Cincinnati Streetcar Maintenance and Operations Facility


At the corner of Race and Henry Streets in Over-the-Rhine, the Cincinnati Streetcar Maintenance and Operations Facility (MOF) is taking shape. This key component of the new Cincinnati Streetcar system will enable the City and SORTA to keep streetcar vehicles clean and in good working order.

DNK designed the MOF. The MOF was a unique project since it had to be intricately designed around the functional requirements of the maintenance and operation of modern streetcar vehicles. The Cincinnati MOF is a facility that is uniquely tailored to the requirements of the Cincinnati Streetcar system and their custom streetcar vehicles.

The building has two service bays, which can be identified by their accompanying high-bay doors on the north side of the building. Each service bay features a “pit” that allows mechanics to easily access the underside of the vehicle. The Cincinnati MOF has a different type of pit in each of its two service bays, a “gauge,” or narrow, pit that fits between the tracks, and a wide pit that extends beyond the outside of the vehicle with the rails elevated on steel support columns. The wide pit provides for easier inspection of both the inside and outside of the undercarriage.

The wheel trucks are the support, locomotion, and suspension system of the streetcar vehicle. They support the vehicle body, provide stability, ensure comfort by absorbing vibration and minimizing the impact of centrifugal force when turning, and minimize track deformation and rail abrasion. Each truck has four wheels and tires on two axles, with two motors and two braking systems.

The MOF also includes a mezzanine level, providing workers with direct access to the roof of the streetcar, where much of the streetcar’s equipment is located. One of these equipment items is the pantograph, or the arm that reaches up to the overhead catenary system (OCS), which is the power supply for the vehicle. Offices, locker rooms, a conference room, and a break room are located under the mezzanine.

The streetcar storage yard sits immediately west of the maintenance facility. It has capacity to hold all five of the system’s vehicles when they are not in use. The entire site is surrounded by a perimeter wall or fence for security. Security is important not only because the vehicles are expensive, but also because the site can be dangerous to people not properly trained to work around high-voltage electrical equipment.

In addition to the MOF’s functional characteristics, DNK also had to carefully consider aesthetics. The MOF is located in the Over-the-Rhine historic district, which, according to the OTR Foundation, is believed to be the largest, most intact urban historic district in the United States. The MOF building does not attempt to replicate the nearby historic architecture, but rather combines some of the patterns of massing and fenestration found in nearby historic buildings with a modern look that better reflects the forward-looking nature of Cincinnati’s new modern streetcar system. By mimicking the massing and patterns of the historic buildings, the MOF fits seamlessly into the historic district without having to meticulously copy every detail of the existing historic architecture.