Rock Island District Plus

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Rock Island District Plus

Postby erie910 » Fri Dec 01, 2017 12:22 am

I'm planning to ride the Rock Island District from LaSalle St. to Joliet later this month. A couple of questions:

First, the METRA public timetable shows connections at Blue Island to and from Beverly Sub trains. Is operation generally on time so that these connections, between 3 and 10 minutes, are good? I'd like to ride the Beverly Sub one way.

Second, considering the number of trains on the Rock Island District from Joliet to Chicago and return (20+ each direction), I'm surprised that there aren't more trains on the Heritage Corridor between Joliet and Chicago. Is the issue that the Heritage Corridor is an active freight line and the owner will not agree to more METRA trains?

Third, the current public timetable for the Heritage Corridor shows four trains each weekday from Chicago to Joliet, but three trains from Joliet to Chicago. Are two of the trains from Chicago combined into one for a morning run from Joliet to Chicago? Does it deadhead back to Chicago? Or does METRA sell the fourth train in Joliet so that it doesn't have to be concerned about returning the equipment to Chicago? :-)

Finally, I'll come in from Aurora on the BNSF line. Is 15 minutes a reasonable walking time between Union Station and LaSalle St. Station?

Thanks in advance.
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Re: Rock Island District Plus

Postby MACTRAXX » Fri Dec 01, 2017 7:07 am

E910:

1-More then likely connections at Blue Island are protected in some manner and I will add that the
option is there to also transfer to the Metra Electric Blue Island Branch.

2-I asked the same thing in a past post and was told that freight activity and busy junctions were
the prime reasons that more Metra service is not operated on the Heritage Corridor route.

3-I believe that there is at least one HC deadhead run between CUS and Joliet.

4-I would allow at least 20 minutes to walk comfortably between Union Station and La Salle Street
Station. It all depends on which south track at CUS your train comes in and then getting outside to
Van Buren Street east or using Adams or Jackson streets east to Wells and then south one or two
blocks on Wells following the CTA L structure up above which turns east onto Van Buren. This walk
could be much different in the heart of the rush hour then it can be in off hours. Remember that
time waiting to cross busy streets at traffic lights has to be factored in.

I am assuming that you will already have your Metra tickets in your possession to alleviate the $5
on board penalty charge. I will also mention that if you do mean 15 minutes from when your BNSF
train is scheduled to arrive at CUS to when the RI train is scheduled to leave is not enough time to
adequately make this connection.

If anyone can further clarify and add to what I posted please do...MACTRAXX
Last edited by MACTRAXX on Fri Dec 01, 2017 4:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Rock Island District Plus

Postby Tadman » Fri Dec 01, 2017 11:30 am

I second the thoughts on the connection. I'd want at least 30 minutes between scheduled arrival at CUS and departure at LaSalle. CUS is very busy. The walk itself could take 15+ minutes, and a cab won't help you at many times of day.

Good luck on the ride. The Rock covers a lot of interesting ground.
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Re: Rock Island District Plus

Postby erie910 » Fri Dec 01, 2017 3:40 pm

Thank you both for the informative responses.

Would the station agent at Aurora be able to sell me tickets on the Rock Island District? If so, that would save a bit of time. If so, I hope that the process is simpler than that which I encountered some years ago with New Jersey Transit, when a one-way ticket from one terminal to the other required two tickets, one each for part of the journey.

There is plenty of time between my CUS arrival and the planned departure from LaSalle St. to Joliet. I'm an experienced NYC rush hour walker, and, unless you advise that Chicago police write jaywalking tickets with regularity, my street crossings won't necessarily be at corners.

Is there anything of note on the Beverly Sub that I should check out while riding past? Does the Rock Island Sub cross any rail lines at grade between Chicago and Joliet? It's hard to tell from a satellite view if crossings are at grade.

Thanks again!
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Re: Rock Island District Plus

Postby Rockingham Racer » Fri Dec 01, 2017 5:36 pm

The only thing I can think of is the former Rock Island Burr Oak Yard between 123rd St. and Blue Island-Vermont St. There used to be a turntable there, and a steam engine as well, but I think the steam engine went away several years ago. Joliet-bound it'll be on the left as you go by it on the Beverly Branch.

There are no diamonds crossing the former RI. You'll go over the IHB / CSX mainline just south of Vermont St. In Mokena, the NS crosses over [I believe].
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Re: Rock Island District Plus

Postby CHTT1 » Fri Dec 01, 2017 6:49 pm

You'll cross the St. Charles Air Line just south of LaSalle Street and the CN (ex-EJ&E) just east of the Joliet station.


