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 doepack
 
A brief tour of Tower A2, as it appears in a recent edition of OTBL...
  by E Runs
 
Pretty cool behind the scenes look.

I see the article mentiones a $180M bridge as being an ideal soltion to the crossover problem. I still don't understand why the UP trains aren't just routed into CUS while the MD trains to to CNW. There must be a reason aside from legacy but I haven't seen it presented.
  by AMTKHawkeye
 
I see the article mentiones a $180M bridge as being an ideal soltion to the crossover problem. I still don't understand why the UP trains aren't just routed into CUS while the MD trains to to CNW. There must be a reason aside from legacy but I haven't seen it presented.
I can't speak in an official capacity, but there are a number of reasons why it isn't practical. In no particular order:
  • The current track configuration at A2. A2 wasn't designed for switching between the two lines, only crossing over one another. MD Main 3 to UP Main 4(?) is the only route presently set up to switch lines. A very costly switch to make, not to mention the construction would create an operating nightmare during the process.
  • Volume of trains at each station. If every MDN, MDW and NCS train were routed to Ogilvie in exchange for just the UPW to Union, Ogilvie would be inundated while Union sat nearly empty. Blending a bit more could alleviate this, but that takes away from the end benefit of implementing this switch in the first place.
  • Deadhead moves and yard capacity. Again, unless a blend were instituted like the scenario above, a "pure" switch to eliminate crossover moves would result in not only the MDN, MDW and NCS trains deadheading to and from the Western Ave. yard, but now also all of the UPNW and UPN trains. Western Ave. can't be even close to big enough to handle all of that in its current configuration. Meanwhile, California Ave. would be a ghost town with only the UPW, and also the 3 HC trains for good measure.
  • Crew qualification. Union Pacific still owns and controls the entirety of their current routes, including trackage inside Ogilvie. Crews on the MDN, MDW and NCS would have to qualify on UP rules, in addition to the Metra and CP (and also CN on the NCS) that they currently need. (In fairness, they could drop Amtrak rules). Likewise, crews on the UPW would need to learn Metra and Amtrak rules as well. While not insurmountable, this could increase the risk for operating errors - and a saying on the railroad is that "All rules are written in blood."
My conclusion is that a flyover bridge seems to be a more cost effective solution immediately, as well as long-term with maintenance and tower staffing savings.
  by lstone19
 
AMTKHawkeye wrote:[
  • The current track configuration at A2. A2 wasn't designed for switching between the two lines, only crossing over one another. MD Main 3 to UP Main 4(?) is the only route presently set up to switch lines. A very costly switch to make, not to mention the construction would create an operating nightmare during the process.
There are double-slip switches on MD Track 3 at all four UP tracks (and there were on MD Track 4 as well when it existed - an interlocking diagram from 1942 is available at http://broadway.pennsyrr.com/Rail/Prr/M ... rn_ave.gif. Since one of the leads from California Ave. yard joins MD Track 3 first, the DS switches between MD 3 and UP 1 and 2 (the tracks normally used for the UP yard moves to and from downtown) presumably get used several times a day for diverging moves.

But bottom line is just the idea of rerouting some trains would still need extensive reworking of A2. Just converting more crossovers to DS switches won't help as trains would still be sharing bits of track and it would still be as capacity limited as it is today.

Riding through there ten times a week, A2 does a good job of moving trains. It's not unusual to see three MD trains moving trough there at once. And with a minimum of waiting. Most of the waiting is done by UP yard moves (deadheads to/from downtown) but since UP has two tracks more-or-less dedicated to the yard moves (1 & 2) and 16 tracks downtown (vs. 8 normally available to Metra at CUS-N), they can afford to stab them. The MD side doesn't have the capacity (yard moves share a track with revenue moves) so the MD side get priority over UP yard moves. It's only a problem when something breaks.
  by MACTRAXX
 
doepack wrote:A brief tour of Tower A2, as it appears in a recent edition of OTBL...
Doepack: Good article about Tower A2...it reminds me somewhat of the LIRR's Jay and Hall Towers at Jamaica...
I recall something similar being written about those two towers in the past...MACTRAXX
  by doepack
 
lstone19 wrote:There are double-slip switches on MD Track 3 at all four UP tracks (and there were on MD Track 4 as well when it existed - an interlocking diagram from 1942 is available at http://broadway.pennsyrr.com/Rail/Prr/M ... rn_ave.gif. Since one of the leads from California Ave. yard joins MD Track 3 first, the DS switches between MD 3 and UP 1 and 2 (the tracks normally used for the UP yard moves to and from downtown) presumably get used several times a day for diverging moves.
One of the biggest benefits to the new "A1" crossing (whenever it gets built) will be the elimination of these moves. A1 is projected to have no double slip switches or moveable point crossings, it will strictly be a diamond configuration; as shown here (Scroll to fig. 4-1 on page 27)...
lstone19 wrote:Riding through there ten times a week, A2 does a good job of moving trains. It's not unusual to see three MD trains moving trough there at once. And with a minimum of waiting. Most of the waiting is done by UP yard moves (deadheads to/from downtown) but since UP has two tracks more-or-less dedicated to the yard moves (1 & 2) and 16 tracks downtown (vs. 8 normally available to Metra at CUS-N), they can afford to stab them. The MD side doesn't have the capacity (yard moves share a track with revenue moves) so the MD side get priority over UP yard moves.
And that seems to be especially true in the mornings. While riding UPW 25, (lv. OTC @840), deadhead moves heading to California Ave. yard on the UP side can be commonly seen stacked one behind the other for about a mile on tracks 1 & 2, as we roll west on track 4. The break in traffic on the Milwaukee district side seems to occur about 9am or so, then most of those UP equipment moves are released en masse into the yard...


