Facebook Page
Chicago & Northwestern’s commuter trains, 1960-1974

Chicago & North Western’s commuter trains, 1960-1974

Fred Klein, 2010, 2016

The Chicago & North Western ran a large commuter service to Chicago on three lines through the suburbs to Harvard, Lake Geneva and Kenosha Wisconsin. In 1954-5, C&NW finally took delivery of 16 modern double-deck gallery coaches made by the St Louis Car Co. to replace the ancient 1910 cars it had been running. The new 1955 cars were so successful that several orders were placed with Pullman Standard starting in 1956 and continuing through 1970. Real suburban service began in 1960 with the 102 coaches delivered in 1960-61. By 1970, 231 gallery cars were in the commuter fleet. The commuter service lost money in the 70s and a public agency (eventually Metra) took over the operation from C&NW in 1974.


A real advantage of the new cars was a cab in the last car that enabled control of the train with push-pull service, and no need for turning the train. The cab cars have a small cab window on the side and a marker light protruding from the side. Fifty cab cars were bought during 1960-61 in addition to the 102 regular coaches. The standard coach sat 161 but the cab cars sat 155. The locomotive always pulled the train out of town, just as in San Francisco. The 1960 and later cars (as modeled below) had more seats than earlier cars and push-pull cab cars for the commuter service.


The PS cars came in several batches. The 32 1956 cars (numbered 17-48) had 4 sets of 6 windows on a side. Some of the 1956 cars were painted with a yellow letter area on the side with a black stripe below it. The normal paint scheme for the 1960 and later cars was a green letter area as an extension of the green upper window section. The 1958 cars sat 96 passengers, had 4 sets of 4 windows on a side, were numbered 700-709 and were intercity cars for the Flambeau 400 and Peninsula 400. The 1960-61 coaches were numbered 49-150 and the 1960-61 cab cars were numbered 151-200. These 1960-61and later cars had 4 sets of 4 windows on a side, like the 1958 cars. See the Randall books listed below for a complete car listing.


A Chicago Northwestern commuter train with an F7 diesel pulling 5 gallery coaches. Note the bell in place of the upper headlight. Photo taken at Crystal Lake Illinois on July 31, 1977, by Mark Lagomarcino.


A commuter train in July 1981 at Evanston Illinois. Photo by Marty Bernard.


A rush hour train in the late 1960s departing Chicago on the Northwest line, from Dorin’s Commuter Railroads, page 106. Note that the third and fifth (the last) cars are cab cars with a protruding light on the side. This demonstrates that cars are added like building blocks to make trains of different lengths depending on demand.


The commuter train can be modeled with a factory painted locomotive and cars. The E7 locomotive is made by Life like. The gallery cars are made by Con cor: the model is prototypical to the C&NW cars of 1960 and later, but I added car number decals. (The Wheels of Time commuter car models have 4 sets of 6 windows, which are the 1956 C&NW cars, but not the 1958 and later C&NW cars with 4 sets of 4 windows. The WOT cars appear to be prototypical for the Southern Pacific and for the 1956 C&NW cars. The paint scheme of the WOT cars to be released in early 2011 has a green letter area and matches the models pictured below.) The C&NW commute trains I have seen in photos apparently have 3, 4 or 5 cars: 5 cars may be limit of suburban station loading areas.


A whole train



LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01



Dorin, Patrick. Chicago and North Western Passenger Train Equipment, TLC Publishing, 2001.

Dorin, Patrick. Commuter Railroads, Superior Publishing, 1970.

Randall, David and William Anderson. The Official Pullman-Standard Library: Vol. 9 Chicago and North Western, Railway Production Classics, 1990.

Randall, David. From Zephyr to Amtrak, Prototype Publications, 1972.