ON MARCH 16 Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority retired the last of its Boeing light rail vehicles, replaced by newer LRVs from Breda and Kinki Sharyo.The occasion closes the book on an ambitious but ill-starred 1970s attempt by US defence manufacturers to diversify into the rail sector after the Vietnam War and develop standardised American-built rolling stock. The former Urban Mass Transit Administration awarded a contract to Boeing-Vertol, the company’s helicopter division near Philadelphia, to develop a standard light rail vehicle. But only 275 cars were manufactured, of which 130 went to San Francisco Municipal Railway and 135 to MBTA. Given that one of UMTA’s objectives was to improve reliability, it was ironic that the SLRV was plagued with mechanical and electrical problems from the outset, and both cities struggled to keep enough cars in service. From the 1980s onwards, US cities have relied on international suppliers such as Siemens, Kinki Sharyo and Breda for new rolling stock, albeit assembled at plants in North America. The last Muni SLRV ran in revenue service on December 31 2002, but MBTA had heavily rebuilt 55 of its Boeings, allowing them to soldier on for another five years. Two San Francisco cars were sent to Manchester in 2001, in a bid to increase capacity at low cost, but conversion to UK standards was found to be impractical.n