The Pittsburgh LRV

Since we were speaking of Pittsburgh transit, it’s time for some trolley geekery: here is the Pittsburgh LRV as advertised on the site of the company that makes it, Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles.

You can read the proudly technical description of the cars’ features and details, although oddly the “doors per side” spec leaves out the extra street-level door (what we might call the “Pittsburgh door”) at the front. The same Spanish company made the cars for Sacramento’s light-rail system, as well as many European tram networks.

These are the newer cars on the Pittsburgh rails, the 4300 series. The older cars, the 4200 series, came from Siemens Duewag in Duesseldorf. They have almost all been rebuilt to the same standards as the newer cars, so that they’re nearly indistinguishable from the CAF cars. Aside from the car numbers, the easiest way to distinguish the cars is from the front or back. The Siemens cars have a pair of headlights side by side in the center; the CAF cars have headlights toward the sides, like a conventional automobile or bus. The Siemens cars also have a “Cyclops eye,” a separate high-beam light mounted on top of the car; the CAF cars have the high beam incorporated into the body of the car above the windshield.

The Port Authority bought 55 Siemens cars to run on the rebuilt Route 42 line in the 1980s; the other lines, too rickety for the heavy new trolleys, still ran PCC cars. In 2004, the Route 47 line through Overbrook reopened after extensive reconstruction, and the Port Authority bought 28 cars from CAF. In total, that makes 83 cars, but old Pa Pitt has had some trouble figuring out how many are actually in service. Some Siemens cars may not have been rebuilt, and may be languishing somewhere in the enormous car barn at South Hills Village. At any rate, the number in service is fairly large, since the cars are run in pairs during rush hour, averaging less then five minutes apart downtown.

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