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  • Thursday, June 02, 2016 8:53 AM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    Why was the streetcar system scrapped in Chicago? Was there a streetcar tunnel under the Chicago River? And are there any remnants from the Brookfield Zoo streetcar? Geoffrey Baer tracks down answers for these three questions about Chicago's bygone streetcar heyday.

    I read that Chicago once had the largest street railway system in the world. Why was the system scrapped? Were the tracks pulled up or covered over?

    – Martin Rowe, Lincolnwood

    Chicago at one time did claim to have the largest streetcar system in the world, with a fleet of over 3,200 passenger cars and over 1,000 miles of track – a claim backed up in several sources we found.

    It all started in 1859 with a horse-drawn car running along a single rail track down State Street. By the 1880s, a handful of different streetcar companies were in operation across the city. Gradually, the horse-drawn lines were replaced with cable cars – so called because they hooked to a constantly moving cable underneath the street. Electric streetcars powered by an overhead trolley line gradually replaced the cable cars.

    In 1914, the streetcar companies unified under a new name: Chicago Surface Lines. A nickel would get you a ride to just about anywhere in the city.

    The advent of affordable automobiles in the 1920s caused streetcar ridership to decline – but streetcar operators weren’t going to just give up. In 1929 they formed the Presidents’ Conference Committee, or PCC, which determined that the way to stop the decline in ridership was to make streetcars as fast, smooth, convenient and comfortable as the family car.

    Chicago was chosen as the guinea pig city to test two experimental designs. The winning design became known as the PCC car and was used in cities all over the country. Chicago ordered 600 of them in 1945 and 1946. Here they were nicknamed Green Hornet streetcars because of their speed and the Chicago Surface Lines’ green paint job.

    At almost the same time the Chicago Surface Lines and the ‘L’ were consolidated as the CTA – and the CTA’s general manager Walter McCarter wasn’t a fan of streetcars and their unsightly web of overhead wires. He oversaw phasing out streetcars in favor of buses starting in 1947, just a year after the Green Hornets went into service. The last Chicago streetcar click-clacked down Vincennes Avenue on June 21, 1958. 

    There are still lasting vestiges of the streetcar system in Chicago. Many of today’s CTA bus routes and route numbers are the same as they were in the days of streetcars. And as for the tracks – a few of the streets had the tracks pulled up, but most were covered with asphalt and are still in the streets under pavement. 

    PCC streetcars are still in operation in a number of places including Kenosha, Wisconsin; San Francisco and at the Illinois Railway Museum.

    Our key source for this answer was “Chicago Streetcar Pictorial,” a book just released by the Central Electric Railfans’ Association. It details just about everything you could want to know about Chicago PCC streetcars.

    I am 84 years old. I grew up in Chicago and have a memory of riding on a street car as it went through a tunnel under the Chicago River. Is the memory of this old man accurate or a fantasy?   

    – Ron Graham, Bensenville

    We’ve actually done this question before, but we thought we’d bring it back for this segment. Our viewer’s memory is 100 percent accurate – there were in fact three tunnels under the river.

    The tunnels were proposed in the mid-1800s to solve a traffic problem. There were so many ships traveling up and down the river that the old swing bridges were constantly opening, causing huge traffic jams on land.

    The first tunnel opened in 1869 on Washington Street. The LaSalle Street tunnel opened in 1871, just before the Chicago Fire. It became a vital escape route for people fleeing the fire after the wooden bridges burned.

    The tunnels originally were for carriages and pedestrians. Later, the cable car companies ran tracks through the tunnels because they couldn’t run cables across movable bridges.  

    A third tunnel was built at Van Buren Street specifically for streetcars.

    When the river was reversed in 1900, the current in the river exposed the tunnels that had been 18 feet below the riverbed so new tunnels had to be built at a lower depth.

    The LaSalle Street tunnel was fabricated of steel above ground, then floated into place and then lowered into a trench in the river bottom. You can still see the entrance of that tunnel today north of the river, but it now leads to a parking area. That tunnel was closed to traffic in 1939.

    The Van Buren tunnel closed in 1924, and the last one at Washington Street closed in 1954 as the streetcar era came to a close.

