Bombardier Builds Strong Pittsburgh Presence Tracing Back to the Burgh’s Industrial Roots

Every day, Bombardier’s nearly 70,000 dedicated employees work diligently at production and engineering sites in 28 countries and a worldwide network of service centers and other locations to support the company’s position as a world leader in transportation. 

Bombardier was established in Quebec in 1942 as a manufacturer of motorized vehicles for travel over snow, and introduced the first personal snowmobile in the late 1950s. In 1974 the company diversified into the transportation sector with a contract to build subway cars for Montreal. Since then, the company has evolved into a leading industry player in both the rail and aerospace markets.

Bombardier established a strong Pittsburgh presence as part of the acquisition of Adtranz, including the former Westinghouse Transportation/AEG business interests, back in 2001. Ronald L. Birkelbach, Head of Rail Control Solutions (RCS) Region Americas, is responsible for the development and delivery of rail systems in North and South America.

“Pittsburgh has a long and distinguished history in the rail industry, and Bombardier has played an integral part,” he said. “Our evolution into the modern, high-tech company we are today results from the spirit of hard work and innovation that has been so prevalent in the Pittsburgh region.”

History Lesson: Bombardier’s Pittsburgh Roots

George Westinghouse, the inventor of the air brake, founded Westinghouse Electric Corporation in Pittsburgh in 1886 to construct and market alternating current (AC) electrical systems at a time when direct current (DC) was typically used in the USA. The company prospered, branching out into all phases of electrical production. In 1894, it formed a transportation division, which in 1965 went on to design, build and test a highly innovative product, the “Skybus,” a forerunner to today’s automated transit systems. 

The Skybus was a fully automated, rubber-wheeled electric vehicle that rode on a steel and concrete guideway. The first system was piloted on a 1.77-mile test track in the Pittsburgh suburb of South Park. 

Subsequently, the company’s first U.S. application of an automated transit system was in 1971 at Tampa International Airport. Today, Bombardier designs, builds, operates and maintains automated people movers, monorail and metro systems for airports and cities around the world.

Bombardier Transportation has marked the 15th anniversary of the entry into service of the world’s first radio-based, driverless Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) solution. Designed by Bombardier, the pioneering BOMBARDIER CITYFLO 650 CBTC solution began operation on San Francisco International Airport’s Automated People Mover (APM) AirTrain system on March 3, 2003. Since then, Bombardier’s radio-based CBTC technology has been adopted on rail systems worldwide.

Birkelbach commented, “This anniversary is an important milestone in the U.S. and around the world. Bombardier has been a pioneer in rail control and signaling for over 100 years, with our Pittsburgh site playing a central role in the development of automated rail control since the advent of digital communication technology in the early 1990s. Our radio-based technology, now deployed globally, changes the way our cities and airports operate by providing quick, comfortable and safe transportation for millions of passengers worldwide.”

CBTC, including Bombardier’s CITYFLO 650 solution, provides many advantages for safe and cost-effective infrastructure management from heavy metro and advanced rapid transit to APM and monorail systems, and for all grades of automation. With communication provided via two-way radio, and more recently 4G LTE, the train’s exact position is always accurately known, the need for equipment and maintenance costs is reduced, and centralized traffic management and automation is improved.

Bombardier’s world-first CBTC solution in San Francisco was closely followed by projects for many APMs, Metro Madrid, Yong-in and Taipei. Today, Bombardier remains a market leader, with its solutions chosen for 40 lines globally, including 12 airport systems and the most advanced, fully-automated metro lines in Kuala Lumpur, Delhi and Melbourne. As a long-term partner in San Francisco, in addition to the two-line AirTrain APM, with its fleet of 38 INNOVIA APM 100 vehicles, Bombardier is currently also supplying 775 new rail cars for BART’s Fleet of the Future.

Pittsburgh Continues to Drive Future Growth

Bombardier’s Rail Control Solutions (RCS) business develops, engineers and installs advanced rail control and signaling systems with a comprehensive portfolio of rail systems including:

—Integrated control systems

—Computer and relay-based interlocking systems

—Automatic train protection and train operation systems

—Radio-based rail control and signaling systems

—Central Control Rooms

—Wayside equipment

Rail control solutions are key to increased availability, line capacity and operational line speeds to meet the requirements of every railway operator. They are paramount to the effective, efficient and profitable operation of the rail systems of the future.

To help support its business needs, the RCS team in Pittsburgh recruits software and hardware engineers from local universities such as Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh. These highly skilled employees help develop hardware and software that control train movements for rail systems.

Not only does Bombardier Pittsburgh develop state-of-the-art railway technology, but executes complete turnkey system projects where they contain and utilize experts in communications, IS, civil engineering, power distribution, finance, project management, business development, research and development, quality assurance, planning and logistics, to name just a few.

Working out of the Bombardier Pittsburgh office, Megha Gaddam, Project Manager, is responsible to achieve customer satisfaction with on-time delivery of projects with industry-leading processes, superior performance, safety and quality.

“I love working at Bombardier, since our projects provide a safe, efficient and reliable way for people to commute, making a positive impact on their lives, she said. “Bombardier has people with varied experiences and diverse backgrounds working collaboratively to deliver safe, complex and innovative systems across the world.”

Also working out of the Pittsburgh office, Head of Regional Engineering Riccardo Risica is a transplant from the Bombardier office in Rome.

“This is my 15th year in Bombardier. I started as a Software tester in Italy and I am now directing the Engineering Team of RCS Americas, headquartered in Pittsburgh. I have had great opportunities, I designed Rail Control Systems in many countries, met diverse cultures in Europe, Middle East, North Africa, Asia, India and finally North and South America. This is invaluable experience for not only myself, but all of my family. I am proud and honored working at Bombardier!”

Bombardier’s Presence Around the World 

Today Bombardier Transportation is a global leader in rail technology and offers the broadest portfolio in the industry. It covers the full spectrum of rail solutions, ranging from trains to sub-systems and signalling and full turnkey solutions, including system integration. The company also provides complete transport systems, e-mobility technology and maintenance services.

In the U.S., Bombardier’s rail business employs workers at production and services sites across 12 states. Projects currently under way include:

• 300 subway cars for New York City 

• 775 rail cars for San Francisco 

• Next generation Bi-Level commuter rail cars for Seattle 

• Positive Train Control capability on sections of the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad 

• An INNOVIA APM 256 automated people mover system with 36 vehicles and CITYFLO 650 technology for Chicago O’Hare International Airport 

“Bombardier has played a significant role in the growth of transit worldwide, our people mover systems make airports and cities more efficient, and our mobility solutions continue to improve infrastructure for ourselves and future generations,” Mr. Birkelbach said. “We could not be more excited about our continued presence in Pittsburgh.”