Central Electric 
Railfans' Association

  • Tuesday, April 19, 2016 12:05 PM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    Milwaukee News

    City Opens Bidding to Lead Milwaukee Streetcar Construction Project

    Service for the initial downtown Milwaukee street car route is expected to begin in the fall of 2018.

    Service for the initial downtown Milwaukee street car route is expected to begin in the fall of 2018.

    1:13 p.m.              

    By Mary Spicuzza of the Journal Sentinel

    The city has opened bidding for companies hoping to oversee the Milwaukee streetcar project.

    Contractors have until June 1 to submit proposals to lead the project, which would involve serving as construction manager and general contractor for the 2.5-mile downtown streetcar route and lakefront loop.

    The winning company will oversee all the construction activities for the first phase of the streetcar project. That will include installing the track, building the overhead contact system, and handling all necessary civil and road work for streetcar stops and the operations and maintenance facility.

    City officials say construction for this phase of the streetcar and the maintenance facility will begin in late summer or early fall, and will continue until 2018.
    The first streetcar, which is being built by Brookville Equipment Corp., is scheduled to arrive in Milwaukee in December 2017. The $18.6 million contract calls for Brookville to initially build four cars, but the company may be tapped to make a fifth vehicle for the lakefront line in the near future. City officials say the company could eventually manufacture as many as 24 vehicles for Milwaukee.

    Service for the initial downtown route is expected to begin in fall 2018, and the lakefront line is expected to start operating in 2019.

    The streetcar plan, which aims to connect the Milwaukee Intermodal Station with the city's lower east side, was approved by the Common Council last year. The project's capital budget is about $128 million for a 2.5-mile route, with an estimated $3.2 million operating and maintenance budget.

    The City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works said the contractor would be chosen based on price, qualifications and approach to the project.

    This request for proposals can be found online, and companies interested should call (414) 286-3314.

    Proposals are due by 4 p.m. June 1.

  • Tuesday, March 29, 2016 9:13 AM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    Former electric interurban line says it will operate more trains on a longer route

    March 22, 2016



    East Troy Electric Railroad's former Chicago South Shore & South Bend cars carry a load of passengers eastward on a Christmas-themed train in December 2015.

    Steve Sweeney

    EAST TROY, Wis. — Photographers and railfans will be able to enjoy more trains and a longer train ride at the East Troy Railroad Museum in Wisconsin this year. The railroad recently unveiled its 2016 schedule that will include more trains, added dinner trains, and a longer operating route that features a stop at Indianhead Park in Mukwonago, Wis.

    The new schedule is part of the railroad’s 2016 season that officially opens for regular business on April 30. The museum will operate up to seven daily departures each Saturday and Sunday from East Troy. Trains will also be departing from Indianhead Park this season.

    In addition to its regular weekend schedule, the railroad says that its popular dinner and pizza trains will continue in addition to several new “theme trains” designed to appeal to different food heritages. Italian, Mexican, German, and classic American foods will be among some of the dinner items on board the special theme trains in 2016.

    A series of special events are also on the itinerary for 2016, including a Railfan Day on June 25 that will feature different sets of railroad cars.

    More information is available on the railroad's website.

  • Thursday, March 10, 2016 8:36 AM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)
    A look at the new CTA 7000 series rail cars The Chicago Transit Authority board voted Wednesday to approve a $1.3 billion contract for 846 rail cars — representing about half of the CTA's total fleet. Mary Wisniewski, Chicago Tribune

    The Chicago Transit Authority Board voted Wednesday to approve a $1.3 billion contract for 846 rail cars — the biggest rail car purchase in the agency's history, representing about half of its total fleet. The contract also will create a manufacturing facility on the Southeast Side, the first of its kind in the city in 35 years.

    The winning bidder to build the 7000 Series cars is CSR Sifang America, whose partners include the Chinese state-owned rail car manufacturing company CRRC Qingdao Sifang and CSR America, which handles North American operations. The same manufacturer is currently building cars for the Boston transit system.

    The last batch of CTA rail cars, known as the 5000 Series, were designed in the last decade and built by Bombardier Transportation, which lost this year's bid.

    A brief history of elevated trains in Chicago The new cars will replace 2600 Series cars produced in the 1980s.
    The 7000 Series cars will have a different seating arrangement than the 5000 Series cars, which have mostly aisle-facing seats. The wider, New York-subway-style aisles were intended to provide more standing room during rush hour, but have proved unpopular with some riders, who do not like getting their feet stepped on while seated, or having their views blocked by standing passengers.

