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 johndoe780
 
So I don't know much about railroads, but from the new amtrak line heading to Rockford next year, I'm curious how this will work with metra milwaukee west. Union station north tracks are already congested as is (especially during peak hours) as is most of the line heading all the way to Elgin. Now from what I read, the state wants to have a speed limit of 79 mph in 2016. How can this be? I thought most of the line is restricted to 70 mph, with many parts restricted to either 15 mph or 30 mph. Milwaukee west isn't exactly a speedster compared to the other lines.

Now the bigger question is how the heck does the state find it "safe" to implement more trains on this line with the still unsafe nightmare of a crossing at Elmwood Park. Didn't the national railroad board (some high up authority) recommend that the only solution is an overpass? Then you have the fox river bridge as well....

I'm all for amtrak heading to Rockford, Galena, Iowa etc. It'll pave way for extending the metra line, but the line is already well... crappy
  by HammerJack
 
I took a look at the old feasibility report that Amtrak created for this line, which contained the potential schedule for this train. The Eastbound is scheduled to arrive Chicago around 10.30. This doesn't interfere with existing Metra trains on the MD-W. As long as that arrival time doesn't creep up before 9.00, traffic on the line should not be an issue. The Westbound departs CUS at 6.15. Although this is technically part of rush-hour, most the of the equipment has already left CUS, and rush-hour is winding down at this time. I don't think Amtrak/Metra would have a problem fitting in one more departure around 6.15. However, if they pushed the departure up to around 5.00-5.45, then chaos would erupt both at CUS and on the MD-W.

After some accident that occurred at Elmwood Park, Metra reduced the track speed from 70 to 30. In my opinion, this is the only safety measure they need to take. A train traveling 30 has a decent chance to stop if there are cars on the tracks. One dangerous crossing is not a reason to prevent two more trains from using the line per day. And there are plans to replace the Fox River Bridge.

Despite some minor issues, I am glad that Amtrak chose to route the Amtrak along the MD-W.
  by lstone19
 
Obviously, the goal is only 79 mph where feasible (and I have an old Milwaukee Road employee TT from 1969 when the speed limit was 79 so it is feasible). Nobody is suggesting doing 79 around the 15 mph curve at A-5 or even around the 55 mph curve at Galewood.
And, as HammerJack implies, there is no capacity issue outside of rush hour. The bigger capacity issue is probably Amtrak's tracks at CUS. Amtrak normally uses only 17 and 19 with only 19 being run-through. Presumably, the Rockford train will come from the yard and board on 19. That can be a problem for the Empire Builder which depending on when it arrives may have to come in on 17, then back out and pull through (something it does sometimes already when it's too long too stop short of the 21-19 crossover near the south end) or pull through to 28 or 30 (also done sometimes).
Finally, johndoe, I think you exaggerate just a bit when you call the Grand Ave. crossing in Elmwood Park a "nightmare". Yes, there are some idiot drivers out there but from what I've observed twice a day for the last three years, no more than the other shallow angle crossings on the line (Canal St. in Chicago and Irving Park Rd. in Wood Dale). All the attention on the Elmwood Park crossing strikes me as basically politicians being politicians.
  by johndoe780
 
I was always under the impression that even the max speeds of milwaukee west were 70 mph and not 79 mph?
  by lstone19
 
johndoe780 wrote:I was always under the impression that even the max speeds of milwaukee west were 70 mph and not 79 mph?
What can I say. Since I have an employee TT that says otherwise, that's obviously not true.
While it seems to be a common top speed for many lines, it doesn't make a lot of sense since it is not the top speed for a track class. Whether it's 70 or 79 mph, it still requires Class 4 track meaning both are maintained to the same standards. Outside of curve and other track related speed restrictions, the only reason I can think of to restrict the speed to 70 rather than 79 would be due to signal block lengths not allowing enough distance to stop from 79. Perhaps that is why the speed was reduced at some point.
  by Tom Tancula
 
Prior to Amtrak, "City" train #103 left CUS at 6:00PM, passed B12 (Soo Line Crossing at Franklin Park) at 6:20PM, crossed over at B12 from 1 Main to 2 Main to pass a west bound scoot (commuter train).

I do not know if or where #103 returned to 1 main, but the train arrived in Elgin at 6:45PM.

