Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

All-night runs to clear trolley lines

with 4 comments

Vancouver Sun

Another one of those stories that demonstrates that new technology actually makes us more vulnerable.

Stan Sierpina, vice-president of customer service for Coast Mountain Bus, which operates TransLink’s buses, blamed the breakdown on “unique weather circumstances” that left an accumulation of ice and frost along the 314 kilometres of trolley wire.

The ice acted as insulation against the new trolleys’ sensors, which lose their connections to the overhead wires if they can’t sense a power link, Sierpina said.

Well at least he didn’t make the mistake that a hapless British railways official made the year winter stopped a new fleet of expensive new trains. “It was the wrong kind of snow” has now entered the annals of things not to say to the press.

When I first got on a bus in Richmond, it actually had trolley poles on it. It was a diesel bus, but it had been converted from a trolley. They just took the motor out and replaced it with a diesel engine. They were even called “triesels” by the staff. A couple of them retained their poles for just the task of keeping the wires frost free overnight.

UPDATE Pete McMartin wants somebody’s head to stick on a pike over this issue – he didn’t get one

Written by Stephen Rees

November 23, 2007 at 9:24 am

Posted in transit

4 Responses

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  1. Funny that one excuse was that the new buses are ‘too smart’ compared to the old ones. Same argument was made in ’84 when the Brills were being replaced with new “smarter” buses


    November 23, 2007 at 12:26 pm

  2. maybe the next generation of buses 25 from now will be “too smart” to run in the rain 😉


    November 23, 2007 at 10:33 pm

  3. The subject of the frozen trolley lines came up at a party I was at recently. Someone told me that the old buses were retrofitted with a ‘scraper’ where the pole connects to the power line. This was needed supposedly because our humid environment aids the forming of ice on those lines overnight.

    Anyone know if this is true? I’ve heard this freezing trolley lines issue described as a “computer problem” but an ice scraper sounds pretty low tech to me.

    Michael Klassen

    December 18, 2007 at 9:34 am

  4. the ice scraper was a fact and was a device that was avaialble in the Ohio Brass trolley bus catalog. it would sit just ahead of the contact shoe.
    as a youngster in columbus ohio we used to watch the tb’s go by from our home on summit st, and really get a kick out of the scrapers doing their thing on severe winter nights as when the scraper hit ice, large blue sparks would jump off the lines on both poles. many sparks would fly as the tb went by. Quite a site and we would glue ourselves to the window for hours just to watch the tb’s go by and watch the blue sparks jump. my wife grew up in dayton ohio and remembers watching their tb’s go buy and the sparks jump too. wish someone had captured a picture of this. it ws quite a site!
    the bus would have to reduce speed somewhat as too fast and the scraper would cause the poles to jump thier line. simple technology but it worked!

    mike leyshon

    February 11, 2009 at 9:43 am

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