More Metra Riding

Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

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erie910
Posts: 78
Joined: Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:56 pm
Location: Port Hope, MI

Re: More Metra Riding

Post by erie910 » Sun Sep 08, 2019 5:30 pm

It's done. I got to the area a day earlier than expected, so I did my riding on a $10 weekend pass. I have some comments and questions:

Train 2006, Aurora to Chicago, arriving Union Station at 9:47. Are the trainsets owned by METRA or BNSF? Are they run with METRA or BNSF crews? This was familiar territory, having made this trip numerous times in the past.

Train 8313, Millennium to South Chicago. Millennium Station is one of Chicago's best-kept secrets. After walking over to where it is, I spent at least a half hour looking for an entrance. An event security guard told me to go to a black building on Randolph and take the elevator to floor 2.5. I did, and found no indication of where the station might be. The only exit that I found was to the parking garage. Finally, someone directed me to the stairway on Randolph on the corner of Michigan. I caught the train (10:40 a.m.) with minutes to spare.
The run to South Chicago was quite interesting. The stations are closer together than many of the stations on the Green Line el!
At the entrance to the tunnel where the South Chicago line leaves the Main Line, there is an "End CTC" sign. What kind of train control is in effect between there and the end of the line. There are signals, but do they do anything more than indicate whether the next block is occupied? Some of the signals were spaced very much like subway signals, that is, very close together.
It's probably too late to ask how safe train travel is to South Chicago; I'm not concerned, but my wife is.

Train 8314, South Chicago to 55-56-57, 11:39 a.m. to 12:00 noon. Got an RFW view. Were there any freight customers on this branch? If any were to materialize (like the metal recycling operation), what line would provide service? I was surprised that there was no whistling for any crossings.

Train 815, 55-56-57 to University Park, 12:25 p.m. to 1:20 p.m. We stopped at most of the flag stops between 59th & 111th. CTC ends on this line as well. What type of control is in effect for south of the end of CTC? Most of the south end was spent on the left track as if it were a one-track line. I assume that opposing traffic, including movements from storage, can be done between revenue runs.
South of 18th St., there is a track on the west side of the track on which all the trains that I rode traveled. Its signals were green for much of the way south, except for a flashing amber, an amber, and a red, followed by a greens again. What traffic uses this track? Most of the stations do not have platforms for that track.

Train 818, University Park to 55-56-57, 1:40 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. At Matteson, there is a wye to the east. It appears to be an interchange track (with another wye at the other railroad). With what railroad is the interchange?
I'm surprised that there isn't a station in Highland Park.
At 79th St., there is an overpass which appears to have been a railroad overpass at one time, but now is abandoned. Any ideas as to what railroad this was?
There is an abandoned station south of 63rd St. at about 67th St. When was this station removed from service?

Train 8521, 55-56-57 to Blue Island, 3:15 p.m. to 3:48 p.m. I assume that, except for some rush hour service, there is no need for the passing siding at West Pullman.
I'm surprised that METRA maintains service to Blue Island both on the IC electric branch and the RI. Having said that, I'm surprised that the last electric train from Blue Island to Chicago on weekends is 3:08 p.m. And there is no late evening electric service to Blue Island.

Train 122, Blue Island to LaSalle St., 4:56 p.m. to 5:25 p.m. There was a Sox game, so we had a lot of passengers for that game. That delayed our arrival at LaSalle St. by about 5 minutes.

Train 2023, Chicago to Aurora, 6:40 p.m. to 8:01 p.m. The delay on 122 caused me to miss 2021 to Aurora at 5:40 p.m. by not much more than a minute. We left from track 20, which is amongst the AMTRAK tracks. When I went to check on 2021 on track 20, I was challenged by the AMTRAK security people, wanting to know where I was going. Since most of the evening's trains to Aurora departed from track 20, I would think that the AMTRAK people would understand this.

