After a million miles, the Seattle Center Monorail looks much the same as when it opened for the 1962 World's Fair. But in the undercarriage, the circuits and wheels that propel the blue train have just been rebuilt, and it's ready to go after sitting in the shop since January.
After a million miles, the Seattle Center Monorail looks much the same as when it opened for the 1962 World’s Fair.
But in the undercarriage, the circuits and wheels that propel the blue train have just been rebuilt, and it’s ready to go after sitting in the shop since January.
Workers took the blue train for a test drive at low speed Friday above Fifth Avenue. “So far, so good,” said project manager Eno Yliniemi. The next step is to simulate full passenger loads using 436 water-filled kegs donated by Sierra Nevada Brewing, makers of Monorail Ale.
If tests go well, the train will carry revelers to the Bumbershoot music festival Labor Day weekend, joining the red train already running.
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A few years ago, a fire, a collision and a series of stalls prompted debate over whether to scrap the historic one-mile system.
Instead, the city is spending $4.5 million to rebuild the trains.
“We’re doing what we need to do to make the trains last 20 years or longer,” said Tom Albro, director of Seattle Monorail Services, which operates the city-owned line.
Steel brackets holding the tires in place have been tested, scraped to remove rust and repainted. New seals have been installed — mechanics used to heavily lubricate the old leaking seals, leading to grease buildups that stoked the 2004 fire.
Over the years, worn-out components bedeviled the mechanics as they tried to pinpoint various failures. Air hoses were rusting from the inside, while electric wires would occasionally get rubbed raw inside old steel conduit and short-circuit the train.
During this year’s rebuild, a cluster of angled metal air hoses — called “the snakes’ nest” by Yliniemi — were replaced with simpler computerized controls. Wiring throughout the train was reduced by half.
“The circuitry on the new design is simpler,” Yliniemi said.
In a good year, the monorail carries 2 million people. Earlier problems have chilled ridership, but Albro said a quarter-million people took the train in July, a faster recovery than he expected.
Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631