Central Electric 
Railfans' Association

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  • 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.

  • Thursday, October 27, 2016 10:03 AM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    Historic Michigan Avenue Sign to Light Up Again at the Illinois Railway Museum in McHenry County

    Union, IL - A giant piece of Chicago history is coming back to life at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, McHenry County. On October 29, 2016 at 5:00pm the 70-foot long illuminated SANTA FE sign which for decades sat atop the Railway Exchange Building at 224 South Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago will be re-lit following an extensive restoration effort. The sign was acquired by the museum in 2012, when it was removed from the building and donated by the building's owners, Hamilton Partners. Restoration of the sign, which was constructed in 1982 to replace an earlier 1962 version, took place in 2016 courtesy of a grant from the BNSF Foundation.

    Restoration of the enormous sign was conducted by MK Signs Chicago. "Over 260 man-hours went into this project," said Dave Diamond, head of the museum's Buildings & Grounds Department. "The work included cleaning and repairing polycarbonate surfaces, wiring replacement, and installation of over 1400 energy-efficient LED modules to illuminate the letters." Steel supports were installed near the museum entrance, where the SANTA FE letters will be easily visible from passing cars. The sign joins other restored railroad signs at the museum including examples from the North Shore Line, South Shore Line, Illinois Central Railroad, and Chicago Transit Authority.

  • Tuesday, October 25, 2016 4:50 PM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    Alan Berner On Oct 25, 2016 

    Source: McClatchy


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    Oct. 25--The George Benson Waterfront Streetcars will clang, clang, clang again after more than a decade in storage -- but not in Seattle.

    This Northwest Wanderings took me to St. Louis, Mo., the city I grew up in, and to The Loop, the neighborhood where I lived.

    That city bought three of the vintage cars for $200,000 and will run them on a 2.2-mile route, mainly in The Loop area along Delmar Boulevard. The Loop is named after the turnaround point for streetcars that stopped running there in 1966.

    In a window display, the old Seattle waterfront trolleys are seen running in the Loop area in St. Louis. The tracks are laid and the actual trolleys will begin running in early 2017. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)

    Getting streetcars along the Seattle waterfront was the signature accomplishment of the late Councilmember George Benson.

    He traveled to Melbourne, Australia, and secured five streetcars that date to the 1920s. The waterfront line stopped service in 2005, one year after Benson died. Two cars remain in storage here.

    The interiors of the vintage cars feature Tasmanian mahogany, white ash and brass hardware.

    Native St. Louisan Joe Edwards has driven their streetcar project and the revitalization of The Loop.

    He says it's been designated one of the 10 great streets by the American Planning Association.

    "It's racially diverse, economically diverse and age diverse," says Edwards.

    Just as Seattle's hometown rock 'n' roll legend Jimi Hendrix has a statue on Capitol Hill, The Loop has local, living legend Chuck Berry about to go into his famous duckwalk, while playing guitar, depicted in an 8-foot statue.

    "He's just kicking it up," says Edwards, along the Walk of Fame on the sidewalk in The Loop, a series of brass stars and bronze plaques celebrating those from that city or creatively formed by that city.

    Down the center of the street, the tracks are laid and overhead wires are being strung.

    Edwards says, "People trust the fixed track. It's clean electric transit, the prototype of how to connect one neighborhood to another.

    "We've very grateful to Seattle, salute Seattle. Here, they have a good home and we respect that type of transit in a good way."

    The cars are on track to begin testing next month and carrying passengers next year.

    Alan Berner: 206-464-8133 or aberner@seattletimes.com

    Copyright 2016 - The Seattle Times

  • Tuesday, October 04, 2016 9:23 AM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    Andrew Steele On Oct 3, 2016 

    Source: McClatchy


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    Oct. 03--Operators of the South Shore Line will give the public a look at a project they say would slash commute times to Chicago at three workshops this week.

    The project would add a second track to the commuter railroad and upgrade five stations between Gary and Michigan City in an effort to speed the trip to Chicago. The estimated cost of the project, dubbed Double Track NWI, is $210 million.

