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 Ryand-Smith
 
Hey Metra people, I am back from my basic military training, and I have to say, Great lakes.. a fun place (not), but the Metra was a fun ride. Cheap fare to Chicago from Great Lakes and back, but I have several questions. One. Does the southern terminal in Chicago from the Great Lakes line have ticket vending machines? Two, what freight runs along it, I noticed Union Pacific cars, Norfolk Southern trains, and Canadian freight all along the line. Three, how tall are the bi-levels, they are much larger than the ones we have in the Northeast, and quite roomy. Finally, how fast is the train, it took nearly an hour to go from Great Lakes to Downtown (but it was a fun ride). Next, does Metra have the newer FPH 59Is, or is it all still FPH40s?

Your Metra was clean, even if the train felt... well not old but like a relic from the 1960s that was taken from a time capsule, and the conductors were all friendly and helpful. It was a good way to enjoy the city, and get a bit of railfanning in. I just wanted to post this, and get more information about that line. Thank you all in advance!
  by byte
 
Glad you liked the ride! (not that I'm a spokesperson for Metra or anything, but still...)

To answer your questions:

1. The terminal in Chicago (Oglivie Trans. Center) has no ticket vending machines, but there should usually be a ticket agent there to sell them to passengers. If there isn't you can still pay for a ticket on the train.

2. Some freight runs on the UP North Line, north of Waukegan I believe. There's lots of coal traffic for a power plant in Wisconsin.

3. Depending on the manufacturer, a Metra bilevel car is 15' - 16' tall.

4. I think the UP North line can top out at 65 or 70 mph. A few of the other lines can go up to 79 mph.

5. Metra has mostly F40PHs (and two older six-axle F40Cs), along with a small number of MPI MP36-type locomotives, which look vaguely like an F59PHI but are pretty different mechanically. The MP36s don't run on the UP-operated Metra lines, however.


Metra has a distinctly "old school" feel to it because the cars are derived from a mostly unaltered 1950s design. The cars have their merits although after a year and a half of commuting on them, I'm starting to think that trying out cars of a newer design wouldn't be such a bad idea, just to see how they compare.
  by Amtrak7
 
Ryand-Smith wrote:Hey Metra people, I am back from my basic military training, and I have to say, Great lakes.. a fun place (not), but the Metra was a fun ride. Cheap fare to Chicago from Great Lakes and back, but I have several questions. One. Does the southern terminal in Chicago from the Great Lakes line have ticket vending machines? Two, what freight runs along it, I noticed Union Pacific cars, Norfolk Southern trains, and Canadian freight all along the line. Three, how tall are the bi-levels, they are much larger than the ones we have in the Northeast, and quite roomy. Finally, how fast is the train, it took nearly an hour to go from Great Lakes to Downtown (but it was a fun ride). Next, does Metra have the newer FPH 59Is, or is it all still FPH40s?

Your Metra was clean, even if the train felt... well not old but like a relic from the 1960s that was taken from a time capsule, and the conductors were all friendly and helpful. It was a good way to enjoy the city, and get a bit of railfanning in. I just wanted to post this, and get more information about that line. Thank you all in advance!
Since it appears you come from the NY metro area, what one perceives of commuter rail in NYC is totally different than what it is like around the country. Many major systems (Boston, Philly, Metra) don't have many ticket vending machines. And, most systems run on freight-owned trackage for all or part of their route, which leads to problems like freight train interference worse than Amtrak interference on the NEC.

But a $5.50 one-way fare for an hour-long ride out of downtown is a bargain compared to any Northeastern system!
  by ohioriverrailway
 
Once upon a time you could have taken that trip on a Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee interurban! (But still a good ride today.)
  by Tadman
 
Metra is almost all the same equipment (for a good reason): 645-powered locomotives and stainless bilevels. The reason is: reliability, commonality, and economics. Metra has a wonderful track record of time-keeping and equipment up-time because they don't experiment, they move lots of people and do it efficiently.

Some questioned the wisdom of staying with 645's with the last power order (me included). It was a bit overly conservative seeing as that 710 has proven itself for 30 years now and the order was big enough to buy a stock of 710 parts.

As for the stainless bilevels, I can't fault that. They last forever (we have identical bilevels from the 50's and 2000's), they move lots of people efficiently even at low platforms, and they're much safer than the Toronto/LA style bilevels.

It's not the most exciting commuter road due to lack of variety (guys get really excited over (2) remaining 6-axle F40's as opposed to the 200+ 4-axle units we have) but there's plenty of traffic, fast and slow.
  by computermodeler
 
There are a lot of elements in the "north shore" area that seem like a "relic from the 1960s that was taken from a time capsule". Not just the trains. Good observation. Fortunately some of the grungier stations have been rebuilt.

As far as the transit time is concerned, the problem is the multitude of stations. Express trains that skip stations will arrive much faster. Same as on the BNSF. Isn't it the same in the Northeast?


But, seems the original poster has left, so I'm just talking with the breeze. :-)
  by Ryand-Smith
 
Yeah, I'm now in Goose Creek South Carolina, thank you all for your information, it was useful and handy to know, now next time I find myself in Chicago, I'll understand more about the area.