Streetcar Barn is Hopping
Next week The Hop hits the streets of Milwaukee, today we take you inside the Operations and Maintenance Facility.
Starting next week, The Hop, the city’s long-anticipated and much-debated streetcar, will be seen on the streets of Milwaukee, as it begins testing for public service that is expected in September.
It will be the first time a streetcar has operated in the city in 60 years. The vehicles will travel in a fenced-off stretch of track on the north side of W. St. Paul Ave. between N. Plankinton Ave. and N. 4th St.
The media was invited to take a look Friday at the MKE Hop Presented by Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in its new home, the likewise ponderously named Streetcar Operations and Maintenance Facility at 450 N. 5th St.
The facility, which is also known as “OMF,” is a two-story structure located beneath the East-West Freeway (I-794). It represents the only use of such space in the city, and is novel in that no rain or snow shall ever fall on its roof. The structure is largely cinderblock, painted an inoffensive brown. Behind the block facade, which occupies most of the northern half of the structure, is where the city’s first five vehicles will be parked and serviced. The southern portion of the structure, facing Stone Creek Coffee across the alley, is sheathed with metal cladding. On the first floor, the southern facade is punctured by windows that will allow natural light into the offices they front. The second floor is set back from the first, and consists of translucent glass panels that are very much reminiscent of those found in classic factory buildings of the city’s past.
Once the party had assembled in the break room, and at the promised moment of 2 o’clock p.m., Simpson led the reporters and television news personnel on a tour of the good stuff — the maintenance shop.
The first thing to be encountered here is Car #01 of the City of Milwaukee’s new fleet. It still boasted the signs and hashtags [“Follow Me To Milwaukee”, “#MilwaukeeOrBust”, “#TheHopMKE”] that it bore as it was transferred 600 miles by flatbed truck from Brookville Equipment Corp., its Pennsylvania manufacturer.
Still affixed to windows on the cab were paper signs identifying the vehicle as SN#16007; JOB#5851; CAR#01, just in case there might be any confusion as to its identity, the signage notwithstanding. It would be embarrassing to have sent us a Hop with the wrong serial number, or from the wrong job, or a rival casino.
Car #01 weighs 41-1/2 tons, is 67 feet long and about 8-1/2 feet wide. The car is reticulated into three sections, the end ones of which have cabs for the operators. The ends of the vehicle have destination signs composed of flashing lights. Car #01 is bound for Burns Commons, but it won’t be until June that it sees that destination in a test run. It is painted a yellow-gold color at the bottom, with a little blue stripe atop, and then white above that. The sponsoring casino’s logo is prominent on the side tops of the car. The logo is also prominently affixed to the front of the vehicle and would be the first thing to hit you if you decided to confront the train while in motion.
For now, Car #01 is parked in the service pit, designed much like one you’d find at a place that changes the oil in your car, but much cleaner and on steroids. Tracks run right atop the pit, allowing workers to safely and practicably do work on the either side of the car, which is where most of the moving parts and service needs are located. The pit is surrounded by a yellow safety railing. Above, and surrounding the vehicle, is a mezzanine, also enclosed by a yellow railing. This floor allows access to the top of the vehicle, which offers a great contrast to the general sleekness of the train.
The top is generally open to the elements, and includes the Pantograph, which is a retractable gizmo that connects with the overhead wires to provide the motive power for the streetcar’s regular operation. At the time, it was in its resting position. (The streetcar can get into and out of its barn using auxiliary power; no overhead wires are to be seen beneath the freeway.) The top of the train car also contains the HVAC systems for the train, housed in a series of boxes. You could probably lay some advertising signs flat atop the cars that could be seen by the many office workers employed in high rises along the route. (Every dollar counts, even for a system with a $10 million, 12-year sponsorship deal with Potawatomi Hotel & Casino.) Also on the mezzanine floor is a large and mostly empty utility room that houses a large green Champion air compressor which delivers its product through still-shiny copper piping that leads to the pit below. The room glows with light that enters from the translucent glass panels, and could also serve as a nice ballroom or event space if it were located somewhere else.
