People ride the El every day like clockwork with no thought about who keeps the train rolling.
In fact, the Market-Frankford Line provides over 160,000 daily rides to passengers.
Hidden away inside the 69th Street Carhouse there’s a team of mechanics like 31-year veteran Ritchie Byers who makes sure your daily commute runs as smooth as possible.
Byers, a seasoned mechanic , services the fleet of over 200 M-4 subway cars that run on the Market-Frankford Line.
Every six months, the 65,000-pound vehicles undergo a thorough inspection and maintenance of units called “trucks.” Two trucks under each car contain the vehicle’s wheels, gearbox, motors, brakes, axles and shock absorbers.
“We are always prepared for a challenge with equipment of this size. It’s not unusual to come in early in the morning and leave late at night. The job has to be done right,” he said.
The 69th Street shop also repairs and maintains the advanced propulsion and braking system on M-4 cars. The Automatic Train Control (ATC) braking system prevents hazardous conditions on the line.
Frank Brinkman, a 25-year SEPTA man working as a Field Apprenticeship Coordinator and light-rail specialist, trains technicians on the ATC system.
The system controls train speed between stations and in work areas. Any problems and a fault notification failure light will alert the operator. The car is taken to the 69th Street shop, where system information is downloaded.
Thirty-year veteran Brian Miley cut his teeth as a First Class Machinist constructing replacement parts from blueprints for Broad Street line trains. At night, he repaired the trucks for the old Brill subway cars.
Replacing brakes, repairing wheels and motors, he surrounded himself with the intricacies of rail vehicles. He soon became a Technical Instructor of Mechanical Equipment and Chief Instructor of Light Rail Operations.
When Miley wasn’t crafting a new part, he was putting one in.
“Technology advances so fast – you have to keep up with it,” said Miley. “We have new vehicles using state-of-the-art technology; I have to make sure our mechanics have the most up-to-date education and training on the repair and overhaul of our rail vehicles.”
Read more about SEPTA’s Carhouse here.