Here’s our look at the streetcar construction project details
Friday, the first track was laid in place on Broadway as this work crew pounded out the first of some 700 welds that will be required to complete the 2.5-mile streetcar route connecting Broadway to Pioneer Square. It was not the first time Broadway has had streetcar tracks installed. But it is the first time the tracks will be connected with the painstaking thermite weld process that — slowly — creates a smoother, quieter seam and leaves a stronger, lower-maintenance connection.
The crew pounding the first connection out Friday afternoon was still getting its rhythm down. The foreman, apparently experienced, opted to step back as the mold was removed and embers flew — he’s ruined too many shirts that way, he said.
Here is more on the process from the Seattle Department of Transportation:
Recently, construction crews started excavation work for the inbound track on Broadway. This will prepare the roadway for the installation of track from Howell to Pine streets.
The rail is delivered in 60-foot long segments called “sticks.” Each weighs about one ton! The type of rail being used on the First Hill Streetcar project is called “girder rail.” It has a low profile when embedded in concrete and is specially designed for urban areas. The girder rail was specified for this project because, compared to the more common “t-rail” system, it reduces hazards to pedestrians and to small wheeled vehicles such as wheel chairs, baby carriages and bicycles.
The sticks are joined together using a technique called “flash butt welding.” Two rails are laid end to end with a small gap in between them. When an electric current is applied to the metal, the gap between the two pieces creates resistance and produces the heat required to melt the steel. When the rails reach the proper temperature, they are pressed together. Four sticks are welded together to produce a 240-foot long segment.
Here the welds are undergoing finish grinding. This produces a smooth ride.
For more information and to sign up for email updates, visit the project website at: http://www.seattlestreetcar.org/firsthill.htm