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Metra Chicago commuter train, 2003-present

Metra Chicago commuter train, 2003-present

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 (former CN&W) and BNSF (former CB&Q). Metra is the brand for all of the 11 (now 12) rail lines.


New gallery commuter cars arrived in 2003 from Nippon-Sharyo. These were approximately the same size as the older Budd gallery cars, also had windows in rows of 6 (4 if there is an enclosed stairway), but had slightly larger windows. Trains have both the Budd and Nippon-Sharyo cars mixed freely together. The two car types can be distinguished not only by window size: the Metra placard is on the left below the lowermost windows on the Budd cars, but to the left between the rows of windows on the Nippon-Sharyo cars. Also in 2003, new, modern-looking MP36PH locomotives from Motive Power Incorporated were added to the fleet of F40PF and F40C locomotives. The MP36PHs were only used on the UP north line, the two MILW lines, the BNSF line and the RI line. The time period of this model train starts in 2003 when the new equipment was added. 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 and MP36PH locomotive models. The Nippon-Sharyo gallery cars are also available from Kato. The Concor corrugated Budd gallery commute cars should have a “Metra” placard on the lower left side (left as seen from either side) that must be applied by the modeler to be prototypical. The Metra decals are available from, and I applied them to a thin piece of styrene. Trains with only the commonly available Nippon-Sharyo cars can be run, but train photos almost always have at least one Budd car. The locomotive is in front on all outbound trains, and all trains have cab control cars for push-pull operation.



A Metra train on the BNSF line on October 10, 2013. The first four and last cars are from Nippon-Sharyo, but the fifth is a Budd car.


An outbound Metra train seen from the Harley Road overpass in 2012. Only four Nippon-Sharyo cars are in this train. The last car is a cab control car as seen by the horns on the roof. Photo by Jon Hill.


Two Budd gallery cars are followed by at least 3 Nippon-Sharyo cars.


A Metra train at the Geneva station in 2007. The train is inbound to Chicago because the Nippon-Sharyo cab control headlights are lit. Photo from Wikipedia by Jeremy Atherton.


Alternate F40PH power



Metra commuter train using both Nippon-Sharyo and Budd gallery cars


A MP36PH locomotive (Kato model) pulls a Nippon-Sharyo car (Kato model) and a Budd gallery car (Concor model with placard applied). The two car types are randomly intermixed.


The last car has a cab control and an opening window for the engineer.





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.