3200-series Cars


Car 3408, seen here at the end of a rush hour Brown Line train in the lay-up pocket at Kimball on May 18, 2004. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)



Built by: Morrison-Knudsen
Year: 1992-94
Length: 48'-0"
Width at Floor: 8'-8"
Width at Windows: 9'-4"
Height over Roof: 12'-0" *
Trucks: Duewag
Truck centers: 33'-8"
Truck wheelbase: 78"
Coupler: #1 end / #2 end: Form 5 / tubular
Wheel diameter: 28"
Seats: 39 **

Weight (w/o passengers):


54,290 lb. (cars without pans)

56,100 lb. (cars with pans #)

54,600 lb. (cars with roof boards ##)

Motors per car: 4 GE1262A4 @ 110hp
Balancing speed: 70 mph
Governed speed: 55 mph +

* 13'-6" height to top of locked down pantograph on cars 3445-3456
** Except cars 3401-02 with double seats substituted for the single seats)
# Cars assigned to Yellow Line service, last pantographs removed in late 2004-early 2005
## Cars with pantographs removed but still with roofboards and some ancillary equipment
+ The propulsion package, while capable of higher speeds, is limited by the logic of the car controls and the external signal system.



The opening of the Midway (Orange) Line in 1993 required 100 new cars. This, combined with the increasing age of the 6000s and a portion of the 2000s resulted in the January 1990 order for 256 cars from Morrison-Knudsen. The 3200s marked a return to the corrugated steel exterior of the 2200-series, supposedly to discourage graffiti. They included updated computer controls and control cab signaling. In anticipation of driver-only operation, full cabs are provided. (As of 1998, the whole system runs with only a single crewman per train.)

There are a slightly lower number of seats in the 3200-series cars when compared to other High-Performance Family cars, sacrificed for more standing space. Four of the transverse seats -- in the center of the car between the sets of side doors, two on each side -- are single seats rather than the standard double seats. The extra floor space provides more room for standees during rush hour. Like other modern cars, some seats near the doors face toward the aisle to accommodate equipment underneath. Altogether, of the 39 seats in the car, 15 seats face inward and 24 face forward or backward.

For the first time in decades, the new cars are equipped with both air conditioning and openable hopper windows in case the A/C fails. The 2200-series cars were retrofit with the hopper windows as well in their mid-life rehab circa 1990; the 2600-series cars received them in their mid-life rehab in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The computer components installed in the cars allow for some significant advancements in the cars' troubleshooting. The cars' microprocessor cam control group allows for the use of the General Electric-supplied Portable Test Unit (PTU) diagnostic system. The PTU allows a repairman to hook a laptop to a car, run a diagnostic, and quickly get a highly-detailed record of conditions and component status.

Cars 3441-3456, identical in all other ways to cars 3201-3440, were delivered with pantographs for the "Skokie Swift" Yellow Line. Later, the pantographs on cars 3451-56 were removed so the cars could be assigned to other lines that needed additional equipment; cars 3441-3450 continued to be pantograph-equipped for use on the Yellow Line until late 2004. On September of that year the Yellow Line was converted to third rail traction power and the pantographs became superfluous. The pans began to be removed from these 10 cars in late 2004 and the last came off in early 2005. However, all of the former pan-equipped cars (units 3441-56) retained the roof boards onto which the pantographs has been mounted.

The procurement of the 3200s allowed the retirement of the last of the 6000-series and nearly all the 2000-series cars. Cars 3201-3456 are used on the Brown, Yellow, and Orange Lines.

The CTA's Capital Improvement Plan included FY 2003-2007 funding for a light "C" overhaul (replacement of limited number of components) of the 3200-series cars and the beginning mid-life rehabilitation of the 3200s. Completion of the "C" light overhaul came in December 2004.

In mid-2004, the CTA modified a two-car 3200-series unit with a longitudinal seating arrangement on a test basis to test how additional maximum capacity could be attained with new seating configurations within existing car dimensions. Cars 3407-3408 were given a new interior seating plan with a longitudinal arrangement. To make up for the handgrips that were on the tops of the removed transverse seats, horizontal metal grip bars were installed overhead along each side of the aisle. In addition, vinyl straps were also installed in some places along the overhead stanchion and vertical metal poles were also located between every two seats. The CTA released the cars on Monday, May 17, 2004, first assigning them to the Brown Line before rotating them to a different line after about a week's time and surveying riders to ascertain their feelings, experiences, and preferences. The cars completed their test service on July 3, 2004 and were subsequently returned to their as-built seating configuration. To learn more about these cars, click on the gallery link below.

