All Aboard Florida’s first Brightline train rolled through West Palm Beach for just over an hour on Thursday afternoon, marking the start of a weeks-long testing phase required before the company can launch its passenger rail service this summer.
The company’s “BrightBlue” train, a moniker based on the blue strips down the side of its cars, left Brightline’s rail repair facility near downtown West Palm Beach just before 3 p.m. — creeping slowing along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks as it periodically stopped at railroad crossing.
The company will be testing the train along a 9-mile-stretch of track that runs between Park Place in West Palm Beach and Central Boulevard in Lantana.
The effort will include a series of tests required by the Federal Railroad Administration before passengers can ride in the train’s four cars.
Testing is expected to start in the morning and end in the early evening. The train will stop periodically between intersections where the road crosses the track, but Brightline officials said they don’t expect the testing to cause any traffic delays.
There will not be any passengers on-board while the testing is underway.
Brightline stockpiled 45,000 pounds of sand at its rail repair facility. On Thursday, the company began using the sand, which is divided in 40-pound sandbags, to simulate the weight of passengers in the train’s seat.
For now, the Brightline train will sound its horn at railroad crossings. The company is working with local transportation planners to create a “quiet zone” to silence train horns along the FEC tracks. Work on the safety improvements needed to implement the quiet zone continues.
Brightline officials have said the first phase of the quiet zone will likely be installed in the are where the testing is taking place.
On Thursday, freight trains continued operating along the FEC line while Brightline’s testing was underway.
The Brightline train traveled from the repair facility near 15th Street in West Palm Beach south of Belvedere Road before turning around. The train has two locomotives and four train cars, allowing it to be operated from either end.
Four more trains are being built at Siemens’ manufacturing hub in Sacramento, California. Those trains, each featuring a different hue, are expected to arrive in South Florida in the coming months.