BNSF: PM rush express train movements

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BNSF: PM rush express train movements

Postby MetraBNSF » Sun Dec 03, 2017 4:19 pm

Over the past few months I’ve been studying movements of some of the afternoon express trains. Both while riding the trains and when out at stations. Most notably the Downers Grove and Naperville runs. For those familiar with the route, general thinking is most express trains will cross over to the center track at Union Ave interlocking then run express to either Fairview or east Naperville before crossing over to either mains one or three, depending on the train.

1235 (2:30pm DG express). Generally runs main one for the entire route.
1239 (3:18pm DG express). Generally runs main one for the entire route. Occasionally will run center track to Fairview.
1243 (3:58pm DG express). Generally runs main one for the entire route. Occasionally will run center track to Fairview.
1247 (4:28pm). This run is technically an express, despite making stops out to Cicero. A few years ago a stop was added at Fairview. Don’t know why this is but when it ran express to DG, it could go center track if needed. But generally runs main one for the entire route.
1251 (4:44pm DG express). First PM rush train to run center track. Sometimes it will stay on main one to Cicero B or Berwyn. Occasionally could cross over onto main one at Highlands, don’t know why this is.
1257 (5:00pm Naperville express). Center track run. Sometimes can stay on main one to Cicero B or Berwyn. Sometimes can cross over to main one at either Fairview or Lisle. This could be if a freight is staged between Lisle and Naperville.
1259 (5:04pm DG express). Center track run. Sometimes can stay on main one to Cicero B or Berwyn. After Lisle stop, generally returns to the center track for its run into Aurora.
1267 (5:22pm Naperville express). Same as 1257. Major difference is this run goes to main 3 at Lisle or East Naperville. If it goes to main 1, it is unusual.
1269 (5:26pm DG express). Same as 1259. This run occasionally will go to main 3 at Fairview. Only if one or more westbound locals are running late getting into Fairview or DG and eastbound 1288 is on time.
1277 (5:45pm Naperville express). Same as 1257.
1279 (5:49pm DG express). Same as 1269, but this run more than 90% of the time will cross over to main 3. Should an eastbound freight be on main 3 between Lisle and DG around 6:15pm, it will cross over to main one.
1283 (6:14pm Naperville express). Same as 1267.
1373 (6:18pm DG express). Same as 1259.
1287 (6:52pm DG express). Same as 1239, 1243.

Although these express runs are given priority over most other movements, freight train movements and other Metra trains can affect how some of these long range express trains run. Having crossovers every four miles allows for such flexibility. It’s also now possible that some of the crossovers that were once good for only 35mph might have been upgraded to support faster speeds. Berwyn (MT1 to MT2), Congress Park, and Lisle are points where crossovers are good for 50mph.
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Re: BNSF: PM rush express train movements

Postby ExCon90 » Mon Dec 04, 2017 4:06 pm

I'm curious as to what signal indications govern crossover movements having different crossover speeds. Is it done by specifying the speed for each interlocking in the employee timetable, which would mean that the speed for the lowest-speed crossover would govern all movements, or is there a non-typical aspect for higher-speed movements?
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Re: BNSF: PM rush express train movements

Postby MetraBNSF » Mon Dec 04, 2017 8:48 pm

For the 35mph crossovers, unless they were upgraded to support higher speeds through the turnout, I’ve generally seen yellow over yellow at the intermediate signal prior to the signals that govern the interlocking. Never have I seen any other signal aspect other than that particular approach medium at the intermidiate prior to the interlocking, no matter what the crossover speed limit is.
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Re: BNSF: PM rush express train movements

Postby doepack » Tue Dec 05, 2017 2:13 am

MetraBNSF wrote:1247 (4:28pm). This run is technically an express, despite making stops out to Cicero. A few years ago a stop was added at Fairview. Don’t know why this is but when it ran express to DG, it could go center track if needed. But generally runs main one for the entire route.


I'm guessing that the Fairview stop was added to 1247 to give its leader, 1245, more time to flip to deadhead run 1278 for its trip back to the big city. Also, because of the higher speed crossovers, I'd imagine that Congress Park and Lisle get plenty of work from the dispatchers in Ft. Worth; but the other control points are also critical in keeping things moving. For instance, the strategic placement of the smaller Hinsdale and Highlands plants located between the larger, universal installations at Fairview and Congress Park creates lots of options for an almost seamless movement of traffic within that section of the railroad. Indeed, a stroke of genius by the planners and architects at CB&Q.