    According to estimates included in a new Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority strategic plan, almost half an hour would be sliced off the ride from Michigan City, with total trip time dropping to an hour and 11 minutes compared to the current hour and 39 minutes. The ride from Miller would be cut by 18 minutes, with total trip time dropping to 49 minutes from the current hour and seven minutes.

    The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District received the go-ahead from the Federal Transit Administration earlier this year to begin planning the project. It has hired the engineering firm HDR to do the initial environmental and engineering work for $4 million.

    "We are well underway in conducting the significant engineering and environmental work required by the federal process," NICTD President Michael Noland told the railroad's board of trustees at its September meeting.

    'A real urgency'

    NICTD is meeting with a variety of agencies and companies to discuss Double Track NWI's impact, including NIPSCO, the National Park Service, the Indiana Department of Transportation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    The railroad is also in discussions with South Shore Freight Railroad, which shares tracks with the commuter railroad, concerning two potential bottlenecks, Noland said. One is in west Gary and the other in the area of ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor steel mill and the Bailly Generating Station.

    The Miller neighborhood in Gary and Michigan City would see the most noticeable evidence of the project.

    In Miller, the plan requires the realignment of U.S. 12 "so we can keep our station in Gary right near Lake Street," Noland said. The point where U.S. 12 merges with U.S. 20 would be moved east, and a stretch of U.S. 12 between Clay Street and the South Howard Street area eliminated.

    The work will allow a smoother track alignment, a full, high-level platform and new parking garage at the station.

    In Michigan City, where tracks have run down the middle of streets for more than a century, NICTD is discussing new track and station layouts with city officials, Noland said. The mid-street tracks would be replaced by roadside tracks.

    The initial environmental and engineering work needs to be done in less than a year, to keep the project on track for construction in 2019 and 2020.

    Submitting the project to the federal government in August would make it eligible for inclusion in the federal budget the next fiscal year.

    "There is a real urgency getting into the federal pipeline," Noland said. "It's a competitive process. We're well served by getting this to the FTA in August."

    Federal funding would cover half the project cost, leaving the other half to state and local sources. NICTD officials hope to have the state and local sources determined by next summer.

    "We've been gaining significant traction" in earning support from state officials, Noland said.

    The railroad is establishing a website for information about the project, set to be available after Tuesday, at www.DoubleTrackNWI.com.

  • Tuesday, September 27, 2016 10:04 PM | CERA Board of Directors

    See Sean Ryan's Full Real Estate Inc. article

    Train manufacturer Talgo Inc. will return to Milwaukee’s Century City Business Park to refurbish trains under a $73 million contract with the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority.

    It marks a return for the Spanish train manufacturer, which left Milwaukee in spring 2014 after a lengthy battle with state officials over canceled contracts to manufacture and maintain trains. Talgo will move back into the building it formerly leased from the city of Milwaukee in the Century City Business Park.

  • Monday, August 29, 2016 10:18 AM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    Metra recently received the final two cars of its 160-car order for the Metra Electric Line, completing a 2010 purchase to outfit the line with a completely new and modern fleet.

    The new cars use the latest technology and have a variety of new features, including larger windows, better seats with reversible seatbacks, brighter lighting, non-skid floors and an improved public address system. They also have power outlets for customer use. Most notably, half of the new Highliner cars have bathrooms, meaning that every train on the Metra Electric line will have at least one bathroom – a first for the line.

    “Modernizing the Electric District’s fleet has been a priority for Metra for more than a decade,” said Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. “With the delivery of the final cars, we are celebrating the completion of a major investment that has enabled us to provide our customers with more comfortable and reliable service.”

    Since 1984, Metra has invested $1.6 billion in the Metra Electric – the most of any of Metra’s lines in the agency’s six-county service area.

    The push to replace the original 40-plus-year-old Highliners with a more modern fleet began with an order for 26 stainless steel Highliner cars in 2004. The cars, delivered to Metra in 2006, were purchased with $76 million in funding provided through the state’s Illinois FIRST bond program. Another state bond program allowed Metra to move forward with the purchase of 160 more Highliners in 2010 when the Metra Board approved $585 million contract with Sumitomo Corp. of America/Nippon Sharyo.

    The order from Metra spurred Nippon Sharyo to invest $35 million to build a new railcar factory in Rochelle, Ill., that employs hundreds of people while Illinois added a $12 million business investment package to support the new facility.