Back down on the first floor is a large bay to the south of the pit, with a ceiling that extends the full height of the structure. This bay too has tracks, but they are set into the concrete floor. A 7-1/2 ton crane runs on tracks above, but that tool is not ample enough to lift the entire streetcar. That feat can be accomplished by a battery of four wheeled screw jacks, also painted yellow, that stand like giant columns in the room they dominate. Finally, at the north end of the plant, is a narrow bay that is walled-in on all four sides. This is the car wash. This is not a particularly automated facility, and appears to consist largely of a hose, a power washer, and a means to spray soap on the dirty vehicles. It appears to be somewhat incomplete, which is fine, since it won’t be needed for some time.
Meet the General ManagerThe tour was hosted by Darryll Simpson, the General Manager of the MKE Hop. Simpson, dressed in a yellow City of Milwaukee safety vest and blue Milwaukee Water Works hardhat, has a pleasant demeanor and a fine speaking voice the accent of which perhaps shows the influence of Charlotte, where he is based, certainly more so than New York, where he was born.
Simpson certainly knows the ins and outs of the train business, beginning with the New York Metro North route where he began his career 30 years ago, apparently when children were conductors on commuter lines, judging from his youthful appearance.
Although he was dressed in Milwaukee regalia, Simpson is one of the 83,000 employees of Transdev, the Paris-based firm that has the $3.5 million annual contract to operate the system. Simpson is a certified Project Manager Professional, and is also a World Safety Organization Certified Safety Executive, and uses the PMP, WSO-CSE designation in his official title. He is based in Charlotte, but is planning a move to Milwaukee. He hasn’t found a home yet, but says he is looking at Downtown. “I hear the driving is easy in Milwaukee, but I want to live close to work.”
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More about the Milwaukee Streetcar
For more project details, including the project timeline, financing, route and possible extensions, see our extensive past coverage.
- Plenty of Horne: Streetcar Barn is Hopping - Michael Horne - Apr 6th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: City Presents First Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 26th, 2018
- First Milwaukee Streetcar Vehicle Has Departed Manufacturer In Pennsylvania, Due to Arrive At New Home Early Next Week - City of Milwaukee Dept. of Public Works - Mar 23rd, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: First Streetcar Heading to Milwaukee - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 16th, 2018
- Join Us Tonight For The Third Community Workshop For The Moving Milwaukee Forward Study - City of Milwaukee - Jan 31st, 2018
- Bastille Days announces new footprint for 2018 festival - East Town Association - Jan 25th, 2018
- Op Ed: Don’t Make Streetcar Rides Free - Jay Bullock - Jan 2nd, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: $65 Million Spent on Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 18th, 2017
- Transit Workers Union Announces Milwaukee Streetcar Labor Peace Agreement - Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998 - Dec 1st, 2017
- Plenty of Horne: How Will Streetcar Stops Be Designed? - Michael Horne - Nov 27th, 2017
- City of Milwaukee Issues RFP For Milwaukee Streetcar Marketing Services - City of Milwaukee Dept. of Public Works - Nov 21st, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Who Wants To Market The Streetcar? - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 20th, 2017
- Will Streetcar Gentrify Bronzeville? - Elliot Hughes - Nov 8th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: City Holding Streetcar Planning Meetings Saturday - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 3rd, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: See Streetcar Floors Made Locally - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 26th, 2017
- New poll shows Milwaukee area’s divided feelings on Foxconn, views on other topics as Marquette Law School launches expanded public policy program - Marquette University - Oct 24th, 2017
- Mayor Barrett needs to start listening to the people - Ald. Bob Donovan - Oct 24th, 2017
- Mayor’s Chief of Staff Responds to Ald. Zielinski - Patrick Curley - Oct 24th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Zielinski Again Attacks Mayor, Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 24th, 2017
- Ald. Zielinski: Mayor diverts additional funding for streetcar that could go to more cops - Ald. Tony Zielinski - Oct 23rd, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Potawatomi Gives $10 Million To Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 6th, 2017