Speaking of control points: Within the last couple of years, BNSF extended track 3 westward from West Eola about 1 1/2 miles further into Aurora to a new plant at CP 374, where it merges with track 2. It can be observed in the parking lot just west of the Aurora depot...
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Re: BNSF: PM rush express train movements

Postby qboy » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:47 pm

[quote="ExCon90"]I'm curious as to what signal indications govern crossover movements having different crossover speeds. Is it done by specifying the speed for each interlocking in the employee timetable, which would mean that the speed for the lowest-speed crossover would govern all movements, or is there a non-typical aspect for higher-speed movements?[/quot

BNSF just like UP crossover speeds are dictated by the timetable and or special instructions the signal themselves don't dictate your speed just your route straight or crossover movement.
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Re: BNSF: PM rush express train movements

Postby ExCon90 » Tue Dec 05, 2017 3:10 pm

So apparently there's no speed advantage unless all the crossovers in that interlocking are upgraded; that's what I was wondering.
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Re: BNSF: PM rush express train movements

Postby lstone19 » Tue Dec 05, 2017 3:43 pm

ExCon90 wrote:So apparently there's no speed advantage unless all the crossovers in that interlocking are upgraded; that's what I was wondering.


No. Speed restrictions are by specific switch or crossover, not interlocking. If BNSF is like the Metra Milwaukee West that I ride, the engineer, accepting a Diverging Clear or Approach (note it's route signalling, not speed signalling) is expected to observe the lined route and operate at the speed appropriate to that route. If not sure of the route, you obviously operate at the slower until sure.

But also note that route signalling requires speed compliance at the speed-restricted turnout, not at the signal. When I was commuting on the MD-W, it was quite normal to see my train fly by the home signal at A-5 displaying Diverging Clear only somewhat reduced from the 60mph track speed. So long as we were down to 15mph by the turnout (1/4 mile or so later - there were some crossovers to be passed first), it was legal. And it was also legal to start accelerating as soon as the train was clear of the speed-restricted track and not wait until clear of the interlocking.
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Re: BNSF: PM rush express train movements

Postby MetraBNSF » Tue Dec 05, 2017 9:48 pm

Can't remember where I read it, but the Lisle crossovers were actually completely paid for by Metra, even though BNSF owns the ROW. The reason for those crossovers is to get the Naperville express trains on and off the center track. Sometimes, freights will use them but are there primarily for commuter train use.

doepack wrote:Also, because of the higher speed crossovers, I'd imagine that Congress Park and Lisle get plenty of work from the dispatchers in Ft. Worth; but the other control points are also critical in keeping things moving. For instance, the strategic placement of the smaller Hinsdale and Highlands plants located between the larger, universal installations at Fairview and Congress Park creates lots of options for an almost seamless movement of traffic within that section of the railroad. Indeed, a stroke of genius by the planners and architects at CB&Q.


Another area with two smaller intermediate plants are East and West Naperville, on both sides of the Metra/Amtrak station. These two plants also lie between two larger universal installations: Eola and Lisle. The Naperville plants, in my view greatly assist Amtrak. The Metra Naperville express trains generally use the crossovers at East Naperville to get on and off the center track, but should a freight be anywhere between Lisle and Naperville, there's greater flexibility for train movements.
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Re: BNSF: PM rush express train movements

Postby MetraBNSF » Sat Dec 23, 2017 11:19 am

Spent a couple of hours between Westmont and Lisle yesterday afternoon into the early evening observing train movements during the rush hour. Westmont was a particular point of focus since its just a little east of a universal plant at Fairview Ave. There is an intermediate cantilever signal bridge just west of the Westmont station.

