6 hour layover in Chicago ideas

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6 hour layover in Chicago ideas

Postby train2 » Thu Apr 28, 2016 11:56 am

Will have about 6 hours of time to kill in Chicago in May without the use of a car. Planned day is a Sunday.

I remember 20 years ago you could shoot trains south of Union Station from bridges. Is that still the case today? I know there was some buildup in that area based on photos I have seen. Are any of the bridges now equipped with chain link fences? What streets by name are the best locations today? Is Roosevelt still the prime location?

I had contemplated riding a commuter out along the racetrack to shoot Metra F40s. Do they work in any concentration on the Racetrack or is that the Winnebago only territory?

What other ideas can you offer? I have already ridden the South Shore and the Scokie Swift. Plus I rode one CTA line that I no longer have any memory of the line name. I just remember it dropped down to street level and had grade crossings. Any ideas on what that was?

I might like to formulate a good weather plan and a rainy plan of just riding if you can offer any thoughts.

Also thought of going to CTA's tower 18 at Lake and Wells. How would be the best way to travel from Union Station to the location? Which CTA station is physically closest to the tower? I have seen some close photos of the tower from track level.
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Re: 6 hour layover in Chicago ideas

Postby byte » Thu Apr 28, 2016 5:05 pm

Realistically, this is kind of an optimistic goal for a Sunday (Metra service intervals: one train every two hours). You could spend hours trying to shoot the -two- trainsets being used on the BNSF that day. If you want to see F40s, a better bet might be to venture up to the Clybourn station on the UP-N and UP-NW so you'll see more trains since there are two lines running through there. Most of the units running up there are regular F40s.

train2 wrote:What other ideas can you offer? I have already ridden the South Shore and the Scokie Swift. Plus I rode one CTA line that I no longer have any memory of the line name. I just remember it dropped down to street level and had grade crossings. Any ideas on what that was?


A CTA line which goes from elevated to grade-level with crossings was either the Brown or Pink lines; both do that. The Orange line out to Midway is a good, quick ride, with lots of rail scenery to look at along the way. The Blue, Orange, and Brown lines all run the older DC-propelled cars, if that would be of interest to you. You could also ride the Metra Electric (if the schedule works) a couple stops south, so you can see/ride the new Highliners (if you haven't already).

train2 wrote:I might like to formulate a good weather plan and a rainy plan of just riding if you can offer any thoughts.

Also thought of going to CTA's tower 18 at Lake and Wells. How would be the best way to travel from Union Station to the location? Which CTA station is physically closest to the tower? I have seen some close photos of the tower from track level.


I'd just walk. It's not far. From track level, the closest view you're going to get of it would be from Clark/Lake. If you want to get photos from station platform level, and want to ride over to Clark/Lake, you'd want to hop on an Orange line train at Quincy and take it two stops (to Clark/Lake).
That old car might be worth money!
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Re: 6 hour layover in Chicago ideas

Postby train2 » Thu Apr 28, 2016 10:35 pm

Ok thank you for the replies. Sounds like the Racetrack idea is not all that great, except if i want to shoot freight between whatever Metra runs. I knew service would be less, one train every 2 hours would be slow. You mentioned 2 sets running on a Sunday, are you saying once I see 2 trains it will be the same sets cycling back and forth all day?

I think you shot down a loose plan B I had as a back up already: I had thought of making a circle trip to Joliet, riding one direction on the tracks that cross the diamond, and returning on the other route. But I am pretty sure one of those is the HC you mention. No service at all I take it?

As for CTA, and this is an old memory, but do you pay to get inside the gates, then you are able to ride as long as you don't exit? Is that still the case? If so does crossing from one platform to another cause you to exit and have to repay? (On Washington's Metro you can ride like this, but I once rode all day long and tired to exit at the same station I entered and that confused the fare system to the point it did not want to let me exit.)
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Re: 6 hour layover in Chicago ideas

Postby lstone19 » Fri Apr 29, 2016 10:43 am

train2 wrote:Ok thank you for the replies. Sounds like the Racetrack idea is not all that great, except if i want to shoot freight between whatever Metra runs. I knew service would be less, one train every 2 hours would be slow. You mentioned 2 sets running on a Sunday, are you saying once I see 2 trains it will be the same sets cycling back and forth all day?

