when cars are moved a dead car is interposed between the locomotive and the cars in the shop.

As the cars are equipped with the Westinghouse electro-pneumatic control system, they can be tested out in the shop with absolutely no danger to the men, as only a 32-volt battery is used. The idea that some might have that it is dangerous to work around cars operated by a trolley voltage of 11,000 is dispelled when it is known that there has not been a shopman burned or shocked since the beginning of the operation of the road. This may also be said of the motormen, whose duties bring them in closer touch with the operation of the cars.

Building Construction

The shop building throughout is constructed with a steel framework. The roof over the main portion of the building is supported on steel trusses 27 ft. above the floor level, and the additions or wings on either side have second floors and roofs resting on steel I-beams. The main portion of the building is 49 ft. wide by 171 ft. long, the tracks being 150 ft. long. All outside walls are of plaster construction by "hy-rib" steel netting, although the partitions separating the offices and blacksmith shop from the main building are constructed of hollow tile. The roof is covered with cement tiles. These interlock on all sides and are capped along the ridgepole of the roof so that the slabs themselves afford a sufficient protection from the weather without the necessity for using any waterproof covering.

As shown in the photographs of the shop interior, the lighting of the shop has received special attention. Owing to the large glass surface provided, the daylight lighting is exceptionally good, not only in the bays along the walls but in the main portion of the shop as well. At the entrance end of the shop Kinnear rolling doors are provided for use during winter weather.

The repair pits which are installed between the rails of all three tracks are 3 ft. 6 in. deep in all cases. The pit for the heavy repair track and the short pit on the truck repair track are 4 ft. 1 in. in width with the customary open gutter running along one side to the drainage openings. On these tracks no provision for pit space outside of the rail has been provided. The inspection pit, however, is 14 ft. 6 in. wide and this permits inspectors to go tinder every portion of the floor framing of the cars with ample room in which to work. On account of the permanent platform at the level of the car floor no work need be done from the shop floor level and no devil-strips are provided. The rails on the inspection pit are carried on piers spaced 4 ft. 6 in. apart longitudinally, each pier being 1 ft. 8 in square at the floor line. In consequence the clear space between two adjacent piers of 2 ft. 4 in. provides ample passageway between the outside and the inside of the rail. Access to all pits is effected by means of stairways at the ends molded in the concrete end walls of the pits. The rails are carried on wooden blocks firmly bolted to the tops of the supporting concrete piers and span the space between piers without support. The pit in the heavy repair track is built with vertical concrete walls capped with an oak timber to which the rail is spiked. Wooden filler blocks are used outside of the rail head between the rail and the concrete floor slab.

The strictly fireproof construction of the building is adhered to in making all floors of reinforced concrete slabs resting on a tamped cinder fill for the first floor and upon steel floor beams for the various balconies and the second floor of the storehouse. The platforms alongside of the inspection pit are, however, floored with planking which rests upon steel brackets.


An impression might readily be gained that this shop is too small to handle the work involved by the large cars in use on the New York, Westchester & Boston Railway, but its operation shows that such is not the case. This is due to the policy of having every facility and item of shop equipment provided for the prompt repair of any part of the car equipment and to an adequate supply of spare parts. Aside from the work of painting, it is not expected that cars requiring ordinary repairs as distinguished from wrecks will remain in the shop more than half a day at any one time.

It was the intention of the designers that the shop should always be the point where all repairs for the cars on the system would be carried out. In the future, when the growth of the railway's business necessitates a greater provision of track space for inspecting cars, an inspection shop will be constructed at a suitable point on the line. In the inspection shop, however, no heavy repairs of any kind will be attempted and the work will be limited to inspection and such light repairs as can be handled promptly by the inspection force.

It will be noticed that no provision has been made for a paint shop. The object of the designers in omitting this has been to avoid interest charges for building construction which could not be utilized for a year or more after the shops are built on account of the new cars constituting the entire equipment. These naturally would not require any painting for at least that period. At such time as the cars need painting an addition will be built along the east side of the main shop building, two cars in length and two tracks in width, entrance to the addition being obtained from the yard tracks at the south end. This addition will provide the necessary room in which painting and varnishing can be properly carried on. The present building is, of course, not intended to have painting of any kind in it on account of the dust and grit which are inevitable in any repair shop.

No extensions other than the paint shop are contemplated at any future time, as the construction of an inspection shop on some other point on the line is considered to be enough to enable the shop to take care of all the work which will ever be brought to it. However, the storehouse which, as previously mentioned, is now being used for general storage for the whole road will in the near future be devoted solely to mechanical supplies, the maintenance of way and general supply material being moved to another building at some point along the line. The design of the shop was worked out in the offices of L. B. Stillwell, the actual construction of the building being carried out by contractors under the direction of the officials of the railway company.

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