Steven Vance_Flickr_206

Steven Vance_Flickr_206

Chicago’s Metra started the next round of its in-house railcar rehabilitation program, where Metra workers with decades of know-how and experience transform old railcars to like-new condition at the agency’s 49th Street Car Shop.

The first round of the program, which began in 2010 and cost $115 million, renovated 176 railcars that were manufactured by Amerail (originally Morrison Knudson) and delivered to Metra between 1995 and 1998. The 176th and final railcar rolled out of the facility earlier this month.

The work now moves to the next round — 302 railcars that were manufactured by Nippon Sharyo and delivered to Metra between 2002 and 2008. The program will be able to rehab about 35 railcars a year until about 2020, when the facility will be expanded and capacity will increase to about 60 railcars annually. The current cost of renovating the Nippon Sharyo railcars is about $700,000 each.

“We are extremely proud of this program and the workers who have made it such a huge success,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. “Not only does it produce like-new railcars thanks to our highly skilled workers, but we keep jobs and investment right here in the Chicago area. It’s truly a win-win program.”

In the program, each car is gutted and outfitted with new passenger amenities, such as electric outlets to power phones and other small electronics; sensitive-edge outer doors that will retract if they come in contact with a person or object; four new LED signs per car to display station announcements; and new toilets and bathrooms, wheelchair lifts, composite floors, and seats. The upgrades also include overhauled air conditioning systems, upgraded battery chargers used for emergency lighting, and hardware components for the federally mandated Positive Train Control safety system.

The Amerail railcars could be completely stripped and rebuilt in 32 days. But thanks to lessons learned so far and slightly different work, the 60 carmen, electricians, and sheet metal workers assigned to the program will be able to complete each Nippon Sharyo railcar in about 28 days each. The rehabs extend the life of each car by about 12 to 15 years.

In a separate program at Metra’s KYD facility, Metra workers are renovating 41 cars that were built by Budd and delivered in 1974. Between the two programs, Metra expects to renovate about 43 railcars in 2017. Metra also has two separate locomotive programs, one of them in-house, that will renovate about 18 locomotives this year.

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