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: JamesT4, metraRI

  by AlcoFA
My 9 year old son and I will be in the Chicago area on Monday April 18th.

Where is a good train watching spot on the Metra BNSF line to Aurora? In addition, are there any restrictions on picture taking in Metra territory?

Thanks to all for any information provided.

  by byte
I don't know too much about the stations along the BNSF corridor, but what I can suggest is that you pick one that gets bypassed by express trains, so you can see some stop and some go flying by (www.metrarail.com has the all the schedules and route maps). The BNSF is loaded with Metra, Amtrak, and freight trains so it's unlikely you'll leave dissapointed, no matter where you watch from.

And officially, there is no rule against taking pictures, unless the photographer is doing something dangerous. However, cops have been known to periodically shoo railfans off because of terrorism fears. This seems to happen more at the downtown terminals than at the suburban stations, and I tend to think the people along the BNSF line are probably somewhat used to the railfans being there, so you shouldn't have much trouble. If you do get hassled, remind whoever's doing it that taking pictures are within your freedoms. More often than not, the officer, not the railfan, has been proven in the wrong in these types of situations.

  by metraRI
When on BNSF I frequently go to LaGrange or West Hinsdale, but everyone has their own personal favorite place.

There really are not any restrictions on picture taking in Metra territory. In fact, Metra has said they will allow people to photograph locomotives, cars, stations, and platforms, etc. from public areas. Metra Cheif of Police even said Union Station is not off limits from picture taking. Of course there are always the Metra police that tell you just the opposite. The April 2005 issue of Trains Magazine explains it all after railfans had a hard time with Metra police in January, that caused Metra to state their policy on photo taking.
Last edited by metraRI on Fri Apr 08, 2005 9:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

  by AmtrakFan
Downers Grove, IL is one the best or Naperville

  by bones
Don't forget about LaVerne or Berwyn.

  by AmtrakFan
The People on the BNSF are use to railfans I go there a lot and never a police has question what I was doing but I did get questioned once they were looking for someone who was odd.

  by c604.
I agree with bones about the closer in stations. I used to do a lot of train watching at the Brookfield Hollywood Zoo stop and I was never disappointed. You get more trains from Congress Park east due to those locals that turn there and head back to Chicago. From about 3:45 to 6:15PM is a great time to be there. The longest lull in traffic during that time was around twelve minutes or so.

  by Scotty Burkhardt
If I'm watching BNSF, My favorite spot is LaGrange. You can walk a short while west to the Indiana Harbor Belt.

Joliet is a good spot. Metra RI & HC, IAIS, CSX, BNSF and whatever else.

If you can get to it, just east of the Western AVE. yard. All of the dead heads for NCS, The Milw. lines. All of the U.P. deadheads run next to it.
In addition to that, theres the scheduled trains for the UP-W, NCS, and the Milwalkee lines. Plus Amtrak. That short section has by far the most Metra action of anywhere around.

I'm a big fan of West Chicago. Mosty U.P. and Metra. Once in awhile EJE goes by.

Blue Island Vermont has both Rock Island and Electric trains. Chicago Rail Link and IAIS run through BI Vermont all the time with locals.

Walkeegan is Good for Metra and U.P.

  by Joe
At Downers Grove during Rush Hour (5-6PM) at either Main Street or Fairview Ave you'll see expresses to naperville fly by in the center track, expresses TO Main Street (At fairview they'll switch over to Main 1), and 2 or 3 flipbacks. I've never had a problem with the cops on the BNSF line and have only been hassled at the LaGrange Stone Ave station by the crabby ticket agent.
Plus between noon and 4:30PM you'll get at least 10 freights, 4 Amtraks, and plenty of Metra.

  by MetraRy
i recommend the LaGrange Road or LaGrange Stone Av. stations. Its in a very safe area and a short walk from the IHB line. Berwyn is another spot I like as must frieghts crawl through here. AlcoFA, is there any specifics you were looking for?
  by AlcoFA
Thank you to all for all of the useful information.

My son and I will be coming in from the east on Amtrak from Connecticut, spending the day in Chicago and then heading back east in the evening. In other words, we are going to Chicago just to go for the train ride!

We are interested in the BNSF line since it also departs from Union Station.

Looking forward to our trip. Thank you again for all of your help.


  by AmtrakFan
Ok I would go around Amtrak times it can be very busy.

  by Tadman
If you're riding in then out quickly, you'll want to stay near downtown - the best for that is just north of CUS there is some grade crossings on Canal street and also the CNW passenger line crosses over the ex-MILW passenger line. Also, the roosevelt road overpass is great, because you've got the CUS approach at Canal street plus the yards, the LaSalle Station (ex-RI) overpass just over the river, then the el a few blocks east, then the electric disctrict overpass on the lakefront where you can watch ex-IC highliners and South Shore trains. Also, at the roosevelt road el, you can board an orange line train to midway airport, which parallels BNSF and a few others - there's great trainwatching to be done from the orange L train, and it's the fastest on the system.

  by MetraF40C607
Try Roselle. It is one good spot during rush hour. There are three road crossings, all of which can be easily accessed from Irving Park Rd. There is a local that runs on most days and there are two expresses during the evening that fly by at 70MPH. One is a small 4 car train that ALWAYS has an F40PH. If not that, try Spaulding Crossing in Elgin. It is the crossing of the MILW-W line and the EJ&E Western Subdvision.

  by MikeF
Too bad it's been 25 years since you could take a train to Spaulding! :P

All the new housing going up there, though, almost makes me wonder if we'll see the passenger stop return someday ...