Of course, today there are more "scoots" than there were in 1970-1971. But with the various locations where Metra has installed cross overs, I am sure a schedule could be worked out allowing the same 45 minute trip or better.

And with good track back then (?) and without cab signals back then, the maximum FRA permissible speed could have been 79 mph. With Metra's aggressive installation of PTC perhaps we may see a higher speeds.


TNT
  by johndoe780
 
Times were better back then. The express metra train from union station to elgin now takes about an hour.

I thought it was always a bit funny how express trains on this line only cut time by about 10 minutes more or less.
  by doepack
 
johndoe780 wrote:So I don't know much about railroads, but from the new amtrak line heading to Rockford next year, I'm curious how this will work with metra milwaukee west. Union station north tracks are already congested as is (especially during peak hours) as is most of the line heading all the way to Elgin. Now from what I read, the state wants to have a speed limit of 79 mph in 2016. How can this be? I thought most of the line is restricted to 70 mph, with many parts restricted to either 15 mph or 30 mph. Milwaukee west isn't exactly a speedster compared to the other lines.
johndoe780 wrote:Now the bigger question is how the heck does the state find it "safe" to implement more trains on this line with the still unsafe nightmare of a crossing at Elmwood Park. Didn't the national railroad board (some high up authority) recommend that the only solution is an overpass?

Metra installed a 30mph speed restriction at this crossing in response to an accident that occurred there about nine years ago. Grade separation was indeed suggested by the NTSB after they concluded their investigation, and required Metra to work with IDOT to get this done. It's been awhile, and details are foggy, but I think I heard some chatter awhile back about perhaps bundling this project into CREATE, but that went nowhere. So the project remains in limbo, and that 1/4 mile speed restriction will die only when the crossing is eliminated. And not a day before...

BTW, here's the full official NTSB report from that 11/23/05 accident, for those interested. Quite interesting...

IMO, it's probably not necessary to increase the speed max on MD-W to 79 for the new Amtrak service coming online next year; sustained 60-65mph running over significant stretches isn't really attained until you're west of B-17. But consider that Metra's longest express run on this route, 2237, is scheduled for a 42 minute run between CUS and Schaumburg with a stop at Western Ave. With Elgin being 10 miles further west, it's not too far of a stretch to see Amtrak trains make a CUS to Elgin run in about 50 minutes or so, give or take; which is reasonable given the current state of the railroad.

Heavy freight traffic between Bensenville and Cicero, restricted speeds at A-2, A-5, and Elmwood Park, plus applications of rule 6.30 effectively hold down speeds on this line. But it does have faster potential further west, and it'll be interesting to see Amtrak unlock some of that...
  by lstone19
 
Tom Tancula wrote:Prior to Amtrak, "City" train #103 left CUS at 6:00PM, passed B12 (Soo Line Crossing at Franklin Park) at 6:20PM, crossed over at B12 from 1 Main to 2 Main to pass a west bound scoot (commuter train).

I do not know if or where #103 returned to 1 main, but the train arrived in Elgin at 6:45PM.
From the 1969 employee timetable I have, 103's schedule was:
CUS 6:00pm
A-2 6:07pm
A-5 6:11pm
Galewood 6:16pm
B-12 6:20pm (weekday WB train 233 was also scheduled at B-12 at 6:20pm with a 6:21pm station stop at Franklin Park)
B-17 6:23pm
Bensenville 6:24pm
Roselle 6:30pm (old Roselle station at MP 24.4 - not the current one at MP 23.9)
Spaulding 6:36pm
B-35 6:38pm
Elgin 6:45pm (flag stop)

No scheduled stops between Chicago and Elgin. Only opposing EB was due past B-12 at 6:10pm and only WB to be overtaken was the one at B-12 as also mentioned by Tom. Once on 2 Main, there was no reason 103 could not stay there until B-35.

