On Friday, May 8th, I went down to visit Oregon Iron Works division called United Streetcar. OIW has been constructing the first American built modern streetcar in decades. The vehicle is based off the Skoda 10T design and is compatible with the current Skoda/Inekon cars currently running in Seattle, Portland and Tacoma.

I met up Chris Fussell, whom some of you may know associated with the Southern Pacific 4449 group and whom also saved an Amtrak F40PH from being scrapped. Chris was an excellent host and filled me in on the happenings of Portland transit, including the new I-205 Green Line project. He was curious in regards to the new streetcar, being a previous Tri-Met employee and wanted to see the difference of the vehicles. I was unfortunately unable to get a hold of Chris Smith from Portland Transport, so some of your questions regarding the Columbia River Crossing and Tri-Met’s WES would need to be directed to him.

We met up with Joycelyn Chavez in Marketing and Business Development at Oregon Iron Works at 11:30. After getting our hard hats and safety glasses, we walked the seemingly never ending complex of OIW to where the first prototype was awaiting.

First look at the new Made in the USA Streetcar
First look at the new Made in the USA Streetcar

The most unique thing when you first look at the United Streetcar is the front end. OIW/US has made the decision to have a customizable front end to the vehicle. This allows each city, should they choose to do so, have their own look and feel for the way they want their vehicles to look.

United Streetcar
United Streetcar

Overall, the vehicle is around 90% completed and will be moved over to Portland Streetcar this month. Testing of the new streetcar will follow shortly after delivery and final prep work is completed. Testing of the vehicle will be mostly at night when services are ended. The vehicle will be open to the public once the testing is completed and will join the fleet as vehicle number 011.

The interior of the vehicle is exactly the same as what you see currently running on the streets of Portland, Seattle, and Tacoma.

Another unique aspect is the vehicle is the HVAC system. OIW/US decided to make a version for hotter climates, such as Tucson, Arizona. The 10T4 has a much more durable HVAC to handle the high and consistent high that is common to that region. The main change is the roof to support the bigger HVAC. This change is minimal won’t even be noticeable to the general public, besides staying nice and cool in that vast 120 degrees.

New stylized ends
New stylized ends

Here are some answers to some of your questions that was asked.

Q: What is the maximum grade that the streetcar can climb.

A:  The maximum grade is 9% (which is also the same as the Inekon and Skoda models)

Q: How many vehicles can OIW/US build in a year? (During the tour, 20 to 30 vehicles a year possible)

A: United Streetcar/OIW could manufacture the cars at our current facility.  Potentially there could be a future facility expansion on our existing land.  Of course if the business grows exponentially at some point in the future (ie 5+ years) we might have to look at additional expansion outside of our existing facilities.  However, we can currently build additional fabrication bays at our existing Clackamas location, and/or utilize our existing bays for any near-term production needs.

Q: Does the vehicles have regenerative braking?

A: Yes (again, same as the Inekon and Skoda models)

Q: What is the main difference between the main bogie and the bogie “redesign” on the website?

A: OIW currently has only one bogie type that is used on both ends of the car.  Bogie redesign means implementing a new design and new technical solutions.  It would be an action designated to improve the car’s performance.


Q: What would make OIW/US stand out from Inekon in terms of sales?

A: United Streetcar/OIW is currently the only U.S. Manufacturer of modern streetcars. OIW is able to meet Buy-America requirements, meaning at least 60% or our streetcar is made up of U.S. content and final assembly has taken place in the U.S. OIW has established relationships with vendors across the country, and we look forward to maintaining these relationships as we receive future streetcar orders. Inekon is a Czech manufacturer that cannot currently meet Buy-America. In addition, OIW will offer US support, customers will not need to deal with currency exchange issues, language and time barriers as met when dealing with a European supplier. OIW will be able to source spare parts and stock them here in the US so will not need to wait for things to be sent from Europe, etc

Q: Do you have a list of local vendors whom helped you build the first prototype?

A: I have this list available if anyone would like it.

I want to thank Joycelyn for taking her time to show us the new streetcar. I was thoroughly impressed with the vehicle even if it wasn’t on the ground. From what I was able to see from the interior, the car, as I said, is pretty much the same as the Inekon and Skoda models. The new streetcar is more than 70% American. This number would have been higher but unfortunately those parts and items were only available in Europe at the time.

It is worth noting that OIW has the capability to build practically anything at their Clackamas site, including rail cars if the call came in. OIW/US is fully committed to the streetcar and rail industry and hopes to see much more come down the pipeline soon, especially with the heavy talk of high speed rail. Their partner company Maranatha Electric (Totem Electric I believe, correct me if I am wrong) worked on the electrical issue on the Tri-Met WES DMU’s. That is a great step since Colorado Railcar is no longer.