    The new cars, with LED lighting and 37 to 38 seats each, will be a hybrid of the 5000 Series and the 3200 Series currently seen on the Brown and Orange Lines. The front of the cars will have aisle-facing seats to maximize standing space and make it easier for passengers to get on and off, while the rest of the car will have a mix of forward and rear-facing seat pairs and the popular single seats.

    The contract is expected to create 169 jobs — employing mostly union, high-skilled, sheet metal and electrical workers — at an assembly facility at 135th Street and Torrence Avenue, city officials said. The facility is expected to build the 7000 Series cars over 10 years — with prototypes coming out in 2019, and cars going into the system in 2020, said CTA spokesman Brian Steele.

    The facility would be the first rail-car assembly facility in Chicago since the Pullman-Standard plant closed in 1981.

    In a buoyant news conference at CTA headquarters after the board's vote, Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the deal historic and said he hoped the facility could also be used for other rail car orders from around the country. He expects suppliers to be drawn to the Hegewisch facility, bringing even more jobs. He said the deal was an example of the city using its purchasing power to create local employment, as it did when Chicago Police ordered its new cars from the South Side Ford plant.
    "It's one thing to order new cars and the customers will get a great experience. It's another thing to order those cars and create great manufacturing jobs in the city of Chicago, and bring back rail-car manufacturing to its proper home," Emanuel said.

    CTA president Dorval Carter said the purchase will give the CTA one of the country's youngest rail fleets — with the average age of a car dropping from 26 years in 2011 to 11 years once all the cars are delivered — and save $7 million annually in maintenance costs.
    While the board approved a $1.3 billion contract, the cost over time could be about $1.4 billion because of inflation as the CTA exercises its options to go beyond an initial purchase of 400 cars, Steele said.
    The CSR Sifang America bid came in $226 million lower than Bombardier's.

    Like the 5000 Series cars, the new cars will also convert the direct current supplied by the rails to an alternating current for propulsion, which provides a quieter, smoother ride, Steele said.

    The new cars will be bought with a mix of federal and local funds, the latter provided by a bond issue.

    The CTA first asked for proposals for the rail cars in February 2013, but the next year rejected the initial bids as incompatible with the 5000 Series. The agency then asked for the bids again, dropping the compatibility requirement and including a "U.S. Employment provision," asking bidders to provide the number and type of new jobs they planned to create.

    Jorge Ramirez, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, said he hopes Metra would also consider using the facility for rail car manufacture.


    Copyright © 2016, Chicago Tribune

  • Tuesday, February 16, 2016 9:15 AM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)


    Frisco, Texas
    Google Maps
    FRISCO, Texas — A Texas museum might be the last place you’d expect to find ex-Illinois Central Highliner electric commuter cars from Chicago, but the Museum of the American Railroad has just acquired 10 of them. Instead of static displays, the museum intends to use the cars as immersion classrooms at its museum in Frisco.

    While two cars will be preserved in their original state, plans call for others to be outfitted with the latest technology to assist with classroom instruction. Select cars will receive audio-visual enhancements, digital learning spaces, and interactive exhibits. The museum is currently seeking funding and sponsorships for the improvements.

    The Highliners will be branded the Stream-Liner, an acronym emphasizing science, technology, railroading, engineering, arts, and mathematics components of the Museum’s educational programming. Construction of the first three of ten exhibit tracks totaling 6,000 feet is underway. Upon completion, the cars will be placed on Track No. 7 for permanent display and use.

    The museum acknowledged the generosity of Metra Electric in assisting with the cars acquisition. BNSF Railway provided reduced rate transportation of the cars from Chicago to Texas.

    The St. Louis Car Co. built the original 130 Highliners for the Illinois Central in 1971-72. More information is available from the museum's website.

  • Friday, February 12, 2016 3:51 PM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    Final Train Makes Last Run 

