Fred Klein, 2014
Metra is the authority that owns, operates or oversees Chicago’s commuter services on about 11 commuter rail lines. New gallery commuter cars arrived in 2003 from Nippon-Sharyo. These Nippon-Sharyo cars 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 and restroom), but had slightly larger windows. The three commute lines that were operated by Chicago and Northwestern Railroad before 1974 (and are now operated by UP in contract to Metra) contributed their Pullman-Standard smooth-side gallery cars to the commute car pool. By the early 2000s these PS cars were painted grey with blue and red stripes and the blue Metra logo. Prior to the Metra grey scheme, they were in a white RTA paint scheme. These PS were retired from service before 2013. The smooth-side PS cars have windows in rows of 4 but the Budd and Nippon-Sharyo cars have rows of 6 windows. Most trains have only the unpainted Budd and Nippon-Sharyo cars mixed together. The two unpainted metal 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. The most common Metra power is the F40PH locomotive that has 4-wheel trucks.
Some of the trains on the UP lines have all three car types, and that is what is modeled here. The photo below shows the three car types mixed together, and was the inspiration for this model train, which mimics the one in the photo almost exactly.
The building blocks of modeling Metra trains during this time period include the Kato factory-painted F40PH locomotive model. 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 http://islandmodelworks.com/index.html, and I applied them to a thin piece of styrene. The older smooth-side gallery cars (with rows of 4 windows instead of 6) were made factory painted by Concor. The model train can be run in either direction because the prototype trains operated in push-pull mode, with the locomotive leading on all outbound trains. The Kato Nippon-Sharyo cab car has both white head lights and red tail lights installed, which reverse depending on the direction.
A Metra train on one of the UP lines. Unfortunately the photographer is anonymous and the date is unknown but is probably in the mid 2000s. The front of the train is the cab car and the locomotive is pushing the train inbound because the cab car headlights are lit. The first four and the next-to-last cars are from Nippon-Sharyo, as seen with the large windows and Metra placard between the rows of windows. The sixth and seventh cars (counted back from the front of the train with the striped end) are Budd cars with small windows and placard below the lower row of windows. The fifth and last cars are repainted smooth-side cars with the large blue band, originally bought by CN&W from Pullman Standard in the late 1960s and repainted in this grey scheme to be compatible with the unpainted cars. This photograph was the inspiration for the model train because it has three different types of cars and I can match it almost exactly.
Metra commuter train using Nippon-Sharyo, Budd and painted Pullman Standard gallery cars
The lead car is the Nippon-Sharyo car (Kato model at the top) and has a cab for the engineer with an opening window and a horn on top. One side of the model car has rows of only 4 windows to allow for an enclosed stairway and handicap restroom.
The next gallery car in the photo and the model train is the smooth side Pullman Standard car, painted grey and with rows of 4 windows. This is Concor model. The next two cars are Budd gallery cars whose prototypes were made of corrugated aluminum. I applied a Metra placard on the left side below the lowermost windows. These are repainted Concor models.
The next car is a Kato model of a Nippon-Sharyo car and the last is another smooth-side gallery car in the grey Metra scheme. It is a Concor model. The locomotive is a Kato model of an F40PH painted in the Metra scheme used since 1984.
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.