    During WW II there was a streetcar route that went into the Brookfield Zoo from the east side. I believe that it originated from a terminal at Archer Avenue and 55th Street. Are there remnants of this line existing today?

    – Frank Coyle, Romeoville

    The line that ran beginning in the 1920s to Brookfield Zoo was not a Chicago Surface Lines streetcar, but was operated by the Chicago & West Towns Railway.

    It ran from Cermak and Kenton in Cicero and passed through what were then the somewhat rural suburbs of Berwyn and North Riverside, past Brookfield Zoo and ending in LaGrange. The streetcar one was replaced with a motor bus in 1947.

    According to the Central Electric Railfans Association, today’s PACE buses follow the same route to the zoo.

    As far as physical relics there are concrete bridge piers where the streetcar line once ran over Salt Creek.

    A restored blue and white 1924 streetcar, #141, is at theIllinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois. A different railway historical society had purchased the car in 1959 but it sat unrestored under a tarp in Lisle for more than 10 years until a rail enthusiast named Frank Sirinek stumbled on it.

    It took 30 years to restore the car, using parts like a controller found in Milan, Italy, and a fare register found in San Diego.  Other parts were re-manufactured based on original schematics. The restored car made its first run in 65 years at the Railway Museum on March 3, 2013 with Frank Sirinek as motorman.

    Frank SirinekPhotographed: Frank Sirinek

    For more information and to watch the entire Ask Geoffrey segment please click here

  • Wednesday, May 18, 2016 3:48 PM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    OT: Washington, D.C. - U.S. streetcars making comeback after nearly going extinct 

    Tue May 17, 2016 7:10 pm (PDT) . Posted by: "Edward Havens" watsonscruff2000

    A Capital News Service story published Tuesday on the "frederick news post dot com" site says U.S. streetcars are making a nationwide comeback after nearly going extinct:

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    [image: DDOT maintains that streetcars should be ready to go by the end of
    the year.]
    < *http://tinyurl.com/jetfubd <http://tinyurl.com/jetfubd>>*
    Streetcars, once nearly extinct, enjoying a comeback

    - By AUBURN MANN
    <https://www.fredericknewspost.com/users/profile/jdever>
    - Capital News Service
    <https://www.fredericknewspost.com/users/profile/jdever>
    - (Tuesday, May 17, 2016)

    WASHINGTON — With the February opening of streetcar service along the 2.4-mile H Street-Benning Road corridor, Washington joined a national trend of major cities rebooting what was once considered an antiquated mode of urban transportation.

    Far from being an exercise in nostalgia, the rekindled love affair with the streetcar is not only bringing public transportation to under-served areas, but is also aimed at stimulating economic growth in key commercial districts.

    Since 2000, seven major cities in the United States have installed streetcars. Besides Washington, the cities are Seattle; Portland, Oregon; Salt Lake City; Dallas; Tucson, Arizona; and Atlanta. Several others are in the planning or construction phases.

    All seven systems are modern, second-generation streetcars on new lines, not part of so-called “legacy” systems that in some cases, such as New Orleans and San Francisco, have been running for more than a century. Nor are the second-generation streetcars throwbacks to a bygone age, such as CityLYNX Gold Line, in Charlotte, North Carolina, which opened in 2015 using replica historic streetcar models known as heritage cars (they are slated to be replaced in about three years).

    Streetcars are a type of “light rail” service. Each system uses single cars that run along city streets on tracks, usually in mixed traffic, as opposed to exclusive rights of way.

    Each of the new DC Streetcar vehicles is 66 feet long and 8 feet wide, capable of holding approximately 157 passengers.

    The streetcar service runs Monday through Thursday from 6 a.m. to midnight and on Friday and Saturday until 2 a.m., with no current Sunday service. It will be free to all riders for the first few months of its introductory period.

    An average weekday in April saw 2,285 passengers on the DC Streetcar. Saturday ridership averaged 3,235.

    Washington had streetcars for 100 years, from 1862 until 1962. Initially drawn by horses, the cars switched to electric power in 1888.

    Only a few years after the last streetcar rumbled down Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington began construction on a new heavy rail/subway system known as Metrorail, administered by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which also runs the regional bus system.

    “From 1890 to 1930, the streetcar was prevalent throughout urban America before going through a decline the following 40 years with the advent of the automotive age,” said Art Guzzetti, vice president of policy at the American Public Transportation Association.

