One problem that never seemed to get resolved was the proper distribution and storage of parts. For example, one relatively common failure that would cause delays was a bad impedance bond, or ‘bond’. Every rail yard has a storeroom. The storerooms stock mostly Car Maintenance (CMNT) parts — parts for rail cars — but they also stock Automatic Train Control (ATC) equipment. The storeroom at the Shady Grove train yard (A99) used to stock all of the bonds ATC uses. Then, for reasons unknown to me, they stopped carrying them. That meant that whenever there was a ‘down track circuit’ (a track circuit showing false occupancy) due to a bad bond we often had to search all over the yard to find one — we’d look in our Train Control Rooms (TCRs) and the Field Office (F/O). If we couldn’t find the bond we needed, we would then start calling around to other rail yards and field offices. If we weren’t successful, we would then start checking other stockrooms. Eventually, a bond would be found. Then someone would have to take a Metro truck and drive to wherever the bond was and pick it up.
All of this took time. All the while, every operator of every train approaching the down track circuit would have to stop because their train would receive ‘zero’ speed commands, contact OCC (if their radio was working), and request permission to travel through the affected area — at about 12 mph.
It might take hours to get the bond, and by then it would often be too close to the end of the shift to begin replacing it so it would get passed off to the next shift. A job that could have been completed in a few hours might end up taking 12 to 14 hours.
Sometimes we could not get access to the storeroom at A99 (storeroom #253), especially on weekends, because there was no stock clerk on duty. When I asked a CMNT supervisor about this they said that their boss was trying to save money because he got some sort of kick-back or bonus for doing so. The way he decided to save money was by leaving the storeroom unmanned on the weekends! Usually, we could get the key to the main “cage” where the majority of parts were stored, but there were other areas that were simply locked up that we could not access. That also created problems.
My coworkers and I felt that it would make sense to have frequently needed parts on hand at every rail yard (at a minimum) but that idea was shot down. Almost every time there was a failure we had to go on a treasure hunt for the parts we needed.
Another issue was that the parts we received that were ‘rebuilt’ or repaired were frequently bad. We would lug a bond out onto the tracks and install it only to find that it was worse than the existing one. We had the same problem with power supplies and other equipment. We would notify ATC management but nothing seemed to change.