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April 22, 2014 > BART rail rodeo

BART rail rodeo

Submitted By Melissa Jordan

Mechanics and electricians who maintain BART trains rank top in their field. With aging equipment and limited resources, theyÕre used to thinking on their feet and dealing with surprises.

Each year, the rail industry holds local ÒrodeoÓ events where individuals compete against one another in different mechanical and electrical skill categories. At BART, the three top individual winners join together to compete as a team at the international competition, this year in Montreal, Canada, in June.

The rodeo is about pride in oneÕs craftsmanship and about teamwork but, above all, about keeping BART the best at safety and reliability. BART has won more international Rail Rodeo maintenance events where it has competed than any other transit system in the nation. These crews are, hands-down, the best -- and they need to be, keeping a 42-year-old fleet, the oldest on average of any transit system in America, running safely and smoothly until new trains come on line in 2017.

ItÕs a little like the National Spelling Bee, with proctors, timekeepers, rule-readers, score-keepers and judges. But also with axles, circuit boards, train doors, dexterity plates, and precision measurements. ÒItÕs where you get to prove your skills,Ó said Ted Christian, a multiple Rail Rodeo winner and mainline Transit Vehicle Electronics Technician, who would go on to take the top honor, overall winner, at this yearÕs local event, held at the Hayward Maintenance Yard on April 3.

The competition is a no-frills affair, just a set of booths behind curtains to keep the element of the surprise, for the contestants donÕt know what challenge they will face until the timekeeper calls that itÕs time to rotate. There are lots of tricks and red herrings thrown in, to lead them off track. But this group would not be deterred.

ÒThe rodeo is a chance to be sure IÕm up on what I should be doing properly,Ó said Gary Crandell, a Quality Team Leader at Concord Shop who went on to be top winner in Electrical and part of the three-man team going to Montreal. ÒI get little insights so that I can improve my methods and skills ... itÕs a great time and a great way to test your skills and see how good you are.Ó

There is not much ÒrodeoÓ to the rodeo, unless you count the maroon T-shirts with a steer logo, the contestant who wore a cowboy hat and another who showed off his custom cowbell stamped with the BART logo. Oh, and hot dogs and hamburgers, potato salad and coleslaw to be shared when all was said and done, with some Johnny Cash on the sound system. The cowboy hat contestant was in his first BART rodeo, and as a tough-as-nails former nuclear submarine Navy guy, he vowed to be back.

BART mechanics and electricians come from a variety of backgrounds; the aviation industry; automotives; the military; other transit systems. They must go through extensive training to make the cut at BART.

And how does the rodeo help? ItÕs a relatively tiny training expense to send the winning team to the international competition, where they learn skills not only for BART cars but by competing on other systemÕs equipment to test their ingenuity even more.

ÒIt celebrates excellence,Ó Chief Mechanical Officer Tamar Allen said. ÒWeÕre benchmarking how others do to make sure weÕre doing the best work we can.Ó

Here is the full list of event winners:

First Place:
Overall High Score: Ted Christian - TVET Mainline
Electrical: Gary Crandell - QTL Concord Shop
Mechanical: Dan Parris - TVM Hayward Shop

Second Place:
Overall: Carl Ambrose - TVM Hayward Shop
Electrical: Mike O'Dorney - TVET Mainline
Mechanical: Lino Rodrigues - TVM Concord Shop

Third Place:
Overall: Jay Clemons - TVET Concord Shop
Electrical: Arnold Paragas - TVET Daly City Shop
Mechanical: Mark Casey - TVM Richmond Shop

For information on BART jobs, go to www.bart.gov/jobs.

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