    Mass transit networks incorporating commuter railroads, subways and bus systems accompanied the expanded use of cars.

    But streetcars like Washington’s are filling in transit gaps. The H Street segment is envisioned as the first part of a larger streetcar system that the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) plans to construct in coming years.

    In an era with diverse mass transit options in cities throughout the country, the need for streetcars might not be as apparent to the casual commuter. But Guzzetti said that streetcars offer added value to urban transit.

    “The premise is to provide the ridership capacity of a larger train for a manageable route of a bus service,” Guzzetti said.

    Unlike the farther reaches of light rail and heavy rail networks that connect suburbs to central cities, streetcars “will circulate around downtown or commercial districts,” Guzzetti said.

    Experts argue that there is also a psychological boost, as well as potential increases in real estate values, in communities that become part of a streetcar system.

    “A streetcar, or trolley, communicates a message of permanence,” said Ken Rucker, president of the National Capital Trolley Museum. “The tangibility of tracks expresses commitment to an individual transit corridor.”

    Portland began operating replica vintage streetcars in 1991. But when it came time to replace them, the city decided to buy modern cars that were equivalent in expense but higher-tech.

    The Pacific Northwest city opened its new line in 2001, becoming the first North American city to have a second-generation streetcar system.

    “The city of Portland, as well as several prominent business owners and developers, saw a need to also provide circulation within the core of Portland, as there was not the high-capacity, permanent transit available once you were downtown,” said Julie Gustafson, a spokeswoman for Portland Streetcar.

    Using the same Czech-inspired United Streetcar (now built by Oregon Iron Works) vehicle brand as Washington would later implement, Portland chose cars that are approximately 20 meters (more than 60 feet) long and 8 feet wide, with low floors that make it easy to board and exit and are accessible to disabled passengers.

    “City leaders saw what streetcar systems had done in the past as well as what they continue to do in Europe and believed that this vision fit well with the desire to increase density in the central city of Portland,” Gustafson said.

    Fifteen years in, Portland Streetcar has an average ridership of 15,000 a week. As of December 2014, $4.5 billion worth of new development had sprung up along the line.

    Washington’s plan was similar. In 2003, the city began plotting the streetcar system routes to serve several economically depressed neighborhoods.

    The DC Streetcar website states that “fixed rail lines have demonstrated they can be catalysts to attract investments in housing, retail and commercial properties.”

    According to the District of Columbia Transit Alternatives Analysis published in 2005, traffic was another factor. The bus services, in particular, were not ideal for transporting heavy amounts of people through active thoroughfares, thus contributing to further congestion.

    Although Washington has had Metrorail and bus service, both were reaching their maximum capacities.

    The current line runs through slowly gentrifying areas east of Washington’s Union Station.

    Because of delays over funding, planning and several changes in city administrations, the DDOT spent more than $200 million on the project.

    Washington could possibly look to Atlanta for insight concerning the assets and liabilities of a modern streetcar system. The Georgia capital opened its streetcars in December 2014, 65 years after closing its original streetcar network.

    “The Atlanta Streetcar project has received the majority of its subsidization from city and federal governments, while the downtown business community has also pitched in with a total commitment of $20 million over 20 years, including $6 million towards construction costs,” said A.J. Robinson, president of the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District.

    So far, the Atlanta Streetcar makes a 2.7-mile loop through downtown. The addition to the city’s transit network has boosted real estate values, increased tax revenue and helped create jobs, Robinson said.

    “We’re tracking more than $2 billion of new and planned real estate investment within a five-minute walk of the track alignment,” he said.

    “Many businesses have invested in new renovations to area real estate right around the time it was announced that the city would be moving forward with the streetcar,” Robinson added.

    Atlanta has dealt with safety issues, instances of the homeless taking shelter in the cars, and recent ridership drops as the streetcars started collecting fares at the beginning of this year.

    “We don’t have space in the urban core to support more or altered bus routes,” Robinson said.

    “Atlanta is historically a car-dominated community,” he added. “To see this kind of innovation in transit is something new.”

    New York City has recently proposed joining this trend, with Mayor Bill de Blasio formally unveiling a plan in February to build a new streetcar line dubbed the BQX: the Brooklyn-Queens Connector that is supposed to connect the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.