    (Feb. 12, 2016) – Forty-four years after the debut of the original Highliner cars on the Metra Electric Line, the last six of them carried their final passengers today from Chicago to University Park. State Senator Martin Sandoval, State Representative Al Riley, Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno, members of the Metra Board of Directors and other guests took part in the official send-off from Millennium Station.
    “These cars have served us well and have been a central part of the history of the Illinois Central and Metra’s Electric service,” said Orseno. “But while letting them go is somewhat bittersweet, it’s time. The new Highliners enable Metra to provide our customers with more reliable service, better amenities and reduced maintenance costs.”
    The original Highliner cars began serving customers on the Illinois Central (IC), now the Metra Electric Line, on May 31, 1971. The cars were purchased in two separate orders. The first 130 cars were purchased from the St. Louis Car Company by the newly formed Chicago South Suburban Mass Transit District and leased back to the IC. Federal funds covered two-thirds of the $40 million cost and the IC paid the rest. In 1978-1979, the newly formed Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) bought the second order of 36 cars from Bombardier Inc. for $28 million. Metra took ownership of the railroad and the Highliners in 1987, rehabbing the cars and changing the color scheme from orange and brown to silver and blue.
    The original Highliners offered air-conditioning to customers accustomed to riding in cars with open windows during the summer months, and cushioned seats rather than the wicker benches provided in the 1920s-era cars they replaced. However, the original Highliners did not have onboard restrooms and their carbon steel construction proved less durable than the stainless steel cars that became the industry standard.
    The push to replace the original Highliners with more modern and durable cars began with the delivery of the first 26 new generation stainless steel Highliner cars in 2006, purchased with $76 million in funding provided through the state’s Illinois FIRST bond program. In August 2010, the Metra Board approved a contract with Sumitomo Corp of America/Nippon Sharyo to purchase 160 more Highliner cars. Funding for this purchase totaling $585 million was provided through another state bond program.
    The new cars are propelled by alternating current (AC), which supplies more power and requires less maintenance that the direct current (DC) propulsion used by the original Highliners. About half of the new Highliner cars are equipped with restrooms and every train on the Metra Electric now has at least one bathroom.
    After today’s final run, museums will be the only place that rail fans will be able to view the original Highliner equipment. Twenty-four Highliner cars have been sent to museums including: Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Ill.; Union Depot Railroad Museum in Mendota, Ill.; Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad/James H. Andrew Museum in Boone, Iowa; and the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson, Ind.

  • Sunday, November 15, 2015 6:57 AM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    A rendering of a Brookville streetcar in Milwaukee's Third Ward. Milwaukee's streetcars will be manufactured by U.S.-based Brookville Equipment Corp.

    By Mary Spicuzza of the Journal Sentinel
    Nov. 13, 2015

    The City of Milwaukee has chosen a company to build the first four vehicles for its streetcar project.

    Brookville Equipment Corp., a nearly 100-year-old Pennsylvania-based company that manufactures streetcars as well as locomotives and mining equipment, was picked in a Friday vote by the city's streetcar committee.

    The $18.6 million contract calls for Brookville to initially build four cars. The company could be tapped to make a fifth vehicle for the streetcar's Lakefront Line in the near future, and may eventually manufacture as many as 24 total vehicles for Milwaukee.

    Mayor Tom Barrett celebrated the news as "another major milestone" for the streetcar project.

    "We had a thorough review, and we're moving forward," Barrett said Friday.

    Each streetcar will be 66 feet long and 8 feet 8 inches wide, have 32 seats and hold up to 150 passengers. The vehicles will have two doors on each side, provide access for wheelchairs and bicycles to be transported, and at some point could be equipped to offer Wi-Fi. The cars will each weigh about 79,000 pounds when empty.

    The contract calls for the first vehicle to be delivered to Milwaukee in about 24 months.

    Michael White, a sales manager for Brookville, said the company's streetcar projects include New Orleans, San Francisco, Dallas and Disneyland.

    White said 70 Brookville streetcars are in operation.

    The car, known as the Liberty Modern Streetcar, is a "very safe car" and is designed to have a "30-year life," White said. The maximum speed is 42 miles per hour, but it could go higher in the future, he said.

    The streetcars will be manufactured at the company's Pennsylvania plant.

    The vote by the Joint Committee on Downtown Streetcar Implementation to authorize the contract with Brookville came about three weeks after Ghassan Korban, commissioner of the city's Department of Public Works, said the city was close to finalizing a deal with its preferred vendor.

    The proposals were evaluated using four criteria: budget, qualifications, technical capabilities and aesthetics. Korban said Brookville's proposal was deemed to be the "best value," and was also the cheapest overall.

    He praised the "modern and sleek" look of the cars, and said he was confident in their safety and performance.

    "We are very confident that this vehicle will be able to run 365 days a year in Milwaukee," Korban said. "So during the hottest days, and during the coldest and snowiest days."

    The agreement came less than a month after the city was awarded a $14.2 million federal grant for construction of a line connecting the streetcar with the lakefront.