Next up are Manhattan, Elburn, Harvard, and Joliet via Heritage Corridor (return via Rock Island).

justalurker66
Posts: 2339
Joined: Fri May 15, 2009 11:20 pm

Re: More Metra Riding

Post by justalurker66 » Sun Sep 08, 2019 6:16 pm

erie910 wrote:
Sun Sep 08, 2019 5:30 pm
At the entrance to the tunnel where the South Chicago line leaves the Main Line, there is an "End CTC" sign. What kind of train control is in effect between there and the end of the line.
Where CTC is not in effect, ABS should be in place. Absolute block signalling. Basically automatic signals based on track conditions without dispatcher control. (Signal changes for PTC automated control of 11th St, which was a manual interlocking with a switch tender on weekdays.)
erie910 wrote:
Sun Sep 08, 2019 5:30 pm
South of 18th St., there is a track on the west side of the track on which all the trains that I rode traveled. Its signals were green for much of the way south, except for a flashing amber, an amber, and a red, followed by a greens again. What traffic uses this track? Most of the stations do not have platforms for that track.
Metra Electric has four tracks. The western two are generally southbound, the eastern two are generally northbound. The outside tracks are used for express trains that do not stop at all stations. You probably noticed stations with a single platform between the center tracks and others with two platforms, one between the two west tracks and one between the two east tracks. The line widens to six tracks where the South Chicago branch ducks into the tunnel. Off to the east side you will see the CN-IC freight lines.
erie910 wrote:
Sun Sep 08, 2019 5:30 pm
There is an abandoned station south of 63rd St. at about 67th St. When was this station removed from service?
I believe it is still in service for transfers between South Chicago trains and main line trains (when the South Chicago trains do not run all the way downtown).
erie910 wrote:
Sun Sep 08, 2019 5:30 pm
Train 8521, 55-56-57 to Blue Island, 3:15 p.m. to 3:48 p.m. I assume that, except for some rush hour service, there is no need for the passing siding at West Pullman.
That branch is also ABS. The switches at West Pullman are spring switches making it automatic for trains to pass.

BTW: There is no freight on Metra's Electric District. The only connections to another railroad are at Kensington (NICTD South Shore to Gary and South Bend) and Blue Island. Technically a CN train could enter the MED northbound at Kensington, but that connection is only used by NICTD trains. CN trains run (including some Amtrak services) run on the parallel former IC tracks to the east of the MED tracks.

MetraBNSF
Posts: 980
Joined: Sat Mar 13, 2004 11:15 am

Re: More Metra Riding

Post by MetraBNSF » Mon Sep 09, 2019 10:50 am

erie910 wrote:
Sun Sep 08, 2019 5:30 pm
Train 2006, Aurora to Chicago, arriving Union Station at 9:47. Are the trainsets owned by METRA or BNSF? Are they run with METRA or BNSF crews? This was familiar territory, having made this trip numerous times in the past.

Train 2023, Chicago to Aurora, 6:40 p.m. to 8:01 p.m. The delay on 122 caused me to miss 2021 to Aurora at 5:40 p.m. by not much more than a minute. We left from track 20, which is amongst the AMTRAK tracks. When I went to check on 2021 on track 20, I was challenged by the AMTRAK security people, wanting to know where I was going. Since most of the evening's trains to Aurora departed from track 20, I would think that the AMTRAK people would understand this.
BNSF line equipment is owned by Metra and the service is run by BNSF crews.

Surprised weekend trains were departing from track 20. Usually they arrive/depart on tracks 2-12. Tracks 8 and 12 are most common for off peak usage.

erie910
Posts: 78
Joined: Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:56 pm
Location: Port Hope, MI

Re: More Metra Riding

Post by erie910 » Mon Sep 09, 2019 9:47 pm

One more question: On the METRA Electric District line to Blue Island, the engineer blew the whistle for two grade crossings just north of Vermont St., but not for any others. I asked the conductor why, but he did not know (seems as if all train crews should know all the rules). Are we dealing with different rules for different towns?

eolesen
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Re: More Metra Riding

Post by eolesen » Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:26 am

re: grade crossing quiet zones..... They're different rules by community. Most communities within 30-40 miles of Chicago are quiet zones on every line, but keep in mind that safety overrides QZ rules.

