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  • Wednesday, July 03, 2019 2:47 PM | Ed Graziano (Administrator)

    Roy G. Benedict

    We rail preservationists and historians have lost an important member of our community.  Roy G. Benedict, prolific writer and historian active with several rail organizations over the course of 60+ years, passed away unexpectedly.  He was 78.

    Among other activities, Roy was long involved with CERA publications and also served a term as editor of First & Fastest, published by the Shore Line Interurban Historical Society.  His historic research and writings were meticulous, thorough and accurate.   A native of Chicago's South Side, he was considered a 'walking encyclopedia' of Chicago Surface Lines routes and operations.

    Roy was a bachelor who lived alone on Chicago's Northwest Side.  He was employed as a schoolteacher. After retiring, he started Roy G. Benedict Publisher's Services as a sole proprietorship.   He did not own a car and used public transportation to get wherever he needed to go, traveling frequently to Indiana to observe NICTD board meetings or to distant libraries to research electric railways.  When invited to ride with others to railroad museums, model meets, and other events not accessible by bus or train, Roy was always grateful for the opportunity to tag along.

    The accompanying photo below shows Roy enjoying Bob Olson's South Bend Electric Railway in October of 2016.  

    There will be no funeral service.  Roy bequeathed his collection to the Illinois Railway Museum's Strahorn Library.  

    --Eric Bronsky

  • Tuesday, July 25, 2017 11:44 AM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    THE 6000s ARE BACK!

    CTA has reached agreement with the Fox River Trolley Museum to repurchase
    cars 6101-02 for its Heritage Fleet.

    The Fox River board approved the sale at its July 8 meeting. CTA signed off
    on the terms Monday.

    "We've done our part for historic preservation, which is our mission," said
    museum President Edward Konecki. "Now it's time for them to go home."

    CTA will move the cars Aug. 14-15. The married pair features a set of
    outside conductor's controls and twin headlights, which makes them unique
    among surviving 6000s.

    Fox River has long-term historic preservation in mind. The contract
    includes a clause that gives the museum a 90-day right of first refusal to
    regain possession of the cars, should CTA decide to terminate its Heritage
    Fleet program. they must be returned in fully operable condition.

    The cars were never used in public operations at Fox River because of
    restrictions written into the contact between the museum and CTA in the
    1990s. Essentially, Fox River could not carry paying passengers on the cars.

    CTA hopes to unveil the cars to the public in October, but it is hoped to
    have them operable for CTAs rail Jamboree Aug. 26.

  • Tuesday, July 18, 2017 12:23 PM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    Graham Kilmer

    Returns to central city plant here, will service and repairs trains for U.S. customers.

    By Graham Kilmer - Jul 17th, 2017 04:30 pm 

    Subway cars inside Talgo facility. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

    Subway cars inside Talgo facility. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

    Many will remember when the last train from Talgo, the international train manufacturer based in Spain, left town as the company closed its shop in central city Milwaukee. Well, the company has now returned to its old facility at 3533 N. 27th St, in the Century City Business Park, formerly the site of A.O Smith, and last week held a grand reopening of sorts, with city officials there to celebrate.

    While Talgo specializes in manufacturing high-speed and transit trains around the world, the plant will handle the repair and maintenance of trains, at least for now. The facility will also has the capacity to manufacture trains, and will be the first production facility for Talgo in the US. They also have a maintenance facility in Seattle, Washington.

    The reopened Talgo facility and its production capacity gives the company a stronger foothold in the U.S. market. It recently secured a contract with The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to repair subway cars. For Milwaukee officials, it was an opportunity to bring jobs to a long blighted part of the city.

    Antonio Perez

    For the next 56 months  Tango employees here will work to fulfill the Los Angeles contract, which is worth $72.9 million. Perez said the company estimates that the yearly market for the kind of work they are doing at the Milwaukee plant is more than $180 million.

    “There are like 25 different transit agencies in the United States,” Perez said. “We have won the contract of only one.”

    Theoretically, if Talgo is awarded more contracts, the facility in Milwaukee will grow and bring on more employees.

    “This is a good start,” said the local Ald. Khalif Rainey, hoping the plant will continue to grow and hire more employees from his district. Rainey added that he hopes having an international firm like Talgo in his district will send the message to other corporations that there is a “ready and willing” workforce, as Mayor Tom Barrett put it, in central Milwaukee.

    “We can actually have a work, live, play model right here in a, hopefully, soon-to-be-formerly distressed neighborhood,” Rainey said.

