Subway car takes the win in “Coolest Thing Made in Nebraska” contest

By: - October 11, 2022 11:33 am

The R211 subway car is the winner of the 2022 “Coolest Thing Made In Nebraska” contest. (Courtesy of Nebraska Chamber and Nebraska Manufacturing Alliance)

OMAHA — The winner, announced Tuesday, of the first-ever “Coolest Thing Made in Nebraska” competition by the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry is a new technology subway car made in the Lincoln plant of Kawasaki Motors.

The R211 subway car, which can be found running on tracks in New York City, emerged on top of a field that started out at about 50 products and was whittled down to 16 for a bracket-style contest.

In announcing the winner, the Chamber’s Mike Johnson said the adventure was a lot of fun and worth the image boost it provided to manufacturing, which he said is often viewed as “dirty, dark and dangerous.”

“We had an image issue,” Johnson said  at the state’s annual manufacturing summit held in La Vista. “We had an issue of connecting people with careers in manufacturing.”

More than 20,000 votes were cast during the monthlong contest, he said, which came down to two finalists. The other was the “pivot walker,” an irrigation-related concept brought by a central Nebraska farmer to Chief Fabrication in Grand Island.

The idea behind the all-steel wheel that moves on what looks like tiny snow shoes (and never goes flat) is to reduce pivot ruts in fields that can lead to equipment damage and livestock injuries.

The Pivot Walker by Chief Fabrication in Grand Island was contest runner-up. (Courtesy of Nebraska Chamber and Nebraska Manufacturing Alliance)

Contenders didn’t have to be a product used in Nebraska, but they had to be made locally and represent the value in choosing a manufacturing  job in the state, said Johnson, the Chamber’s vice president of manufacturing.

Such was the case in the R211 subway car, which is made in the state for the New York City Transit Authority. The Lincoln Kawasaki plant is contracted to produce about 40 cars a month.

The cars include digital displays with real-time rider information, bright lighting and aerodynamic bonnets.

Bracket leading to contest winner. (Courtesy of Nebraska Chamber and Nebraska Manufacturing Alliance)

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Cindy Gonzalez
Cindy Gonzalez

Senior Reporter Cindy Gonzalez, an Omaha native, has more than 35 years of experience, largely at the Omaha World-Herald. Her coverage areas have included business and real estate development; regional reporting; immigration, demographics and diverse communities; and City Hall and local politics.