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

Moderators: metraRI, JamesT4

  by ExCon90
There has been a discussion in the Erie-Lackawanna Fallen Flags forum about the colored lights mounted by the destination indicator boards at Hoboken to enable homebound commuters to identify their trains by color without having to be near enough to be able to read the board itself. The question was raised whether this has been done anywhere else, and Reading Terminal in Philadelphia was mentioned. Another poster asked whether this had ever been done in Chicago; I don't remember whether I ever saw anything like that at the C&NW station, and I'm wondering whether C&NW used colored lights or anything similar. Also, did the IC, MILW, or RI ever use colored lights or a similar device?
  by Tadman
Both IC/Metra and South Shore cars have color lights, but they are used as red markers lights on the tail end of trains, so commuters cannot use them to identify their trains. Neither lines have the head end visible to commuters as they board downtown.

CTA does, indeed, use different combinations of colored lights to indicate the line the train is on and they are visible much further off than the rollsign. I believe Evanston trains are white/white, Howard trains are red/yellow, and Kimball trains are red/green. These trains share stations and it makes sense to do this.
  by JamesT4
True for the South Shore that I notice, but for the Metra Electric/IC, the marker lights are used in front of the train, but usually nobody, goes by them, because just below the marker lights, or next to them on the new highliners the train number will be displayed, but also if not a daily commuter,or railfan, does not go by them either, also Public Announcements of the trains at Randolph(Millennium Station), and Van Buren St. are made.

Red Marker end of train.
Green Marker: indicates a train that travels on the ME mainline to University Park
Yellow Marker: Blue Island Trains
White Marker: South Chicago Trains
Seen by riding them.

As for the CTA by the pictures I had taken I can give you this:
Yellow(Skokie Swift) & Green(Harlem/Ashland-63rd) Lines: Green/Green
Red Line(Howard-Dan Ryan): White/White
Orange Line(Midway): Red/Yellow
Pink Line(Douglas): White/Red
Brown Line(Kimball: Green/Red
Not in Service: White/White
But can always change.
  by lstone19
The first two responses seem to have missed what the OP was talking about. Having grown up in northern NJ on a Lackawanna line, I remember the lights as well. They were lights on the destination signs at the entrance to each platform (these are electronic signs today at CUS and the other Chicago terminals); these were not lights on the trains themselves.

IIRC, the arrangement of Hoboken (particularly after the ferries were discontinued and most traffic got across the river via PATH) did not make seeing the master destination board easy. So the lights made it easy for the knowing passenger to quickly see which tracks were candidates for his train.

When I was living there, the EL was serving seven different lines out of Hoboken. I don't think any Chicago area terminal has more than three (CUS-N and CUS-S count as separate) so the benefits of such a system are much less (well, four if you count McHenry as a separate line). Plus the master boards are better these days and there are the separate video screens elsewhere. In other words, it was a solution to a problem for which today we have better solutions.
  by ExCon90
lstone19 is right, that's what I was asking about. As he says, today you can put monitor screens anywhere in the station you want, so color-light indicators wouldn't add that much. I was more interested in determining whether "back in the day" C&NW, for example, used three colors to denominate the three trunks, but evidently not.
  by justalurker66
Tadman wrote:Both IC/Metra and South Shore cars have color lights,
The single level South Shore cars have marker lights (red, white and green). The red are used for "tail lights", the white are still used for "extra" trains. I've never seen the green used. Passengers have no clue what the white lights mean. The markers on trains are for the benefit of employees, not the traveling public.

As for lights on the boards in the stations, I've never heard of such arrangements in Chicago (even "back in the day"). It sounds like a good idea - especially if there are divergent routes and trains don't consistently use the same platforms. But the consistent use of platforms makes it less needed.