Tuesday, February 22, 2011

United Streetcar Manufacturer's


Oregon Iron Works, a specialized manufacturer of complex structural components and systems, began considering entering the field of streetcar manufacturing in 2004, after realizing that the Portland Streetcar system had purchased only vehicles built by foreign manufacturers, possibly due only to the absence of any U.S.-based manufacturers of modern streetcars.[6]
The prototype streetcar built by United Streetcar, at its unveiling in Portland in July 2009
In 2005, Congress approved a federal transportation spending bill which included a US$4 million grant to TriMet for the acquisition, on behalf of the city of Portland, of a prototype domestically manufactured streetcar. With a goal of fostering the domestic production of modern streetcars,[2] the grant had been added into the $286 billion spending bill by Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio, but did not specify a particular company to be the recipient.[7]
In August 2006, the city of Portland issued a Request for Proposals for the provision of a prototype low-floor streetcar compatible with Portland Streetcar's existing fleet.[8] In anticipation of this, OIW signed a "technology transfer agreement" in February 2006 with Škoda, the Czech company which had built Portland's first seven streetcars, in order to permit OIW to manufacture a streetcar to the existing Škoda 10T design but with mostly U.S. components and assembly.[9] Only two formal proposals were received by the city, and after that of the other bidder was "deemed not to have met the minimum requirement",[8][7] the contract was awarded to Oregon Iron Works, in January 2007.[2] OIW then announced that it had created a new subsidiary, United Streetcar, LLC, to handle streetcar manufacturing. The value of the contract was $3.2 million,[10] with the balance of the special $4 million federal grant being used to fund the city's costs to administer the grant and oversee the project.[8]

[edit] Prototype vehicle completion

Construction of the prototype streetcar was undertaken at OIW's Clackamas facility (one of two OIW manufacturing facilities).[10] The car was completed in June 2009 and was introduced to the public and the media at a ceremony held in Portland's South Waterfront district on July 1, 2009.[4][11][12]
Numbered 015 in the Portland Streetcar fleet, it is the first modern streetcar built in the United States since 1952,[13][5] since the last PCC streetcar for the San Francisco Municipal Railway. It uses the Škoda 10T design, under license from the Czech manufacturer, and is model variant 10T3.[14] The propulsion equipment—the motors and electronic control system—were fabricated by Škoda,[15] but installation took place at OIW's/United Streetcar's plant in the United States, and most other components were fabricated by United Streetcar or supplied by other U.S. companies.[10] Overall, the prototype streetcar has about 70 percent U.S. content,[15] enough to make the car's procurement compliant with federal "Buy America" provisions (49 U.S.C. § 5323j).[10]
As with the earlier, Czech-built versions of the Škoda 10T, the United Streetcar 10T3 is a four-axle, bi-directional, low-floor streetcar with three doors on each side and wheelchair ramps extending (on demand) from one door per side. It is 66 feet (20.13 m) long and 8 feet (2.46 m) wide[14] and has a maximum speed of 44 mph (70 km/h).[16] In 2010, the company dropped the 10T3 designation in favor of a new model designation, "100", in connection with a decision to use different propulsion equipment in future orders, as described below.[17]

[edit] Change in propulsion system

In 2010, the city of Portland decided to amend its contract with United Streetcar/Oregon Iron Works, to replace the prototype car's Škoda-made propulsion-control system with a new system to be designed by Rockwell Automation, a U.S. company based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The propulsion system is the high-tech electronic equipment which controls and coordinates the operation of the car's motors and other key operating components. Car 015's propulsion-control system was made by Škoda, whereas all 10 earlier Portland streetcars—even the seven cars built by Škoda—had control systems supplied by ELIN EBG Traction, an Austrian company (and only installed by Škoda).[18] During acceptance testing of car 015 in late summer and autumn 2009, certain (unspecified) problems were encountered, and Škoda and Portland Streetcar were unable to reach agreement on resolving them.[18] This issue, together with a desire by PS, United Streetcar and others to increase further the U.S. content of streetcars built by United Streetcar, led to discussions between Rockwell Automation and the various interested parties in Portland on the possibility and feasibility of Rockwell designing a control system for the United Streetcar design.[18] In April 2010, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) approved a $2.4-million grant, to be matched by $600,000 in local money, to fund the replacement of car 015's control equipment with new equipment to be designed by Rockwell Automation.[19][20][21] The intention is that, if the partnership with Rockwell proves successful, eventually all streetcars built by United Streetcar would use the U.S.-made Rockwell propulsion system. The change will increase the overall U.S. content of the car from around 70% to around 90%,[21][22] and this was the main factor in gaining federal officials' approval of the $2.4 million in "research funds" needed to allow project to proceed.[19]
Prototype streetcar 015 was transported back to the OIW/United Streetcar factory in May 2010 and is projected to return in July 2011, fitted with the Rockwell system and ready for testing.[23]

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