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Railfan Trip Reports > Chicago Communter wanderings

Date: 09/10/07 18:00
Chicago Communter wanderings
Author: MEKoch

On August 8th I entered the Millennium Station (Randolph Street) in downtown Chicago beneath Millennium Park and the Prudential Building. This rebuilt station is greatly modernized. The floor design has tracks leading to the Metra (IC) boarding gates and the CSS&SB boarding gates. It is all surrounded by the usual vendors: Starbucks, etc. The 8:50 a.m. train to Michigan City, IN boarded and departed on time. After stopping at Van Buren St. & Roosevelt Road, we were flying southward. At Kensington (115th St.) we diverged on to the CSS&SB tracks. Hegewisch and Hammond have new stations, with high level platforms. We slowed and proceeded through State Line Crossing. I did not recognize this formerly very busy interlocking. Many trees have grown up and tracks removed to mislead my observations.
With a light load out of Chicago, our train kept slowly filling up with passengers. After our stop at Gary, IN, we left the double track line and entered single track territory, with frequent passing sidings and other tracks for freight service. The passenger load began to thin as we stopped at Ogden Dunes, Dune Park and Beverly Shores. Entering street running, we crept into Michigan City, where I got off the train in downtown. The former train station is for sale. See pic #1.
I waited 25 minutes and then headed back westward on #116 (pic #2). This train gained a good load of passengers at each stop. We met another eastbound train at East Gary (pic #3). After East Chicago the Conductor announced: “If there is anything in the seat beside you, that is not alive, please remove it. We need the seats for passengers!” Like the eastbound run, I was situated in the front car and watching out the front window at the busy right-of-way of the CSS&SB. I observed four pairs of GP-38s in various freight switching duties, taking care of their daily tasks. Fare each way was $7.85. Good to see a healthy South Shore operation and money being invested in this vital commuter service.

Date: 09/10/07 18:07
Re: Chicago Communter wanderings
Author: MEKoch

Upon arriving at Kensington, I detrained to await a southbound Metra train to Homewood (pic #4). It arrived in 45 seconds and I had to buy a cashfare on the train ($2.00 surcharge). Upon arrival in Homewood I walked through the tunnel over to the eastside of the tracks, and found their railfan observation platform. It has a nice roof, two benches and a radio, broadcasting on two CN/IC channels. Homewood was not too busy that day; about one freight train per hour (pic #5). But very closeby is a Starbucks and other restaurants. At 4 p.m. I went north back to the Millennium station, passing a southbound Metra train at 59th St. (pic #6).

Date: 09/10/07 18:23
Re: Chicago Communter wanderings
Author: MEKoch

August 9
I rode Metra train west on the CB&Q/BN/BNSF to Brookfield at 8:50 a.m. John Szwajkart, author of Train Watchers Guide to Chicago, met me. We enjoyed the day watching the busy triple-track mainline. Clyde Yard in Cicero is now an intermodal terminal, while Eola, west of Naperville, has become a block swapping yard and interchange to EJ&E. We were greeted by the hourly Metra trains (pic #7), coal trains, mixed freights (pic #8), and intermodal trains. The main eastbound track was out of service in Hinsdale for a major track gang. So having ‘just’ two tracks kept the operations interesting. Then in the afternoon four Amtrak long distance trains (#3-4-5-6) kept the dispatcher hopping to keep the railroad fluid. Finally shortly after 4 p.m. the track gang cleared up and full capacity returned for the evening rush hour. I returned on the 4:46 p.m. to CUS (pic #9).

Date: 09/10/07 18:28
Re: Chicago Communter wanderings
Author: MEKoch

August 10
From CUS I rode the 8:35 a.m. Metra to Orland Park-179th St. After the 21st St. Bridge, we diverged on the C&WI down to 75th St., where we headed west thru the 75th St. crossing. Then the line passes Landers Yard, a big NS intermodal facility. Metra has invested significant money into this line, featuring double track, CTC, new stations, new platforms, new parking lots, etc. As we moved southwest the train was doing 79 mph on smooth new tracks. We clattered across the diamond at Chicago Ridge and entered single track operation near Palos Park. I detrained at 179th St., the final stop for this train, milepost 28.67, and reboarded the same equipment 25 minutes later for the return to CUS. The 179th St. Metra Yard is pic #10. The former Wabash line is looking good – Follow the Flag!
I hiked quickly over LaSalle St. Station and bought a round trip to Joliet. Departing on the Metra 11:30 a.m., we moved smartly southward past new housing surrounding the former Dearborn Street Station. After the 16th St. Interlocker, Metra is rebuilding bridges on this line down to about 45th St. We zipped past track gangs sounding our horn. At Gresham we diverged into the Beverly Sub, going thru the neighborhoods (103rd, 107th, 111th, etc.). Back on the main at Blue Island, we zipped west on welded rail to Joliet.
I detrained and took pictures of the BNSF trains for a four hour period (pic #11). Also Amtrak’s nb & sb Eagle appeared OT. At 4:24 I boarded the eb Metra (pic #12). Many passengers joined me going to the White Sox game and other adventures in the Loop. I detrained at Blue Island – Vermont St., and walked across to the Metra (IC) Blue Island branch. This electric line operates thru the neighborhoods over to Kensington. As we moved slowly along this branch, we met two westbound trains at a passing siding. Children rode their bicycles and tricycles near the train, as we weaved and bobbed thru quiet communities. After Kensington we proceeded north at good speed on the IC mainline to the Millennium Station.

General Observations: All Metra & CSS&SB trains were well patronized. Ticketing machines were frequent in stations and conductors sold many cashfares on the trains. Many of the stations were new or refurbished. Only the Blue Island Branch stations and some minor IC stations were old wood and decrepit.

Date: 09/10/07 18:39
Re: Chicago Communter wanderings
Author: MEKoch


On my last day of wandering I used by auto to drive down to Blue Island and look at the busy interlocking on 135th St. just west of th downtown. Other railfans were gathered there on this Saturday morning, ready and eager for action. Blue Island has CSX (B&O), IHB, CN (GT), and then Metra/IAIS (Rock Island) at the south end on a bridge. The three hours were not disapppointing as trains appeared about every 15 minutes in various directions.

Pic #13 has a southbound BNSF autoracks.
Pic #14 has an northbound IHB transfer with a nice clean paint job.

Date: 09/11/07 18:19
Re: Chicago Communter wanderings
Author: TheCurator

Huh? What the heck is 193, a noseless F40?

Date: 09/12/07 19:05
Re: Chicago Communter wanderings
Author: Nictd1000

METX 193 is a F40PHM-2


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