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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / Never-used Talgo trainsets find buyer in Africa

Never-used Talgo trainsets find buyer in Africa

By | January 18, 2022

Equipment ordered by state of Wisconsin will be used for commuter service in Lagos, Nigeria

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Parked Talgo trainset
Parked Talgo trainset
On July 14, 2020, a Wisconsin Series 8 awaits modifications that were never completed at Talgo’s Milwaukee maintenance facility. The equipment is being purchased for use in Nigeria. (Bob Johnston)

MILWAUKEE — The long-orphaned Talgo trainsets built but never used for extended Hiawatha service to Madison, Wis., have finally found a home. In Nigeria.

The website Urban Milwaukee reports Talgo will sell the equipment to the Nigerian government. According to a press release, it will be for a new 23-mile, 11-station commuter line in the Lagos area slated to begin service later this year, with a capacity of 500,000 passengers per day. Lagos, with a population of 27 million, is one of the most densely populated cities in Africa, and by 2025 is projected to be one of the world’s five largest cities.

The governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, was scheduled to visit Milwaukee today (Tuesday, Jan. 18) for a ceremony to mark purchase of the equipment.

The two 14-car Series 8 trainsets were ordered in 2009 by Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle for $47 million as part of the plan to extend the Hiawatha route from Milwaukee to Madison. But after Republican Scott Walker won the 2010 election, he turned back the federal funding for route improvements and attempted to cancel the agreement struck by Doyle, a Democrat, for the equipment. Talgo sued and received about $50 million in payments and settlements, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in 2015, while retaining ownership of the equipment. Under that settlement, Talgo agreed to return 30% of the net proceeds of any sale of the equipment to the state, up to a limit of $9.7 million.

The trainsets were eventually moved to Amtrak’s Beech Grove (Ind.) Heavy Maintenance Facility for storage, receiving maintenance from Talgo every few months to keep them ready for operation [see “What Happened to Talgo,” September 2021 Trains]. Interest from Michigan and California never turned into sales, but the fatal 2017 Amtrak Cascades accident involving a Talgo Series VI trainset in Washington state revived interest in the equipment.

Washington had sidelined and subsequently disposed of its other Series VI trainsets, like those involved in the accident, while Oregon-owned Series 8 trains remained in Cascades service. That left the need for more equipment, and — believing the Wisconsin trainsets could address the issue — Amtrak had them returned to Talgo’s Milwaukee plant for modification for Cascades operation. Ultimately, however, the Washington State Department of Transportation would not agree to lease, purchase, or maintenance agreements offered by Talgo.

19 thoughts on “Never-used Talgo trainsets find buyer in Africa

    1. Best Wisconsin governor ever, who I voted for four times for governor in addition to the times I voted for him for other offices.

      What was stupid and worthless was Jim Doyle’s half-baked proposal for the Madison train.

        1. Agree with you on that one. Not Scott Walker’s finest hour. To show what kind of President Joe Biden is, take FoxConn and multiply it by the speed of light, and call it “the Green New Deal”.

          Talgo’s inability to dump the trainsets in over a decade may speak to WisDOT’s wisdom in paying Talgo to keep them.

          Parts of the proposal Madison route (owned by CP Rail and the Empire Builder) are speed resticted because of curves and/or urbanisation. It’s unclear to me that the the Talgo ability to take curves faster would have resulted in a higher speed limit on those segments.

          1. I can’t believe what moron would vote for Scottie. He also did a big disservice to teachers. A totally totally worthless gov.

    2. Now was there something wrong with the Series VI transets that WA stopped using them entirely? Seems to be an enormous amount of money for a small benefit. Be interesting to see how these fare in Lagos. Have a bad feeling it will be like how the Pacific Electric’s PCC cars went to Beunos Aires for a totally unsuitable operation and didn’t last too long. I never got to ride aTalgo but I did see one operate/snake over the B&M to Portland in 1993 in a demonstration run. It wobbled along at 25mph or so and was easy to chase. The B&M and NH Talgos of the ’50’s and ’60’s didn’t last that long either; bumpy riding qualities I understand.

  1. I was not expecting that to be the result if this saga. Frankly I feel like the sets will be almost wasted on such a short route (unless it’s an extremely curvy one), but at least they’ll finally see use.

    Some followup stories could be interesting. For example, is Nigeria only purchasing these two sets, or also ordering additional sets to compliment them? For the amount of traffic expected on the line, and the size of a station shown in the press release, it seems like they may need more than two sets + spares.

    1. Best Wisconsin governor ever, who I voted for four times for governor in addition to the times I voted for him for other offices.

      What was stupid and worthless was Jim Doyle’s half-baked proposal for the Madison train.

      1. Sorry, didn’t mean to post same thing twice, the machine did that. Regarding Daniel Bentz’ post above, buying a outlier oddball incompatible with other equipment never works out …. like VIA Rail Canada’s purchase of Renaissance cars, or in an earlier genenration both USDOT and CNR purchse of United Aircraft turbotrains.

      2. But Charles, you don’t understand. This is a website devoted to trains and their enthusiasts. We need to be in favor of every train…even if they don’t make sense.

  2. First, there is always a gamble on new equipment. Good thing people were willing to try out those new fangled diesels.
    That said, my personal experience of the Talgos SB from Portland to Eugene on several trips over two decades, was of a mediocre ride and not very comfortable seats. Worse, there was often a loud periodic thump from the suspension.
    I remember when the prototype was shown off at Sacramento Railfair. The seats were too close together and didn’t recline far enough.

  3. What a waste of time, effort and money. Sure folks, keep up the political hyperpolarization of all aspects of American life. It only plays into the hands of America’s enemies. At least the equipment will no longer just be sitting in limbo.

  4. Okay then look at Scott Walker’s record:

    (1) Hiawatha funding from the state continued uninterrupted.
    (2) He completed the previous program to rebuild all three Hiawatha stations in the state: MKE, MKA and Sturtevant.
    (3) State support to local bus systems continued uninterrupted.

    So, the only public transportation mark against Walker was killing the Madison train proposal and paying Talgo to take back its trainsets.

    The current governor, a Democrat, has done no more than Walker, a Republican, did for public transportation. If anything, the current governor is more highway-oriented than Walker was.

  5. WOW! Now even the Third World countries are investing more in their passenger rail systems than the U.S.!!

  6. wow, Scott Walker managed to support one of the rail corridors in the country and build and/or improved three stations. Quite an accomplishment. Of course, there’s been no expansion of rail service to any other part of Wisconsin. And, with the exception of one street car line, all public transit in Milwaukee is via bus. Again, not a great accomplishment.

  7. Daniel Bentz said:
    “Some followup stories could be interesting. For example, is Nigeria only purchasing these two sets, or also ordering additional sets to compliment them? For the amount of traffic expected on the line, and the size of a station shown in the press release, it seems like they may need more than two sets + spares.”

    Talgo is a Spanish company so any additional cars for Nigeria would likely come from the factory in Spain. With the Series 6 sets being scrapped, the two Series 8 sets sold, and no orders from Michigan or California, will Talgo abandon the US except for any contractual agreements for the Cascades train sets? Siemens appears to have captured the market in North America for passenger cars and locomotives.

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