Windows 98, Ebay & Mechanics: A train runs on the last hole

When it started in 1972, BART, which is the abbreviation for the San Francisco railway, was cutting-edge technology. 50 years later, many of the blue and silver trains are still allowed to roll – but only thanks to old Frankenstein laptops, Windows 98 and Ebay.

Top modern, once was, now rather at the end of its life

Bay Area Rapid Transit: With this local transport promise, San Francisco built the BART transport system in the 1970s. The approach: do without old rails and outdated signaling technology, bring on electric trains with slim aluminum bodies and almost autonomous operation. Price tag for 450 cars at the time: 160 million US dollars. The problem with going it alone: ​​much of the technology used never made the breakthrough or was sooner or later outdated. As The Mercury News describes the anniversary, half a century later, BART is only held together by Windows 98, hunts on Ebay and resourceful mechanics.
BART on opening day: 50 years later the trains are still rolling

The curious own IT and mechanical world around BART begins with the error diagnosis. IBM Thinkpads from the year 2000 with Windows 98 are used for this purpose – doesn’t that sound that old? Mechanic Shawn Stange describes the process of getting the track’s log files to journalists: “This stuff was written so long ago. So you have to use Windows 10, open a Windows 98 virtual machine and then run the DOS program to download the log files,” he said. “It’s primitive.” For this purpose, as many of the laptops as possible are kept, which in case of doubt can even be assembled from several old colleagues.

Find parts in web

When it comes to repairs, mechanic John Allen has interesting stories to tell about BART. Before the work can begin, the mechanics often have to do some research first. “Sometimes we don’t even know what the part is called,” Allen says. And so he and his colleagues often have little choice but to hunt for parts online armed with a recording. “Sometimes we literally start with a photo and then scour different manufacturers and eBay for an unusual part.”

Most of the old Bart trains will go to the scrap heap in the next two years. Taking their place are new models worth $2.6 billion. However, San Francisco will continue to need resourceful specialists, since the new trains have been plagued by software problems since they were launched.

See also: The model railway was almost dead – until the Corona boom

Train, subway, BART, 70's, Bay Area Rapid Transit

Train, subway, BART, 70’s, Bay Area Rapid Transit

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