Monday, July 1, 2019

CTA 'L' cars mate for life, like swans

     Outside, three flags snap in the breeze: the Stars and Stripes of the United States, the five-starred red flag of Communist China, and a white banner representing CRRC Sifang America Inc. or, colloquially, the Chicago Transit Authority’s L car plant in Hegewisch.
     Inside, almost lost within a vast, new industrial space, two familiar-looking stainless steel train car bodies are propped six feet in the air, dangling coils of cable, surrounded by a bright yellow platform, the first of the 7000 series: 7001 and 7002.
     At the latter, workers in hard hats gather around an electric coupler that doesn’t quite fit, doing what they call a “soft install”: tentatively attaching something and making sure it clears all the obstacles it must avoid on the CTA’s 224 miles of often-cramped track.
     CRRC Sifang — the initials stand for China Railways Rolling Stock Corporation — won a $1.3 billion contract in 2016 to produce 846 new rail cars for the CTA; that’s about half the current fleet. That same year, it broke ground on this $100 million, 380,000-square-foot facility to do it.
     ”Part of the deal was they would build the factory here and build the trains here and all the good stuff that goes along with it, all the jobs,” said David Smolensky, a publicist for the factory.
     That’s 100 jobs now — three-fourths of them from IBEW Local 134 and Sheet Metal Workers Local 73 — and 170 by sometime next year. If you’re wondering why a U.S. company didn’t get the work, that’s easy: There are no U.S.-owned companies building passenger railway cars.

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  1. 1. While there aren't any US owned railcar companies, Canada's Bombardier, which built the 5000 series & lost this contract built them in New York State.
    2. While all current CTA cars are semi-permanently couple by a drawbar, the old cars 1-50, were single unit cars, that were used on the Ravenswood [cars 1-4] & Evanston & Skokie lines, before they were retired & mostly scrapped.

  2. While way too late to save any of the exsteelworkers from Hegewisch or the adjoining areas of South Deering or the East Side, it is good to know that a few manufacturing jobs are coming to the community.
    And Thank you Neil for sharing.

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed the "married for life" theme.


  4. CTA cars were not always coupled...the oldest wooden ones were not, but L trains have had an even number of cars for a long time, at least since the introduction of the first steel cars in the Twenties--the 4000 series-- some of which ran until the Seventies. They were followed, starting in 1950, by the Deco-style 6000s...L cars which closely resembled the famous PCC-type Green Hornet streetcars of the Forties and Fifties.

    After the streetcars were finally phased out (1958), the car bodies were scrapped and various parts (seats, windows, motors, and trucks) were reborn and recycled into components of the 6000s, which, like the earlier models, ran in what the industry calls "married pairs" (and numbered as such--like 6001 and 6002). Born together, life partners, and no possibility of divorce.

    For some reason, this "juicehead' has always liked that matrimonial nomenclature (and no, a "juicehead"--or "juice fan"--is not a boozehound, but a lover of all forms of electric transit...even trolleybuses).

  5. Here's hoping that Trump's trade tantrums about China don't screw this up.

  6. Congrats on your seventh anniversary of EGD !!

  7. (or should I say sixth anniversary :)


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