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: metraRI, JamesT4

  by doepack
 
I doubt if it's ever been seriously considered, but busy routes like BNSF could really use another facility to store trains. I thought I read something somewhere that if the Plano/Oswego extension ever comes online, a small yard would be built there, but Metra & BNSF would be better off choosing DG as the location for it, IMO. Because it's a little closer in, storing a few sets here would allow for more local service between CUS & DG, while offering more express service in both directions throughout the day to DG and points west, and would also result in turning most, if not all of those afternoon DG-CUS "flips" into revenue trips.

And speaking of yards, among the future improvements to UP/NW are new yards at Woodstock & Johnsburg. Woodstock is to replace the Crystal Lake facility, and Johnsburg will replace McHenry. Which probably means the Harvard-based sets will move to Woodstock as well, but I hope they don't close Barrington, I would think that should be retained for local service at least. And I also wonder if they really needed to move everything to Elburn on UP/W, because there's still one rush hour train that originates & terminates in West Chicago. Basically, my point is, how high do fuel prices have to get before Metra begins to consider reducing deadhead mileage on some routes?
  by eolesen
 
Apparently the 10+ year old idea to move Crystal Lake to Woodstock is getting some attention from at least one person in Congress...

https://www.rtands.com/passenger/congre ... -yard-move

Metra has already acquired some of the land at a 40+ acre site west of Lamb Road and north of the current mainline.

https://www.google.com/maps/@42.3367479 ... a=!3m1!1e3

Looking at the site, they could easily house 10 trainsets, which as Dorian said a decade ago would absorb everything currently stored at either Crystal Lake or Harvard.

The bigger question I have is what advantage there is in closing the Crystal Lake storage. It's a sunk cost, and housing density past Crystal Lake hasn't really exploded in the past ten years.

Woodstock has had the same pattern of service since I looked at moving there in 2009, which hadn't really changed since 1971....
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Eastbound from Woodstock, Weekday Mornings
1971   T608:0602  T620:0638  T634:0723  T642:0754      T650:1053
2014   T610:0600  T620:0638  T630:0723  T636:0748  T640:0948
Service hasn't increased in 50 years, aside from moving one departure an hour earlier. Ridership is trending down pre-COVID. Figure in the loss of downtown traffic due to remote work, and I'd imagine the business case for increasing service west of Crystal Lake gets worse.

Perhaps some people are already driving the extra ten minutes east to Crystal Lake due to the higher pattern of service, but they show a similar trend of decline over 50 years. Comparing to Elburn and La Fox, ridership at those points remained flat thru 2018.
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Woodstock
Year     Boardings
1979	342
1983	166
1985	183
1987	308
1989	289
1991	327
1993	365
1995	357
1997	314
1999	349
2002	415
2006	456
2014	437
2016	317
2018	273
  by doepack
 
Crazy to think about, but service levels along the far flung outposts of Crystal Lake, Woodstock, and Harvard have been relatively static for at least 60 years, according to an CNW 1961 Harvard line commuter schedule. It showed a little more service on the McHenry branch due to Lake Geneva (including a Sunday round trip to/from Chicago), but that wouldn't last much longer. Pretty much frozen in time otherwise.

Current demographics do seem to favor the status quo. But if they go forward with it, perhaps a couple of storage tracks could be kept at Crystal Lake, and/or downgrade it to some kind of base for MOW operations.

Or they could skip the Woodstock part of the plan, and just build out Johnsburg. Move the McHenry sets there, and call it a day...
  by eolesen
 
Johnsburg does makes some sense -- there's a lot of housing that's gone up between Genoa City and Lake Geneva in balanced-budget Wisconsin, where you seem to get a bit more for your money. I know several people who ditched Illinois for Walworth and western Kenosha County.

A Big Timber style station a few miles up Route 31 and before IL-20 might get a few more people to hop on board. I'm sure Fox Lake gets some of that traffic currently, but US-12 is a lot more congested than IL-31...
  by west point
 
Number of trains is not as important as the total capacity of those trains that ran previously capacity and present capacity.
  by eolesen
 
Capacity hasn't really changed since the bi-levels were delivered in the 60's... Regardless if it's Pullman, Budd, Amerail or Nippon-Sharyo, they all seat around 150 per car, and train lengths have always been between 4-11 cars depending on assignment on the CNW/UP.

When trains used to originate at Des Plaines, they'd run 4-5 car sets into the city because it was a 17 mile run. Everything I've seen originating from Barrington (31 miles) and west has been 8-11 cars on expresses, 5-6 cars for locals, and usually 9 cars on the weekends. That hasn't changed much over time.
  by MetraBNSF
 
doepack wrote: Thu Jun 10, 2010 4:06 pm I doubt if it's ever been seriously considered, but busy routes like BNSF could really use another facility to store trains. I thought I read something somewhere that if the Plano/Oswego extension ever comes online, a small yard would be built there, but Metra & BNSF would be better off choosing DG as the location for it, IMO. Because it's a little closer in, storing a few sets here would allow for more local service between CUS & DG, while offering more express service in both directions throughout the day to DG and points west, and would also result in turning most, if not all of those afternoon DG-CUS "flips" into revenue trips.
Was actually thinking about DG earlier today but not in the commuter sense. Not to shift too far off topic, and maybe this had been discussed years ago. Since the completion of the Belmont Road underpass and the removal of the main track crossovers, eastbound freight trains that are held out of Cicero sometimes idle on main tracks just west of an intermediate signal located in the vicinity of the DG MOW area. Generally the center track. Before the grade separation the farthest east that freight trains would idle would be just west of Belmont station. Since the grade separation idling freight trains in the vicinity of DG just west of the downtown area is fairly common. Some crew changes take place in DG. A small crew office could be put there.

Going back on topic, having a small storage yard in DG could make sense from a local train standpoint. For years pre-COVID the line is basically broken up into 2 uneven parts. CUS to Fairview and then DG to Aurora in which trains run express to/from CUS and DG. Really do not see Naperville express trains coming back soon, at least while ridership is down and people continue to work remotely. In the past particularly on Cub afternoon game days some local trains become expresses in DG. An extra set of equipment is sent out to cover stations from Fairview to CUS. In that particular scenario this is where it makes sense to have a set or two in DG. The area that was once the DG yard could reasonably support a couple of storage tracks while being able to cater to both commuter and freight crews.