Special charter train tour travels to nooks and crannies of CTA rails

As snowflakes descend on the Chicago area, it's time to reserve tickets for this year's Snowflake Special Excursion on the CTA, set for Sunday, March 24.

CTA geeks and curious riders alike will enjoy this private trip through out of the way places, sometimes travelling through yards and non revenue service tracks. It's a fund-raiser for the Illinois Railway Museum.

This year the charter has expanded to an eight-car train made up of each of the four types of DC propulsion high performance 'L' cars.

This includes the oldest cars still in service, the 2200 series Budd cars with the old "blinker doors." These cars were new in 1969 and opened the Dan Ryan and Kennedy routes. Today they're in limited numbers and operate only on the Blue Line and should all be retired by this summer.

The 2400 series cars were a 200-car order from the Boeing Co. and marked the transit entry of the aerospace company. When new in 1976 they were decaled with red, white and blue and marked the return of the sliding door to Chicago 'L' cars for wheelchair loading. These cars are next in the retirement schedule, but are currently found on the Green, Red, Orange, and Purple lines.

From 1981 through 1987, the CTA received a 600-car order from Budd/Transit America. Known as the 2600 series, these cars are the backbone fleet on the Red and Blue lines. The last type of car will be from the 3200 series that run on the Brown and Orange lines, the Morrison Knudsen company was the builder in 1992- 1994. This series was the first with a full width cab for one-person operation.

With scheduled retirements close at hand and due to the fact that the new 5000 series cars cannot run with this older equipment, this year's charter is a once in a lifetime event.

Last year, the event sold out, and patrons were turned away. You are strongly advised to buy your tickets in advance.

  • From Forest Park on the Blue Line (Congress), the train will leave at about 8 a.m., and return there at about 7:15 pm. The fare is $55.00.
  • From Midway on the Orange Line, the train is expected to leave at about 9:15 a,m., and return at about 6:00 p.m. The fare is $47.00.

Parking is available for $5 at Midway and Forest Park. Riders may also board at Racine on the Blue Line at approximately 10:00 a.m. To board train at this alternate station, hold up ticket in plain view of motorman and excursion crew.

A one-hour lunch stop will be made around the Loop. A restaurant list is provided to riders.

Buy tickets at the rail museum store website.


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  • Have fun everyone!

  • I'm waiting for a charter with a 2200 series car with the original seats. But it won't happen.

  • In reply to jack:


    What was the original seat configuration? I presume it was better than it is now?

  • In reply to chris:

    The arrangement was the same, but they were black leather seats instead of the retrofitted plastic shell ones.

  • In reply to jack:


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    I'm definitely going to try to make this. :3

  • Many interested transit fans have known about the existence ot two 'L' cars from the 60s sitting in the outside yard at Skokie Shops and wondered why they're there and would the IRM Snowflake Charter get to see them. The cars were built by the Pullman Car company, in the city on the southside, in the early 60s. On Sunday, March 10, 2013, the Chicago Tribune published an extensive article revealing that Pullman boosters are still vigorously pushing for a national park to be created in the Pullman area.
    "....If approved by Congress or proclaimed a national monument by the President, Pullman could become the state's second national park after Abraham Lincoln's home in Springfield.....
    "....If a current study by the National Park Service determines that Pullman is a workable site, it would be up to Senators Dick Durbin, Mark Kirk, and the not-yet-elected 2nd Congressional District replacement to decide whether to try to shepherd a bill through Congress."

    The existence of this movement is probably a great motivation for the two Pullman 'L' cars hanging onto life after all these years sitting out in the weather at Skokie Shops and avoiding the scrappers. Especially since Chicago's transit leaders aren't known as real ardent transit historian preservationists, especially like the folks in New York. The need for additional shop space during the six month Red line Dan Ryan rehab reportedly is putting pressure on the Cincinnati cars' storage spot. The two Pullman cars originally were part of a 180 car order, nicknamed "New Look", they ushered in cab signals, flourescent lighting, 65 MPH high performance and air conditioning to Chicago's 'L' and opened the Lake Street relocation to the then C&NW, now UP embankment through Oak Park. Because of their higher speed, the CTA posted blank signs wayside to give motormen a cue when to start braking for station stops. With an eye to retiring the classic historical cars 4271-4272, and giving a passing homage to the 100th anniversary of the South Side 'L', the cars were repainted in the dark green with red roof color scheme and renumbered 1892-1992. They debuted at a party at Quincy/Wells complete with free cake and champange and "Sticks Belcaster" sitting in on the drums.

    The upcoming March 24 IRM Snowflake Charter will visit the Skokie Shops, including a stint on the test track buried behind the weeds next to the Yellow line right of way. We'll only get a telephoto view of the 2000s because they're stored on tracks in the non-electrified portion of the outside yard. Maybe the brake calipers can be cut out and the diesel shuttle motor could pull them to the back side as a special to the charter. I'll drop a hint at our final CTA meeting.


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