Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Talgo Coming Back to Milwaukee

Spanish train manufacturer will overhaul Los Angeles subway cars in Century City.

By - Sep 26th, 2016 10:47 am
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Red Line Subway Cars (Photo by The Port of Authority)

Red Line Subway Cars (Photo by The Port of Authority)

Spanish train manufacturer Talgo will reopen their facility in the Century City business park. The news was announced by Mayor Tom Barrett during his 2017 budget address before the Common Council. The facility at 3533 N. 27th St. has most recently been used by crews assembling the glass curtain wall for the Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons, but Talgo has maintained a lease on a 25,000 square-foot section of the building for storage. As part of the deal, Talgo will expand their operations in the building and create dozens of jobs at the facility.

Talgo will be rebuilding 74 heavy rail cars for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro). The $73 million, 56-month contract will overhaul vehicles originally placed into service in the early 1990’s. The cars were originally manufactured by the now-defunct Italian firm Breda.

The cars are in use on the busiest lines in the Los Angeles subway system, running on the Red and Purple lines that serve a combined 149,096 daily rides. That total is greater than the daily ridership of the entire Milwaukee County Transit System. Service began on the lines in 1993.

Mayor Barrett has been actively involved in trying to bring Talgo back to Milwaukee, including meeting with the evaluation team from LA Metro when they did a site visit. Barrett slammed Governor Scott Walker during his budget address, noting “As hard as the governor worked to kill this project, we worked even harder to build a solid relationship with the company. And that paid off.” Talgo hopes to expand their portfolio of business in the United States to include work on subway and light rail vehicles, expanding beyond their intercity rail offerings.

Talgo CEO Antonio Perez said “with this opportunity we show LACMTA that our knowledge and experience in the sector make Talgo the perfect choice to improve the performance of trains serving in the railway network of the city,” in a press release posted on the firm’s Spanish language website.

Talgo had manufactured four of their Series 8 trainsets at Century City. Two of those Milwaukee-made trains are now in service with Amtrak’s Cascades Service, running between Eugene, Oregon and Vancouver, Canada with stops along the way including Portland and Seattle. The other pair, originally intended to operate on the Amtrak Hiwatha Service between Chicago, Milwaukee and Madison will finally enter service in California. The company employed more than 80 people in Milwaukee to build the trainsets.

The move comes as a surprise, given that the Talgo CEO blasted Walker in a 2012 a story by Urban Milwaukee, complaining that “Gov. Walker does not keep his word. It’s like we’re talking about a Third World country, where people don’t have respect for their contracts.” The state and Talgo finally settled a lawsuit in 2015, with the state paying an additional $9.7 milion to Talgo for the trainsets. In total, the state will have paid nearly $50 million for trains that it never owned.

As part of the settlement, Talgo maintains ownership of the trainsets and can sell them to another buyer. If Talgo were to sell the trains, 30% of the net proceeds from a future sale are required to be returned to Wisconsin (up to $9.7 million). Wisconsin had originally agreed to buy the trainsets in 2009 for $47.5 million as part of Governor Jim Doyle‘s jockeying to win a high speed rail grant. Doyle’s bet did pay off, Wisconsin won a $810 million high-speed rail grant to connect Chicago, Milwaukee and Madison, but the funds were revoked by the federal government after Walker was elected and promised to end the project.

Talgo has yet to sell the trainsets, and instead leased them to a California transportation agency in August on a five-year deal for $15 million. They will operate on the 351-mile rail corridor between Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo, offering a travel time reduction of 25 minutes. The trains will be operated by the Los Angeles – San Diego – San Luis Obispo (LOSSAN) Rail Corridor Agency. LOSSAN received an $82 million grant from the state of California for improvements to the corridor. The LOSSAN corridor provides 7.2 million annual rides on over 150 daily passenger trains including Amtrak Pacific Surfliner intercity service and Metrolink and COASTER commuter trains.

The facility Talgo will operate in is owned by the city-affiliated Century City Redevelopment Corporation. The REV Group, led by Tim Sullivan, will soon begin manufacturing a prototype “Liberty” vehicle for the United States Postal Service in the building and hopes to win a contract that would create about 1,000 jobs at Century City to build the vehicles. REV Group is competing against five other bidders. The winner is expected to be announced in 2018.

Talgo Trainsets

As our photos capture, the original trainsets for Wisconsin were removed from the Milwaukee facility in 2014. Before the lease to California, they had been in storage at Amtrak’s Beech Grove, Indiana facility. It was previously believed that Michigan may purchase the trainsets, but that deal never came to fruition.

