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 Gilbert B Norman
The BNSF service disruptions are the lead story on NBC 5PM Local News this evening.
  by MetraBNSF
MetraBNSF wrote:Based on media reports and anecdotal evidence, it appears the first day of BNSF service under the revised schedule did not go well. Particularly the morning rush hour where many trains seemed to be short a car and passengers were literally packed in like sardines. I don't really get to see the morning rush, but I was able to observe the afternoon rush in bits and pieces from CUS and in the west suburbs. These are some of my observations. It is important to note that what happens on the first day will not necessarily be what is expected moving forward and much can still be tweaked.

First, cab car 8518 which is normally assigned to the Milwaukee District is on BNSF and is operating as a control car. It is also a rehabbed car. This may explain why 8608 is on the Milwaukee.

At CUS, there are definitely track assignment changes. I was able to take a look at the monitors for trains leaving CUS between 4:25 and 5:15 and there are notable changes.

1249, a local train to Fairview Ave departed from track 2.
1251, the new Naperville/Route 59/Aurora express retains its track 12 assignment.
1253, the new Downers Grove/Belmont/Lisle express boarded from track 6.
1257, a reassigned Lisle/Naperville/Aurora express boarded from track 12.
1259, a reassigned Downers Grove/Belmont/Route 59 express boarded from track 2.

Observed consists:
1249 8 cars. Upon termination at Fairview, this train deadheads back to CUS and becomes train 1283, a reassigned Lisle/Naperville/Aurora express.
1251 Did not see this particular consist, but assuming it remains a 10 car consist.
1253 8 cars. Upon termination at Lisle, this train deadheads back to CUS and becomes train 1373, a reassigned Downers Grove/Belmont/Route 59 express.
1255 7 cars.
1257 9 cars.
1259 11 cars. This train still appeared to be very crowded with Route 59 passengers even after DG and Lisle passengers got off.
1267 11 cars.
1269 9 cars. Although the stopping pattern of this train changed (Downers Grove/Belmont/Route 59), it retained the same number of cars. This train also still appeared to be very crowded with Route 59 passengers even after DG and Lisle passengers got off.
1277 10 cars. No change in consist and stops.
1279 7 cars. No change in consist and stops.

Next goal is to see the CUS track assignments from 5:15-7:03 PM.
Continuing from my post on Monday:

1267 and 1269 actually swapped sets on Tuesday.
1267 (Lisle/Naperville/Aurora express) used a 9 car set. Boards from track 12.
1269 (DG/Belmont/59 express) used a 11 car set. Boards from track 2.

1271 (Hinsdale express) is actually now a 6 car train. It used to be 7 cars.

Other observations:
1247 and 1251 swapped sets. 1247 is now 10 cars, up from 9. 1251 is 9 cars, down from 10.
1253, when it used to be a local train was 6 cars. Since it has become a DG express that makes two runs, it is now 8 cars, as mentioned back on Monday. So, 2 cars definitely came from somewhere for this set.
1255 is now a 7 car train. It used to be 8 cars. This run also used to be a La Grange express that terminated at Fairview, deadheaded back east, then became train 1373.
1277 (unchanged Naperville/59 express) remains the final set out of 14th St and also runs with two locomotives.

1279 (unchanged DG/Belmont/Lisle/Aurora express). This train goes out as train 1245 at 4:02 PM, flips at Fairview and now becomes train 1278, which makes a stop at La Grange at 5:19 PM. From there, it arrives at CUS at 5:38 PM and has 12 minutes to flip for its run back out.

Can't remember the exact number, but there are 18 or 19 sets used.

4 - 6 car sets
5- 7 car sets
2 - 8 car sets
3 - 9 car sets
2- 10 car sets (at least one, possibly both sets have control cars 6-7 cars back)
3 - 11 car sets (2 of these sets have control cars 6-7 cars back)
  by doepack
Metra's Steve Palmer to the Daily Herald: "We dropped the ball..."

But anyone who's been paying attention knows that the real problem is that Metra simply needs more cars, crystallized by this week's problems on the Burington. See, taking cars off one set and adding it to another plus other schedule tweaks only goes so far, and just moves the overcrowding elsewhere. And eventually, Peter is gonna get tired of being robbed to pay Paul.

Now, for the tough, and to date, unanswerable questions: Exactly where are more cars gonna come from? And with what money? Taking a look at two agencies off the top of my head that roster Metra-style gallery bilevels, one option already utilized was VRE; which was used as a source to bring back some of the old CNW cars, but that's pretty much dried up. Then you've got Caltrain, which is embarking on an ambitious electrification project that could render some (or all) of their gallery cars surplus at some point. However, nobody knows when, and indeed, their availability could take years depending on how quickly Caltrain gets the wires up and running. So... what else is there? Unless there are other options at work that someone else can fill us in on, I'm only aware that as of now, all Metra can do is punt, hope for the best, and keep the damage control hat on standby.

