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Metra Chicago commuter train, 1984-2003

Metra Chicago commuter train, 1984-2003

Fred Klein, 2014

Chicago has about 11 commuter rail lines that radiate outward to the suburbs and converge to four railroad terminals near Chicago’s downtown loop. Metra is the authority that owns, operates or oversees these commuter services. The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) was organized in 1974 to manage the public transportation in the Chicago area and take over the commuter railroads run by the existing railroads: Chicago and Northwestern (CN&W, 3 lines), the Burlington Route (CB&Q, 1 line), the Milwaukee Road (MILW, 2 lines), the Rock Island (RI, 1 line), the Wabash (WAB, 1 line), Illinois Central (IC, 1 diesel and 1 electric line), and South Shore Line (1 electric line). In 1984, Metra was formed to operate the rail lines and set standards for the lines now operated by the Union Pacific and BNSF. Metra is the brand for all of the 11 (now 12) rail lines.


Much of the rail equipment operated by Metra was bought by RTA and Metra from the original railroads, and Metra bought additional corrugated gallery cars from Budd and additional F40PH locomotives from EMD when it took over the system. The time period of this model train starts in 1984 when the Metra brand was on the train equipment, and ends in 2003 when new Nippon-Sharyo commute cars were added to the car fleets. This model train represents what was used on all lines except for the two electric lines to the south. The lines formerly operated by CN&W (now UP) also operated trains with smooth-side cars built by Pullman-Standard. The Milwaukee north and west lines used F40C locomotives (that have a large steel grill on the side and 6-wheel trucks), in addition to the F40PH model locomotive shown here.


The building blocks of modeling Metra trains during this time period are the Kato factory-painted F40PH model and the Concor corrugated Budd gallery commute cars. The commute cars should have a “Metra” placard on the lower left side (left as seen from either side). The Metra decals are available from Some repainted smooth-side gallery cars from the original C&NW purchase were used on a few lines but are relatively rare in the whole system. The Nippon-Sharyo commute cars did not arrive until 2003.



A Metra train at Racine Avenue heading south to Union Station on January 20, 2011. The unlit headlight indicates the locomotive is pushing the train. Although the photo was taken in the era when the new Nippon-Sharyo cars were in use, none of these are visible in the photo, which could be of a pre-2003 train as it would appear back into the 1980s. The placement of the Metra placard under the bottom row of windows indicates these are older Budd gallery cars. The side grilles indicate this is an F40C (unlike the F40PH used for the Kato model) as used on the ex-Milwaukee Road north and west lines (now Metra). The F40C is 6-axle but the F40PH is 4-axle. Russell Sekeet photo from Wikipedia.


A train on the Milwaukee district west line. Budd gallery cars are led by an F40C. This is near the Elgin terminal in May 1991. Mike Blaszak photo from page 25 of Kunz’s Chicago commuter railroads.


A Metra train leaving Chicago on the heritage corridor (ex Illinois Central line to Joliet) near the 16st servicing facility. The date is June 23, 1987. The F40PH is pulling a short train of three Budd gallery cars. Photo from page 46 of Kunz’s Chicago commuter railroads.

Metra commuter train using Budd gallery cars



The F40PH locomotive was used on most Metra trains during this time period. The F40PH is a Kato model. Most of the gallery commuter cars used after 1985 were the corrugated Budd cars that were inherited from the railroads that owned them (CB&Q, MILW and RI), or were bought new by the RTA when it took over in 1974. This model train has six Budd gallery cars, all Concor models. I repainted some of the cars from roads (like Southern Pacific) that never owned Budd cars. I applied a Metra placard and decal to each car on the lower left side like the prototype. Three of the model cars have a factory applied Metra sign to the right of the door, but I’m not sure this is prototypical, and was just factory printed here because printing on corrugations was difficult. The last car also has a control cab so the train can be used in push-pull operation.






Kunz, Richard, Chicago’s Commuter Railroads, A guide to the Metra system, Andover Junction Publications, 1992. A 1991 snapshot of each of the 11 or so commuter lines before the arrival of modern Nippon-Sharyo cars and MP36PH locomotives, with some Metra history.