- City and Potawatomi strike 12-year, $10 million streetcar presenting sponsorship agreement, includes free rides for the first 12 months - City of Milwaukee - Oct 6th, 2017
- How Streetcar Could Change King Drive - Elizabeth Baker - Oct 5th, 2017
- The Streetcar, Public Safety and Our Budget Crisis An Honest Assessment of Milwaukee’s Status Quo - Ald. Bob Donovan - Oct 4th, 2017
- Alderman Zielinski tells Mayor Barrett: Cut the streetcar, don’t cut protective services - Ald. Tony Zielinski - Sep 27th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Republicans Heap Hate On Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 7th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: City Chooses Streetcar Operator - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 6th, 2017
- Milwaukee Streetcar Construction on Target to Meet Residential Preference Program, DBE Goals - City of Milwaukee Dept. of Public Works - Jul 21st, 2017
- Friday Photos: Streetcar Tracks Getting Road Tested - Jeramey Jannene - Jun 30th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: $30 Million Spent on Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - May 19th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Track Getting Installed - Jeramey Jannene - May 12th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: County Gets Waiver on Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 17th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Rails Being Welded - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 7th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: City Won’t Delay Streetcar for County - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 28th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: County Board Okays Bid for Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 23rd, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Track Steel Has Arrived - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 16th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Should County Operate Streetcar? - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 8th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Track Construction Starts in April - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 17th, 2017
- Streetsblog: 80 Transit Projects in 2017 - Angie Schmitt - Feb 6th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: The Milwaukee Streetcar is Hiring - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 20th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Project Receives Federal Grant - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 12th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Cincinnati Streetcar Opens - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 19th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Okays Streetcar to Bucks Arena - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 6th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: $6.5 Million in Streetcar Savings - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 26th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Donovan Lies About Streetcar Suit - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 15th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: BID Sells Streetcar-Related Development - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 15th, 2016
- Murphy’s Law: Do Millennials Oppose the Streetcar? - Bruce Murphy - Dec 15th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Pennsylvania Company Wins Streetcar Contract - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 13th, 2015
- Plenty of Horne: City Accepts $14 Million Federal Streetcar Grant - Michael Horne - Oct 29th, 2015
- Milwaukee to Receive $14.2 Million Grant for Streetcar Extension - Mayor Tom Barrett - Oct 26th, 2015
- Back in the News: Anti-Streetcar Petition Dies - Bruce Murphy - Aug 28th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Scott Walker Aids Milwaukee Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 13th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Construction Starts in October - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 10th, 2015
- Murphy’s Law: The Strange Politics of Anti-Streetcar-ites - Bruce Murphy - Jun 18th, 2015
- Plenty of Horne: Bucks Plan Envisions Arena Streetcar - Michael Horne - Apr 8th, 2015
- A Short History of Milwaukee’s Old Streetcar System - Ken Smith - Mar 31st, 2015
- Plenty of Horne: Davis Sets, Cancels Meeting on Streetcar - Michael Horne - Mar 17th, 2015
- Back in the News: Anti-Streetcar Petition Drive Fails - Bruce Murphy - Mar 5th, 2015
- Friday Photos: Streetcar Signing Is Quite a Celebration - Michael Horne - Feb 13th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Milwaukee Streetcar Approved - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 10th, 2015
