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

Guys: My name is MACTRAXX and I am no stranger to the SW Chicago area. My relatives lived in the vicinity of 78th St. and Kedzie Avenue. I visited them regularly between 1973 and 1988. I have personal recollections and some questions on what became METRA's Southwest Service.

When I first came to CHI in the summer of '73 I was a wide-eyed boy of 14 that was totally into trains. I discovered the commuter train for myself totally by accident-I remember the station known as Wrightwood was named LANDERS at the time. There was a wooden waiting shed W/a gravel platform with a staircase access to 79th St. I remember it was a good place to watch the switching at the yard without trespassing. I was there one afternoon when around 6pm when a train-the N&W OP train pulled in. Back then it had smooth-side painted cars-a medium blue W/yellow trim. I asked about this train and I became somewhat fascinated with it.

I obtained a schedule for #112 and #113. This train would terminate at what I found out to be the very last remnant of Dearborn Station at Polk and Clark Streets in DT CHI. I have memories such as the use of NWs Bicentennial 1776 engine in the Summer of '76 and that the cars were re-painted maroon red with yellow trim about 1975. You could not beat the fare at the time - I remember it being 75 cents from Landers to DT CHI up until the RTA takeover.

The train crew I found out were from Decatur - I remember an old-time conductor telling me what was done and how he lived at the depot in OP during the week and than going home on the weekends. Is this old depot in OP still in existence? I remember how he used to say "I'm an ater from Decatur" - even after the RTA takeover some of the NW crew members were from central Illinois.

My favorite story pre-RTA takeover was the engineer that ran the train was only assigned the two runs. He had a day job working,I believe in the CHI Mercantile Exchange. Looking back now,that was to me the ultimate carpool-bringing upwards of 1000 of your fellow"co-workers" to work than bringing them back home again.

I have some unanswered questions about this line such as: I have a card TT in my collection dated 12/2/76 showing the train making stops at 47/Stewart,Englewood(C&WI-551 W.63 St.),Halsted,Racine and Ashland at 75 street. I remember that the train did NOT make these stops-Western/75 was the first stop. I also remember that the train's ridership than was almost 100% white-I learned early on about CHI's racial boundaries and segregation very quickly. Was the date-12/2/76 the date the train was transferred to Union Station? I remember ridership was steadily increasing on the single train between '76 and '78 - I have an RTA tt dated 11/1/79 showing the second train addition of #114 and #115. Was this the date that service was increased and the brand-new RTA equipment made its debut? Were the N&W cars saved or sold off after the takeover? I really liked the RTA paint on the F40s. I got a cab ride on them in '79 from a friendly crew member. The TT W/the F40 graphic shows #115-was this one of the F40s assigned to the route? I remember them named for Orland Park,Chicago Ridge and Oak Lawn am I right?

As a whole what became SWS was fulfilling a need-I remember reading that the SW side and suburbs served by SWS were the most rail transit neglected areas of the CHI area. When did NS abandon the line S of Brisbane,I believe? I also have TTs dated 6/6/81 and 5/15/84.
I remember the RTA funding crisis and major early 80s fare increases. - What came of this was the creation of METRA - to me it was something like the pheonix rising-who knew how successful it would become. Was 5/15/84 the beginning of the cross-honoring of tickets on bus #835 than operated by Continental Air Transport-did they use those interesting buses they had on this route and when did the RTA take it over totally? I also remember things such as the Oak Lawn station was the highest-ridership station on the line-is that true? A station listed on the card TT was Southmore-131 St. as a flag stop but not listed on later TTs.

When METRA boosted service to four trains in the later 80s and the reverse trips were added I would have liked to have taken a ride down to OP to see the line-but I never got the chance to and ironically I have NEVER been on this route past Ashburn. My relatives left the 78/Kedzie area around 1989 and I did not return until the summer of 2000-I was determined to go back and ride the train in my case for the first time in I think 12 years-I rode to Ashburn and I walked up SW Highway to the Wrightwood station-why did METRA name it Wrightwood instead of Landers? I seem to remember a neighborhood elsewhere in SW CHI W/that name.

I also remember that the old wooden shed at Landers was torched by vandals in about 1980 or so-I was really impressed with the new station there. I walked around the neighborhood for the better part of two hours looking at changes like the total demolition of the Rheems plant and the Hayford interlocking at 75/Central Park. When did GTW single track its line thru the interlocking(sorry going off track here) and when did the distinctive GTW signs at both here and Ashburn be removed?