    Highliners are electric, self-propelled cars unique to the Metra Electric Line. 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.

    Although the Metra Electric Line cars cannot be used on the diesel lines, Metra has designed these cars so that, where possible, they share parts with those used on diesel bi-level cars.

    The old Highliner fleet dated from the 1970s – before Metra was created – and the last six cars carried their final passengers from Chicago to University Park on Feb. 12, 2016. Twenty-four of the original 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, Indiana.


  • Monday, August 22, 2016 5:53 PM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    The city of MILWAUKEE has hired Kiewit Infrastructure of Omaha, Neb., as

    lead contractor for its downtown modern streetcar line and construction

    could could begin this fall, Milwaukee Business Journal reports:

    < https://twitter.com/milwstreetcar>

    < *http://tinyurl.com/heghdvv >*

    Milwaukee hires lead streetcar contractor, allowing work to begin as early

    as fall

    Aug 19, 2016, 2:24pm CDT

    *Sean Ryan*

    Reporter*Milwaukee Business Journal*

    Kiewit Infrastructure Co. of Omaha, Neb., was selected for the estimated

    $60 million contract to lead the first phases of Milwaukee’s streetcar


    The international contractor has extensive experience in transportation

    projects, which weighed heavily in its selection for the Milwaukee

    streetcar, said

    Milwaukee Department of Public Works

    commissioner Ghassan Korban

    That experience shows Kiewit Infrastructure’s ability to minimize impacts

    on businesses along the route, he said.

    "The streetcar vehicles are being manufactured by Brookville

    Equipment Corp. in Pennsylvania, and the first one will arrive in Milwaukee

    in December 2017."

    “They understand what it takes to build an urban rail system in the middle

    of a downtown,” Korban said.

    Kiewit Infrastructure was among seven companies that competed for the

    Milwaukee streetcar contract. Its projects include subway work in Toronto,

    a $350 million light rail project in Denver and Aurora, Colo., and rail

    projects for the Chicago Transit Authority.

    Kiewit Infrastructure will be construction manager for the initial downtown

    loop of the streetcar, and the spur leading to the downtown lakefront. It

    also will oversee construction of an operations and maintenance facility

    for the streetcar vehicles on Fourth Street, underneath the interstate

    bridges. The initial streetcar phase will open for service in 2018, and the

    lakefront spur will start service in 2019.

    Kiewit’s selection means construction work could begin in late fall on the

    streetcar system, Korban said.

    “The kind of work we would choose to move forward with would have to not be

    impacted by inclement weather,” Korban said.

    The company will coordinate project scheduling with the city in the coming

    months, he said, including timing for ordering major materials such as

    streetcar rails.

    “They bring their insight, bring their experience to allow some tweaking to

    help expedite or bring greater efficiency to the project,” Korban said.

    In addition to experience, Kiewit Infrastructure committed to completing

    the project within the city’s allotted budget, Korban said. It has shown a

    “tremendous understanding of the local market,” to meet the city’s 21

    percent goal for participation of disadvantaged business enterprises, he

    said. The contractor also showed good understanding of the training

    programs to help meet the city’s resident hiring programs on the

    construction work.

    Milwaukee residents in the Residents Preference Program are to work 40

    percent of the hours on the construction project.

    “They’ve shown full understanding and commitment to adhere to those

    requirements,” Korban said.


    Edward B. Havens

    Tucson, Ariz,.

  • Friday, July 01, 2016 12:44 PM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    Bradley Criss, aged 53, passed away quietly on the morning of June 29, 2016, after an extended illness. Bradley was an active member of CERA for many years and was a former member of the board of directors.

    He is best known to CERA members for his layout and design work on Bulletin 146, Chicago Streetcar Pictorial: The PCC Car Era, 1936-1958. Bradley was also a talented audio/visual editor whose works included the DVD Chicago Streetcar Memories and the DVD Tribute to the North Shore Line (both with Jeff Wien). The latter was shown at CERA’s January 2013 meeting to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the railway’s abandonment. Most evident in the DVD was his talent for wedding sound bites to film clips and digitizing old film into a clean, professionally-edited digitized presentation.