    Department of City Development Commissioner Rocky Marcoux was among those that maintained a relationship with the Spanish firm after state lawmakers shuttered a deal with the firm in a series of decisions that cost the state $50 million. He said there’s a “myth” about Talgo’s new neighborhood, that the workforce has been sitting idly by, waiting for jobs to return; rather, he said, they’re skilled and working, but “want an opportunity at that same family-supporting job that they used to have.”

    Perez concurred. Along with the location being logistically promising, he said the available “skilled workforce” was an important part of the deal.

    “We’re doing everything we can to breathe life back into this location,” Barrett said. As an old industrial-area of the city, the Talgo plant sits on “dozens and dozens of acres of land,” Barrett said. “So when people talk about skills gap, in some ways it’s a geography gap. We’ve got that land here and we’ve got the people that want to do the work.”

    Barrett said the city was “very pleased to welcome Talgo back to the community,” — especially after Gov. Scott Walker rejected the high-speed rail project, for which Talgo would have supplied the trains. And after Republican legislators decided not to honor a contract with the manufacturer for new trains on the Hiawatha line between Milwaukee and Chicago.

    Taxpayers ultimately footed the bill on a settlement with Talgo that cost millions more than the original contract was worth.

    “The City of Milwaukee never ever ended our relationship or let it get acrimonious,” Barrett said, later adding, “Even though the state burned their bridge, and tried to burn it again, and burn it again, and burn it again.”

    Perez said transit maintenance and even production has a far more stable funding stream in the US, whereas the “high speed train business” has “a political bias,” as he put it. “The Democrats they think one way, the Republicans think a different way.”

    Inside Talgo

    Mayor Tom Barrett

    Railcar to refurbish

    Talgo Facility

    Railcar to refurbish

    Talgo Facility

    More about the History of Talgo in Milwaukee

  • Monday, May 22, 2017 10:00 AM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    The Milwaukee Streetcar construction along St. Paul Avenue is in the "most advanced stage" according to construction officials, as crews poured the first concrete along the line setting the rails Wednesday.

    "We're on schedule, spring work can present challenges because you get all types of weather in spring,” said Construction Manager Carolynn Gellings. “All of this work is very weather dependent."

    In Detroit last weekend the city opened the "Q-Line," a system largely designed by the same company and uses the same vehicles from Brookfield Equipment Corporation as the Milwaukee line does. TODAY'S TMJ4 sister station WXYZ-Detroit reports a few hiccups with the launch.

    Long wait times, mechanical problems, and a car having to be towed from the tracks were reported.

  • Thursday, April 06, 2017 1:02 PM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    MILWAUKEE -- Sparks were flying in downtown Milwaukee on Tuesday, April 4th
    as the controversial streetcar project moves forward. Some special
    equipment arrived, marking a big milestone.

    On Tuesday, workers moved the steel rails, and welded them into a long
    piece of track.

    "It looks like it really is a huge project," Brianne Harris said.

    "Walk down the street to class and all of a sudden there is huge equipment
    there and sparks flying everywhere. It's kind of cool," Josh Maas said.

    On MSOE's campus Tuesday, students got a firsthand lesson.

    "I'm a construction management major, so it's fun for me. I don't know how
    other students feel about it," Harris said.

    For the first time, welding was underway on the controversial streetcar
    project, with 80-foot sticks of steel eventually becoming a 320-foot piece
    of track.

    The line that will eventually run from the Intermodal Station through the
    Third Ward, Cathedral Square and the Lower East Side was being put together.

    A city spokeswoman said there are few pieces of equipment in the country
    that can do this kind of work, and it was in Milwaukee Tuesday, along with
    some inconveniences.

    "It's hard for studying with construction going on," an MSOE student said.

    "I'm kind of excited to see it in action. That's for sure," Maas said.

    CLICK HERE <http://www.themilwaukeestreetcar.com/> to learn more about the
    streetcar project.

  • Monday, March 20, 2017 9:43 AM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    *Mar 16th, 2017 05:05 pm*

    By Jeramey Jannene 

    The first shipments of steel that will form the actual track for the
    Milwaukee Streetcar have arrived.

    The segments, 52 rails delivered via flat-bed truck from Indiana, are being
    stored in the curb lane near the Wisconsin Department of Transportation
    office at 1001 W. St. Paul Ave.

    Ultimately the city will accept delivery of 474 80-foot long, 3,067 pound
    segments that will be stored at five spots in the curb lane on city

    Those steel rails will then be welded together into 320-foot long spans by
    a nationally-traveling team that specializes in electric flash butt welding

    The steel is expected to be fully delivered by the end of the month.

