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Even with a Cab Car, You Still Need a Locomotive!
From Rail & Wire Issue 179, September 1999

by Peter Schmidt

Metra 305 is one of the two commuter F-7's that Metra recently donated to IRM. The two locomotives were the last two F-7's on Metra's roster. With this donation, the Museum is able to assemble an authentic 1960's suburban train. Photo by Greg Heier

The view from the cab of Metra 305 shows Ed Rosanau boarding passengers at Seeman Road on July 18, 1999, the second day of the locomotive's service at IRM. Photo by Greg Heier
The three huge bi-levels, gleaming in their new paint, are an impressive sight standing on Museum tracks, but operating them for the public will be even more impressive and educational--first the train needs a locomotive to pull (or push) it. Any diesel unit in the Museum Collection equipped with standard MU cable connections could be used to propel the cars in push-pull service. But since the cars have sealed windows and depend on electrical head-end power (HEP) from the locomotive for ventilation, heat, air-conditioning, and lights, an engine with HEP must be used if passengers are to be carried in comfort. When the cars arrived, there was only one operational unit at Union equipped with HEP, BN-3. With a minor modification to the HEP cable connectors on this extensively rebuilt E9 unit, it would serve admirably.

But wouldn't it be much better to use an actual ex-Chicago & North Western locomotive that had been used in commuter service with the bi-levels? C&NW 1518 fits the bill, but it was never equipped with HEP. It certainly pulled early bi-level trains, with cars like our Cars 1 and 6, but not after they were converted for HEP. So while 1518 would look great pulling the train, it wouldn't do if passengers are being carried. But miraculously just at the right time, Metra decided to dispose of two ex-C&NW diesels, F-units 305 and 308, which were retained for work train service. They once operated in suburban service for the C&NW as units 411 and 414, and are still equipped with HEP. And Metra agreed to donate them to IRM! This donation went much faster than the one for the cars, and the two units were at Union for a formal dedication ceremony on Memorial Day. So it is very possible that an authentic C&NW bi-level push-pull train will operate soon on the Museum's demonstration railway carrying passengers in air-conditioned comfort.

Memorial Day, 1999 saw the Museum's acceptance of Metra's generous donation of the three gallery cars and two commuter locomotives. LEFT TO RIGHT: Rich Soukup, Chief Mechanical Officer Metra; James D. Johnson, President IRM; Rick Tidwell, Deputy Executive Director Metra; Nick Kallas, General Manager IRM; Barbara Ciechna, Executive Director IRM; David Phillips, Vice President Chicago & North Western Historical Society; and Jamie Kolanowski, Curator Internal Combustion Department IRM. Photo by Dale Nagel

From the Rail & Wire Issue 179, September 1999


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