Champions crowned at the 2023 Light Rail Rodeo

Operator drives train into garage.
A light rail operator competes in the egg crack event, where they must stop their train as close to an egg placed on the track as possible without breaking it. Credit: Kory McNail

On Saturday, Aug. 5, RTD’s finest light rail operators and mechanics put their skills to the test in the 2023 RTD Light Rail Rodeo. The event returned after a three-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic and kicked off the annual ro(a)deo season for the agency. For some operators and mechanics, it was a welcome return to normalcy.

The day started with a written test for both operators and mechanics. After the test, the skills portion began. Mechanics had to identify select rare tools, measure dimensions of objects and configure a train-to-wayside (TWC) system, all within 15 minutes for each event. Operators jumped into the light rail virtual simulator, a custom-built virtual reality program with a true-to-scale operator cabin and fully functional controls for operators to train in, and were tasked with navigating a course in challenging, ever-changing conditions. They inspected the rail yard and their trains for defects while being scored for accuracy.

Both operators and mechanics joined up for an egg crack event, in which competitors drove a light rail vehicle into the shop and attempted to stop as close to a pre-placed threshold line as possible while following all safety procedures. If the operator broke the egg on the threshold line, they were disqualified. This event was all about precision and skill.

When the dust settled, operator Robert Dennis came out on top as the 2023 Light Rail Rodeo operator champion, with electro mechanic George Sweeney earning the maintenance championship. The full results for both categories are as follows:

Light Rail Operators

  1. Robert Dennis
  2. Jacob Tonda
  3. Simon Giavaras

Light Rail Mechanics

  1. George Sweeney
  2. Mike Hubbard
  3. Bruce Diaz

RTD’s ro(a)deo season is just getting started! Later this month, the agency’s finest snowplow operators take to the streets for the Snowplow Roadeo, followed in September by the Bus Roadeo. Watch this space for details about those events.

RTD General Manager and CEO Debra A. Johnson and Chief People Officer Charlene Polege shoot hoops at the Light Rail Rodeo.
RTD General Manager and CEO Debra A. Johnson and Chief People Officer Charlene Polege shoot hoops at the Light Rail Rodeo. Credit: Kory McNail
Operator measures ball bearing
A light rail mechanic uses a tool to accurately identify a type of ball bearing. Credit: Kory McNail