    The first construction of the guideway system is planned for April on a
    stretch of W. St. Paul Ave. from the Milwaukee Intermodal Station
    <http://urbanmilwaukee.com/buildings/milwaukee-intermodal-station> to N.
    Plankinton Ave.

    Construction work will involve cutting an 8-foot wide and 2-foot deep
    segment of the street out and installing the steel rails and new concrete.

    On streets like W. St. Paul Ave. where the streetcar will operate in both
    directions two cuts will be made, while N. Milwaukee St. and N. Broadway
    will only see one cut because the streetcar will only operate in one

    Construction on the streetcar system is being led by Kiewet Infrastructure.

    Utility work in advance of the actual streetcar guideway construction is
    already well underway, with crews hired by We Energies
    <http://urbanmilwaukee.com/businesses/we-energies> and other utilities
    working at a number of spots along the route.

    Public operation on the initial route connecting the Milwaukee Intermodal
    Station and Westown <http://urbanmilwaukee.com/neighborhoods/westown> with
    the Historic Third Ward
    <http://urbanmilwaukee.com/neighborhoods/historic-third-ward>, East Town
    <http://urbanmilwaukee.com/neighborhoods/east-town> and the Lower East Side
    <http://urbanmilwaukee.com/neighborhoods/lower-east-side> is scheduled to
    begin in the fourth quarter of 2018 following route testing.

    The lakefront line extension is expected to begin operating in the fourth
    quarter of 2019.

    For more information on the project’s construction timeline and details see
    our February article “Streetcar Construction Starts in April

  • Thursday, March 16, 2017 2:14 PM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    Construction is expected to begin this week on a Chinese state-owned rail company's assembly plant that will produce up to 846 new rail cars for the Chicago Transit Authority.

    The project will return CTA rail car manufacturing to Chicago after a 50-year absence, according to the city. CRRC Sifang's American subsidiary, CRRC Sifang North America, won the $1.3 billion contract last year to build the new 7000 Series over 10 years. The cars will have a combination of forward- and rear-facing seats as well as single seats and some facing the aisle.

    CRRC Sifang will invest $100 million in building a 380,944-square-foot manufacturing facility on 45 acres in Chicago's Hegewisch neighborhood on the Southeast Side.

    Production will begin in early 2019. The facility will begin testing the new car prototype later that year and the cars will hit the rails by 2020.

    The facility will employ about 170 workers, according to a statement from CCRC. The company will spend $7.2 million to train the workforce, according to a statement from Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office.

    The Chicago assembly plant is part of the company's larger plan to "become internationalized," said Li Yongle, vice president of CRRC Qingdao Sifang, under the CRRC corporate umbrella.

    "We recognize the United States as an important and strategic market for the Sifang," he said through an interpreter. "It will support other project plans in the U.S., including projects for metro cars and high-speed trains."

    The company already has a contract to build rail cars for Boston's transit system and aims to use the new Chicago plant if it wins bids to manufacture rail cars for San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit system, known as BART, and a double-decker coach car project for Metra, Li said.

    The company plans to assemble "major components" of the cars at the plant, including the trucks, doors, the heating and cooling system, brakes, stainless steel car body shell and a new propulsion system designed for a smoother, quieter ride. Assembly parts will be sourced from the U.S., China and other areas, according to Li.

    The CTA's first order of 400 new cars will replace its oldest rail cars, which date back more than 30 years. Once the new cars are in service, the CTA will have one of the youngest fleets of any U.S. transit agency, according to the CTA.

    The Chinese company's $1.309 billion bid came in $226 million lower than one submitted by Canadian-based Bombardier, which appealed the CTA's decision to pick the Chinese firm. The decision was upheld last year after being reviewed by the CTA. 

    "This new facility represents a major investment in Chicago that will bring economic development to the Southeast Side, while creating good-paying jobs for hundreds of workers," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a news release.

    The new rail cars will have LED lighting and 37 or 38 seats each and be a hybrid of the previous 5000 Series and the 3200 Series currently seen on the Brown and Orange lines. Both federal and local funds will pay for the project, with the local money coming from a previous bond issue.

    Li said his company still is negotiating possible tax incentives for building the facility in Chicago. A spokesman from the mayor's office said there are no city incentives but the company could be eligible for a county property tax credit. crshropshire@chicagotribune.com

  • Friday, March 03, 2017 11:17 AM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    The $280 million 95th Street terminal project is expected to be completed in late 2018. (Nancy Stone / Chicago Tribune)

    Mary Wisniewski Mary Wisniewski Contact ReporterChicago Tribune

    The CTA plans to reroute some weekday rush-hour Red Line "L" trains onto the Green Line starting next month to allow for more construction at the 95th Street station.

