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Amtrak Beech Grove Shop Tour 4/13/2007

by Chris Guenzler

We pulled into the parking lot and I could not believe that I was really here. Chris Parker and I walked through the gates and walked into the Shop Office. They were expecting us and we were told to wait in the lobby.

On the bulletin board was this poster that reads, "Failure is not an option!" I really believe that the workers here really believe that and I would soon get to see evidence of that as we tour the shops. A few minutes later, Superintendent Lew Woods emerged from his office and we were ready to start the tour of the Beech Grove Shops. This was an ex New York Central Shop that has 550 employees who work in the Beech Grove Shops. This shop is well known for the great work that the workers do here. The Beech Grove Shops sits on 108 acres and there is 700,000 square feet under the roofs of this complex. I told Lew about the lack of windows for the passengers in the Amfleet Diner-Lite Car. He had me draw a diagram to show him and he agreed that passengers should have a window to view through when they are eating their meals. We then went into his office for a few minutes. The first thing I noticed was a wonderful and interesting chart which Lew explained.

This is the PY07 Production Schedule. The orange tags means cars and engines that have been shipped out and returned to service while the yellow tags indicates equipment that are in the shop for work. This schedule is updated weekly and we would be seeing it in every shop building that we would visit in this complex. Beech Grove has 16 different programs not including wrecks while Bear Mountain Shop only does three. We talked about the traction motor problems the engines have been having and the problem is with the pinion bearing. One thing Lew said that this shop is really proud of the fact that they can make and create their own parts. One of this year's goals is to improve the air brake shop. Another goal is to cut Cycle Time that equipment sits in the shop here. When cars or locomotives are out of service it costs the company $3000 per day that the company loses. Locomotives used to take 43 Days but now in most cases are now done in 33 days. By painting using a quicker drying paint it takes two days to paint locomotives instead of three days to paint them. Production by the Beech Grove Shops has exceeded production quotas for four straight years. After we finished in the offices, we were given safety glasses and ear plugs, we headed out of the building to start our tour of the Beech Grove Shops.

As you walk across the tracks towards the shops buildings, the first thing that catches your eye are the emblems of all the unions who work together to make the Beech Grove Shops such a success.

Outside the Car Shop 1 was a Surfliner Cab Car 6802.

We walked into Car Shop 1.

The work here is done at spots and this is Spot 7.

A view down the other side of Car Shop 1.

The massive car vacuum that sucks out all dirt, trash and dust with the help of a worker who is tied down to stir up the dust in the carpeting and seats.

All cars in this shop are on shop trucks which allow the cars to move from one part of the shop to another while their trucks and wheels are being worked on in other parts of the shop complex.

Toilets are installed at Spot 6. This spot also checks for leakage in all air lines and systems on the cars.

A worker doing his job at Spot 6.

Cars are jacked up so work can be performed under the car body at Spot 6. I got to see the protection screens that protect the Head End Power Cables beneath the car.

A view of the jack and a shop worker.

Spot 5 which is the inbound testing of AC and batteries.

Another worker hard at work replacing air brakes.

Next we got to see the paint and decals stripper in the Car Washer in Car Shop 1.

The Car Washer which uses 60,000-PSI to strip off all the paint and stripping in a single day.

This machine replaced workers who used to strip the car by hand.

This Superliner is having its air conditioning unit replaced. The workers in the Beech Grove Shop are known as the "Wizards of Beech Grove". I am now truly seeing that this is absolutely true.

View looking down Car Shop 1.

Back outside of Car Shop 1, that giant vacuum that sucks everything out of passenger cars. Beech Grove Shops when built was known as the largest locomotive hospital.

Our next shop was the Locomotive Test Pad.

The tower in the Maintenance Building was used to turn steam locomotives upright in order to clean out their boilers.

Another view of Car Shop 1.

The next building we entered was the Locomotive Shop.

More views inside the Locomotive Shop.

B32-BWH 503 in the shop for work.

P42DC 96.

P42DC 159.

Inside the engine compartment where the engine should be. The inside of engines are painted white so crews can spot oil leaks easily.

Working on the nose of engine 159.

Under the engine cab of the 159.

We next went inside the Wheel Shop.

Wheel Sets are ready to be installed.

More views inside the Wheel Shop.

This is the area of the Wheel Shop which has the Wheel Press that is done by using 150 tons of force to press wheels onto their axles.

Locomotive axles at the ready to have wheels pressed onto them.

Getting ready to press wheels onto their axles.

Workers pressing the wheels onto its axle.

Continuing the wheel pressing. The trucks are measured and gauged to the right specs for their future operations.

Locomotive truck repair. Beech Grove Shops is an AAR Certified Shop.

Rebuilt traction motors ready to be shipped to outlying locomotive shops around the Amtrak system.

Known as Combos these are ready to be shipped out.

One last view of the Wheel Shop. Next stop will be the Hoist Shop.

Outside of the Hoist Shop with a Pacific Parlour Car in this view.

The Hoist Shop where cars are detrucked and retrucked to FRA specs.

A "Sea of Wheels".

Inside the Hoist Shop a Horizon Car up on jacks. Amtrak may soon be repainting these cars in gray as the cars present aluminum sides attracts all dirt as soon as the cars are released from Beech Grove.

A Superliner in the Hoist Shop getting worked on.

A Pacific Parlour which is scheduled to be returned to service in July.

This sign tells you all that the Beech Grove Shop Crews do in the Forge Shop.

Inside the Forge Shop.

Viewliner trucks set.

Another view of some Viewliner truck sets.

Getting ready to lift a Viewliner truck set.

More truck sets getting worked on in the Forge Shop.

Proceco Truck Washer.

The sandblasting unit.

Trucks waiting in storage until they can be returned to a car in need.

Another worker hard at work in the Forge Shop.

The Shop Oven with temperatures over 1400 degrees Fahrenheit.

A freshly baked truck part.

Storage area of the Forge Shop. From here we went into Car Shop 2.

Lew Woods, Beech Grove Shop Superintendent and fantastic tour guide.

Click here for Part 2 of this story.