    The streetcar plan, which aims to connect the Milwaukee Intermodal Station with the city's lower east side, was approved by the Common Council in February. The project's capital budget is $128 million for a 2.5-mile route, with an estimated $3.2 million operating and maintenance budget.

    Late last month, local and federal officials announced the city had been awarded a $14.2 million federal grant for construction of the spur connecting the streetcar with the lakefront. The award was from the federal TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) program. The Lakefront Line, which was approved by the Common Council along with the first phase of the streetcar in February, would connect Cathedral Square to the lakefront using Broadway and Milwaukee, Michigan and Clybourn streets. It will also link the streetcar to the Couture development, which has a stop planned.

    Initially, it was anticipated that the city would break ground on the project by late 2015, but the groundbreaking now is expected to occur sometime in spring 2016. The streetcars are expected to start running in fall 2018.

    The streetcar project has faced some vocal opponents who question the cost and how many riders it might have. Barrett repeatedly has touted the key role it will play as development projects spring up throughout downtown.

    "We think this is going to have a positive impact on property values and economic development," the mayor said Friday.

    Barrett added that a millions of dollars in federal grants being used for the project were awarded years ago, and cannot be used for other expenses.

    Also on Friday, Jeffrey Kober, the CEO and president of Cudahy-based Milwaukee Composites, announced that his company was donating flooring for the four vehicles.

    Brookville was one of four companies that submitted proposals. The three other companies were Inekon Trams, in the Czech Republic, and German companies Siemens and Vossloh, Korban said.

  • Friday, October 30, 2015 1:35 PM | Len Marcus (Administrator)
    Please click the following link to see the RAILFAN Magazine review of CERA's Chicago Streetcar Pictorial 

  • Monday, October 26, 2015 2:13 PM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    The City of Milwaukee has been awarded a $14.2 million federal grant for construction of a spur connecting the streetcar with the lakefront. The streetcar plan is depicted in this rendering.

    By Mary Spicuzza of the Journal Sentinel

    Oct. 26, 2015 3:26 p.m.

       The City of Milwaukee has been awarded a $14.2 million federal grant for construction of a spur connecting the streetcar with the lakefront.
       The U.S. Department of Transportation grant was announced Monday by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.).
    The Lakefront Line, which was
    approved by the Common Council along with the first phase of the streetcar in February, aims to connect Cathedral Square to the lakefront using Broadway and Milwaukee, Michigan and Clybourn streets.
       It will
    link the streetcar to the Couture development, which has a stop planned.
    "This critical federal grant for the Milwaukee Streetcar will bring thousands of residents and visitors to major attractions and new developments on Milwaukee's lakefront," Barrett said in a statement.  "This announcement builds on the positive momentum we're experiencing in the heart of the city and will also have a significant impact on our neighborhoods, creating hundreds of construction jobs and better connecting our neighborhoods to downtown."
       The city is
    close to signing a contract with a streetcar-manufacturing company. "This is a strong federal investment in 21st-century Wisconsin infrastructure that will put people to work," Baldwin said. "The Milwaukee Streetcar will also help spur significant economic development and improve the quality of life for Milwaukee residents."
       Moore also praised the project, saying it would expand Milwaukee's public transportation options while boosting local economic growth. "Economic mobility is vital to our city's future," Moore said. "That's why I've dedicated so much time and effort in securing this multimillion federal grant for the Milwaukee Streetcar project. With this funding, we can expand our city's public transportation options while fostering local economic growth and development."
       The grant will be used to build the Lakefront Line and to purchase a streetcar that will operate on the line, Barrett said. Some of the money also will be used to add a second track on St. Paul Ave., between N. 2nd and 5th streets. The extension aims to give riders more flexibility and allow the Lakefront Line to run between the Milwaukee Intermodal Station and the lakefront during special events, such as Summerfest and the Fourth of July, the mayor said.

  • Friday, October 23, 2015 2:23 PM | John Nicholson (Administrator)

    From Railway Age (9-09-15):

    Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

    El Paso City Lines PCC, circa 1963

    Transportation officials in El Paso, Tex., are finalizing agreements with two firms to build a $97 million, 4.8-mile streetcar line approved by City Council in 2014. The state-funded project involves refurbishing and placing back into service historic El Paso City Lines PCC cars that operated until the 1970s.

