CHICAGO COMMUTER EQUIPMENT FROM THE RECENT PAST
Prior to the 1974 creation of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), most of the private commuter railroads had modernized their commuter fleets with bilevel coaches. And most of those coaches presently remain in service under the Metra name. Most of the locomotives on those railroads were still General Motors/Electro-Motive Division E-units and F-units. Eventually the RTA, later Metra, replaced those locomotives with GM/EMD F40PH's.
COMMUTER LOCOMOTIVE ROSTERS OF THE PAST
Most of the private railroads' E-units and F-units were originally equipped with steam generators for conventional passenger equipment. Some of the F-units were originally freight locomotives. The Chicago and North Western was the first railroad to widely use the head end power (HEP) concept, and reequipped all commuter locomotives with Cummins auxiliary diesel engines providing electricity for heating, lighting, and air conditioning of the bilevel cars. The Milwaukee Road and the Rock Island Line similarly reequipped their locomotives when they acquired new bilevel cars. The Burlington Route, later Burlington Northern, used steam heat in its bilevel cars until 1973, when those cars were extensively rebuilt and converted for HEP.
The Chicago and North Western assigned F7's and E8's to its commuter service. Nearly all of those locomotives were replaced with Metra F40PH-2's in the early 1980's, while a few rebuilt E8's lasted on Metra until1989. Some of those E8's were pulled out of retirement in 1993, when floods on the the Burlington Northern forced Amtrak's California Zephyr to be rerouted over the C&NW between Chicago and Omaha. The E8's were needed to lead the Amtrak trains through the C&NW's unique cab signal territory.
In 1961 the Milwaukee Road bought 6 new E9's, and reequipped a few FP7's and F9's for commuter service. The F-units were replaced with F40C's in 1974, while the E9's were replaced with RTA F40PH's in 1978.
The Rock Island had mostly E-units and various interesting other locomotives in commuter service. Some locomotives were HEP equipped, while some had steam generators for the many older cars still in service. By the 1970's, only E-units and F-units remained, and RTA F40PH's replaced all of those remaining locomotives by 1978.
Burlington Northern had various E-units with steam generators, which were used on both commuter and intercity passenger trains. After Amtrak assumed responsibility for the intercity passenger trains in 1971, BN retained some E-units for commuter service. Those E9's were extensively rebuilt in 1973, and they lasted until 1992, when they were replaced with Metra F40PHM-2's.
OTHER COMMUTER LINES - LOCOMOTIVES
Norfolk and Western normally used a steam generator equipped GP7 or GP9 on its Chicago to Orland Park commuter train. During the 1970's, as increased patronage required a longer train, N&W started using a GP40 and an old baggage car equipped with a steam generator.
The Gulf Mobile and Ohio normally used an F3 on its Chicago to Joliet train.
At the time, both the GM&O and the N&W had only had one train a day each way, using steam heated former long distance coaches. In 1978, both lines received new RTA F40PH locomotives and bilevel cars, and a second round trip was added on each line at that time.
The only Chicago commuter line entirely discontinued in recent years was the old Pennsylvania Railroad line to Valparaiso, IN. During most of the years GP7's and GP9's were used. But during Penn Central operation in the early and mid 1970's, prior to Conrail's takeover of PC, E8's were used. Amtrak assumed responsibility of the service in 1979, service was discontinued in 1991.
COMMUTER CAR ROSTERS OF THE PAST
Although most of Chicago's commuter railroads modernized their fleets with bilevel coaches, a few railroads continued to operate older cars into the RTA era.
The Rock Island and a few other railroads continued to operate old cars from the 1920's, and former long distance cars from the 1940's. All of these cars were replaced with new RTA bilevels by 1978, except for the Conrail (ex PRR) line to Valparaiso, IN, outside the RTA/Metra jurisdiction. Amtrak operated the Valparaiso trains from 1979 to 1991.
IC's first electric multiple unit cars entered service in 1926, the year the line was electrified. Such cars continued to operate until 1978. Most of the original MU cars were retired by 1972, when most of the present bilevel MU cars arrived. Additional new bilevel MU cars in 1978 meant the end of the few remaining old cars.
The Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad also acquired many new MU cars starting in 1926. In that year, the South Shore Line converted its electrification from 6600 volts AC to 1500 volts DC, making it compatible with the Illinois Central's new electrification. South Shore trains would thus be able to use the IC line into downtown Chicago. Those cars remained in service until 1983, when the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) was finally able to acquire new single level MU cars from Nippon-Sharyo.
Photos of retired Chicago commuter equipment, on display at various museums.