OSHA fines Rochelle rail car manufacturer $19,550


An Illinois rail car manufacturing plant that has received millions of dollars in grants, training funds and tax incentives from state and local governments, was fined $19,550 for exposing workers to dangerous conditions.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fines stem from worker complaints filed in October against a Nippon Sharyo facility in that makes Metra rail cars in Rochelle, about 80 miles west of Chicago. It employs more than 400 people.

Jobs to Move America, a coalition that includes labor, environmental and community groups, plans a demonstration against the company on Tuesday in downtown Chicago.

Inspectors found employees were working on scaffold with plywood boards that weren’t intended for use and could have fallen from heights of up to 17 feet. Additionally, scaffold legs were not braced to prevent movement. They also found that the walkways leading to an emergency exit door were not kept dry and that employees were not protected from welding rays.

Nippon Sharyo couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

The company was initially fined $34,550, but the amount was reduced to $19,550.

Last year, OSHA investigators found inadequate ventilation to remove flammable vapors, mists or

Rail Fest returns to Homewood this weekend


From the die-hard railroad enthusiast to the youngest Thomas the Tank Engine fan, Rail Fest, which returns to Homewood this weekend, boasts something for everyone who’s interested in trains.

After taking a year off, the event that celebrates the Village of Homewood’s long ties to the railroad runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Inside the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District auditorium, 2010 Chestnut Road, visitors will find various train layouts and displays of railroad memorabilia. Shoppers can seek out additions to their own collections, from model railroad items to antiques and collectibles related to the railroad, including old rail lanterns.

“We tap into a little bit of history, we tap into a little bit of fun for kids,” said Allisa Opyd, Homewood’s events manager. “It’s a great day to unplug and step back in time.”

Illinois Central Railroad completed its track through what became the village of Homewood – then known as Thornton Station — in 1853.

“Since then, it has been an integral part of our community,” said Jim Wright, president of the Homewood Historical Society. Wright has written several books about the Homewood and

Positive train control on track for South Shore


The pricey smart train control system experts say could have prevented Tuesday’s deadly Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia is one of the reasons South Shore commuters are facing fare increases this summer.

Congress has mandated passenger and freight railroads install positive train control systems by the end of the year.

Next month, the Northern Indiana Commuter Transit District board will open bids for the second time on the system. The first round of bids were nearly three times NICTD’s hopeful estimate.

“We went out for proposals last year and they came in at $120 million,” said NICTD general manager Mike Noland. Officials had been told to expect bids at about $43 million.

Noland said he hopes the South Shore positive train control system is up and running by 2019, the same year the Metra commuter railroad in Chicago expects to have its system ready. Noland, a former Metra official, said Metra anticipated costs of about $120 million and now expects to pay about $400 million. NICTD’s positive train control system must be compatible with Metra’s, Noland said.

When Congress mandated the system in 2008, the technology didn’t exist anywhere in