C&NW Bi-Level Commuter Cars

Chicago and North Western



Chicago and North Western amassed a fleet of 292 bi-level (gallery) cars, built by Pullman-Standard except for the first 16 which were built by St. Louis Car Co. 280 of these cars were used in Chicago commuter service, including one former intercity parlor car which was converted in 1965. Remarkably, all of the commuter cars survived until being sold to the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) on 31 December 1977.

The first 48 cars were built with 7˝-KW Waukesha Enginators to provide electricity for lighting and to power two underframe-mounted Trane E-M 8-ton air conditioning units. Locomotive-supplied steam was used for heating and some of these cars were pulled by steam locomotives, which hardly fits the image of such modern cars. The first group of 16 cars was built in 1955 by St. Louis Car Co.; the remaining 32 were built the next year by Pullman-Standard. All were delivered in the early 1950s version of C&NW's yellow and green livery, using a yellow letterboard with 1" black separator stripes.

These early cars were repainted in the late 1950s with a green letterboard and without the black separators, the livery in which all subsequent C&NW bi-levels were delivered. In 1961, they were rebuilt to use head-end power (HEP) for electrical needs and to include multiple unit (MU) cabling for push-pull operation. At some point in their career the original Venetian blinds were removed and green-tinted windows were installed.   St. Louis Car coach in early livery
early livery
St. Louis Car coach in later livery
later livery

(Lots more to say here ...)


Visually, these cars broke down into seven distinct groups (summarized in the table below).

The first two groups are easily recognized by their window patterns. The cars built by St. Louis Car Co. had six large windows on each level on either side of the entry doors, plus a narrower square window at the ends. The 1956 Pullman-Standard cars were similar, but lacked the smaller end windows. In addition, on one side the rightmost windows were replaced by a pair of square windows on the lower level and a single square window on the upper level. (This was the location of the toilet.)

The subsequent Pullman-Standard cars have four large windows instead of six, and the air conditioning units were relocated from underfloor to the area above the entry doors, with large intakes for the condensers above the doors. The 1958 intercity cars, including 6400 which was later rebuilt into commuter coach 225, were built with three bare condenser panels next to each other, centered above the doors. On the 1960 cars (which came in both cab and coach configurations), the rightmost panel was omitted, leaving just two panels offset to the left of center. The subsequent cars were similar, but the condensers were covered with a grille that visually divided the area into quarters. Cab details also differed.

Qty   Pct   Description   C&NW Numbers    North Side   South Side
16  5.7% 1955 SLC "6˝ window" 1-16 St. Louis Car coach
32  11.4% 1956 PS "6 window" 17-48 north side of 1956 Pullman-Standard car south side of 1956 Pullman-Standard car
2.9% 1960 cab cars 151-158 north side of cab car south side of cab car
28  10.0% 1960 coaches 49-76 1959-1970 coach
56  20.0% late cab cars 159-200, 251-264 north side of cab car south side of cab car
139  49.6% late coaches 77-150, 201-224,
226-237, 301-329
1959-1970 coach
0.4% ex-6400 225 1959-1970 coach
280  100.0% (total)

Cab Differences

C&NW 152 cab view
C&NW 152 (as built)
C&NW 260 cab view
C&NW 260
The builder's photo of C&NW 152 (far left) shows how the first eight cab cars (C&NW 151-158) looked when new. Note the gong bell above the engineer's windshield, front-mounted horns like on an M.U. car, boiler tube pilot, and lack of a gate in front of the door.

Compare this to C&NW 260, which except for the 1970s-addition of the rooftop amber warning light is how the later cab cars were delivered. Note the gong above the fireman's windshield, roof-mounted horns, solid pilot, and gate.

C&NW 151 end
C&NW 151
RTA 8713
At the Illinois Railway Museum after restoration, C&NW 151 (far left) illustrates the relocation of the gong and horns, which occurred soon after delivery, plus the subsequent replacement of the pilot with the later-style solid design. The gong location forced the number to be offset instead of being centered as on the later cars. The gates and amber beacons were also added, but have been removed during restoration. The red 8700 at the top of the door is the car's RTA number.

RTA 8713, built as C&NW 164, again illustrates the later cab cars.


  C&NW  RTA/Metra  Bldr  Year  Qty  Lot  Plan  Seats  Note 
 1-16  7600-7607,
  SLC  1955  16  1784  
  169  "6˝ window" 
17-48  7650-7681  PS  1956  32  6978   7653  161  "6 window" 
49-76  7700-7727  PS  1960  28  7002   53194  161    
 77-150  7728-7801  PS  1961  74  7006   53194  161    
151-158  8700-8707  PS  1960  8  7002A  53194  153  cab 
159-200  8708-8749  PS  1961  42  7006A  53194  153  cab 
201-210  7802-7811  PS  1963  10  7023   53194  161    
211-216  7812-7817  PS  1965  6  7032   53194  161    
217-224  7818-7825  PS  1966  8  7034   53194  161    
225  7880  PS  1958  1  W6997   W53075  136  ex-6400, cvtd 1965 
226-237  7826-7837  PS  1967  12  7038   53194  161    
251-254  8750-8753  PS  1965  4  7032A  53194  153  cab 
255-256  8754-8755  PS  1966  2  7034A  53194  153  cab 
257-260  8756-8759  PS  1967  4  7038A  53194  153  cab 
261-264  8760-8763  PS  1968  4  7041A  53194  153  cab 
301-316  7838-7853  PS  1968  16  7041   53194  161    
317-329  7854-7866  PS  1970  13  7044   53194  161    


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