I question being able to make it to A-5 in 11 minutes but once there, remaining 31 miles to Elgin only required an average of 55mph. It was slightly slower than today A-5 to Elmwood Park (60 then; 70 today with 55 on the curve at Galewood). But after that, clear sailing except for B-12 (45 (40 when crossing over)), B-17 (60), Spaulding (70), and B-35 (40).
  by johndoe780
 
Sad thing is I used to be a regular from Bartlett on Milwaukee west. The constant delays, increased number of pedestrian "incidents," and an extremely bumpy ride that always gave me a headache in the morning pushed me to get on from west chicago union pacific west which I now ride regularly instead.
  by HammerJack
 
“and the train got to Chicago too late” — 10:15 a.m. — “for business travelers to use it. The new train has to get there by 9 a.m.”
Oh boy. I wish good luck to whomever has to work out fitting the Amtrak into the already congested MD-W rush.

In order to arrive CUS before 9.00, the Amtrak will have to squeeze in during a time where there is a Metra leaving Elgin every 20-30 minutes. With other locals and expresses starting later down the line at this time as well, I don't know how the Amtrak will fit. And then there's NCS trains to deal with once River Grove is reached. So good luck.
  by doepack
 
HammerJack wrote:
“and the train got to Chicago too late” — 10:15 a.m. — “for business travelers to use it. The new train has to get there by 9 a.m.”
Oh boy. I wish good luck to whomever has to work out fitting the Amtrak into the already congested MD-W rush.

In order to arrive CUS before 9.00, the Amtrak will have to squeeze in during a time where there is a Metra leaving Elgin every 20-30 minutes. With other locals and expresses starting later down the line at this time as well, I don't know how the Amtrak will fit.
It can happen, and it's really not that complicated. We're not exactly talking about the NEC here...

In the absence of anything official, let's use a feasible scenario. Assuming my aforementioned 50 min. Elgin-CUS run, the new eastbound Amtrak from Rockford could conceivably leave Elgin about 745 or so (just ahead of Metra 2226). I'm not sure of the formula Amtrak uses to pad schedules, but I've noticed regional trains don't get as much "slop" as LD trains (understandable, given the distances covered) so with that in mind, let's say an extra 10 min. gets tacked on. That would give a listed CUS arrival of 845 with padding; and it could beat that by a few minutes, especially if it can pick up track 1 between Roselle West and B-17. (Some Metra schedule tweakage may be necessary to facilitate that). And no worries about conflicting with NCS traffic, since 108, the last inbound of the morning rush, is due to pass B-12 at 8:01. By my calculations, that's a good 15 min. or so before Amtrak would get there, so it should have a clear shot at the center track between B-12 and A-5.

Due to CUS congestion, a pre-8:30 arrival would not work. But it can still get there before 9am...
  by lstone19
 
I was going to make a comment similar to what Dorian suggested. Although it's not clear how feasible that really is. Assuming 7:45 out of Elgin, 2203 turning to 2226 is sitting on one track at Elgin (can it go in the storage track 2235 terminates on in the evening?) so our potential Amtrak needs a clear shot on the other main from Big Timber to B-35 so no freight in the area (usually not at that hour).
Running 1 Main from Roselle West to B-17? Not without the mentioned schedule tweaking - 2205 would likely be in the way - but why? I can't see with that proposed time that it could catch 2222 by B-17 and it can't stay on 1 after B-17 - 2224 (turning from the deadhead from CUS) will be sitting there just west of Franklin Park. I think it just has to follow 2222 even if that adds a few minutes (but it looks to me that 2222 could move a few minutes forward - right now it's a 19 minute turn for 2201 to 2222 at Big Timber).
The return I think could go as early as 5:40 running ahead 2243. It will risk catching up with 2241 but 2241 (which deadheads from Bartlett to the yard) should go 2 Main after B-35 into the yard while Amtrak would stay on 1. But Big Timber could be an issue - with so many trains terminating at Big Timber and then returning either in service or to the yard, there are times when both tracks are occupied. But not then I think. 2237 arriving 6:29 goes right back to the yard but 2239 arriving 6:39 sits until 2250 at 7:10 so one track should be clear (I'm assuming the connection to the UP will be west of Big Timber so it's usable for a future Metra extension west while still stopping at Big Timber. Maybe they'll build the connection starting east of BT, run parallel with an additional BT platform, then over to the UP).
  by Engineer Spike
 
What route is Amtrak going to take to Rockford? Obviously the only way to do it is either CP to Davis Jct.- Rockford. This is a poor route. Will it switch to the C&NW, or IC?