Oh, and I'd tell Peter to get a big, mean dog to stave off Paul. It can't hurt...
  by MetraBNSF
Some track changes were implemented on Tuesday for the evening commute. Looking at 1251 and 1253, I don’t think that relieves platform congestion. Instead it increases the possibility of somebody boarding the wrong train? If anything, it reduces congestion at the bottom of the escalators near tracks 10 and 12.
In an effort to relieve platform congestion at Chicago Union Station, the following BNSF track changes will be implemented beginning with this evening's commute:
4:02pm (1245) – Track 4
4:25pm (1249) – Track 10
4:38pm (1251) – Track 2
4:42pm (1253) –Track 4
4:50pm (1255) –Track 6
  by MetraBNSF
A couple of notable consist changes in the afternoon that were not seen last week:

1253/1373 went to 7 from 8 cars.
1255 went to 8 from 7 cars.
  by Gilbert B Norman
Latest "METRAese" is "your train is delayed 7-15 minutes due to Positive Train Control Issues."
  by doepack
MetraBNSF wrote: Can't remember the exact number, but there are 18 or 19 sets used.

4 - 6 car sets
5- 7 car sets
2 - 8 car sets
3 - 9 car sets
2- 10 car sets (at least one, possibly both sets have control cars 6-7 cars back)
3 - 11 car sets (2 of these sets have control cars 6-7 cars back)
My notes from a recent railfan visit say that BNSF uses 19 sets, same count as a previous visit from a few years ago. Per your breakdown, if 1243 still runs with 11 cars and makes the cut to 7 for 1288 at Aurora (which I didn't observe but assume to still be the case), then I'd count that equipment as one of the three 11 car sets, while subtracting it from the 7-car pool; bringing that total to four. Also, I counted five 6-car sets; otherwise, our set breakdowns were the same...
  by MetraBNSF
1267 went down from 9 to 8 cars. It’s unknown if a car was taken out of service or if a car came from that set and went somewhere else.
  by Engineer Spike
This schedule seems stupid. I’m my time the expresses seemed to do Fairview-Lisle, while others did Naperville-59, and Aurora. I may have forgotten about ones doing Hinsdale, Clarendon Hills, Westmont, so I’ll have to consult my old ETT.

I’ve been gone from BN for almost 20 years, but have experience with PTC. Some of the schedule may have had to have been changed because of PTC. I’ve noticed that it seems to get nervous about the engineer diving into slowdowns. On my present run, there are a couple of descending grades, and they lead to lower speeds. The PCT starts warning me with a countdown to penalty much sooner than my normal braking point. Maybe the system is factoring less than ideal conditions, such as snow. Although I work freight, some aspects are similar to passenger. I run exclusively a certain unit train. The equipment is the same every trip. This is the same as the same fixed passenger consists.
  by MetraBNSF
It’s been 13 months since the BNSF schedule was first revised to account for PTC and also other schedule changes were made. Another revision was made back in June to add two new weekday rush hour trains and several new weekend trains. Over the past few weeks I’ve had a chance to observe some of the afternoon runs and there’s a few observations:

1243 has seen cars added in recent years. It was once 9, then 10, then 11 cars. It is now down to 10 cars.
1251 in its current format was upped from 10 to 11 cars back in March.
1271 went from 7 to 6 cars.
1279 also went down from 7 to 6 cars.

It took some time and it is evident that certain runs were fine tuned to ensure the proper number of cars matches the demand.
  by Engineer Spike
I can shed light on some of the questions. First PTC really slows down the trains. On the PTC screen there is a track diagram. There are two lines which represent the warning distance, and the stopping distance. These run out ahead of the train’s location on the map. The distance ahead is based on track gradient, curvature, equipment stopping distance, weight, and even number of brakes. The two distances are reduced by throttle reduction and braking. The problem is that an engineer can no longer dive into a crossover or speed change. If the braking rate is too close to the next lower target speed, then a warning goes off, and gives so many seconds until a penalty application. Take a day with less than optimal braking conditions, and POW penalty! Even though I work freight theses days, my run is with a dedicated set of cars. I find that my braking points are much further away than before PTC.

There was a question about setting up PTC. It would have to be separately set up each time on the engine and cab car. It is a pain. On local jobs this also needs to be done at the job’s turning point. It’s not too bad. Ten engineer’s employee number and PIN have to be entered, as well as the bulletin number. This is because specific restrictions placed on a particular movement are enforced. The consist must also be entered sometimes. Other times it is automatic. The weight, amount of power, brakes, and weight dictate the speed curves.
  by Jeff Smith
Mr. Norman, go back to your original post, and see how I added the [media][/media] bbCode. That's thanks to Mr. Primrose.
  by ExCon90
Back in the day the turnaround times at Randolph St. on the IC were so short that there wasn't time for the engineer/motorman of an arriving train to walk the length of the platform to the other end of the train, leading to the practice of "stepping back"; i.e., the equipment would be moved out by the engineer of the preceding train, who would be ready and waiting to board the south end as soon as the train stopped, and so on through the rush hour. Has the PTC ritual had the same effect as on BNSF, and did the Metra Electric schedule also have to be recast?
  by justalurker66
ExCon90 wrote: Fri Dec 25, 2020 10:32 pmHas the PTC ritual had the same effect as on BNSF, and did the Metra Electric schedule also have to be recast?
Metra changed the MED schedules for PTC. I'm not sure how that affects the dead head moves to 11th St. Restarting PTC when changing ends for a new run is required. Before PTC the track north of 11th St was unsignaled but CTC signals were added at 11th St and Van Buren St station when PTC upgrades were installed.