July 17, 2009

State buys new trains for Hiawatha;
region in line for train assembly plant

Talgo train on Cascades line. Photo by lazytom via flickr.

Gov. Jim Doyle today announced an agreement with the Spanish train manufacturer Talgo to put two trains into service in Wisconsin.

The trains will be used on the Amtrak Hiawatha line, which stops in Sturtevant on its way between Chicago and Milwaukee, with the cars pulled by existing locomotives. Each train "set" provides a seating capacity of 420 compared to the current 350. Hiawatha ridership continues to grow, with more than 766,000 riders in 2008, a 24% increase over 2007.

In addition, Doyle said that Talgo will establish new assembly and maintenance facilities in the state, most likely in south central or southeastern Wisconsin, creating about 80 jobs.

Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, applauded Doyle's announcement, and said, “Racine is uniquely situated to be the home for this new train assembly facility and for the jobs it will create. I am formally inviting Talgo representatives and the Governor’s staff to tour Racine as soon as possible and see firsthand the numerous benefits of locating the new assembly facility in our community.”

Doyle said, “I can’t wait for our Midwestern travelers to experience first-hand the comfort, modern amenities and expanded seating capacity on these wonderful trains. This relationship has the potential to create even more jobs, gives the state a major role in the growth of an exciting transportation industry and helps us move forward with our vision for high speed passenger rail service in the Midwest.”

Wisconsin will purchase two, 14-car trains for $47 million. The agreement provides an option to buy two additional trains if the state receives federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for the extension of passenger rail service from Milwaukee to Madison.

The rail car assembly plant will support the delivery of Talgo trains throughout the country. Talgo cars are made of aluminum alloy with welded seams to form a structural frame making them lighter and stronger than traditional rail cars. The rail cars use passive tilt technology that allows the cars to navigate curves at higher speeds with less car tilting and to ride smoother at higher speed. Parts for the Talgo trains will be manufactured in Spain and shipped to Wisconsin for assembly. Talgo will work with Wisconsin and other U.S. vendors to supply parts for the trains.

The new Wisconsin rail car maintenance facility will provide service for equipment used in the Midwest. Talgo currently operates a maintenance facility in Seattle to service Amtrak Cascades trains.

Amtrak board chairman Thomas Carper said, “Amtrak has had a great response to Talgo train equipment on its Cascades Service in the Pacific Northwest, and we are confident travelers on the Hiawatha Service will have the same reaction."

Mason, a commissioner on Racine’s Redevelopment Authority, noted, “This is exciting news on several fronts. It moves us closer to the development of high speed rail, which will plug Racine into the region and be a key component of economic development. This partnership also creates opportunities to bring jobs to Racine, a community already rich in train-related expertise. Racine is home to a number of very attractive manufacturing sites on existing rail lines and has local businesses with train expertise. We have the experience, skilled labor force and rail knowledge to be the ideal location for the new assembly facility.”


  1. The Translator7/17/2009 2:01 PM

    I think this is a better idea then the KRM. Upgrading exsisting rail makes more sense. Why does it fall on Wisconsin to spend the 47 million? Where will this money come from?

  2. Wow - $47 million for 80 jobs - that's only going to cost us $587,500 to create each job. Sounds like a bargain to me.

    I do agree this is a better idea than KRM. But I don't see mention of what was in the Capital Times article. That being we have to install new rails since the current rails won't handle that speed. What's the cost for that?

    As I recall (and I may be wrong) the cost to add a rail line for KRM was going to be about $50 million. I'm guessing for high speed rails it would be much higher.

    And will we just be increasing the annual subsidy for Amtrak and how will that be paid for? Oh wait, let me guess, the RTA will decide how to levy taxes for that, right? Because once that stimulus is spent and we're into the day to day operations, this type of service doesn't come anywhere close to paying for itself.

  3. Another sure sign Doyle has been inhaling gas fumes, hence the reason why he wants the transportation of the past(the train) to come back in its full splendor, regardless how much it costs the state.
    Hey governor how about moving to Mexico and do all of us a favor!!!!!

  4. StopthemadnessNOW7/18/2009 9:29 AM

    Bravo!! This is EXACTLY the sort of economic development initiative that WI officials need to be pursuing vs. attempting to work with hopelessly out-of-date, out-of-touch corporations like GM and Chrysler.

    Note that this manufacturing would still require many of the skill sets (and hopefully those of suppliers) that have served the automotive industry. Officials from Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, etc. would kill for this opportunity!! It is far, far more than 80 jobs, C.U.

    Oh, if you bother to do the math, you'll see that this investment is considerably less than adding new lanes and interchanges to I-94 (which we'll be paying for over God know how many years.)

  5. what a joke !! 50 million for train CARS to run on tracks we don't have. Has Amtrak agreed to do this ?? 80 jobs maybe, usually they say 80 & it turns out to be 40 or less. Contract includes must creat 80 jobs for 5 years or what are the penalities ??

  6. Stopthemadness: Let's do the math, shall we? How many people on the freeway vs. how many people on your trains?

    Last estimate I heard was about 100,000 on just the Kenosha - Milwaukee stretch of freeway - think you'll approach anything near that on the trains. since rail is a fixed position, you never will approach those numbers - it just doesn't go where most people need to go.

    And let's not forget commerce, shall we. Didn't know you could fit a 53' trailer loaded with a few hundred tons of steel on a high-speed Hiawatha.

    I-94 is the most used northern east-west route in the country - yeah, don't invest in that.

  7. the cost for new rail lines is ESTIMATED at 500 to 600 MILLION $$. That means double that by the time its done!

  8. Under the state’s high-speed rail plan, the Madison-to-Milwaukee line would reach 110 mph as soon at it begins service. The Milwaukee to Chicago line would initially operate at a top speed of 79 mph because its track needs to be upgraded. It would reach 110 mph once the Madison to the Twin Cities and Green Bay to Milwaukee links are in service- how many years will this take ?? Where is Doyle going to park the train cars in the mean time ?? They have operations in Washington state -only 67 employees now.

  9. if we take the cars off the Interstate who will be left ?? trucks ? who's going to pay ? the trucking industry -not ! you & me ,again !!

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  11. As Mason is trying to claim the credit for the jobs he should know:
    1)Illinois all ready has Wisconsin beat on the incentives
    2) With all threrail works in IL now thinking this is where the cars will get make
    3) The 80 if/when they come might be nice, that only leaves 2880 jobs left to find for what we lost last week.

    Doyle Lehmam, and Mason have to go.

  12. No matter how you slice it, Doyle is again trying to put out a raging inferno of job losses in the State with a fluff and flutter squirt gun approach.


    Complete idiot, no other words to describe him.

    Yet we are giving Illegal aliens children, in state tuition what a moron!