PATCO presents stylishly refurbished cars

One of the refurbished cars on display at PATCO's shops in Lindenwold. PATCO officials and reporters were given a tour of the cars, which move into revenue service in February.
One of the refurbished cars on display at PATCO's shops in Lindenwold. PATCO officials and reporters were given a tour of the cars, which move into revenue service in February. (AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer)
Posted: December 13, 2013

PATCO unveiled the first of its refurbished commuter railcars Wednesday, showing off vehicles with brighter colors, higher ceilings, better lighting, digital displays, new seats, video screens, and security cameras.

Seating capacity, though, will be slightly reduced in the new cars, because of handicapped-accessible seating and a closed cab area for the operator.

The first two of PATCO's 120 cars are back from the factory in Hornell, N.Y., where the $194 million makeover is being done, and PATCO officials and reporters were given a tour of the cars in the transit agency's Lindenwold shop Wednesday.

The first cars are expected to be in service by February.

On the outside, the cars look much like their old selves. The stainless steel bodies are the originals, and the cars still have their old wheel assemblies and traction motors.

Inside, though, the cars look like new.

The bench seats have been replaced with bucket-style seats, done up in powder blue with red piping, reminiscent of the Phillies' 1970s road uniforms.

The cars have blue skid-resistant floors, thicker windows, and new heating and air-conditioning systems.

"I'm very impressed," said David Simon, chairman of the board of PATCO and its parent, the Delaware River Port Authority. "I was even more impressed after I went into one of the old cars and compared it to this."

Overhead digital displays will scroll the names of station stops, and an audio recording of approaching stops will replace the current announcements by the operator.

The announcements are currently in a male voice, recorded by a subcontractor, though those could be rerecorded to suit Philadelphia-area sensibilities if desired, PATCO general manager John Rink said.

Braking and accelerating will be smoother, Rink said, and each car will have an intercom to allow passengers to talk to the operator in an emergency.

The operator's cab - and the two seats next to it - will be segregated from the passenger compartment by a lockable door, and side-facing flip-up seats will provide a wheelchair-accessible area.

Those changes will mean up to eight fewer available seats in a "married pair" of cars: 152 instead of 160, Rink said.

During peak commuting periods, that could mean a total of about 200 fewer available seats.

Capacity is limited on PATCO trains now, because 26 cars are at the New York factory being refurbished by Alstom Transport Inc., a French train-builder.

As finished cars are returned to Lindenwold, a like number of cars will be sent to Hornell, until the entire fleet of 120 is refurbished.

The delivery of the first "pilot" cars was delayed by manufacturing glitches, but PATCO officials said they still expect the final delivery date to be October 2016.

The third and fourth pilot cars are slated to be delivered next Wednesday, and four more prototypes will be shipped in January, DRPA chief engineer Mike Venuto said.

After the first eight cars pass PATCO's tests and inspections, production will begin in earnest, with four cars a month expected by May.


pnussbaum@phillynews.com

215-854-4587 @nussbaumpaul

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