In this photo, westbound MT2 is signaled for an approach medium. Far off in the distance is the WB signal bridge governing Fairview interlocking. There is an eastbound Metra on MT3. MT2 at Fairview interlocking was actually signaled as a red over flashing yellow (diverging approach medium), as a westbound express train bound for Downers Grove will be switching from MT2 to MT1 at Fairview interlocking.
IMG_9585.JPG
Westmont approach medium / Fairview diverging approach medium


In this photo, off in the distance MT2 at Fairview interlocking is now signaled as a red over green (diverging clear), as the next intermediate signal in Downers Grove for MT1 is an approach medium (flashing yellow).
IMG_9586.JPG
Westmont approach medium / Fairview diverging clear


I think the Fairview crossovers were upgraded. I took an express train to and from Downers Grove earlier in the week and the train I was on seemed to switch tracks safely faster than 35mph both onto and off the middle track.

Note: If you click on the photos, they'll appear right side up.
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Re: BNSF: PM rush express train movements

Postby Rockingham Racer » Sat Dec 23, 2017 8:19 pm

IMO, every crossover on the Chicago Sub should be 50 MPH.
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Re: BNSF: PM rush express train movements

Postby doepack » Mon Dec 25, 2017 7:29 pm

Nice work with the pics MetraBNSF, thanks...
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Re: BNSF: PM rush express train movements

Postby HammerJack » Fri Dec 29, 2017 3:06 pm

First of all, great post, MetraBNSF.

I ride 1279 (the 5:49 express to DG and Aurora) every so often and figured I would contribute.
From what I've witnessed, it isn't uncommon for 1279 to stay on main one until Congress Park. When this happens, it starts hitting yellows from 1273 or 1275 (or 1277, also waiting to jump over to main two) as early as Berwyn. I'm not quite sure why this is, but when it happens, it almost always causes a late arrival into DG. Obviously, it has to go to main two at some point to get around 1273 and 1275.

As mentioned, 1279 can either go main one or main three at Fairview for DG, Belmont, and Lisle stops. Main three is normal, but it isn't uncommon to go to main one. Normally, it returns to main two immediately after Lisle, but very rarely it will wait until Naperville East to cross.

Another interesting feature of 1279 that isn't apparent from the Metra schedule is the 'cat and mouse' with Amtrak 383. It leaves CUS at 5:55, six minutes after 1279. It stops at La Grange, which by then, is on main two. If all goes as planned, 383 will pass 1279 somewhere around Lisle, and switch over two main one either at Lisle or at Naperville for its stop at Naperville. However, 1279 (back on main two at this point) will then pass 383 either at Naperville or right after as it's speeding up. Then, it's off to the races to Eola. I've seen the two trains literally run side-by-side at 70 mph from Naperville to Eola. My experiences show dispatchers usually letting 1279 onto the Aurora branch before 383 goes by. If 1279 is late, it never catches 383.
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Re: BNSF: PM rush express train movements

Postby MetraBNSF » Fri Dec 29, 2017 3:57 pm

HammerJack wrote:Another interesting feature of 1279 that isn't apparent from the Metra schedule is the 'cat and mouse' with Amtrak 383. It leaves CUS at 5:55, six minutes after 1279. It stops at La Grange, which by then, is on main two. If all goes as planned, 383 will pass 1279 somewhere around Lisle, and switch over two main one either at Lisle or at Naperville for its stop at Naperville. However, 1279 (back on main two at this point) will then pass 383 either at Naperville or right after as it's speeding up. Then, it's off to the races to Eola. I've seen the two trains literally run side-by-side at 70 mph from Naperville to Eola. My experiences show dispatchers usually letting 1279 onto the Aurora branch before 383 goes by. If 1279 is late, it never catches 383.


Lately, I’ve been seeing Amtrak 383 going 2-1 at Fairview then stay on one for the run into Naperville. My guess would be if a freight train is staged or moving somewhere west of Downers Grove. There were a few days last week when eastbound freight trains were on the move on main 3 in the 6pm hour. Metra 1279 went 2-1 at Fairview as a result to keep schedule. On another day, 1279 actually got the clear for 2-3 after an eastbound coal traIn cleared Fairview. Don’t know if 1279 stayed on schedule. It’s definitely interesting watching these later PM rush movements, especially when Amtrak and freight trains begin to run. Same with the early PM movements. One time, 1235 ran track 1 to Congress Park then switched to track 2. It then switched to track 3 at Fairview for at least the DG through Lisle stops.
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Re: BNSF: PM rush express train movements