Yes. Two sets come out on Sunday and that's it.
I think you shot down a loose plan B I had as a back up already: I had thought of making a circle trip to Joliet, riding one direction on the tracks that cross the diamond, and returning on the other route. But I am pretty sure one of those is the HC you mention. No service at all I take it?

The Joliet loop ride involves the Heritage Corridor southbound and the Rock Island District northbound. Can only be done on a weekday afternoon.
As for CTA, and this is an old memory, but do you pay to get inside the gates, then you are able to ride as long as you don't exit? Is that still the case? If so does crossing from one platform to another cause you to exit and have to repay? (On Washington's Metro you can ride like this, but I once rode all day long and tired to exit at the same station I entered and that confused the fare system to the point it did not want to let me exit.)

Yes, it's pay on entry. There are only a handful of stations where you cannot change directions without exiting fare control (mostly elevated stations). But a couple of gotchas: at Dempster Street on the Yellow Line (north end of the line) which the last I knew requires exiting to reverse; and at O'Hare (don't know about other terminal stations) there are signs saying you must exit and pay another fare although nothing physically stops you from just boarding the next outbound train (which might be the one on which you arrived). I suspect this is designed to stop homeless from riding all night.
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ex-N&W Sandusky, Ohio
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Re: 6 hour layover in Chicago ideas

Postby byte » Fri Apr 29, 2016 12:28 pm

54th/Cermak on the Pink Line has a funny arrangement with its platform as well - it's a single platform but long enough to hold two eight-car trains [accessed from the far track by a pair of strategically-placed crossovers] with some kind of fence/barrier in between that I think can be walked around if you wanted to take the next train back downtown (which will be sitting at the other spot on its long platform).
That old car might be worth money!
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Re: 6 hour layover in Chicago ideas

Postby MACTRAXX » Sat Apr 30, 2016 1:15 pm

T2:

You never specified exactly what and where your Chicago layover will be between?
I am assuming that it is between Amtrak trains arriving and departing Union Station...

Another place to visit that is walking distance from Union Station is going to the Willis (Sears) Tower Skydeck
which will offer a good aerial view of Chicago which will include some of the rail spots such as the Amtrak and
Metra/BNSF facilities south of Union Station. I would only do this if the visibility distance was good enough and
the weather was decent because it is not worthwhile otherwise.

I like the idea of viewing the CTA trains traveling past Tower 18 - the only question I have is if any of the adjacent
parking garage(s) have public access without trespassing?

Paying one CTA fare and riding the Midway (Orange) Line is a good idea and a somewhat reasonable ride timewise.
One can stop over at stations enroute and watch freight trains on paralleling lines as mentioned. Other CTA routes
will take more time to ride and since you have ridden the Ravenswood (Brown) and/or Douglas (Pink) Lines and the
Skokie Swift (Yellow) Line you would want to visit a new CTA route that you have not traveled on before.

Taking Metra anyplace outside the City could present a problem because of your time constraint and to not get
stuck anyplace that will cause you to be late getting back to your departure point. I was going to suggest a round
trip via Blue Island on Metra Electric and the Rock Island which would have been shorter in duration then Joliet
would have been but since ME's Blue Island Branch has no Sunday service that would not work for you. A stop
over point with nearby amenities such as food would probably be best again if you have time to work with.

Ogilvie TC is a short walk from the north end at Union Station and could be another place to trainspot along with
a short ride to Clybourn. One question: How are the UP Police treating railfans these days?

One can find many things to do in Chicago - even on a Sunday. Those six hours should go by quite easily...

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Re: 6 hour layover in Chicago ideas

Postby justalurker66 » Sun May 01, 2016 11:14 am

MACTRAXX wrote:Another place to visit that is walking distance from Union Station is going to the Willis (Sears) Tower Skydeck which will offer a good aerial view of Chicago which will include some of the rail spots such as the Amtrak and Metra/BNSF facilities south of Union Station. I would only do this if the visibility distance was good enough and the weather was decent because it is not worthwhile otherwise.


Buy your tickets in advance. One can spend hours waiting in line before they reach the Skydeck.
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Re: 6 hour layover in Chicago ideas

Postby MACTRAXX » Mon May 02, 2016 5:39 am

JL: Good point - it would pay to check before you commit to wait and visit the Willis Tower Skydeck.
I was thinking of a stay up top of around 90 minutes to two hours depending on any other plans you have.
The Skydeck opens at 9am - an early Sunday morning could be one of the best times to go up to the Skydeck.