    Bradley’s North Shore Line program will be reprised for the January 2017 CERA meeting. Those who have previously seen (or heard about) this well-made production will agree that this program was not only a fitting tribute to the North Shore Line but is also a tribute to Bradley’s memory as well that can be shared by all of us.

  • Monday, June 20, 2016 9:32 AM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    Oh, Canada! Toronto Beats Chicago
    on Transit with More Riders, Funding

    Toronto transit

    A streetcar makes its way through traffic along King street at Bay. 

    (Richard Lautens / Toronto Star)

    Mary Wisniewski Mary Wisniewski Contact ReporterChicago Tribune

    Toronto is a Great Lakes city like Chicago in many ways: It has about the same population, hot summers, freezing winters and a colorful patchwork of ethnic neighborhoods.

    But there are differences north of the border. The money is prettier. Crime is less violent. Milk comes in plastic bags.

    One major contrast is in the sister cities' transit systems. Despite having fewer rail lines and stations, Toronto's public transit ridership has seen years of steady passenger growth — up 15 percent from 2008 to 2015, while the CTA's is down 1.6 percent over the same period. With 2.7 million daily boardings compared with the CTA's 1.6 million, the Toronto Transit Commission, or TTC, has become the busiest system in North America, after New York City and Mexico City.

    TTC also is getting billions in capital dollars from the province of Ontario for service expansion, while Springfield lacks a current capital program. The entire Toronto region is undergoing a transit revolution and offers an example of what can be done for transit, if the political will and money are available.

    Yonah Freemark, project manager of Chicago's Metropolitan Planning Council, said that continued investments in improving service, coupled with a growing population and development planning that links residents to transit lines, all are boosting use of Toronto's system.

    "We really need to campaign for the state to provide more funding for transit services — buses and rail," Freemark said. The council has been pushing for $43 billion in new capital funding for transportation infrastructure over the next decade.

    The capital connection

    Unlike Illinois, which has no current capital plan because of the state budget impasse, Ontario has committed $8.4 billion in support of new transit in Toronto. The province is putting $31.5 billion in capital investments over 10 years to build an integrated provincial transportation network. The total package includes improvements to roads and bridges and to the frequency of GO trains — Toronto's equivalent to Metra.

    Canada is poised to become North America's new cannabis capital

    Canada is poised to become North America's new cannabis capital

    The money specifically for the TTC includes $5.3 billion for the Eglinton Crosstown, an 11.8-mile light rail line that will be the largest transit expansion in the city's history, to be completed in 2021.

    An additional $2.1 billion is going to two other light rail lines. The TTC and the city are in the early stages of planning a new "relief" subway line to manage subway congestion downtown, and an extension to the Scarborough area, which will cost $3.56 billion in city, provincial and federal funds.

    Due to open late next year is a 5.3-mile extension on the city's main Yonge-University line, built with provincial, federal and local funds.

    New project funding is separate from the TTC's $9 billion 10-year capital program for maintaining the system, building elevators and buying streetcars, TTC spokesman Brad Ross said. The TTC is $2.7 billion shy for this program but proceeding as it can.

    In contrast, the CTA needs $13 billion over the next 10 years to keep its much older system in a state of good repair. Its last all-new line, the Orange Line, opened in 1993.

    Hate center-facing? Take a seat on 130 years of 'L' trains

    Hate center-facing? Take a seat on 130 years of 'L' trains

    The CTA committed $5 billion in the last five years to rehabbing stations and other improvements. It wants to invest more to improve service — a big initiative is the $2.13 billion Red and Purple Line modernization project to rebuild tracks that are more than a century old.

    But the agency lacks a reliable source of capital funding. It has a pledge of $1 billion in federal money, but that isn't guaranteed without a local match.

    CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said the stop-and-start nature of capital funding makes it difficult to plan effectively.

    "You have to constantly hope and work for funding, and you don't have the stable funding stream," Chase said.

    The Toronto way

    Toronto's system is slightly more expensive to ride than Chicago's. The adult cash price is $3.25 in Canadian dollars or about $2.52 in U.S. dollars, compared with $2.25 for the Chicago "L." Most Toronto riders use a monthly Metropass for $141.50, or about $110 in U.S. currency. The CTA 30-day pass costs $100.