If there's a vehicle or pedestrian looking like they're doing something potentially stupid, the horn gets used. Period. And there's nothing the community can do about it.

spRocket
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Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2004 9:44 pm
Location: Mokena, IL

Re: More Metra Riding

Post by spRocket » Tue Sep 10, 2019 9:23 am

erie910 wrote:
Sun Sep 08, 2019 5:30 pm
At Matteson, there is a wye to the east. It appears to be an interchange track (with another wye at the other railroad). With what railroad is the interchange?
That is CN's former EJ&E route (Waukegan to Gary, via Elgin, Aurora, and Joliet). The junction was expanded after the EJ&E purchase, so a train entering the junction can go either direction on either line.
When it's a tie at the railroad crossing, you lose.

MetraBNSF
Posts: 980
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Re: More Metra Riding

Post by MetraBNSF » Tue Sep 10, 2019 10:06 am

eolesen wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:26 am
re: grade crossing quiet zones..... They're different rules by community. Most communities within 30-40 miles of Chicago are quiet zones on every line, but keep in mind that safety overrides QZ rules.

If there's a vehicle or pedestrian looking like they're doing something potentially stupid, the horn gets used. Period. And there's nothing the community can do about it.
Also on occasion train horns have been used as a train is pulling into the shed at Union Station. It’s not blown in a full sequence but it’s certainly loud enough to get your attention. Generally if passengers are too close to the tracks while walking on the platform or waiting for an incoming train it can happen.

CHTT1
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Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 5:38 pm

Re: More Metra Riding

Post by CHTT1 » Tue Sep 10, 2019 12:27 pm

The first few miles of the Blue Island branch are in Blue Island and Calumet Park, while the rest are in Chicago proper. Perhaps Blue Island and/or Calumet Park have not applied for 'no horn zone' status or maybe somebody was on or near the tracks and a warning was needed.

CHTT1
Posts: 526
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 5:38 pm

Re: More Metra Riding

Post by CHTT1 » Tue Sep 10, 2019 12:30 pm

I'm confused about the question about Highland Park. Highland Park is located in the north suburbs on the UP North Line and has a station. It's nowhere near the Electric District.

ExCon90
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Re: More Metra Riding

Post by ExCon90 » Tue Sep 10, 2019 4:28 pm

justalurker66 wrote:
Sun Sep 08, 2019 6:16 pm
erie910 wrote:
Sun Sep 08, 2019 5:30 pm
South of 18th St., there is a track on the west side of the track on which all the trains that I rode traveled. Its signals were green for much of the way south, except for a flashing amber, an amber, and a red, followed by a greens again. What traffic uses this track? Most of the stations do not have platforms for that track.
Metra Electric has four tracks. The western two are generally southbound, the eastern two are generally northbound. The outside tracks are used for express trains that do not stop at all stations. You probably noticed stations with a single platform between the center tracks and others with two platforms, one between the two west tracks and one between the two east tracks. The line widens to six tracks where the South Chicago branch ducks into the tunnel. Off to the east side you will see the CN-IC freight lines.
It looks as though you were on the inside (local) track that serves the center platforms. In that case the green and amber signals on the outside (express) track are automatic and indicate the condition of the blocks ahead; i.e., in the order described, (essentially) Clear, Proceed approaching second signal prepared to stop, and Approach next signal prepared to stop. The red signal was most likely the controlled home signal at the point where the South Chicago line diverges. As such, it remains red until cleared by the dispatcher for an imminent movement, since more than one route is possible from that point. The signals for your South Chicago train--which you can't see from inside the train--probably showed amber over amber and red over green where the signals you saw were amber and red.

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Tadman
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Re: More Metra Riding

Post by Tadman » Mon Sep 16, 2019 10:29 am

There were once quite a few freight customers on the South Chicago branch, but they're all gone. One was at 93rd if I remember right. There was also quite a large yard at 83rd, it's still there, but overgrown. You can find it by looking for catenary gantries. Also, the B&O used to access Chicago this way. They joined the IC at something like 75th and ran downtown to some point on the Electric lines, not sure where they switched to the main IC. Perhaps there was once a switch at 69th. That ended at some point and B&O shifted to the most circuitous route into town over 10 railroads, and then it got even more complex for the last few years when Grand Central closed and B&O shifted to Northwestern Station. That's right, the trains from Washington DC started using the station for the trains from MSP and Milwaukee.
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