After hunting down parts, Richard is replacing the brakes on one of the railroad track tampers.
What goes on in the
Automotive Shop?

Richard, Dennis and Shawn, the automotive technicians, are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of more than 130 vehicles at the Very Large Array.

These guys literally keep the wheels turning at the Very Large Array. This is no small feat considering that our vehicles range from '84-'85 heavy duty (surplus) military pickups to 5-ton dump trucks to 30-ton cranes to motorcoach buses. They also are responsible for rail equipment including our Jackson tamper, a tie extractor and a spike machine. We have front end loaders and backhoes, road graders and water trucks and an ambulance and firetruck.

Often they are called to make repairs in the field. Shawn, above, is repairing a flat tire on a track maintenance vehicle on the east arm of the array during an antenna move. It had snowed the day before.
HVAC has brought their forklift over for Richard to fix. The auto shop has ogoing maintenance and upkeep projects, but they often are interrupted to make immediate repairs.
Besides physically repairing broken equipment, the techs must know how to research part numbers and manufacturers as well as how to acquire the parts, using both print and on-line resources. If the part is no longer available, they may machine it themselves if doing so is cost efficient.

"We live in a world of technical manuals," Dennis says. He is pictured at right scanning a pdf file for a part for a military surplus vehicle.

With all of these different vehicles requiring service, our technicians must constantly be educating themselves to keep up with new (and old!) technologies. They work to become certified through the Automotive Service Excellence program, a curriculum requiring both experience and rigorous written examinations. We're proud that we have top-notch professionals producing first-class workmanship in service and repair of VLA vehicles.

The vehicles we get are government surplus,and we don't usually get first choice. The mechanics spend a lot of time resurrecting and rehabilitating old equipment. If they can still get parts, the time and effort spent are cost effective as they may still get another 10-15 years of life out of a vehicle. Here Shawn is putting the finishing touches on a 5-ton dump truck for which the shop has completely refurbished the Cummins 855 6-cylinder diesel engine.

The track crew lends a hand by removing the wheels from the new shuttle cart that will be used to haul ballast on the railroad track. Dennis will inspect brakes before the vehicle is put into service both on the track and on the road.
Modified on Friday, 26-Sep-2008 12:09:36 MDT