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

since the milwaukee district goes all the way to milwaukee, how long does it take to get from chicago-milwaukee/milwaukee-chicago, and who owns the tracks that the metra milwaukee district trains travel on, also are those the same tracks that the empire builder takes to milwaukee as well?
  by EricL
Well, you're getting your terms mixed up a bit, so I'll attempt to clarify:

The entire route from Chicago to Milwaukee is designated the CP C&M Subdivision. (CP, Canadian Pacific, acquired the Soo Line; the Soo Line had acquired the CMStP&P, more commonly known as the Milwaukee Road.) Metra's nomenclature of "Milwaukee District" comes from the fact that the commuter service was operated by the MILW before the predecessor agencies to Metra took over. I'm simplifying here, as this transition happened in stages and has its own history that you can find and read online. But anyway, "Milwaukee District" is a name officially used only by Metra, and does not really refer to the entire C&M Subdivision. MD-North trains make a left turn off of the C&M at Rondout, a junction about four miles north/west of Lake Forest, to continue the rest of the way to Fox Lake. This branch line is known as the CP Fox Lake Subdivision. West of F.L., the line is owned by the Wisconsin & Southern RR, a shortline which bought up several ex-MILW branch lines.

Officially, the entire C&M Sub from Chicago to Milwaukee is dispatched by the CP C&M Dispatcher. Same dispatcher also controls the Fox Lake Sub. In reality, though, many routing and dispatching duties are left to the Metra control operators at Towers A-2 & A-5, and the CP control operator at Rondout. So even though the following isn't true "on paper", it's pretty much how it works:
Code: Select all
Line segment                    Dispatcher/Control Operator             Track Maintenance
------------                    ---------------------------             -----------------
CUS - Canal Street              Amtrak CUS train director               Amtrak
Canal Street - Tower A-2        Metra operator at A-2                   Metra
A-2 (Western Ave) intlg.        Metra operator at A-2                   Metra/Union Pacific (UP/Metra West Line crossing)
Tower A-2 - Mayfair             Metra operators at A-2 and A-5          Metra
Mayfair interlocking            UP operator at CY Tower                 Metra/UP  (UP/Metra Northwest Line crossing)
Mayfair - Rondout               CP C&M Dispatcher (Minneapolis, MN)     Metra
Rondout - Fox Lake              CP C&M Dispr + CP opr. at Rondout       Metra
Rondout - Milwaukee             CP C&M Dispatcher                       CP
In spite of all these different pieces, the CP dispatcher and the various operators all work together, and thru passenger trains normally just receive one set of track bulletins that covers them for their entire run.

No Metra service operates on the C&M Sub north (timetable west) of Rondout - as mentioned earlier, they make that left turn onto the Fox Lake line instead. This is where Amtrak comes in. Both the Hiawatha and Empire Builder remain on the C&M for the duration of the trip to Milwaukee. Most Hiawathas are timetabled for a 1hr. 29min. trip, and the EB is timetabled for 1'30". It is very possible to beat those running times by several minutes, though, on a good trip with no delays.

Phew. Hope that covers it.
  by SooLineRob
EricL covered everything, not much else to discuss. I can only add these minor comments:

CP Rail's C&M Subdivision does stand for "Chicago & Milwaukee".

CP Rail's timetable is in effect from Tower A2 westward.

CP Rail's C&M Train Dispatcher is also in charge of the tracks located at the west end of Bensenville Yard between Tower B17 (Elgin Sub) and the Union Pacific interlocking at Bryn Mawr. CP trains use trackage rights over the UP between Bryn Mawr and Shermer, then rejoin CP trackage for the one mile between Shermer and Tower A20 on the C&M Sub.

The "other" Milwaukee District, West, encompasses CP's Elgin Sub; which diverges from the C&M at Tower A5 and heads west to Elgin (and Big Timber Road).

I echo Eric's comments regarding the coordination required between the various Dispatchers and Operators. Imagine if you will a triangle:

The bottom leg being CP's Elgin Sub and Bensenville Yard, the left corner being Tower B17, the right corner being Tower A5.
The left leg being the combined CP-UP tracks between B17 and Tower A20, with A20 located at the top of the triangle.
The right leg being the C&M Sub between Tower A5 and Tower A20.

The coordination required for a smooth operation is quite remarkable, given the numerous railroads, Dispatchers, and Operators involved.
  by F40CFan
RAILROADTRAINING wrote:since the milwaukee district goes all the way to milwaukee, how long does it take to get from chicago-milwaukee/milwaukee-chicago, and who owns the tracks that the metra milwaukee district trains travel on, also are those the same tracks that the empire builder takes to milwaukee as well?
Please don't take this wrong, but I find this mildly amusing. When Metra took over, they changed the Milwaukee Road (north and west lines) name to the Milwaukee District because people would think that keeping the Milwaukee Road name would cause people to think the service ran from Chicago to Milwaukee (though how the west line could have accomplished this is beyond me). I always thought that the Milwaukee District sounded more like a Chicago-Milwaukee service.

It really doesn't matter what the government agencies rename them to, most of the old time commuters call them by the original names; NorthWestern, Milwaukee Road, the Rock or Rock Island and the Burlington or Q.

Your post just confirms what I was thinking. Thank you.
  by bones
The same could be said about the "Rock Island" district.
  by usa4624
Don't forget the CN South RTC controls the diamond at Grays Lake where the Milwaukee North and North Central Service Cross.
  by jpIllInoIs
I am interested in the MD North - Wadsworth Extensions. I think it would be considered a MDN line. Can anyone direct me to a link or resource that has the actual study summary? Thank you in advance.

BTW this is my first post. I have been lurking for about a week and have enjoyed the forums.
  by EricL
Ugh... "Metra Magic Land" doesn't need to be extended any further north than it already is... all those trains do is get in our way!!! :-D
  by doepack
Although it's been kicked around for years, I couldn't find anything official online about any in-depth studies on a proposed MD-N extension to Wadsworth. And yes, I know Amtrak technically isn't in the commuter rail business, but perhaps such a service could be provided by Metra via some sort of service agreement with Amtrak. Theoretically, the station could be served during weekday rush hours only, with no more than four trains stopping there (for instance, morning Hiawatha trains 330 & 332, and evening runs 337 & 339 would be best) with customers paying Metra-based fares. Might be worth a six-month experiment or so, to see if it sticks...
  by jpIllInoIs
Thanks doepack, I am interested in actual ridership studies, sample timetables and platform locations. My curiosity is that this is a shared route with Amtrak and has some heavy freight usage also. With Amtrak looking to expand frequencies of the Hiawatha I am curious as to what track, signal upgrades are needed.
  by tytrain
Bumping this since it seems to cover what my question is about...are there any freights that regularly use the C&M between Techny and A5? I know 182/183 used to and was cancelled in August 2012, but I know I saw a freight more recently than that while driving underneath on I-90. Was I just super-lucky to see an extra?
  by larry84988
Any certain number of freights can use the trackage between A-20 and A-5 towers, most commonly would be the 280's which are manifest trains to and from St. Paul Minnesota, also utilizing this stretch are the pair of WSOR manifests, and sometimes the intermodal's in the 190's can be routed this way as well.
  by tytrain
I wasn't aware it was that "common". Thanks!
  by EricL
At present: 281 is coming out of A5 almost every day. Eastbounds are a toss up and it usually just depends whether the UP can handle them on the Shermer cutoff or not.