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 railohio
I've got a weekday afternoon to kill in suburban Chicago in March and was wondering what traffic to expect on the Metra Milwaukee District North Line. I'll be arriving downtown on the South Shore in downtown about 10:30a and will have the afternoon and early evening to spend railfanning wherever I can get to by Metra or on foot. I am meeting a friend in Fox Lake late that evening so I thought I'd try the Milwaukee North line for railfanning the afternoon. My original thought was to head out to Hinsdale or Highland on the BNSF Line but given the amount of wasted getting to Union Station and waiting on connecting trains I thought it would be prudent to explore some other options first. What freight traffic can be expected on this line on a Friday afternoon? I know the freight traffic splits for Bensenville at Techny so I plan to be north of there. What are the best stations for photography along the line? Any other suggestions for railfanning this line? Any help would be much appreciated!

  by Metra 47 607
Hi railohio Northbrook, Lake-Cook Rd, Deerfield and Lake forest are all good places to watch trains. If you get off in Northbrook you could walk to Techny Jct. its almost a haif mile and there is a public park on the east side of the main line so tresspassing is not an issue there. Lake-cook rd is ok but not very photogenic Deerfield is nice the tracks are elevated at the station but a few blocks north of the station the main line is at grade level and its a nice place to photograph and there is a bublic street along side the main. Lake forest is the best in my opinion photography is good at the grade crossing north of the station or there is a nice spot south of the station across everett rd by the fire station there is a commuter parking lot and there is a small hill on the west side of the main. Freight traffic should be pretty good on a friday afternoon and the westbound Builder passes Northbrook about 2:41 pm if its ontime and the eastbound around 3:00. I hope you have alot of fun and luck catching trains.

  by meh
Besides everything mentioned above are the 14 daily Hiawathas. They often have a converted F40 "cabbage"/NPCU on the south (railroad east) end, which somewhat gives you a chance to see Amtrak still running F40s. On a good day you can come very close to catching a 7/8 meet (around 14:50) and a 337/338 meet (around 15:50) at Deerfield. Likewise, all of the midday Metra trains are scheduled to meet hourly at Deerfield at x:26. Once the evening rush hour starts, about every other outbound Metra train turns short at the "West Deerfield" crossovers (MP 24.5, between the Hazel and Greenwood grade crossings, and paralleled by Chestnut Ave. on the west and Park Ave. on the east). The trains continue until just north of Greenwood Ave. and wait there while the engineer switches ends, conducts a brake test, and calls the CP dispatcher (AAR channel 44) in Minnesota for permission to go east. This can also provide the rare chance to hear Amtrak and Metra horns in this usually whistle-ban territory since they often will sound the horns when passing the train stopped on the mainline.

You can see some of the Milwaukee North line locales in my photos. Many of those photos and videos are taken from the Deerfield station, while others are at Glenview, North Glenview, and at MP 25.5 (1.5 miles north of Deerfield station) where the mainline parallels Waukegan Road.

One other popular spot is Rondout, where Metra diverges on the single track Fox Lake sub and the CP C&M (Chicago and Milwaukee) sub continues north (railroad west) toward Milwaukee. (There is no longer a passenger station at Rondout, however, so it would not be accessible if you are depending on Metra for transportation.) There is still a manned tower at Rondout, and a pedestrian/bicycle bridge crosses the mainline where the North Shore Mundelein branch once ran. I have heard varoius things about how welcome railfans are at Rondout.

You might consider using a "stopover" if you are riding on to Fox Lake later. You can tell the conductor as you get your ticket punched that you are stopping over at an intermediate station and he/she will punch it appropriately. (A zone A to zone J ticket costs less than, e.g. an A-E ticket plus an E-J ticket.) You'll want to double-check whether a stopover requires you to ride the next train or allows you to linger for more than an hour.

Finally, one other possibility you could consider is that on weekdays, it is possible to connect between the North Central (Antioch) trains and the Milwaukee North (Fox Lake) trains at the adjacent Prairie Crossing stations serving both lines. CN (former WC) freights run on the Antioch line. You could, for example, depart Union Station and go to Prairie Crossing, then ride Milwaukee North back to one of the mainline stations.