A massive factory on the South Side is building the CTA trains of the future, and they’ll be on the tracks sooner than you might think.
China-based CRRC Sifang America has a $1.3 billion contract to build more than 800 new 700-series rail cars for the CTA at a new $100 million factory at 135th and Torrence.
After building the plant from scratch, and ordering the parts, crews are finally beginning to assemble Chicago’s new CTA trains. Ten of them are due by the end of the year.
Production manager Brian Vasquez is in charge of keeping things on track. He was essentially born for this.
“My family has been in this industry for a couple of generations. My grandfather, he laid track back in the day when they were laying track,” he said.
In every corner of the assembly plant, a different project; from the giant air conditioning units waiting to be installed to freshly delivered seats undergoing inspection.
“Make sure the insert matches the sample. Then we check for visual defects, sharp edges, scratches, cuts, tears; make sure the openings are smooth,” manufacturing quality engineer Dave Carline said.
Inside the shell of the train, several more tasks are on the to-do list. Underneath, 8,000 wires need to be individually connected.
“It’s like a big jigsaw puzzle. We have to look at the tag, look at our blueprint, and figure out which wire goes where,” electrical foreman team lead Perry Nobles said.
It’s such a new process, Nobles isn’t even sure yet how long it will take.
The long-term goal is to churn out 10 rail cars a month
CTA will test the first 10 prototypes for a full year before giving the green light on the rest of their order of 846 rail cars.