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Silverliner V's: A Pearl From A Shell

Assembled oversees in Masan, South Korea, unadorned Silverliner V Regional Rail car shells have come ashore. The shells were passengers aboard the ocean liner Wladyslaw Orkan for a month long trip to Packer Marine Terminal in South Philadelphia.

However, the journey for these state-of the-art vehicles started long before their ship set sail.

The overseas procurement of the shells was necessary, in that fully constructed Regional Rail cars have not been produced by a United States corporation since the 1970s.

In order to replace its aging Regional Rail fleet and address ridership demands, SEPTA awarded a contract to United Transit Systems in 2006, resulting in the purchase of 120 new Silverliner V electric multiple-unit (EMU) self-propelled passenger rail cars.

Director of New Vehicle Procurement, David Casper, has organized multiple facets of the acquisition.

"We had to be extraordinarily thorough in the design process. The rail cars it will be replacing are over 40 years old, and they had to be redesigned with durability, longevity, safety and comfort in mind," Casper said. "We also had to make sure it satisfied the technological needs of today and tomorrow."

Although three completely constructed pilot cars also arrived with the shells, the remainder of the commissioned Silverliner V fleet will be assembled at the Hyundai-Rotem assembly plant in South Philadelphia.

The shells were individually transported by flat-beds to the plant site, where rows of rail car shells are hoisted from the immaculate floor, while workers attired in white hardhats, goggles and gloves operate among 15 separate stations assembling the new vehicles.

The cars quickly begin to develop a local presence as many of the vehicles' major components are provided by area manufacturers. The empty 'shells' become 'pearls' - cultivated in our own backyard.

Temporary work lights are suspended from the ceiling of the new shells while specialized teams meticulously install miles of wires and terminal locations for the state-of-the-art communications system developed by a Gwynedd Valley firm. At an adjacent station, crews work beneath the vehicle installing the energy efficient propulsion system provided by a company from Warrendale, Pa. The cars are also being fitted with gear units from a York, Pa. company.

The new cars will also have a light weight state-of-the-art climate control system installed.

"We are extremely excited and proud to be working on the Silverliner V Project," said Terry Dillon, Chief Engineer at Westcode Inc. located in West Chester, Pa. "To be a small part of technological progress within our own state is gratifying. We believe that when local revenue is expended on projects that result in supporting a more stable local employment, it is a win-win situation for all involved."

When completed each 85-foot long car will carry up to 109 passengers and upgrade the SEPTA Regional Rail fleet. The first Silverliner Vs are expected to be placed in service later this year.


Silverliner V shells are transported from Packer Avenue Marine Terminal to the South Philadelphia assembly plant by flatbed tractor-trailer.



Workers install major components to the car shell.



Rows of new car shells are prepped for specific installations at several different stations at the South Philadelphia assembly plant.



Crews prepare to install the propulsion system and gear units to the new shells.



Crews at work at the South Philadelphia facility.