More about the History of Talgo in Milwaukee

21 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Talgo Coming Back to Milwaukee”

  1. Jeff says:

    Take that, Gov. Walker! This is a huge victory–the righting of a tremendous wrong–for both the city and Mayor Barrett. Bravo.

  2. WashCoRepub says:

    Fantastic news! More jobs coming to Wisconsin, and Governor Walker also saved the state huge dollars by making the correct decision not to construct the slow, unneeded line between Madison and Milwaukee where the Interstate already exists. Another great win-win for the state.

  3. AG says:

    WashCoRepub, too bad Walkers actions actually cost the state money…

  4. Vincent Hanna says:

    110 mph is slow? And yes why fly or take a train anywhere when we already have roads? What an excellent point.

  5. Gary says:

    It may be time to crowd-source-fund a statue of Preside … I mean Gov. Doe … sorry, I mean Gov. Walker placed on the Century City grounds … looking dumb-founded.

  6. Rail Provocateur says:

    No matter how outsized the current influence of the lobbyists are to derail passenger train services, inevitably, common sense will prevail in behalf of the public interest. When you realize the actual cost per mile to build-and maintain-interstate highway, the investment required to upgrade tracks and secure equipment will be a bargain. We need to change the dynamics of political leadership that kowtows to those who only favor cuts in taxes, and encourage a ruinous political philosophy of disinvestment in infrastructure.

    Milwaukee must be connected via passenger rail to Madison; Madison must be re-connected thru Milwaukee to Chicago via passenger rail. Indeed, the growing megalopolis between Milwaukee-Chicago via Chicago’s north shore should be re-connected via passenger rail. Those who oppose this future apparently favor stagnant economic growth and the lack of mobility contributing to our moribund region.

  7. David says:

    There are almost 14 million people in the Chi-Milw-Mad area. Add Mnpls – St. Paul to the mix and we’re looking at almost 17 million people. And Milwaukee, the city that is struggling would benefit the greatest from the connections. Yeah…. let’s not invest in anything other than underfunded roads. The Republicans can’t even get that right.

    WashCoRep… you either need to grow a brain or turn off the radio. Maybe both.

  8. Doug says:

    Very good article, and much more complete than those in MJS and Milwaukee Business Journal. Thanks.

  9. Tom D says:

    WashCoRepub (post 2):

    The Talgo trains Walker refused were not for the Madison train extension. They were intended to replace the 30- or 40-year-old cars now running Milwaukee-Chicago that Wisconsin rents from Amtrak. After Walker was elected, he even contacted Talgo and assured them that, while he opposed the Madison train, he had no problem buying these trains from Talgo.

    (If the Madison train had gone in, Wisconsin would have purchased an additional pair of Talgo trains, but those trains were never ordered or built, and are not the subject of this article.)

    By refusing to accept the Talgo trains (for which Wisconsin had already paid $50 million) Walker didn’t save any money; he forfeited the $50 million already spent. He also condemned state taxpayers to continue renting the old Hiawatha cars from Amtrak and continue paying higher fuel costs. (The Talgo’s are lighter than the old Amtrak cars and would have reduced the Hiawatha’s operating costs.) And since those old Amtrak cars are cleaned and maintained in Chicago (while the Talgo’s would have been cleaned and maintained in Wisconsin), he lost a few additional Wisconsin jobs.

  10. D says:

    Thank you Governor Walker for stopping us from wasting federal tax dollars on outdated technology that would only be useful to government hacks in Madison and Milwaukee.

    Get back to us when you want to build true high speed rail. I want to be able to travel to Chicago in 20 minutes on a Maglev.

  11. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    D- And you’ll back the government spending money on technology and infrastructure to do that, right? Riiiiight.

    I’d take the upgrade that the FEDS WERE GOING TO PAY WISCONSIN FOR in a heartbeat, but I;m guessing you wouldn’t because your D stands for DUMB.

    Turn off the Sykes and get a clue.

  12. Tim says:

    D, people like you would stop Maglev because you want to hold out for teleporters. Dumb is right.

  13. camper says:

    Walker broke a contract and it cost Wisconsin taxpayers dearly. It cost Wisconsin jobs and Wisconsin commerce on top of fines, and our Federal tax dollars went to another state. Why do we keep voting for this guy who is squandering our taxpayer dollars and chasing jobs out of the state?