If you have any more questions regarding Oregon Iron Works and United Streetcar, please, feel free to contact me or post in this thread and I will forward your questions to Joycelyn. I will have an overall trip report on Friday.

26 Replies to “United Streetcar 10T-3”

  1. I noticed your reference to Tucson, AZ (my hometown). Does OIW have the contract to build their modern streetcars?

  2. I would still like to know whether they are considering building the 5-segment version

    1. I’d imagine it’s just a matter of whether they get orders for it. Portland will need them at some point, and Seattle will eventually too.

    1. Did you learn any new Skoda jokes??

      Like these:

      How do you double the value of a Skoda ?
      Fill the tank !

      What do you call a Skoda with a sun roof ?
      A dumpster

      Why does a Skoda have a double rear window heater ?
      To keep everyones hands warm when they are pushing it !

      What do you call a Skoda at the the top of a hill ?
      A miracle.

      Thank you, I’ll be here all week. Tip your waitstaff!!

      1. Fill the tank? Hard to imagine with the streetcar running on electricity from overhead wires.

    2. Thanks, Chris!

      If you have any photos, I can link them to this post. E-mail me and let me know!

  3. I can’t help it but this design of front/rear lights is way uglier then any of types used on original vehicles.

  4. Too bad we no longer have the PacCar rail factory in Renton. I guess Fryes generates more sales tax revenue so out with manufacturing and bring on the retail. Hell of a way to run a railroad.

    1. I believe the problem was more Paccar not making much money from rail compared to their other businesses.

      Last I checked Paccar still had a Kenworth plant in Renton.

  5. BTW, these are NOT the latest manufactured American Streetcars. New Orleans built its own. The city is built in a dumb place, but they have their act together when it comes to streetcars. Meanwhile Oregon has these overpriced duplicates, the price of these per rider is astronomical. We should be building light rail, commuter rail (not like WES, but more like Sounder), and running good and efficient bus service with modern buses/vehicles instead of blowing it on these streetcars.

    Hopefully they’ll get down to a reasonable price like what New Orleans paid (about $950k per car) to have theirs built IN THE US in the 90s versus the OVER 2.4 Million per streetcar Portland paid.

    I digress, I love transit, but the streetcar trend needs to get some price grips on reality.

  6. They build vintage replica of streetcars, they do not build modern streetcars which cities are actually buying.

    These vehicles are not overpriced by any means. They cost LESS than the Skoda/Inekon models because they are no longer paying for import costs/shipping and the per rider is equal to light-rail. (APTA proved that fact when comparing Portland MAX to Portland Streetcar) You really need to get your facts straight before just simply stating things you do not know anything about.

    So, more Sounder type equipment so we can have more Metrolink type accidents because the car design is so poor that it is a given that in a minor/major accident that people will die? Yay!

    There is nothing at all wrong with WES or the vehicles that Colorado Railcar made. Just because they had a glitch this week (just like the “normal” trains do) doesn’t rule them out.

  7. Any mention of a possible single-ended streetcar model? Or a higher seating capacity model for longer distance, non-urban lines (I’m thinking the Lake Oswego line)? The standard modern streetcar model seems ill-suited for this Lake Oswego line.

    In fareness the N.O. cars are much simpler design and were a large order, hence the lower price.

    As for aesthetics, I still prefer the look of the original Skoda cars (Portland & Tacoma order).

    The more different the car bodies, the more difficult it will be for these modern streetcars to be produced for model railroads. :)

    1. Poncho,

      I have forwarded this question to Joycelyn. I’ll have an answer for you on Monday.

  8. These streetcars are very BOXY.They look like they belong in Eastern Europe or Seattle and Portland.For my city,I hope they pick a stylish and slick design by some Western European company,either from France,Germany or Spain.They have excellent products.

  9. Currently CAF, Siemens, and Kawasaki offer battery and/or capacitor energy storage systems for streetcars that allow catenary to be limited to stopping locations or end stations. Will United Streetcar offer these systems as options? The less catenary you have to build, the cheaper the construction and maintenance. Also, the seat pitch in the high floor sections of the Inekon/Skoda cars is so tight that I can’t get my knees in the space. Would United Streetcar offer longitudinal seating in these areas? Too, if the front doors were eliminated, like ST’s light rail cars, another seat could be installed. Would United Streetcar do this? I’d sure like to get United Streetcar thinking about these things.

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