    TTC transfers are free, as are rides for children younger than 12, and there's a discount for college students. Fares cover about two-thirds of operations, while the city covers the other third, plus most good repair projects.

    TTC's rail system is smaller — with four lines and 69 stations compared with the CTA's eight lines and 145 stations. TTC rail does not extend into the suburbs as the CTA does, and shuts down at night for maintenance, unlike CTA Blue and Red line trains, which run 24 hours.

    The TTC can seem oddly inadequate — rail stations don't open until 8 a.m. on Sundays.

    But Toronto does have a larger network of bus and streetcar service with about 170 routes, said Ross, compared with the CTA's 130 bus routes. Night service is offered through a network of buses and streetcars.

    Ross noted that TTC service was cut under the former mayor, the controversial Rob Ford, who died earlier this year. The current mayor, John Tory, reinstated service that was cut. He also wants a separate initiative called SmartTrack, which would adapt a commuter rail corridor for urban use, with electrification and more stops.

    TTC growth

    One reason TTC's ridership is growing is because the city is. Toronto has 2.86 million people, according to the World Population Review, up from 2.5 million in 2006. Chicago's population has slipped to 2.72 million, according to U.S. Census data.

    Toronto also has less highway capacity than Chicago, and rush hour traffic is horrendous.

    "Because Toronto has fewer highways, it's encouraging people to take transit," Freemark said. About 68 percent of Toronto morning commuters use transit, said chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat. That's compared with 28 percent of Chicago commuters, according to 2014 Census figures. Of Toronto public transit commuters, 85 percent use the TTC, Ross said.

    Another factor is Toronto's strategy of linking new development with transit corridors, Keesmaat said. Transit-oriented development — putting dense retail and residential development near train stations to encourage people to ditch their cars — is starting to happen in Chicago, with high-rises springing up near "L" stations.

    But in Toronto, high-density development near transit corridors is part of a 10-year-old plan, Keesmaat said. The city has reduced requirements for parking spaces, and 80 percent of growth is on main transit corridors.

    "As we grow, we want to not add cars but provide the option for people to primarily get around on transit," Keesmaat said. "We've linked our transit capital building projects to the vision of the city we're trying to create."

    Freemark said improved bus service also is a factor in TTC's progress. CTA bus ridership has dropped while its rail ridership has gone up.

    The TTC can be too popular, and rush hour trains and streetcars get "squishy," which shows the need for more capacity, Keesmaat said.

    Besides the line expansions, the TTC is growing space for riders through investing in new train control technology that will allow more trains to run per hour, and adding new streetcars and trains with more room onboard, Ross said.

    For example, newer trains on the system lack doors between cars, which allows riders to look down the entire train from end to end. This allows for about 10 percent more capacity, Ross said.

    There are some hard choices ahead. Metrolinx, Ontario's regional transit agency, has been developing a plan to merge the fare systems of the Toronto region's transit operators.

    A possible scenario would be to change the TTC's flat fare model, similar to the CTA's, to a distance-based model. But the TTC says this would require major renovations, and community activists fear it would result in big fare hikes.

    A recent softening of TTC ridership may be caused by the economy slowing, or some people peeling off to take Uber or biking, Ross said. TTC riders gripe about their system just like CTA riders do. They complain about overcrowding, system breakdowns, riders who evade fares, and those who talk too loud or eat smelly food on the trains.

    But TTC riders do have something to look forward to — big expansions to a system that most residents depend on every day.

    "There's a big modernization effort going on," Ross said. "It does take time, though. It's a big ship to turn around."

    Kyle Whitehead, campaign director for the Active Transportation Alliance, said the Chicago region needs to imitate Toronto in thinking bigger about transit improvement and expansion.

    "There's been such stagnation in recent decades, I think a lot of people in Chicago think that's the way it is and that's the way it's always going to be," Whitehead said.

    "If we can move forward with projects like Ashland Avenue bus rapid transit service, and other expansion projects, people will see the improvements and see more areas clamoring for improvements," Whitehead said. "I think that's what's happening in Toronto."


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