The BNSF agent should be able to sell you Rock Island tickets. Ask for a Zone H one way or round trip ticket (two one-ways). If you ride on a weekend buy a weekend pass. It's good for unlimited trips on all Metra lines (those that run on weekends, of course).

All off-peak RI trains run down the Beverly Branch. Only weekday rush hour trains use the "main line" between Blue Island/Vermont Street and Gresham.

I wouldn't count on BNSF trains being on time into Union Station. Heavy passenger loadings, track work and freight train interference seem to affect just about every non-rush train.

The Beverly Branch runs though residential areas. Many of the stations are Rock Island originals. The Vermont Street station in Blue Island is one of the oldest stations on the Metra system.

As far as the Heritage Corridor is concerned, don't forget it runs over the CN and they are just dicks. The extra southbound Heritage train returns as a deadhead in the northbound direction.
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Re: Rock Island District Plus

Postby Rockingham Racer » Sat Dec 02, 2017 6:50 am

Ah yes. Forgot about 16th St. When I mentally got to Englewood on the route to LaSalle St. to answer the question, my brain went dead!
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Re: Rock Island District Plus

Postby MACTRAXX » Sat Dec 02, 2017 12:46 pm

E910:

As CHTT mentions you can get Zone A-H (CUS or LSS to/from Aurora or Joliet) tickets at Aurora
for $8.00 which happens to be the same price as Metra's Weekend Pass which offers unlimited
rides for a given Saturday and Sunday on lines that operate on weekends.

Going off topic New Jersey Transit DOES offer fares between any two points on their system via
main terminal stations - and has since the late 1980s. The only exception is the Atlantic City Line
which is not directly connected to the rest of the system. The fare is priced on the longer leg of
the ride in question and can be substantially less then buying two separate tickets. What lines
by way of which terminals that you were attempting to ride between?
I can further elaborate by PM...

You may want to take in more of Downtown Chicago during your walk between CUS and LSS.
A good example is the Willis (Sears) Tower which is on Adams or Jackson east towards Wells.
If you have time, the weather is good and most importantly the wait is minimal it can be well
worth the visit. This would be in addition to your initial walk between CUS and LSS.
Get an RTA Downtown Chicago Transit Guide/Map for more information.

The SWS/NS line crosses over the RI on an overhead truss bridge about a mile east of New Lenox
Station. At this point the SWS line is between Orland Park-179th and Laraway Road Stations which
are both far enough away to not allow any thought of transferring there between the two lines.

Keep us posted on your trip plans and how things go...MACTRAXX
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Re: Rock Island District Plus

Postby ExCon90 » Sat Dec 02, 2017 3:00 pm

The Beverly Branch used to cross the PRR Panhandle route somewhere near Brainerd (I think)--4 diamonds back in the day. I believe both the Panhandle line and the diamonds are long gone, but possibly some remains are visible. I believe that at that point the RI ran E-W and the Panhandle NW/SE. I think the B&OCT, including the Capitol Limited, used the E-W portion of the RI, continuing eastward at Gresham where the RI turns north, so there may be some remnants of the junctions--something to look for, anyway.
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Re: Rock Island District Plus

Postby erie910 » Sat Dec 02, 2017 10:01 pm

Thank you for your suggestions. I'll be sure to look for Burr Oak Yard.

Not sure whether I'll do this on Friday, the 22nd or Saturday, the 23rd.

Thanks again.,
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Re: Rock Island District Plus

Postby lstone19 » Sun Dec 03, 2017 10:19 am

ExCon90 wrote:The Beverly Branch used to cross the PRR Panhandle route somewhere near Brainerd (I think)--4 diamonds back in the day. I believe both the Panhandle line and the diamonds are long gone, but possibly some remains are visible. I believe that at that point the RI ran E-W and the Panhandle NW/SE. I think the B&OCT, including the Capitol Limited, used the E-W portion of the RI, continuing eastward at Gresham where the RI turns north, so there may be some remnants of the junctions--something to look for, anyway.


The Panhandle crossing was just north of 91st Street just as the Rock (when northbound) starts to turn to the east. No remnants other than the cleared right-of-way of the Panhandle which I believe is today's Major Taylor Train (as shown on Google Earth). There's even less evidence of the B&OCT where houses have been built on what was the right-of-way between where it left the Rock west to where it crossed the Panhandle (about 1/4 mile - think of these three as having formed a triangle with each leg about 1/4 mile). The Beverly Branch is mostly dark (unsignalled) and while on many railroads, you can find automatic signals where interlocking signals used to be, IIRC, both where the Panhandle crossing and B&OCT junction is now just more dark track.