I than rode the CTA 52a bus up Kedzie Avenue to the Midway RT line - riding that for the first time also. Going off track a little here,my uncle was a CTA motorman based at 63/Ashland for a substantial portion of his CTA career. I remember that the Ashland terminal had substantial tail tracks to the west-the thought at one time was to extend it to Midway Airport only 4 miles away but white ethnics and NIMBYs were adamantly opposed to it. This contributed to the rail transit-deprived view of the SW side I remember reading.

When did METRA take full title to the OP line and is the thought to have all-day weekday service as well as weekend service for the first time? Will the move to LaSalle street station happen? I realize that the S side of Union Station is very busy-It has always been hampered by the lack of thru tracks-I remember in the later 80s there were using one of the thru tracks to allow the trains to be serviced at the former Milwaukee Road facility-loading in the afternoon at Union on the N side and than pulling thru. I hope to get input on this line and welcome any answers in advance -
Last edited by MACTRAXX on Sat Nov 03, 2007 4:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

  by Scotty Burkhardt
The line was abandoned about 5 miles south of Brisbane. The west track at Brisbane has been signaled, and a third side track laid for the southernmost half mile. Single track south of there to end of track.

The track from Manhattan to Decatur was abandoned in 79. It was later torn up by Norfolk Southern.

November 1979 was when the RTA equitment first showed up on that line. NW had a total of 4 trains (inbounds #112 & #114) (outbounds #113 & 115)

Those 4 trains ran from Nov. '79 until June '87

On June 1, 1987,
The 112 & 114 became the 4 & 6.
The 113 & 115 became the 5 & 7.
Inbound train #8 was added.
Outbound trains #3 & #11 were added

Metra did not change the name of Landers Station, Norfolk Southern did when they took over the line from NW. That happened on July 5 1988. Also on that date, inbound train #2 made its first run.

On June 4, 1990 trains 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 11 were pushed south to 153rd.

Ill post more info later

  by metraRI
A little off topic from SWS before Metra, but SWS really has not changed that much in the last 15 years besides adding non-peak trains. In 1987, four outbound trains would leave CUS at 4:30, 4:57, 5:30, and 6:45. SWS still departs CUS at those times today. I'm curious to see what changes Metra will make with the new schedule later this year.

Scotty and MET/RI - Thanks for the info!

From checking the TT collection I have it was just how I figured it to be for the service changes to the line. Some other interesting info on this train that I was able to dig up was that it was a long-distance WEEKDAY commuter train between Decatur and Dearborn Station in Chicago operated by the Wabash until the 4/29/62 TT change. #112 left DEC at 205am making Blue Bird/Banner Blue stops such as Monticello and Forrest - a total of 30 stops to OP including 21 flag stops leaving OP at 605a ar DB STA-CHI at 710am. Only Southmore was a flag stop N of OP.

In the afternoon, #113 left DB STA-CHI at 440pm arriving OP at 532pm. making the same stops as #112 arriving DEC at 827p. The mileage from OP to DEC was 149.3 and OP - DB CHI 23.2 for a total of 172.5 miles - some commuter run!! I wonder if anyone actually commuted daily from DEC to CHI. With the 4/29/62 WAB TT change,#s 112-113 ran OP-CHI DB only with the same arrival/leaving times between OP and CHI.
After the N&W takeover,the commuter trains leaving times were adjusted to #112 leaving OP at 655am arriving DB STA-CHI at 800am. #113 left DB STA-CHI at 530p arriving OP at 622pm. This was done with the N&W 10/31/65 TT change.

After the end of the Banner Blue and Blue Bird runs in the late 60s, with the 2/25/70 TT change the N&W ran trains # 124-125 The City Of Decatur. #124 left DEC at 645a making Monticello at 713am,Gibson City at 748am,Forrest at 810am,Oak Lawn at 932am,Englewood at 946am arriving CHI-DB STA at 1005am. #125 left DB STA-CHI at 525pm,Englewood at 539p,Oak Lawn at 549pm,Forrest at 713pm,Gibson City at 735pm,Monticello at 808pm arriving Decatur at 845pm. This train ran up until Amtrak in 1971.
I remember that the N&W commuter equipment was serviced in Decatur-Friday Night South and Monday morning North. Was this discontinued with the RTA takeover of the line? Where were the NW/RTA trains serviced?

Another thing that came to my mind was the NW bridge over 79/Kedzie. When was the direct fixation steel deck replaced with wood ties and ballast? It happened sometime between the Late 80s and 2000. I remember being under there when the trains would "BOOM OVER" when higher speed freights were run around Landers Yard,you can clearly hear the bridge's roar a couple of blocks away. I hope this history helps and thanks for the answers in advance - MACTRAXX