Postby doepack » Sat Dec 30, 2017 1:37 pm

This thread has inspired me to dust off and run a simulation I wrote a while back for BNSF's Chicago sub. With particular attention paid to Amtrak 383, I was curious as to whether or not I could route this train to track 3 (the south main) between Congress Park and West Hinsdale, but I knew beforehand it would have to meet Metra 1288 at Congress Park, thus the first of two caveats: 1288 has to be running reasonably on time; i.e., not more than ~3 min. late or so, and there also had to be no other opposing freights in the way, otherwise it wasn't gonna work. 383 is due LaGrange at 6:14pm, 1288 is scheduled from there eight minutes earlier, and is due through the Congress Park plant a minute later at 6:07. While running the sim, I "dogged" 1288 a little (slowed it down) and saw that it could meet 383 at about 6:10 without affecting the latter's departure from LaGrange.

Any later than that, 383 has to go to main 1, but despite the tight window for main 3, I think there could be occasions where it's doable if the conditions are right. Normally, 383 is on main 1 for its LaGrange stop, then it eventually picks up yellow blocks as it catches up to 1273 around Highlands, no greens until that diverging clear signal to main 2 at West Hinsdale, then on to Naperville. And since 1273 follows 1275 in this corridor to DG, if the latter catches minor delays, then 383 gets dogged some more. OTOH, putting it down to main 3 at Congress Park gives it a clear shot to West Hinsdale after LaGrange, where it'll probably have a meet with eastbound Metra deadhead 1372. And 1372 winds up running on 1288's yellows toward Berwyn half the time anyway, so the meet with 383 shouldn't hurt too much at all. Again, just a little experiment I ran, real mileage may vary.

Back in the real world, does anyone know if BNSF is staging more freights on main 2 between Union Ave. and Cicero during the PM rush? Any work being done at Union Ave? If not, based on the observations in this thread, I'm wondering why a lot of the expresses aren't crossing over until at least Cicero...
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Re: BNSF: PM rush express train movements

Postby MetraBNSF » Sun Dec 31, 2017 12:50 pm

doepack wrote:And 1372 winds up running on 1288's yellows toward Berwyn half the time anyway, so the meet with 383 shouldn't hurt too much at all. Again, just a little experiment I ran, real mileage may vary.


Here's an interesting observation on EB Metra/BNSF deadhead 1372. I've seen it a handful of times when I've rode 1288. 1372 will actually switch to the center track and pass 1288 between Brookfield and Berwyn, depending on how 1288 is running. Which means 1372 would cross over in Congress Park. Not sure if 1372 remains on the center track all the way in or if it crosses back over to main one, maybe at Cicero B. 1372 is doing a good 50-60mph at the time it passes 1288. If 1372 remains on the center track all the way in, it certainly will affect the routing of westbounds 1283 and 1373 out of CUS. Which to a degree is related to the below.

doepack wrote:Back in the real world, does anyone know if BNSF is staging more freights on main 2 between Union Ave. and Cicero during the PM rush? Any work being done at Union Ave? If not, based on the observations in this thread, I'm wondering why a lot of the expresses aren't crossing over until at least Cicero...


I haven't seen any work being done at Union Ave. In the past, BNSF would stage freights on either mains 1 or 2 between Cicero B and Union Ave. If a freight is staged on main 1, you're essentially seeing off peak Metra movements during rush hour. Westbound express trains would have to stay on main 1 until Cicero B or Berwyn. Eastbounds would cross over to main 2 at Cicero B.

A very interesting observation on train 1243, which I've seen twice over the last few weeks. This train has actually run center track from Union Ave to Fairview. It has happened when modified schedules are in effect. I think the basis for this is when 1241 terminates in Downers Grove. This train a lot of times runs a few minutes late. After 1241 makes the Fairview Ave stop (scheduled at 4:16pm), it needs to cross over to track 3 in order to position for the stop at Downers Grove and run back eastbound. 1241's impact on 1243 will have the latter run at speed until it hits the yellow over yellow intermediate at Westmont, then a diverging clear from 2-1 at Fairview. It doesn't happen often, but worth a mention.
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