- Murphy’s Law: Who is “Lobbying” For the Streetcar? - Bruce Murphy - Feb 5th, 2015
- Data Wonk: Will Streetcar Help The Inner City? - Bruce Thompson - Feb 4th, 2015
- Back in the News: City Attorney Says Streetcar Petitions Might be Moot - Bruce Murphy - Jan 30th, 2015
- Data Wonk: Millennials And The Streetcar - Bruce Thompson - Jan 27th, 2015
- Op-Ed: Why I Support the Streetcar - Russell Rossetto - Jan 26th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Responses Shows Wide Support - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 22nd, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Approved, but Held - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 21st, 2015
- Murphy’s Law: Koch-Funded Group Backs Anti-Streetcar Drive - Bruce Murphy - Jan 20th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Backers Say They Have the Votes - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 20th, 2015
- Murphy’s Law: Who Is Funding the Anti-Streetcar Effort? - Bruce Murphy - Jan 20th, 2015
- Op Ed: Why the Streetcar Won’t Work - Samuel Jensen - Jan 14th, 2015
- Murphy’s Law: Will Anti-Streetcar Referendum Succeed? - Bruce Murphy - Jan 9th, 2015
- The Story Behind the Streetcar Referendum - Michael Horne and Bruce Murphy - Jan 8th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Delays Streetcar Until January - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 16th, 2014
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Committee Takes No Action on Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 10th, 2014
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Committee Approves Milwaukee Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 9th, 2014
- Plenty of Horne: RACM Approves Tax Funding for Streetcar - Michael Horne - Dec 2nd, 2014
- Plenty of Horne: How to Sell the Streetcar - Michael Horne - Nov 28th, 2014
- Plenty of Horne: Next Stops For The Streetcar - Michael Horne - Nov 24th, 2014
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Barrett Moving Forward With Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 18th, 2014
- Plenty of Horne: Who Will Be Streetcar Operator? - Michael Horne - May 8th, 2014
- Back in the News: A Streetcar Named Cooperation? - Dave Reid - Apr 27th, 2014
- Streetsblog: How a Streetcar Spurs Development - Angie Schmitt - Nov 3rd, 2013
- Plenty of Horne: Streetcar Social - Michael Horne - Sep 12th, 2013
- Republicans Move to Kill Milwaukee Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - May 9th, 2013
- Plenty of Horne: Mayor Says Streetcar is “Trojan Horse” - Michael Horne - Apr 17th, 2013
- Streetcar Meeting on Tuesday - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 29th, 2012
- Whoops, We Changed Our Mind - Dave Reid - Sep 27th, 2012
- Donovan’s New Anti-Streetcar Allies - Jeramey Jannene - Aug 16th, 2012
- Battle of the Bobs: Donovan vs Bauman Streetcar Press Conference - Jeramey Jannene - May 18th, 2012
- Milwaukee Streetcar Hearing at Frontier Airlines Center - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 15th, 2011
- Important Hoan Bridge and Milwaukee Streetcar Meetings this Week - Dave Reid - Nov 14th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar Passes Common Council, Proceeds to Final Engineering - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 26th, 2011
- Alderman Donovan Proposes Delaying the Streetcar Project - Dave Reid - Jul 19th, 2011
- Barrett says Streetcar is an investment in growing Milwaukee - Patti Wenzel - Jul 13th, 2011
- Keep the Milwaukee Streetcar Moving Forward - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 8th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar at Apex - Jeramey Jannene - Jun 16th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar Takes Key Step Forward - Jeramey Jannene - May 6th, 2010
- Streetcars and Trams Around the World - Dave Reid - Feb 1st, 2010
- Milwaukee Streetcar Meeting This Thursday - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 5th, 2009
- Downtown Streetcar Open House - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 23rd, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Routes Unveiled by Mayor Barrett - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 21st, 2009
- Common Council Creates Streetcar Committee - Dave Reid - Jun 18th, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Round-Up - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 19th, 2009
- Vote For Your Favorite Milwaukee Streetcar Route - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 25th, 2009
- Design Your Own Streetcar Route - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 23rd, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Map - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 21st, 2009
- Streetcars Coming to Milwaukee - Dave Reid - Mar 14th, 2009
- Palomar or Streetcar? - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 22nd, 2009