That broadway link provided above by Larry is a great site, BTW...
  by E Runs
 
Thanks AMTKHawkeye and lstone19, I figured there were good reasons behind not implementing my simpleton approach to A2 and you addressed them.
  by neroden
 
AMTKHawkeye wrote:
I see the article mentiones a $180M bridge as being an ideal soltion to the crossover problem. I still don't understand why the UP trains aren't just routed into CUS while the MD trains to to CNW. There must be a reason aside from legacy but I haven't seen it presented.
I can't speak in an official capacity, but there are a number of reasons why it isn't practical. In no particular order:
  • The current track configuration at A2. A2 wasn't designed for switching between the two lines, only crossing over one another. MD Main 3 to UP Main 4(?) is the only route presently set up to switch lines. A very costly switch to make, not to mention the construction would create an operating nightmare during the process.
Obviously this would be rebuilt, and it would have to be cheaper than a flyover.
[*]Volume of trains at each station. If every MDN, MDW and NCS train were routed to Ogilvie in exchange for just the UPW to Union, Ogilvie would be inundated while Union sat nearly empty. Blending a bit more could alleviate this, but that takes away from the end benefit of implementing this switch in the first place.
OK, this is a big issue. Could UP-N and UP-NW be redirected to Union as well? It seems physically viable, and there seems to be only one significant building in the way (using the route of the UP "low level" tracks which used to cross the river south of Kinsie St.), but perhaps it would be very expensive, or it would not be possible to provide a sufficient number of tracks? (Since there are four leading from UP-N and UP-NW to Ogilvie.)
[*]Deadhead moves and yard capacity. Again, unless a blend were instituted like the scenario above, a "pure" switch to eliminate crossover moves would result in not only the MDN, MDW and NCS trains deadheading to and from the Western Ave. yard, but now also all of the UPNW and UPN trains. Western Ave. can't be even close to big enough to handle all of that in its current configuration. Meanwhile, California Ave. would be a ghost town with only the UPW, and also the 3 HC trains for good measure.
OK, the yard reconfiguration starts to get expensive... still cheaper than a flyover...
[*]Crew qualification. Union Pacific still owns and controls the entirety of their current routes, including trackage inside Ogilvie. Crews on the MDN, MDW and NCS would have to qualify on UP rules, in addition to the Metra and CP (and also CN on the NCS) that they currently need. (In fairness, they could drop Amtrak rules). Likewise, crews on the UPW would need to learn Metra and Amtrak rules as well. While not insurmountable, this could increase the risk for operating errors - and a saying on the railroad is that "All rules are written in blood."[/list]
Obviously this would require UP selling the tracks from A2 to Ogilvie, including Ogilvie, to Metra, and they could be put under Metra rules. UP crews would still have to learn Metra and Amtrak rules, of course. So I guess that's a deal-breaker. *sigh*.

A gratuitous flyover is never cheaper than rearranging things at ground level. A ridership imbalance, however, would be a good reason for not rearranging things; but I don't think that is the case, if the UP-N and UP-NW lines can be reconnected to Union Station. I'm not sure what the capacity of Ogilvie is vs. the capacity of the north side of Union; ridership numbers and numbers of trains for each line, however, are readily available. One would want to compare the cost and trouble of land purchase for redirecting the UP-N and UP-NW lines to Union.
  by justalurker66
 
Jersey_Mike wrote:Manage what?
How did you manage to get a tour?

Answered in the article:
At this point I wanted to mention that the photos used for the essay come from a series of my own trips to Western Ave (exterriors) and from a source at METRA (interriors). My own trips were taken in 2007 on an inbound UP West Line train, 2009 on an inbound Milwaukee District train and 2010 on a trip to the Western Ave METRA station.
  by Tadman
 
Great post, Mike. Interesting how much the track map has changed - the PRR to Logansport is just gone, while the freight/passenger distinction of the tracks is also unused - barely any freight gets downtown this far anymore, except the locals to Blommer Chocolate. The MILW is down to three tracks northward, and the west leg of the wye only has one track left - and it comes off the UP(CNW), not ex-PRR/MILW.

Still, this is a busy junction. I hung out for rush hour a few weeks ago, and it was plenty busy.

Old view: http://broadway.pennsyrr.com/Rail/Prr/M ... rn_ave.gif

Current view: http://binged.it/Rlhkdi