Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

Moderators: metraRI, JamesT4

  by F40CFan
I know they tested an Amtrak Genesis unit on the Milwaukee Road West Line.

  by metrarider

At the time of the Metra purchase, the only choices were

1) A modified P-42 (for new crashworthness requirements)
2) MP-36

there were no other designs for passenger locos that would comply with EPA regulations as well as the new FRA imposed crash buff strength requirements

the P-42 would have been AC traction, and would have required significant changes from it's currently seen incarnation ala Amtrak and a few commuter agencies, as the current design doesn't meet the new FRA buff strength requirements

Rumor has it that Metra wasn't too keen on going to AC traction, and this along with perceived slow loading (weather they would have been slower to load that the MP36 I think is very debateable) pushed them towards the MP36

  by TheGortex
Oh. It would've been cool to see Genesis engines in Metra schemes running around here (Or maybe it's just me).

  by Tadman
About the time Metra was in the market, many second-tier commuter operators were buying used NRPC F40's, I'm curious if Metra ever considered those or figured they were worn out and tired, and not worth the expenditure on a beater like that. I have no question the Metra F40's are in better shape than similar-aged Amtrak F40's.

  by Nasadowsk
There's also the PL-42 on NJT now. It's AC, pretty quick, and pretty quiet.

Why is Metra so adverse to AC? Nobody out here buys DC units anymore, not even the LIRR.

  by metrarider
Nasadowsk wrote:There's also the PL-42 on NJT now. It's AC, pretty quick, and pretty quiet.

Why is Metra so adverse to AC? Nobody out here buys DC units anymore, not even the LIRR.
Wasn't the PL-42 a build on NJT specs? I don't believe it was offered to Metra (or even if Metra approached Alstom) at the time.

anyway, Metra seems to be very conservative as it really hasn't changed regarding the layout in it's new car order (aside from adding ADA required elements), and it's MP36's have very similar innards to the F40's.

Particularly with the size of the Metra fleet, it would seem appropriate for Metra to take a more evolutionary approach to their stock, but they don't seem to be interested in changing anything but the minimum necessary.

  by doepack
Nasadowsk wrote:There's also the PL-42 on NJT now. It's AC, pretty quick, and pretty quiet

Why is Metra so adverse to AC? Nobody out here buys DC units anymore, not even the LIRR.
Metra's reasons for maintaining such a rigid operating philosophy that frowns upon trying anything new are complex, and deeply rooted within its management strucutre. Changing that will take time, and can only start from the top.

True, the 645 prime mover in the MP36 doesn't represent anything innovative or exotic, but the fact that Metra was able to find a builder able to match its specs while also meeting the more stringent FRA-crashworthiness standards not to mention EPA Tier 1 emissions compliance for under $100 million dollars was no small feat. The 27 unit order from MPI cost Metra $79.4 million, but since they were able to secure 80 percent of that via a grant from the FTA, they only had to come up with the required local match of $15.8 million. Also, the local money not only had to be shared with the other transit agencies (CTA and Pace), but Metra's share of the money also had to be used for station improvements, and other upgrades, and none of the projects qualified for federal assistance. In short, there were only a finite amount of resources, and, considering what's been accomplished over the last few years, Metra did the best it could, and has actually fared pretty well.

Also, the MP36's are pretty quick too. Takes 'em a while to get going, but they have no problem maintaining track speed while pulling an 11-car express train filled to capacity, and often arrive a couple of minutes early. They're more powerful than you think...

  by c604.
If Metra bought Amtrak F40's they would have ended up with units in need of a lot more work than the F40C's. Remember, the Amtrak units were in almost constant motion, whereas the F40C's led a somewhat pampered life in comparison.

At least another good feature about the MP36's is what a lot of people forget about. I've heard from engineers that they have very strong dynamic brakes.

  by CNW5022-A519
I have heard rumors that Metra was looking at F59s but EMD did not want to take a contract for only 27 engines and I think that they had a bigger order of freight units. That would have been interesting to see those on Metra.

  by Tadman
I think Metra buys proven technology, and never goes cutting-edge, because it's absolutely critical to keep a commuter rail system reliable, to within ten minutes of timetable. It seems most passenger rail operators buy equipment with cutting-edge tech, and there's an endemic heartburn that comes with the new equipment. Keeping proven tech equipment mitigates some of that heartburn, and people get to work on time.

Granted Metra did have teething trouble with the MP36, but nothing like FL9ac, DM30, or metroliner MUs.

  by F40CFan
Tadman wrote:Granted Metra did have teething trouble with the MP36, but nothing like FL9ac, DM30, or metroliner MUs.
They are still having teething problems. Going with an untried builder using kitbashed parts seems far riskier to me than newer technology by a proven builder.

  by Nasadowsk
I wouldn't call MPI untried. IIRC, they were formed from a merging of MK and Wabco, niether are stangers to rail equipment. Ok, granted, MK's last railcar efforts for Metro-North were pretty pathetic, and they weren't very good at heavy freight locos, either.

My guess was MPI was the low bidder, or only bidder, or got a bigger check in earlier than the others. I'd assume a somewhat pro EMD anti GE bias existed, but that's not surprising - the LIRR only rostered EMDs in large numbers in the 70's, being mostly an Alco operation until then.

As far as teething issues, despite all the bashing Almost, whoops, I mean <b>Alstom</b> gets, the PL-42 turned out pretty decently. IIRC, the only real issue was some trainline door issue thingie that they ultimately solved anyway.

  by metrarider
It should be noted that it's unheard of for a new major item such as a trainset, locomotive, aeroplane, ship, etc to come off the line with no teething issues.

Even derivative designs have troubles. The level of dispatch reliability found in a stable old product is hard to match initially as any new complex mechanical or electromechanical system will have issues that only come to light in service.

So, the only way to avoid this is to only buy equipment which is already in service with other operator. Only problem with this is that no two commuter agencies in the US seem to share equipment requirements, and that if everybody followed this lead we would never see improvements in techonlogy/efficiency/reliability that ultimately comes from new equipment.

  by Tadman
If I recall, MPI was the only bidder because nobody else wanted to build a 645-engined locomotive capable of 3600hp.