CHICAGO—Metra operates one of the largest commuter rail systems in the world, boasting more than 480 miles of track and more than 240 stations, covering more than 3,700 square miles throughout the Chicagoland area. It relies on a fleet of 156 locomotives and more than 1,100 passenger cars. To help reduce its carbon footprint, the transit agency plans to convert six of its oldest diesel locomotives to battery power.

Progress Rail Services Corp., a division of Caterpillar Inc., will rebuild the machines at its facility in Patterson, GA. The battery-powered units will be quieter, and have lower operating costs and lower maintenance costs than diesel locomotives.

“This procurement puts [us] on the cutting edge of battery-powered technology and demonstrates our commitment to innovation and cleaner energy,” says Jim Derwinski, CEO and executive director of Metra. “If these locomotives prove themselves, they could play a significant role in our fleet and in our future, and the concept could serve as a template for other railroads to follow.”

Metra plans to test the battery-powered locomotives, which will have an estimated range of about 150 miles, on its Rock Island Line, which operates between Chicago and Joliet, IL. Charging stations will be located at both ends of the heavily traveled route.