Yesterday we visited the New York City Transit Authority’s Corona Maintenance Shop in Queens as part of a New York City Transit Museum tour.

The Corona Maintenance Shop serves the 7 train and its fleet of 409 passenger cars along with 10 work cars. The shop runs twenty four hours a day, seven days a week and has 163 MTA employees who get 32 trains ready every day for straphangers.

The new facility, put in to service eleven months ago, is the newest maintenance hub for the subway system replacing a 1920s structure. Taking a cue from other recent projects, such as the Stillwell Avenue Terminal in Brooklyn, it incorporates many green building features and is the first in the United States to be certified as ISO 14001 compliant. That means that an environmental management system has been put into effect which makes the facility have less of an impact on the environment.

The roof of the building is where you can see much of the green building technology as it is home to solar panels, heat recovery units and a fuel cell. Also noticeable on the roof is a series of skylights which provides some great natural light to the shop floor below and works in tandem with low energy consumption lights and light colored walls.

As for the tour itself, the major domo at the helm was Parmanand Beharry, car equipment division superintendent aided by his assistants. As expected, the bulk of the tour focused on what they do at the facility and not the environmentally friendly measures, such as recycling water for the train car wash. Still, getting a behind the scenes look at what it takes to keep a fleet of subway cars up and running is very enlightening to anyone who uses the subway.

The replacement of a third rail shoe – the contact point between the subway car and third rail – was demonstrated along with the replacement of a subway brake shoe. Not demonstrated for safety reasons was the wheel repair procedure known wheel truing. However, the machinery was pointed out and explained and some visitors took home some of the shavings as a souvenir.

Visitors also had the chance to see the Transit Authority’s latest weapon in the battle against window scratching being installed. Cut to fit multi-layer clear Mylar panels are attached over the subway car windows to give vandals a surface to scratch, without causing damage to the window. This program which has met with success elsewhere, saves the TA the greater expense of replacing windows.

There was also a bit of nostalgia on the tour with visitors given a chance to take a look at some retired equipment. An old Redbird, the mainstay of the 7 train for almost 40 years until retired and now demoted to a work car was available for an in depth look as well as a train of IRT Low V cars dating back to 1915. We found the most fascinating part of the IRT Low V cars was the vintage ads that were on display.

Now we do have to take the piece in today’s Times by Anthony Ramirez to task. He described the tour participants as “40 railroad buffs” – something that was not the case – and the whole tone of the article seemed to be the entire thing was a busman’s holiday for a bunch of anorak wearing Neville Shunt type trainspotters. We admit there were some foamers on hand since these type of things always bring out some of the scariest and freakiest ones.

However, there were some who were merely curious wanting to take a look at some of what makes the city run and see things we don’t normally have a chance to see and some who felt it would be a great place to photograph. In fact, the roof of the shop allowed for some great chances for photos of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, planes landing at LaGuardia, Shea Stadium and the construction of Citifield; the non-train buff photographers brought up the rear of the tour as it exited the roof. So take the Times article with a very large grain of salt.