Trains Built for Doomed Wisconsin Rail Project Sold to Nigeria

Obama admin granted Wisconsin $810 million for rail line

Workers adjusts the new standard gauge railway line under construction from Iju in Lagos to Abeokuta, Ogun State in southwest Nigeria, on Feb. 7, 2019. / Getty Images
January 19, 2022

Two trains that Wisconsin purchased for a failed high-speed rail project were sold to Nigeria on Tuesday.

The governor of the West African country's Lagos State visited Milwaukee this week to buy the trains, which had sat unused since 2012. Nigeria plans to use the trains for a metro system under construction.

Wisconsin originally purchased the trains in 2009 from Spanish manufacturer Talgo as part of a plan to construct a high-speed rail line connecting Milwaukee and Madison. Months later, the Obama administration granted Wisconsin $810 million to pay for the rail line.

But the project soon fell apart, according to Wisconsin Public Radio, after the state elected Republican governor Scott Walker, who campaigned on scrapping the rail line.

Wisconsin gave up on the project, but Talgo sued the state in 2012 for breach of contract. In a settlement, Wisconsin agreed to pay Talgo $50 million in damages, with the Spanish company maintaining ownership of the trains at its Milwaukee facilities.

Milwaukee's Democratic acting mayor Cavalier Johnson attended an event marking Talgo's sale of the trains to Nigeria. He expressed disappointment that the trains would be leaving Wisconsin.

"It's a little bittersweet," Johnson told Wisconsin Public Radio. "I'm sending my congratulations to the governor in Lagos State in Nigeria, but also a little disappointed that we missed out on the opportunity to have those trainsets operating here in Milwaukee and in Wisconsin."