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 lstone19
 
I'm surprised there's been no posts about last night's issues. Much of it was weather related but the Milw District/NCS PM commute was messed up even before that. Apparently an interlocking problem at A-3 (east end of Western Ave. yard) made a mess of things. I was on 2239. At CUS, lots of people waiting for late equipment. Then coming out Track 3. Approaching A-2, there were two trains tail to nose waiting on Track 1 to get across. Trip out was slow - it appears we were riding yellows most of the way. Getting off at Roselle 17 minutes late, I could see Approach at Roselle West and to the east, the headlight of 2241 wating for us to get out of the way.
Then the weather hit. Alerts that had an eastbound stopped at Medinah and a westbound at Itasca due to "track obstruction" implied a tree down in between. Meanwhile, media reports had a northbound UP-NW train stopped for five hours due to power lines down across the tracks before it returned to Chicago (why it couldn't return sooner was not clear).
This morning, we were warned of delays due to continuing problems at Western Ave. (I assume last night's problem continuing). We went right through with no delay but we were on Track 3 so if the problem was A-3 and not A-2, it wouldn't have affected us (A-3 is only an interlocking for Tracks 1 and 2; on the other hand, I was on 2220 which normally runs Track 2 all the way so crossing from 2 to 3 on the west leg at A-5 was unusual and perhaps was due to the problem).
  by lstone19
 
A bit of a mess at CUS-N this evening due to what appeared to be a failed switch knocking mainline track 3 out of the picture. Arrived about 1710 to find lots of trains listed as Delayed including my planned 1723 MD-W train. I glanced over at station Track 3 and saw the 1705 train still there although off the board. Ran over and found the conductor had nicely left the last car open while waiting for the lineup so hopped on. Once on, I looked around and saw nothing else in CUS-N except the 1708 Hiawatha over on Track 17. Eventually a couple of trains arrived (including my 1723) and we departed. Track 2 inbound was wall-to-wall trains waiting to get in (of course our move out of Station 3 to ML 1 crossed everything while the normal move to ML 3 conflicts with almost nothing so those moves added to the delays). Only about 10 minutes late with the 1705 so actually home ten minutes earlier than normal.
  by lstone19
 
Last night (7/28) on the CUS-N side seemed to be a repeat of my 7/19 post. Came down to find lots of flashing red "Delayed" on the board, again planning the 5:23 athough when I received an e-mail alert about 4:45, decided to bug out a few minutes early and see what was happening. This time, the 5:05 was still on the board except on Track 7 instead of its normal 3. Hopped on along with a co-worker and again found we and the 5:08 Hiawatha was the only train in the station. Pulled about 5:07 only to go in emergency half-way down the platform. Reset and we were off, pacing the Hiawatha coming off 17 but heading for Track 1 rather than the normal 3. Figured they'd send the Hiawatha ahead of us since he doesn't stop at Western Ave. but they must have already had us lined up as we went first. Once again, 2 was line with trains tail to nose trying to get into the station.

At least a good run today!
  by byte
 
An interesting development on the south side which may affect the SouthWest Service:

There's been a rumor going around since CN purchased the EJ&E that the northernmost segment of the GTW Elsdon sub between Blue Island and Hayford would be sold off or otherwise rendered redundant and disposed of in some way. Well, I just heard from a reliable source that the deal is close to done and the sale will go through soon. The GTW there, for those not familiar with it, is a largely double-track (w/ jointed rail!) mainline which used to see some pretty fast traffic (lots of autoracks from Detroit), although track and signal maintenance started dropping off when CN "inherited" the IC management team upon its takeover of that road. Now it's rated for 40 mph tops (with various speed restrictions due to maintenance issues) and only sees 5 or so trains a day.

CSX plans on upping that count of trains to around 25 or so, and will be pulling traffic off of its B&OCT trackage immediately to the east of the ex-GTW. The basic reasoning for this sale is that the GTW line provides a direct shot onto the BRC for CSX traffic, whereas trains on the B&OCT have to take a longer, less direct and more time-consuming route to get onto the Belt. A connection is being built in Blue Island (as part of CREATE) to give B&OCT trains a path onto the GTW, and I suspect infrastructure upgrades along the route itself will follow once the sale is complete.

What this means to the SWS, of course, is that there will be more freight traffic for Metra to contend with at the 83rd street crossing of the SWS and GTW. Delays have always been somewhat common at this crossing, but never really got any worse over the past ~10 years or so due to the number of Metra trains going up while traffic on the GTW shrunk. When the GTW gets busy again, it will be interesting to see how it affects Metra service.
  by MACTRAXX
 
Byte: Interesting news about the status of the former GTW line from Hayford south...

