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 train2
I have some interest in photographing the Metra Electic/SS and parallel CN from some of the stations along the Metra Electric. Is that a realistic option? How are fans at those stations currently treated? I would hope the platforms are accessible without tickets?

Are there any stations better or worse that others? I have a lot of interest in the freight operations so I will repeat the question for stations with good or bad views of the CN. Of particular interest is trying to avoid clutter between the two lines.

I have seen a number of photos taken at Kennsington where the SS diverges? That is on the list. Do these stations tend to fill up parking wise on weekday?

Specific to Metra: I assume each train takes a ticket? Are there day passes that would allow one to ride station to station and hope off shoot and move on?

Specific to CN are there any certain location that have more or less traffic than other locations? And would anyone have any suggestions for shooting the CN in the general area even if it is outside of the Electric zone?

  by justalurker66
Metra has a weekend pass where one can hop on/hop off.
http://metrarail.com/metra/en/home/tickets.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I've gone out on weekends ... but have not ridden Metra. I didn't spend a lot of time at the stations I stopped at.

There is not a lot of parking ... during weekdays you'll have commuters filling the lots. I have not paid much attention to the freights ... I have managed to catch an Amtrak or two (dumb luck) and some South Shore trains (good planning). It is the big city and MED-CN runs through a rough part of it - so stay aware of your surroundings.
  by CHTT1
The pass is only for weekends/holidays. There's no weekday pass.

Homewood is a good place to shoot Metra Electric, Amtrak, CN. There's a railfan platform on the east side of the tracks, just south of the station. No ticket is required to be on the Metra or Amtrak platforms. The Homewood police know about railfans, so there shouldn't be any hassle as along as you don't tresspass or endanger yourself.

There's also a new railfan platform just east of the Matteson station that allows an overview of the new connection between the old IC and the old EJ&E.
  by EricL
Hyde Park is also a decent neighborhood. MED is four tracks up that way, so I'm sure there's a lot of action during rush hour.

Kensington is probably the most important place on the railroad, but it's in a terrible area. Proceed with caution.

As far as the CN/IC, well, I can't tell you anything about timing (there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it), but aside from the road freights and Markham Yard, there are also a few foreign RR transfer jobs that can be regularly found working along the line. There is a South Shore Freight job ("the Shore") that can be seen hanging around just north of Kensington, and a CSXT job out of Barr Yard ("the B&O") that can often be spotted somewhere around their interchange, which is located north of the Calumet River bridge.
  by JLJ061
Kensington is the most active place to view all three lines, but the South Shore no longer stops there.

It is also VERY advisable to stay on the platform and only hang out there during daylight hours; Parking there is a bad idea.
  by justalurker66
JLJ061 wrote:Kensington is the most active place to view all three lines, but the South Shore no longer stops there.

It is also VERY advisable to stay on the platform and only hang out there during daylight hours; Parking there is a bad idea.
In a way I was glad when NICTD stopped stopping ... it made the station "less important" to document. I probably have enough pictures of Kensington as an interlocking for the rest of my life. (As long as they don't change anything.) I've used the street parking at the station ... but I've never left my car there. While I never had the misfortune to run in to any bad actors in the station or on the platform (just normal folks trying to catch a train) the uneasy feeling was hard to shake that someday I might take a picture of someone breaking in to my car from the platform.

I usually drive past Kensington when hunting on the South Shore but I have not found a reason to go up on the platform since the bypass opened and the trains stopped stopping. And when I stopped I got to explain to the locals that the South Shore didn't stop there any more. (Some of those normal folks trying to catch a train seemed to be confused by their surroundings. I met one who missed the train to Gary because he didn't realize which way was the way east on a north/south line. He literally watched his train arrive and leave from the platform then tried to board a westbound. Kind of sad.)

There have been times where I checked the City of Chicago's crime statistics website and found a mugging or car break in within sight of the station within an hour or less of when I was there. That is why I noted above to be aware - it is a bad part of the big city.

The Hyde Park area seemed fine ... but with CN backing off on rail traffic through the city I would not expect to see much there. The stations south of Kensington with dedicated rail fan facilities sound like a winner.