Another now gone at-grade crossing is Englewood. The Rock used to cross the PRR at grade by the now long gone station but a couple of years ago, the Rock was elevated over the old PRR.
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Re: Rock Island District Plus

Postby erie910 » Mon Dec 04, 2017 9:11 pm

I understand that the Beverly Sub is dark. Yesterday, I watched a YouTube cab ride from Tinley Park to LaSalle St. via the Beverly Sub. I noticed one signal perhaps around 99th or 95th St. Of course, there were signals controlling the junction with the main line.

Also, between Tinley Park and Blue Island, there were a number of signals, mostly single heads with the three-color option. Others had two heads. How are aspects other than "Clear" or "Stop" indicated when there is one head only?

Thanks.
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Re: Rock Island District Plus

Postby lstone19 » Mon Dec 04, 2017 9:56 pm

erie910 wrote:I understand that the Beverly Sub is dark. Yesterday, I watched a YouTube cab ride from Tinley Park to LaSalle St. via the Beverly Sub. I noticed one signal perhaps around 99th or 95th St. Of course, there were signals controlling the junction with the main line.

Also, between Tinley Park and Blue Island, there were a number of signals, mostly single heads with the three-color option. Others had two heads. How are aspects other than "Clear" or "Stop" indicated when there is one head only?

Thanks.


One head with red, yellow, and green as an intermediate displays Stop (which depending on the railroad might instead be Restricting), Approach, and Clear respectively. Might also have flashing yellow as Advance Approach. Don't really need more than that unless the next signal is an interlocking.
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Re: Rock Island District Plus

Postby Rockingham Racer » Tue Dec 05, 2017 6:13 am

On the Beverly Sub, signals and a crossover were added just south of 127th St., AKA Burr Oak Ave., about 20 years ago.
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Re: Rock Island District Plus

Postby erie910 » Mon Dec 25, 2017 12:22 am

Did the trip on Saturday, the 23rd. The weekend pass was a great deal. I caught the Metra express from Aurora which arrived at Union Station at about 10:10 a.m. The walk to LaSalle St. took about 12-15 minutes, and caught a Chicago to Joliet train via the main line. On the way back from Joliet, I got off at Vermont St. (the conductor opened the west side door on the first car for people wanting to transfer), and took the local back to LaSalle St. A few comments/questions:

First, there were several signal masts with the signals covered by black plastic bags. Will the Beverly Sub eventually be signaled? What will it gain as far as passenger traffic is concerned? At one time, and maybe still today, did not the rules require that any train following another on the Beverly Sub be at least 10 minutes behind the train ahead? Is the Sub at capacity during rush hours? Will signals increase capacity? If more trains are run, can they be handled efficiently at Blue Island to get them out of the way of following trains?

Second, all the RI District trains load and unload from Platform 1 (eastbound) except during rush hours. Without consulting the time table, I assume that there are so few trains outside of rush hours so as not to require shifting trains from one track to another. Is this done to allow a track free for freight movements? Some other reason?

Third, right around 40th St., there's a wye. There formerly was an east-west track coming out the center of the wye, but which is no longer used, and the bridge over the RI has been removed. What railroad was this, and to where did this east-west track go to the east?

Fourth, is there any consideration given to running more trains into and out of LaSalle St.? Can the station handle more trains during rush hours? If there are any more trains considered, to where will they go, and how easy will it be to run them into LaSalle instead of Union Station; I assume that Millennium Station can handle all that it now handles and possibly more, and that connecting to the IC electric/South Shore line would not be easy.

Fifth, before the flyover (63rd St.?) was constructed, how were Rock trains routed through this area?

Sixth, no doubt, the closeness of stations on the Beverly Sub preceded Metra. Has Metra ever planned to eliminate some of these stations? At most, this would mean an 8-block walk for some riders, which still seems to be less distance than between some L stations.

Seventh, I saw two MARC coaches in Burr Oak Yard. Any ideas as to their purpose?

Eighth, Bing maps still shows a turntable in the yard.

Ninth, the Beverly Sub connecting train that I caught at Blue Island blocked the Grove Street road crossing for at least six minutes, and likely longer. Is this a common practice, and don't the locals object?

It is curious that there is no whistle-blowing for most road crossings. Apparently, the FRA loosened its requirements for allowing quiet zones.

Thanks in advance for your comments.
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