    TheCamino Real Regional Mobility Authority, which is overseeing the project, in late August 2015 selected Paso del Norte Trackworks, a joint venture of California-basedGranite Construction Inc.and New York-basedRailWorks Track Systems, andBrookville Equipment Corp. to build the infrastructure and rebuild the PCC cars, respectively. Paso del Norte Trackworks will be responsible for tracks, maintenance and storage facilities, power stations and catenary wires. Brookville will be responsible for resurrecting El Paso’s old PCCs, which have sat dormant for decades in the Texas desert.

    Work could begin on the streetcar line, which was designed byAECOM, as early as January 2016. Last year, the Granite/RailWorks joint venture completed a $197 million modern streetcar line in Tucson, Ariz., that opened in July 2014. That system sparked a downtown renaissance, spurring $1.5 billion in private and public development along the route, Tucson city officials and business groups have said.

    The El Paso streetcar will run from the Paso del Norte Port of Entry to the West El Paso neighborhood that is home to a campus of El Paso Community College, the University of Texas at El Paso and several hospitals. Construction will be complex, as the route passes through the arts, business, government, entertainment and shopping districts in downtown El Paso, Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority Executive Director Raymond Telles told local media. “We are going to affect a lot of people with this project, so we want to make it as painless as possible,” he said.

    Six of El Paso’s vintage PCCs will be transported to Brookville Equipment’s facilities in Pennsylvania and remanufactured and modernized. Originally, plans called for seven PCCs, but the cost of restoring the streetcars was greater than expected, $3.1 million per car, officials said. They hope to eventually add a seventh car using contingency funds that could be freed up when the project is complete.

    Brookville, which has remanufactured PCC cars for SEPTA and other transit authorities, will upgrade the 1938-built vehicles with modern propulsion equipment, air conditioning, and pantographs for current collection. The cars will also be ADA-compliant. PCC No. 1511, which was painted by renowned artist Jose Cisneros, will be restored, artwork and all, according to Telles.

  • Tuesday, August 04, 2015 3:54 PM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)


    This article is written by Carole Carlson on Aug 4, 2015 of the Merrillville, IN Post Tribune


    Aug. 03--The South Shore Railroad is gearing up to carry bicycles on trains next spring, kick starting the transit plan years earlier than a previous timeline.

    South Shore General Manager Mike Noland unveiled prototypes of two bicycle racks at Friday's Northern Indiana Commuter Transit board meeting and the board approved a one-year pilot program set to start in April. The racks were designed by SportWorks, a Seattle-based transit design company.

    Advocates have been pushing the initiative for about 10 years. Bike supporters say the South Shore is the only commuter railroad in the nation that bans bicycles on its trains because its cars aren't configured to hold them.

    The pilot program approved Friday will outfit three cars with specially-made bike racks. Bike owners will sit next to their bikes.

    Noland said three cars will be equipped with about 25 to 30 bike racks each. The racks will be attached to the car's metal heating system. Each rack costs $500 to $600. No final cost estimate for the pilot program was available.

    The pilot bike program will only run on weekends and cyclists must get on and off at stations with high-level boarding platforms, Noland said. It's also not intended as a permanent solution.

    At a public hearing last month, officials presented a bikes on trains plan that's dependent on the purchase of new cars within five years. NICTD then plans to retrofit five existing cars at a price tag of about $10 million. When bike advocates and even some NICTD board members heard the program likely wouldn't start until 2021, they complained and officials began to look for a short-term solution.

    "We heard the board loud and clear to accelerate the process prior to the next train car order," Noland said. He said cars purchased in 2009 were finally performing well and anchoring the fleet, allowing the railroad the opportunity to look at modifying its older cars.

    Noland acknowledged the South Shore's shortcomings. "Metra has more space than we do. We have no room for anything but seats, that's the fundamental difference."

    NICTD board member and Lake County Commissioner Mike Repay thanked Noland for quick action. "I commend you for listening to what was being said. I think this is the right way to do it. I know there are still bugs... Folks who really want their bikes on trains will be hospitable."

    Advocates, including Save the Dunes Council and the National Parks Conservation Association, immediately praised the action.

    "Save the Dunes has taken a leadership role in the project as part of our desire to increasenon-motorized access to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Indiana Dunes State Park, yetclearly the benefits would be experienced region-wide," the Save the Dunes Council stated in a release.

    "This decision has been a long time coming and today's vote by the NICTD board is a welcome change and one that we look forward to seeing through," said LeAaron Foley, an outreach coordinator with the National Parks Conservation Association.

    Contact Carole Carlson at ccarlson@post-trib.com.

    Copyright 2015 - Post-Tribune, Merrillville, Ind

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