Behind the Scenes

Exploring the new Albion Yard: Home of the Line 2 and Line 4 Fleet in Ottawa

On May 16, 2024, Rail Fans Canada was invited to visit the new Albion Yard Maintenance and Storage Facility (MSF), the new home of the renewed Line 2 (Trillium Line) and Line 4 (Airport Spur).

Located west of the former Walkley Yard facility, Albion Yard was built from the ground up to support the operations of Stage 2 South. During our visit, we had the opportunity to explore the maintenance hall where the fleet of Stadler FLIRT and Alstom Coradia LINT trains will be maintained and prepared for service once the line opens later this year.

Before the closure of the line for Stage 2 construction, the Trillium Line used a different facility: the former Walkley Yard MSF, which was acquired by the City of Ottawa from Canadian Pacific. This facility is located approximately 500 meters east of the new facility. Since it was built in the late 1960s, the facility was considerably limited in the amount of work it could perform on the fleet. Its main building did not have an inspection pit and walkway large enough to conduct inspections without needing to move the DMUs, as they were not full-length compared to the trains. Additionally, wheel turning was outsourced to a supplier in Montreal as the equipment was not available at the facility. Last but not least, Walkley Yard was not large enough to store the entire fleet of trains required for Stage 2 South.

As a result, it was decided that a new facility would be required to accommodate the expanded service of Line 2 and Line 4. Some plans considered upgrading the current yard or relocating it entirely, but it was ultimately decided that the facility would be located across the street from the current one. The much larger facility was designed from the ground up to accommodate the longer trains, twice as long as before, with a full-length elevated walkway and inspection pit, train wash facility, and general maintenance space in a separate building. This is in addition to the overall layout of the facilities, which was built to accommodate and store the longer trainsets and the necessary space to work on those trains.

Albion Yard as seen on satellite imaging (Approximately Fall 2023)

The main maintenance hall is also home to some operational and staff facilities for the line, namely their operators and maintenance team. Alongside the main hall, a variety of offices and spaces are present to accommodate operational needs. In the main hall, two parallel rail tracks are present, both sufficiently long to accommodate one Stadler FLIRT or two Coradia LINT trains on each track. One of the two tracks has an elevated walkway along its entire length, as well as an inspection pit. The other track has hydraulic jacks to lift the trains and separate them from their bogeys, an inspection pit, and an overhead crane to lift roof-mounted components. The facility is fully equipped to ensure the long-term and ongoing maintenance needs of its fleet. A new addition for Albion Yard: a wheel-turning machine will allow for the servicing of the wheels without relying on an outside supplier, reducing the turnaround time of the trainsets during maintenance.

As part of the operational needs for the line, each train must undergo an inspection daily before being authorized to enter service for the day. Trains are also cleaned to ensure they are ready to welcome passengers throughout the 18 hours of each service day.

Due to the fleet size for Line 2 and Line 4, high fleet availability is paramount to accommodate the regular service pattern. With a total of 13 trains - 7 Stadler FLIRT and 6 Coradia LINT - the line will typically operate with 6 FLIRT trains on Line 2 and a coupled set of Coradia LINT trains, while Line 4 will have two Coradia LINT units at any time. The other trains will either be in storage should a replacement need to be deployed, or undergoing scheduled maintenance checks that are more involved. 

With some constraints in the availability of spare trainsets, the reliability and ease of maintenance of the fleet are very important factors to keep the O-Train running smoothly. This new facility helps ensure that maintenance operations are as seamless as possible. Additionally, both types of trains used on the North-South lines have a proven record of operations around the world, with the Coradia LINT being introduced in Ottawa in March 2015 and the Stadler FLIRT having been exported and operated globally since 2004 with over 2,500 trainsets operating worldwide. Since their arrival in Ottawa, the City has been quite satisfied with their reliability and is confident that they will be a great fit for Ottawa's Line 2. The City also continues to be quite satisfied with their existing fleet of Coradia LINT, which were entirely overhauled during the Trillium Line closure.

During our visit, we got the chance to spend some additional time inside one of the new Stadler FLIRT trainsets. It will be particularly interesting to see them operate alongside the Coradia LINT, which are considerably smaller in most dimensions. The interior of the Stadler FLIRT is very spacious and open, with full LED lighting throughout and overhead displays for next stop and destination information. While we haven't had the chance to see them in operation yet, they will be a considerable step up versus the LED panels currently seen on both the Coradia LINT and Citadis Spirit trainsets. As part of the customizations requested by the city, double doors are present on all cars, enabling faster boarding times at all stations and ensuring redundancy in the event of a door encountering issues during operations. This is particularly important as, currently, a door malfunction on the Coradia trainset requires the withdrawal of the train from service since the accessible boarding area would not be accessible anymore. With two doors per side of each car, the accessible area can be accessed from two different doors, thereby removing the need for trains to be withdrawn from service should one door malfunction.

For anyone familiar with the old facility at Walkley Yard, it is obvious how much of a step up Albion Yard is compared to the former facility. It is a much larger, modern, and wide facility that will help ensure the reliability and availability of the fleet for years to come.

Many thanks to TransitNEXT, the City of Ottawa, and OC Transpo for coordinating this visit. 

Any views and opinions expressed on this blog belong solely to the original author and can not be attributed to, nor are they the opinion of Rail Fans Canada