Kids love trains. I’m pretty sure trains rank up there with puppies, cartoons, giant lollipops and sprinklers. Why? Maybe it’s because trains look like giant versions of the toys we played with on wooden tracks. Trains are fast, big and can whistle! And they provide a fascinating look into the engineering, mechanical and operating principles of rail transportation. Metro offers free tours of our MetroLink facility located on Ewing in St. Louis City near Market Street. What do these tours have to offer students of all ages?
- How do MetroLink trains run? (Pssst! Through electricity suspended from catenary lines above the tracks.)
- What happens in the train hospital?
- How is the engine of a light rail train different/similar than an automotive combustion engine?
- How do we fix trains when they have problems? Especially the REALLY big parts.
- How do we clean trains?
- What type of engineering work does it take to design and/or maintain light rail trains?
- How do trains stop? How do we apply the basic principles of friction to stop trains?
- What do all of those buttons do? How much does the operator “drive” the train?
- How do we keep trains running to over one million miles???
The tour of the MetroLink facility also includes a look into our communication center, where dispatchers keep track of EVERY bus and train on the system. The MetroLink communication system shows exactly where the train is and how the tracks and other technical components are operating. It is where they “talk” to the system. Students can also watch security dispatch monitoring images from cameras we have throughout the system.
MetroLink Training Manager Suzanne Whitehead said tours also focus on other interesting aspects of the operations, like which jobs are required to keep the system running (everyone from engineers to mechanics to operators to computer programmers) and what types of jobs are available for people who want to work in transit. She also hopes to integrate a scavenger hunt-type activity for riding on MetroLink that pays attention to its mechanical, design and land use features.
And the tours are not just limited to kids…if you’d like to take a tour and find out what light rail is all about, you just need to schedule ahead. After all, it’s your public transit system. Come see how interesting it looks from the bottom up.