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A New Take on Train-ing / Subway simulator offers real outlook

There are no scampering rats or dermatological ads, but a

new subway simulator for train operators is the closest students can get to New

York's rails without the underworld smell, MTA officials said.

The $3 million machine, which New York City Transit officials acquired two

weeks ago and showed off yesterday, combines sophisticated computer animation

with amusement park machinery.

"This is state of the art," said Rocco Cortese, New York City Transit's

assistant vice president of operations, training and human resources. "It gives

us the most bang for the buck."

The machine, perched in a dark room in the agency's Downtown Brooklyn

headquarters, is a replica of a subway cab similar to those found on the

Lexington Avenue line - only it's positioned before a movie screen.

Trainees sit in the cab and drive the subway like any other, using the same

equipment on an assortment of city tracks that have been painstakingly

replicated, right down to city landmarks, platform size and scowling passengers

of all backgrounds.

"This way, the train operator gets to experience everything that he or she

will experience in real life," said Cortese, who was a train operator for 4 1/2

years.

The stationary machine has most of the sounds a subway generates: hissing

brakes, honking horns. The motions the pneumatic pistons generate is uncanny,

quick curves can be unnerving and even nausea-inducing.

To test train operators' acumen, instructors toss wrinkles into runs - fog,

snow, even a cardboard box on the track. Unlike training machines in Japan,

however, there are no simulated suicides.

"They got so graphic that blood actually got on the screen," Cortese said,

noting transit employees might be too shaken by the experience, even if fake.

Train operators must use the simulator four times during a pre-work

probationary period, and then again once every three years. The Metropolitan

Transportation Authority likes the simulator because it keeps students from

taking real cars out of service.

The new simulator replaces others that used video instead of computer

animation, and lacked the motion the new machine offers.

"To us, it didn't simulate what we do everyday," said William Hopkins, a

train operator on the No. 5 subway line.

Riding the simulator can be fun, but lest trainees think it's a game,

supervisors monitor the trips, said Charles De Forte, New York City Transit's

director of training.

"We know everything that you do," he said of the trainees.

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