  14. Rich says:

    >>> while the Talgo’s would have been cleaned and maintained in Wisconsin
    At the risk of boring the audience with minutiae ,it was actually that very part about the maintenance that killed even using the trains for existing MKE-CHI service. The state refused to fund even the engineering work to figure out how to reliably get the trains from the depot to any site for servicing in a timely manner (between X after last evening train arrival to Y minus first morning train departure). Other options like building a new servicing site were similarly unfunded and Amtrak did not want to accommodate the unique use case of servicing and stocking parts for Talgos at their shops in CHI. Servicing them at the depot where they lay over was also a non-starter given the site constraints of being on an active freight mainline. The transit to even the closest readily available site (Century City where they were built) involves four railroad entities (Amtrak, train operator; Canadian Pacfic, track owner [by the depot]; Wisconsin Southern, service operator, State of Wis, track owner [other parts of route] and there was insufficient will or investment to arrive at a solution, primarily because said investment, while supported on face “for CHI-MKE” would’ve indirectly contributed to MKE-MAD and we can’t let a practical solution like that expose Walker for the farce he is, so it died.

  15. Rail Provocateur says:

    If we re-wind this fiasco re Talgo, it appears that the highway centric state DOT lacked the savvy to properly disseminate factual information; to satisfactorily handle media relations, to suppress the noxious critics of passenger rail who persistently flail against this most cost and land-use efficient mode of transportation. Consequently, the public was manipulated into fearing an open-ended operating subsidy would hit them.

    This is the end result of the public tolerating its politicians being led by the lobbyists to their campaign donation trough, at the expense of the public’s interest. Anti-rail agendas simply ignores the fact that public dollars built and still maintains the interstates and roads; as well as the air traffic safety control system and airports (muni bonds). In both cases, privately-owned carriers benefit without paying real user fees.

    Also, in 2010, reactionary forces gained the state capitol in Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin, their campaigns well oiled by the anti-train lobbyists protecting the interests of construction, oil, tire, bus, auto, air, etc. Attacking the concept of securing a federal role to finance rail expansion at that time was as anathema to them as Communists were to the late Senator McCarthy; it also made for good posturing on TV.

    Consequently, everybody lost–the State of Wisconsin paid out more funds by violating the contract with Talgo; as well, the equipment remained with Talgo to lease out and avoid any payment back to the state. However, getting a second chance in business is rare; ideally Milwaukee will embrace this opportunity that has returned, as Talgo most certainly has a future in North America, alongside Siemens, Alstom, and Bombardier.

    FYI-those Talgos built in Milwaukee are running from Eugene, OR-Vancouver, BC; additional sets leased will soon be running from San Diego-San Luis Obispo–with great fanfare in California.

  16. Karl says:

    It’s amazing how Republicans comment on a thread and they never appear to be reading a script, reciting tired old phrases, emphasizing ‘good jobs’ done by people who’ve done nothing at all, embracing broken promises, hitting themselves in the head with a hammer. Wait. I’m wrong. They do.

  17. Thomas says:

    It is good news that Talgo is coming back to Milwaukee. If Hillary wins the election next month, and if Walker recedes to relative obscurity – like his soulmate Scotty J of Waukesha, maybe we can have a fast train some day from Chicago through Milwaukee and Madison to the Twin Cities.

    Wishing and hoping …

  18. Aggie says:

    How long will it be before Scottie-boy wants a photo op in Century City to show that business is coming back to WI. I am sure that the spin will be strong on that story…

  19. tyrell track master says:

    BRAVO!!!!! Take that Walker you flipping imbecile … maybe in 10 years we’ll have another chance at real rail from Chicago to Madison via MKE…

  20. Bruce Thompson says:

    Terrific article. A lot of good information.
    I missed the announcement of the Talgo return (great news), since my wife and I returned yesterday from a 2-week vacation in Europe. Amsterdam, where we landed, has four modes of public transit: buses, streetcars (trams), the metro (subway), and the urban portion of the national railroad. One ticket can be used on all of them. Many of the trams have their own right of way. And, of course, there are the ubiquitous bike lanes and multi-story bike parking garages at the train stations.
    Returning from Schiphol Airport to O’Hare feels like stepping back in time.
    It is puzzling that so many local politicians are intent on making Wisconsin’s transportation system obsolete.

  21. CDG says:

    I am not puzzled by our lack of investment in shared use mobility. First there is a lot of investment in automotives and fuel, warfare still continues over fuel.Putting money back into convenient and affordable transportation also drives equity amongst all social and economical groups. God forbid someone from the city occupy my suburb or cross our boarders and take our jobs. Something that we are hearing right now coming from the candidacy, no? We make money in our cities off of steep mv fees and penalties, driving is a privilege, not a right. It always has been, our systems has been devised to hamper the poor. When you are not provided with a spectrum of choices in getting around you are locked into your city’s economic prison. Again not surprising one bit.

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