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 MikeF
Interesting. I didn't know the CTA had replaced the copper contact wire with aluminum.

In the compound catenary system that was used on the Skokie line, the bottom wire (which the pans run on) is called the contact wire, the next one up is called the secondary messenger, and the top wire (which mounts on the bridges) is called the primary messenger. The hangers every few feet between the secondary messenger and contact wire do not serve so much to aid in conductivity, but rather to keep the contact wire level.

  by Tadman
Any way you look at it, scrap steel, aluminum, and copper is worth a train load of money these days. Copper has always been valuable, though. I heard the first thing that happened after North Shore abandonment was ripping down the wires for scrap value.

  by byte
That was probably done so quickly not because of the immediate value, but because if they hadn't someone else would have! As mentioned before, catenary wire is pretty expensive stuff, so when someone finds out the power is off, some huge wire cutters and a really tall ladder in the only thing that separates them from lots of cash. That's why even seasonal places like IRM leave the wire energized all year round. On a trip up there one time I heard a story about them finding the imprint of a fallen ladder in the snow around one of the grade crossings towards the end of the line. Apparently someone thought the wires were de-energized and wanted to take some, but as soon as they touched it they recieved a "shocking" suprise.

  by Tadman
That makes sense. Where I work, our crews modify old factory cranes and those are originally powered off copper wires. We took some of that wire down once, went to lunch, and when we got back it was gone...

On another note, I've been noticing 3200's circulating around the system with the yellow catwalks on the roof but without pans. Last night I saw a midway train at randolph/wabash so equipped.

  by EricL
If I'm not mistaken, there were a number of 3200s that had those roof boards installed, but never had pantographs. I know I've seen them on the Brown and Orange lines on occasion.

I don't know if the pans have been removed from the previously-Skokie-Swift-only cars yet. I haven't been up that way in at least two months. Or on the CTA much at all, actually.

  by JamesT4
EricL wrote:If I'm not mistaken, there were a number of 3200s that had those roof boards installed, but never had pantographs. I know I've seen them on the Brown and Orange lines on occasion.
You are not mistaken there are some 3200s are operating with the roof boards in place, but they might had been removed since the yellow line no longer operates on overhead power.

  by MikeF
Even before the Yellow Line went to third rail, there were a few sets of 3200's with roof boards but no pans. I think they were usually assigned to the Brown Line.

  by byte
As of now, the Skokie 3200s are either pan-less or the pans will be removed shortly. On a recent trip up there, I asked a motorman about it and he said that they were taking them off, and they wanted to take the roof boards off too, but those are welded in place. On the way to Dempster, the car I was on had pans (3444), but on car on the way back they were removed.

  by Tadman
I think you're right about the boards-only cars on Ravenswood, I seem to remember that from First and Fastest once. And those 3200 were on Brown that I saw. Also, I wonder what's to become of the pans? Transfer to Metra Electric, sale to CSS, scrap, or IRM donation?

  by byte
I was wondering about the pans too ... my guess is that they'll discard of all but a few, the remaining of which will sit around Skokie shops until the 3200s get sent off to museums 20 years from now (a lot of the people in the operating department seem pretty preservation-friendly). I don't know what kind of reusability those pans would have - they look different than the ones Metra is using, and selling them to other railroads might not be possible because of things like voltage and wire height differences. It's too bad that, as long as they were going to do it, they didn't replace the wire with third rail when the PCCs were retired from the Skokie Swift, because I've read that the pans on the 3200s costed them $75,000 a piece.

  by F40CFan
I was out at lunch time today and saw a six car northbound(compass west) Ravenswood train at Halsted Street all with roof boards. I wasn't close enough to get the car numbers though.

  by JLJ061
Last week I got the chance to ride the Yellow Line minus the overhead, and shoot some video as well.


  by MR77100
Update on the Skokie Swift; The catenary bridges are still up, and I still see the occasional 3200 set with roof boards. BTW, what style pantographs were those that the 3200's used?

  by MikeF
The Skokie 3200's used the Faively-style "half-a-graphs" that are common on just about all electric equipment today.