7710 and 7715 were built by Pullman-Standard in 1960 for the Chicago and North Western Railway for use in the railroad’s Chicago area commuter trains. The cars were part of a $21 million order for 116 bi-level cars equipped for push-pull service. The original road number of the 7710 while in C&NW service was No. 59, while 7715 was C&NW No. 64. The cars were re-numbered when Metra took over the operation of the C&NW commuter operations in 1978.
Chicago and North Western Railway’s decision to invest in a fleet of new bi-level commuter cars resulted from management’s determination to make operation of commuter trains profitable. The bi-level cars were a synthesis of several modern design innovations.
- First, the center door design allowed for a much faster rate of loading and unloading passengers, which would allow for shorter station stops and faster schedules.
- Second, the cars were designed for all electrical utilities (heating, air-conditioning, and lighting) to be provided by head-end power, rather than from a generator on board the car itself. This would save space under the car allowing for the bi-level seating arrangement. It also saved about 10 tons in weight as well as simplified maintenance.
- Third, the cars were designed for push-pull operation, with several cars being equipped with a control cab. The C&NW’s Chicago terminal featured stub-end tracks which required expensive and time consuming switching operations to turn commuter trains. The new push-pull operation would include a locomotive on one end of the train, and a new bi-level car featuring a control cab on the other end, thus eliminating the need to turn the trainset for the return trip.
Another innovation was the gallery design of the seating area. Bi-level construction greatly in-creased seating capacity, but much revenue was lost when conductors had to make two trips through the car to collect fares, first on the lower level and then the upper. Due to short transit times between stops conductors often did not have time to make it all the way through the train and thus many fares were missed.The gallery design of the new C&NW cars allowed the conductor to make one pass through the car and be able to collect fares from passengers sitting on either the upper or lower levels.
C&NW’s January 1960 order from Pullman-Standard was for two types of cars: 161-seat “trailers” and 155-seat “cab” cars. The cab cars had a control nook which was accessible from the upper-level aisle and included controls similar to those in a diesel locomotive. Modified F7 diesel locomotives (featuring a diesel-driven alternator for head-end power) built by Electro-Motive Division were used on one end of the train and a cab car on the other for push-pull operation.
The interior of car No. 59 is essen-tially the same as when it was built in 1960. The goal of the interior design was to maximize comfort with minimal maintenance. C&NW claimed the interior could theoretically be cleaned with a water hose. The walls and ceilings were coated in an “easy-to-clean, scuff-resistant” vinyl bonded to steel. The window frames were also vinyl and featured rounded corners to facilitate cleaning. The interior color scheme was cream and cool blue. The five foot wide windows featured a gradual tint and were made of heat-absorbing glass, eliminating the need for blinds or shades. The seats were covered with coral vinyl and were padded with foam rubber. Illumination is fluo-rescent with incandescent emergency lamps.
The car is equipped with two sepa-rate 8-ton capacity air-conditioning systems, one for each end of the car. At the present time only one of the air-conditioning units is functional, meaning that only one half of the car can be cooled. The heating system was designed to maintain a 60-degree interior temperature despite a 10-degree exterior temperature. Hopefully we will never have to test that claim on the Calera & Shelby!
Between 1960 and 1970 C&NW ordered a total of 231 of these bi-level commuter coaches in eight separate lots. This included twenty-eight 168-seat coaches, one hundred and thirty-nine 161-seat coaches (like Nos. 59 and 64), and sixty-four 155-seat coaches with control cabs. All of the cars were built to plan W-53194 at Pullman-Standard’s Worcester plant. Nos. 59 and 64 were part of lot number 7002. The cars feature girder construction and smooth sides. The trucks are type 41-HL-11 (CIB). While in C&NW service the cars were painted in green and yellow.
Chicago & North Western successfully oper-ated Nos. 59 and 64 and their sisters until 1978, when the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) assumed operation of the Chicago area commuter trains operated by Chicago and North Western Railway. The commuter trains of the Chicago-area railroads were combined un-der the Metra system (Metra stands for Metropolitan Rail) which continues to provide commuter service in Illinois today.
Copies of the Metra newsletter, On the Bi-Level, found inside Nos. 59 and 64 upon their arrival at Calera indicate that the cars were still being used in Metra service as recently as February 2005, but were stored out of service in 2009. Pittman Owen and Jerry Tingle traveled to Kansas City to inspect the cars and recommended the purchase of Nos. 7710 and 7715. The HOD Board of Trustees voted to purchase the two cars in July 2009. Pittman spent the next several months working with Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern to get the cars moved to Calera. After numerous delays and several phone calls, they finally arrived at the museum in February 2010.
For the next several months museum volunteers worked to ready No. 7710 in time for Polar Express. Larry Collins reworked all of the air-actuated doors in the sides, ends, and interior of the car. Pittman Owen arranged to have the badly fogged, green tinted downstairs windows replaced with new, clear glass. Jeff Murphree and Alan Dismukes replaced all of the lighting ballasts and bulbs. Denverd Moss prepped and repainted the exterior of the car in its original C&NW green and yellow scheme. The paint was barely dry before the car made its Calera & Shelby debut on the Polar Express. Application of new vinyl lettering had to wait until the arrival of warmer weather this month, but now the car appears as it did on the Chicago and North Western in 1960, where it ran as No. 59.
Written By: Alan Dismukes