    The next construction phase will include work on the tracks, the existing station platform and the foundations of the new north and south terminal buildings, CTA spokesman Jeff Tolman said. To do the work, the CTA will have to close the east and west sides of the tracks at 95th, at separate times.

    What does this mean for South Side commuters? The work will affect off-peak trains during the morning and afternoon weekday rush hours, so riders will have to make sure they get on the right train.

    From 7:56 a.m. to 9:14 a.m., every other southbound Red Line train starting at Howard Street will be rerouted after the Roosevelt station to the Ashland/63rd Green Line stop, the CTA said.

    From 4:40 p.m. to 5:58 p.m., every other Howard-bound train entering the Loop from south of Roosevelt will start at the Ashland/63rd Green Line station.

    Depending on riders' location, some customers going in the off-peak direction may have to wait a few extra minutes, Tolman said.

    The rerouting, which will affect about 10 percent of all Red Line trains, begins April 2 and will continue until fall.

    All trains will be marked with destination signs, showing Ashland/63rd, 95th/Dan Ryan or Howard, and announcements will be made at stations, CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said.

    CTA to get $1.1 billion federal grant to upgrade Red Line

    CTA to get $1.1 billion federal grant to upgrade Red Line

    "This was necessary so we can do two things — maintain Red Line service and keep 95th Street open," Chase said.

    Motorists on the Dan Ryan Expressway also will see the extended closure of the northbound left lane near 95th Street beginning as soon as March 18, depending on the weather, and continuing into the fall. The lane also was closed last fall.

    The $280 million 95th Street terminal project, expected to be completed in late 2018, involves completely rebuilding the Red Line South's busiest station, which sees 20,000 passengers and 1,000 bus trips a day. The station is the southernmost stop on the Red Line — the agency plans to extend the line south to 130th Street, but has not yet acquired the funding.

  • Monday, January 23, 2017 12:00 PM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    Kiewit Infrastructure, the firm that will build the MILWAUKEE modern
    streetcar line in Wisconsin's largest city, will be hiring workers for
    track installation that will start in the coming months, the "urban
    milwaukee dot com" site reports. Utility relocation already is underway.
    The city is buying dual-mode Brookville Equipment "Liberty" model
    streetcars for the project -- the same type operating at Dallas-Oak Cliff,
    being delivered to Detroit Q Line and ordered by Oklahoma City. Milwaukee
    expects delivery of its first Brookville streetcar in December 2017. Five
    will be acquired: four for the starter line and one for the wire-free
    Lakefront extension to a planned high rise development. The next phase
    would be a 4th Street extension north to a planned sports arena. The
    Milwaukee Bucks NBA professional basketball team plans the arena as part of
    an entertainment complex. 

  • Wednesday, December 14, 2016 2:18 PM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    Progress continues on the Electroliner restoration project.  This is a very large, complex multi year project that began in 2013.  In the past three and one half years, hundreds of individuals (including a significant number of NEW IRM members) have donated over $850,000 and a small crew of dedicated workers have worked weekly on interior restoration (more hands are needed - if interested, contact Ed Oslowski at (773) 710-3226.)  

    The motors are at a contractor and a number have been rebuilt/repaired and returned to Union.  Four new wheels have been fabricated, the others have been turned to the original NSL profile, and the trucks are nearing complete tear down and restoration (with some new parts) at Avalon Car Company in Milwaukee.  Reupholstering of seats is ongoing.  These projects have been very expensive and taken much of the money that has been donated.

    Major projects remain, especially restoring the air conditioning system.  We have several members with expertise in HVAC who we hope will help with this project.  

    Our estimated need to complete the restoration of the Electroliner, hopefully to operational condition by the end of 2017 and full restoration by the end of 2020, is $1.2 million.  That is a very ambitious goal!  We have applied for and received a number of grants and more requests are being planned for the next few months.  We have also received several extremely generous donations and bequeaths, which were unexpected but allowed us to begin the "heavy" work described above.  

    In order to continue our work, especially on the air conditioning, we need to keep money coming in.  As we approach the end of the year we ask that you consider a special donation to the Electroliner fund by the end of December.  We will continue to report on our progress - look for at least one story and pictures in one of the upcoming RAIL & WIRE issues in 2017!  

    Donations can be made with a credit card by visiting www.irm.org and going to the “Museum Store”  (look under “Bestsellers” “$25 NSL . . .” or by sending a check (IRM Electroliner Fund) or your credit card information to:  IRM, PO Box 427, Union IL 60180.  You can also call during normal business hours (815) 923 4391 #2.

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