Friday, February 12, 2010

The Tin Car

The Tin Car

At the Amtrak Station in Mendota, Illinois
February 2010

Kate and I were driving around last weekend and saw these cars. I was in Mendota a few years ago and they weren't there - obviously a recent addition.

I used to ride the IC to school (I commuted to downtown Chicago from the far south suburbs). The IC (we didn't call them ICG) had old, heavy "iron" cars with wicker seats and they were slowly converting to these new tin cans (they were called Highliners). I remember that we liked them, but they were a little too "clean." This was a long time ago.

in 1972, I was in Accounting 201 in the Loop when someone from the school office came to the classroom and asked for "Jim Frazier." She told me she had a message for me. I was supposed to call home, right away.

It turned out that there had been a train wreck during rush hour that morning after I had gotten to school. It was the worst commuter train crash ever in Chicago. And my Mom had seen the news and was worried about me. I didn't even know about it, so I had no clue that there might be a problem.

One of the old, heavy, single level cars had slammed into the rear of one of these Highliners. It tore through the car to just about the center doors. The pictures I saw looked like the car had indeed been opened like a tin can. 45 people died and there were stories about horrible injuries (decapitations, lost limbs, etc.).

After the accident, the ends of these cars (which were gray) were painted to make them more visible. And I never rode at the end of one of these trains ever again.


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