See: http://www.theskydeck.com
http://www.willistower.com
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skydeck

To me it is well worth a visit - especially if you have not been up there before.
I went up there a couple of times back in the 70s to early 80s. It was not as expensive then and the waiting
times when I visited were very reasonable - I do not recollect any long waiting periods.
Apparently things are very different today...

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Re: 6 hour layover in Chicago ideas

Postby train2 » Wed May 04, 2016 9:54 am

Correct I will be arriving and departing Union Station.
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Re: 6 hour layover in Chicago ideas

Postby train2 » Wed May 04, 2016 11:48 am

Where would the be the best location you could recommend to see CN in the Chicago area. I had thought of riding down the Metra Electric line to somewhere on that multi-track mainline they share with the CN. This is the line also shared with the South Shore. Any specific stations you could recommend? Any other locations come to mind?
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Re: 6 hour layover in Chicago ideas

Postby MACTRAXX » Wed May 04, 2016 5:39 pm

T2:

Which Amtrak train are you arriving on? Which one are you leaving on after the layover?
The reason I ask is that this will give an idea which routes you will be traveling in and out of Chicago on...

The layover time is obviously subject to how late your arriving train may be (more probable if a LD) and what
you have to do to secure your belongings at Union Station to be ready for your later connecting train.

To see IC/CN freight trains my first suggestion is Homewood - which is south of Markham Yard.
The problem is ME train service on that section of the route is every two hours on Sunday.

A closer option would be in Hyde Park at the 55-56-57th Street Station adjacent to what is my all-time personal
favorite Chicago attraction: The Museum of Science and Industry http://www.msichicago.org
The trouble is that one needs a full eight hour day to see what MSI has to offer. Back during my Chicago years
of my visits there (1973-1988) I would go there once a year and spend the day - I liked it so much.
Train service there is more frequent with the South Chicago Branch trains. South Shore trains stop there also but
do not carry local riders in Metra territory and not accept Metra tickets.

Keep us posted on what your plans are and how your Chicago layover works out...

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Re: 6 hour layover in Chicago ideas

Postby train2 » Sat May 07, 2016 8:33 pm

When I first posted this question, I had not yet consulted timetables in depth, now that I have done so, the infrequency of service pretty much eliminates any of the rides I wanted to take. For example if I want to go to Homewood, I would arrive and have to leave on the very next northbound back to Chicago about 40 mins later. Not worth the time.

To see some F40s it looks like my best opportunity might be to hit Roosevelt Road and I also thought about Canal Street/Road, whatever its called, on the north side of the station? If not a short ride out the Racetrack might be ok as I would have freights to keep me busy.

Any other thoughts, I do plan to go to CTA's tower 18. Not sure more than an hour or two of that will be to much of a good thing??
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Re: 6 hour layover in Chicago ideas

Postby GWoodle » Sun May 15, 2016 12:36 pm

train2 wrote:Where would the be the best location you could recommend to see CN in the Chicago area. I had thought of riding down the Metra Electric line to somewhere on that multi-track mainline they share with the CN. This is the line also shared with the South Shore. Any specific stations you could recommend? Any other locations come to mind?


One location you could try is the Ashland Ave station of the Orange Line. On a Sunday may not be much action from the sw or Iowa lines leading into the St Charles 18th st air line into Markham. Check timetable for Amtrak Lincoln route trains + the Eagle. From Chinatown not sure how close you could get to the 21st avenue crossing.
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Re: 6 hour layover in Chicago ideas

Postby jcpatten » Sun Jun 05, 2016 8:09 pm

If the layover is during business hours, there's always the Museum of Science & Industry. However they close early at 4 or 5. You can take the #10 bus direct or Metra Electric.
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Re: 6 hour layover in Chicago ideas

Postby Engineer Spike » Sun Jun 19, 2016 9:03 pm

The idea of getting stuck somewhere might be an issue, as stated. The remedy to that is the flat rate cabs. I know that they have them to the airports, but I'm not sure if there is one to Union Station. In a pinch, call a cab to the airport, then CTA back in.

UP(C&NW)-West might not be a bad idea. You'd have to look at the schedule, but could go to Elmhurst, and watch coming and going out of Proviso. BN Berwin station might not be bad, and the nearby CTA could work as a backup.
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