1st completed QLine streetcar unveiled

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

M-1 Rail officials on Wednesday formally unveiled the first completed QLine streetcar, which hits the road in the coming months for tests along its destined Woodward Avenue route.

Sleek and shiny in red and white and adorned with QLine lettering, the 66-feet-long, 15-feet high, 87,000-pound streetcar was shown to reporters and photographers eager to inspect the massive brakes and wheels, the interior operator’s cabin and the pantograph on top that lifts to connect with wires above to power the battery.

“Really, the thing that will blow you away, each one of these cars are handmade,” said Paul Childs, the chief operating officer of M-1 Rail. “This isn’t like Detroit where you can knock off 10,000 cars a day. It doesn’t happen that way. Each one of these panels is made by hand. So there’s a lot of craftsmen down there doing this work. And it’s pretty amazing to actually see that all come together.”

The streetcar was delivered last week by Brookville Equipment Co., the only manufacturer to design and build these rail cars exclusively the United States. There will be six streetcars sent in the coming months for the QLine’s springtime opening.

The streetcar, officials say, will seat from 125 to 200 people. The $140 million project will stretch 3.3 miles on Woodward between Campus Martius downtown and the New Center area. It will travel at speeds of up to 35 mph, officials said.

The streetcar is being held at the Penske Tech Center on Woodward in New Center, the home of the M-1 Rail administrative offices and the facility where the cars will be maintained, cleaned and stored.

The drivers who’ll be taking the streetcars out on practice runs will be trained for four to six weeks and then conduct more training as needed, Childs said.

“Just like you are getting your driver’s license, we are going to take them out on the road, make sure that they know how to do the things they’re supposed to do,” he said. “If you need help here, need some more training, more time, get back, open the books up, we’ll retest you and take you back out on the road again.”

The train will operate 60 percent off wire and 40 percent on wire, and can charge the battery down near the wheels at some of the stations or from the wires above the street. An operator’s cabin on both ends of the streetcar feature a cloth seat for the driver as well as a control panel that opens glass doors and honks a loud horn.

During the winter, the streetcar even has a compartment to hold sand for the operators to spread if too much snow and ice build up on the tracks.

Sommer Woods, director of external affairs for M-1 Rail, called the streetcar’s arrival “exciting” but she’s visited other cities to inspect how streetcars operate and knows Detroit will have a learning curve once the train is on the road.

“There’s going to have to be a mass education campaign that we have to communicate to the community on how to be mindful that there is a vehicle that is 87,000 pounds that’s coming down Woodward and not texting and walking, using the actual crosswalks,” she said. “We can’t move like a bus.”


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