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Car 553 is a privately owned railroad car. It operates exclusively on the Metra Union Pacific North Line in northeastern Illinois. It is one of only two private commuter cars remaining in the United States (the other being car 5459 leased by the Jersey Shore Commuter Club on the North Jersey Coast Line).
Private commuter car service began on the Chicago and Northwestern in 1929, to serve wealthy commuters in the affluent North Shore suburbs of Chicago, such as Lake Forest, Highland Park and Winnetka, Illinois. The first private car was C&NW 6700, named "The Deerpath". Eventually, the tradition of naming the car "The Deerpath" ended, and the current club car is merely known as "Car 553".
Car 553 (and its sister, Car 555) were built as Chicago & North Western Railway lounge cars #7901 and #7902 in 1949 by the American Car and Foundry Company. In 1961, these cars were removed from long distance passenger service, renumbered 553 and 555, and rebuilt to operate in commuter service out of Chicago, Illinois. On November 30, 1975, cars 553 and 555 were acquired by Commuter Associates Inc. and continued to see service on the C&NW, operated by the commuter rail branch of the Regional Transportation Authority (which was reorganized into Metra in 1984). In the 1990s, the first female members purchased seats on the car. Car 553 still wears the color scheme of the pre-Metra Regional Transportation Authority's passenger equipment.
As of 2012[update], Car 553 operates twice daily on the Union Pacific North Line between Chicago and Kenosha, Wisconsin. The car is operated as part of an agreement between club members and the Union Pacific Railroad (Who operates Metra trains on the UP/North Line). While in the past, membership was exclusive to wealthy "North Shore" families, it has since become open to anyone who pays an annual fee of $900, in addition to the fees for Metra's monthly pass. The car arrives in Chicago shortly before 9:00am, and departs for Kenosha shortly after 5:00pm (Based around the traditional 9-to-5 workday).
- Goldsmith, Adrienne (19 September 2010). "The Cure For A Crowded Commute: Car 553". Gazebo News. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
- Strack, Donald (8 November 2011). "Non-Union Pacific Cars (painted UP yellow and gray)". UtahRails.net. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
- Wronski, Richard (20 July 2009). "Public Transit's Private Club". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 20 August 2012.