    The line would run on a 16-mile circuit along the East River waterfront, which lacks sufficient access to public transportation. The streetcar would cost about $2.5 billion, far cheaper than digging a new subway line through the densely populated boroughs.

    “The BQX will be a state-of-the-art streetcar that ... has the potential to generate over $25 billion of economic activity for our city over 30 years,” de Blasio said.

    Unlike some other Northeastern cities, New York had shut down its last streetcars by the 1950s for mass transit options that addressed its high-density sprawl. Competition from the car and bus, as well as other factors, helped kill the city’s once-ubiquitous streetcars.

    But cities such as Boston and Philadelphia were able to preserve their streetcars, integrating them with their heavy rail and subway systems.

    Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), which includes legacy and heritage vehicles, boasts the nation’s largest streetcar system by route mileage. Its eight legacy streetcar routes (two of which venture out into the suburbs) are unique in that “they operate as a hybrid of trolley and high-capacity commuter rail,” according to SEPTA’s director of innovation, Erik Johanson.

    “Although they have their [rights of way] the majority of their trips, once they arrive in Center City they function as traditional trolley services like a bus on rails before funneling into subway tunnels,” Johanson explained.

    Philadephia’s Girard Avenue Line is the city’s only heritage line, using rebuilt 1947 PCC II-type streetcars. “We are actually looking to modernize many of our trolleys to meet current [disability] standards,” Johanson said. “One of our major goals is full accessibility throughout the system.”
    [end text]
    -----------
    Edward B. Havens
    Tucson, Ariz.

  • Tuesday, May 10, 2016 8:51 AM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    Milwaukee News

    Milwaukee Seeks $20 Million Grant for Streetcar Extension

    This is a rendering of a Brookville streetcar in Milwaukee's Third Ward. The city is applying for a $20 million federal grant to extend the Milwaukee Streetcar north along 4th St.

    This is a rendering of a Brookville streetcar in Milwaukee's Third Ward. The city is applying for a $20 million federal grant to extend the Milwaukee Streetcar north along 4th St. Credit: Brookville Equipment Corp.

    April 29, 2016

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    By Mary Spicuzza of the Journal Sentinel

    The city is applying for a $20million federal grant to extend the Milwaukee streetcar north to the new Bucks arena.

    The route extension would run on N. 4th St. from W. St. Paul Ave. to W. Highland Ave.
    "We're taking one extension at a time," said Ghassan Korban, Milwaukee's Department of Public Works commissioner.

    He said the proposed extension would also move the streetcar route closer to Bronzeville.

    The earliest the extension would open would be 2020, Korban said. The downtown streetcar route is expected to be open for passenger service in 2018, with the lakefront loop opening in 2019.

    Korban said that the federal grant announcements are typically made in late September, and he expects the same this year.

    The northern end of the planned extension would reach the "doorstep" of the new Milwaukee Bucks arena, which is expected to break ground this summer.

    Korban said the city is excited about the extension because it would be shovel-ready, and will connect key attractions such as existing hotels as well as planned attractions.

    "The idea all along has been that the original route needs extensions to make the streetcar route more successful and efficient," Korban said. "And this is the first next step in terms of having a meaningful extension to add to the success of the streetcar increasing connectivity downtown."

    He said that if the city receives the $20 million grant, it would cover about 50% of the estimated costs for that extension. The city could cover the rest using a tax incremental financing district, like how it financed the first phase and lakefront loop.

    "We're very excited about this opportunity, and trying to keep the momentum going," Korban said.

    The federal grant money would come from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grant program.

    The city in November picked Brookville Equipment Corp. to build its first four streetcars.
    Earlier this month, the city opened bidding for companies hoping to oversee the 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.

  • 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

    RELATED TOPICS: MIDWEST | STEAM/PRESERVATION | RAILFANING | TOURIST RAILROADS | OPERATIONS

    EastTroy

    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.

    mwisniewski@tribpub.com

    Copyright © 2016, Chicago Tribune


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

    RELATED TOPICS: RAILFANING | COMMUTER RAILROADS

    FriscoTexas
    Frisco, Texas
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    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 
     /resources/Documents/CERAB146RAILFANREVIEW115.pdf


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