Rolling stock assigned to Skokie Swift service has traditionally been equipped with wheel scrubbers to enhance contact between the train's running gear and the track. Positive contact is essential to the operation of ATC cab signals and automatic grade crossing warning devices. Wheel scrubbers were applied to the original Skokie Swift single cars in 1964 primarily due to their light weight.

With the advent of longer trains and the heavier 3200-series cars in Yellow Line Skokie Swift service, the CTA began running tests to determine the future need for wheel scrubbers. To accomplish this, effective Monday, September 12, 2005 the first train to depart Howard every Monday morning was car 3457-58 or any Purple or Red line unit which are non-wheel scrubber equipped cars. The Maintenance Manager and Rail Supervisor then monitored the cars' operation and reported any ATC or grade crossing malfunctions to see if there is a noticeable problem with operations.

As of September 2005, all ten Yellow Line 3200-series -- cars 3441-3450 -- were equipped with wheel scrubbers. The test was concluded in late 2005 and a decision was made to remove the wheel scrubbers shortly after.

In February 2013, the CTA began to retrofit the 3200-series cars with security cameras. Four cameras capable of panning 360 degrees -- which provide the same amount of surveillance coverage as the seven cameras installed on the 5000-series railcars -- and one video recorder were installed on each 3200-series car, as well as every 2600-series rail cars.1 Due to their impending retirement, the older 2200- and 2400-series cars were not included in the program. The $13.9 million upgrades were funded by a federal Homeland Security grant. The installations were scheduled to be complete in September 2013.2


Mid-Life Overhaul

On August 14, 2013, the Chicago Transit Board approved the award of two contracts that are part of the mid-life overhaul of the 3200-series railcars. The overhaul of the 3200s will replace many of the cars' major operating systems, including installation of new air conditioning systems and the rebuilding of the propulsion system, passenger door motors and the wheel and axle assemblies. The total estimated cost of the overhaul is $166 million.

Work to rebuild all 256 3200-series railcars is not expected to begin until 2015, but the CTA started the process of procuring parts and operating systems that have long-lead times and require successful testing of pre-production samples. Personnel at the CTA's Skokie Heavy Maintenance Facility will perform the overhaul work over the course of two-years, similar to the in-house mid-life the 2400-series cars received in the 1990s.

The Board approved a $8.2 million contract to Ellcon National Inc. for the purchase of new auxiliary power systems that will be more efficient and reliable for the remaining years of service of the 3200-series cars.

A second contract valued at $4.1 million was awarded to Axion Technologies for the purchase of color light-emitting diode (LED) signs, which will replace the roller curtain destination signs on the sides and ends of each railcar. The LED destination signs will make the 3200s' signs consistent with those on the newer 5000-series cars.

In early May 2014, the CTA equipped two pairs of 3200-series cars assigned to the Orange and Brown lines with new LED destination signs for testing. The electronic sign units were installed on the front of the each car and on the outside and inside of the cars' sides.3 Like the LED signs on the 5000-series cars, the exterior signs are full-color, while the interior signs are amber. Cars with the LED signs can be run in train consists mixed with cars with the older roller curtain signs. The test installations were performed on Brown Line cars 3379-80 at Kimball Shop on May 7 and Orange Line cars 3207-08 at Midway Shop on May 8. The cars were run in service so that CTA engineers could monitor and analyze the installations' performance before conversion of the remaining cars begins. Starting in 2014, the CTA plans to equip all of its 256 3200-series cars with the LED signs.4


1. "CTA to Expand Surveillance Cameras on Rail Cars". CTA Press Release, February 11, 2013.
2. Hilkevitch, Jon. "CTA adding cameras to older rail cars", Chicago Tribune, February 9, 2013.
3. Swartz, Tracy. "CTA testing electronic signs on Orange, Brown Line cars" Red Eye. May 13, 2014.
4. Ibid.