Saturday, October 14, 2017

Stadler Rail Breaks Ground for Factory in Utah

A Stadler FLIRT is on display with a red carpet, on the mainline of the Salt Lake Garfield & Western railway.

Stadler Rail is a Swiss manufacturing firm, which has been looking to expand into the U.S. rail market. Two years ago the firm began leasing space in the Utah Transit Authority's Warm Springs shops to begin assembly of Stadler FLIRT; units which would be used in Texas on the currently under construction TexRail project. Meanwhile Stadler began looking for permanent locations to house a factory. In the past few days the first FLIRT to have been assembled in Salt Lake City rolled out of Warm Springs; with part of it shipped to Atlanta to be displayed as part of a convention. 

On October 12, I noticed on my way into Salt Lake City the other half of the FLIRT unit was resting on a siding of the Salt Lake Garfield and Western line. It was being cleaned by a work crew there, and I drove up nearby to look at the new unit. I was intrigued to see the new commuter rail unit on the SLGW, it looked at home on the line which is one of the last remnants of Utah's long gone electric-interurban rail system. What I wasn't aware of at the time, is that within 24 hours Stadler was going to be staking out a new home on the SLGW line...

A few shots showing the Stadler FLIRT unit on the SLGW on October 12th. It was coupled to a few flat cars via an adapter coupler unit. A small work crew was using a high pressure hose to wash the unit, making it look shiny and clean. This model of the FLIRT is actually diesel powered, allowing it to travel on lines that lack electric wiring.

So when I returned to Salt Lake City the next day (October 13, 2017) I was a bit intrigued to see that the TexRail unit had been moved a few blocks west on the SLGW line, with a parking lot of cars surrounding it. A big white tent rose nearby, with people in formal attire milling around it. Fortunately, I was wearing business casual already for my work shift later in the day so I wouldn't quite stick out like a sore thumb among all the people in suits ... so I decided it wouldn't be to hard to drop into this press event and ask if I could get a close look at the locomotive. I pulled up into a temporary parking stall. Near it was a few stalls which were reserved for dignitaries, with one near where I parked labeled for the Salt Lake Major. I asked around and once I heard from Stadler employees they'd be fine with me walking up to the locomotive, I eagerly walked my way to the shiny new FLIRT.

I joked to myself I was the first "foamer" to be going inside one of these new FLIRT units so I snapped a lot of detail shots as I walked around and inside it. I figured those in Texas in Ft. Worth and Dallas will want a good look at what they will soon be able to ride around their town!

 A close up view of one of the train set's trucks.

Both sides carry the TexRail logo, one side has the American flag and the other has the flag of the Lone Star state.

The passenger interior, the train set is able to be walked through from one end to another. The blue seats looked crisp and new, a far cry from how they will probably look after years of commuter service are put on this train set.

There is a hallway which leads from the passenger cabin to the cab for the operator. I wondered if these cabinets contained the diesel engine and other electronics needed to operate the train, although I couldn't see how to open them to get a peak inside them.

A few shots of the various operator's controls.

Station map for the TexRail system.

Since one half of the train set was sent on display back east, it gave an opportunity to observe the trucks up close without a train above it.

A nice look at an adapter coupler attached to the LRV allowing it to connect with freight rail couplers.

I had actually arrived at what I believe was the tail end of the event, as the crowds were dying down and most of the dignitaries had seemed to have left. As such I wasn't really sure what the event was for other than to show off the new unit which was built in Warm Springs. The ceremonial shovels and hard hats on the site though indicated it was a ground breaking ceremony; and the news broke later in the day that Stadler had announced its permanent U.S. based factory was going to be here in Salt Lake City alongside the storied SLGW railway! The new factory is going to bring 1000 jobs to Utah, as the Swiss trains will be built here to satisfy the "Made in America" requirements most commuter rails have. Other than the TexRail contract, Stadler has future contracts with Caltrain coming up which will help keep their new SLC factory busy. 

The Stadler factory site is also near underdevelopment facilities for Amazon and UPS, making the SLGW's connection to the west end of the city even more important. I am glad to have literally stumbled into this advent by circumstance, and excited to see how Stadler's presence in the Beehive state will affect the storied SLGW line.  Above all I can't wait until someday I am railfanning out of state and run across a Stadler unit and seeing it with pride knowing it was "Made in Utah."

-Jacob Lyman

Railway Age: Stadler US settling in Salt Lake City
Salt Lake Tribune: Stadler breaks ground on railcar manufacturing plant expected to employ 1,000 in west Salt Lake City

1 comment:

  1. This definitely appears to be the next big wave of the future. Being a former engineer on the diesels, I can heartily agree that this is a step-up!