I am very familiar with this line-and the SWS line because both Hayford Crossing and Ashburn Station on the SWS
are both less then one mile from the location that my relatives once lived (near 78/Kedzie) and I remember both
places well from my 1973-1988 "visiting days" in SW Chicago...

I noticed that the former GTW line was single tracked thru Hayford on a September 2000 visit I made and I also
rode the SWS to Ashburn so I could see both Wrightwood and Ashburn Stations...

I remember best Ashburn Crossing from the angular crossing diamonds and the noise trains made crossing them-
like the fast GTW trains especially...

It is good to see that the former GTW line will go to good use - the problem being the crossing at Ashburn
and METRA operating more SWS trains...

MACTRAXX
  by doepack
 
byte wrote:CSX plans on upping that count of trains to around 25 or so, and will be pulling traffic off of its B&OCT trackage immediately to the east of the ex-GTW. The basic reasoning for this sale is that the GTW line provides a direct shot onto the BRC for CSX traffic, whereas trains on the B&OCT have to take a longer, less direct and more time-consuming route to get onto the Belt. A connection is being built in Blue Island (as part of CREATE) to give B&OCT trains a path onto the GTW, and I suspect infrastructure upgrades along the route itself will follow once the sale is complete.
If this goes through, this would mean CSX would have access to both ends of Clearing yard, with the new ex-GTW connection via Hayford jct. on the east, plus its current connection at Argo on the west end, off the joint line with IHB. Combined with the new connection at Blue Island, this will do wonders for CSX's operational flexibility...
byte wrote:What this means to the SWS, of course, is that there will be more freight traffic for Metra to contend with at the 83rd street crossing of the SWS and GTW. Delays have always been somewhat common at this crossing, but never really got any worse over the past ~10 years or so due to the number of Metra trains going up while traffic on the GTW shrunk. When the GTW gets busy again, it will be interesting to see how it affects Metra service.
I'll have to check my notes to make sure, but I think the current Metra-CN crossing at Ashburn is an automatic interlocking. To protect the commuter side, this may have to become a manual plant under Metra operation in the future if CSX beefs up freight traffic here as expected...
  by byte
 
When traffic on the GTW was heavier, northbound trains would hold at the wayside signal at 103rd street until it was clear to cross the SWS. This was done so trains wouldn't cut Evergreen Park in half. I remember crewmembers getting off and walking over to the 7-11 at 103rd/Kedzie to grab a snack. By stopping there they contained the entire length of the train between 103rd and 111th, a mile-long stretch with no grade crossings. Occasionally you still see this, but it's much rarer now that traffic on the GTW is minimal. Around when the SWS had all its new trains added maybe 5 years ago, another wayside signal was added at 99th for northbound GTW trains. Although I'm sure it had something to do with getting trains through 83rd, I'm not sure if it's permissive or absolute, or what aspects it can display. I've never seen a train stopped there, though.

I've also been told that southbound trains on the GTW don't even get a preferential lineup through Blue Island anymore (even though I think that's still a CN-controlled tower), and that the slow speed of southbound trains is partially due to the unfavorable signal indications which are displayed - by default - to all southbound GTW traffic.

One wonders that if CSX had purchased this segment of trackage 10 years ago, that a CREATE-sponsored flyover at 83rd might have been planned.
  by MACTRAXX
 
Byte(David): I looked at Google Earth after reading your thought of a flyover overpass at Ashburn Crossing
and I thought of a elevated or embankment section of the SWS between the Ashburn Crossing location at 83/Central Park
and the 87/Pulaski intersection in which the SWS line crosses that intersection diagonally...
The line from Wrightwood could gradually climb in elevation to an overpass at the Crossing...

That would eliminate crossings and allow some roads to be open to pass under the SWS...

The trouble would be where to place a temporary track alongside the new construction...
I thought since SW Highway parallels the SWS that more land may be available to allow this but I
noticed how close some buildings are in between both between those points...
Rumsey Avenue S of 85th Street paralleling SWS could help between there and 87/Pulaski...

Another problem with building a flyover for the North/South GTW/CN line would be the residential properties
that are close to the crossing itself-the median strip N of the crossing along Central Park Avenue would
be good but from Ashburn Crossing on S little room if any is there to allow this...

The trick here would be to not to have to take any residential properties through buyout or
an "eminent domain" condemnation which may be tough at this location...

MACTRAXX
  by lstone19
 
Looks like Track 5 is OOS for tonight's commute at Union Station. Metra has a bunch of "one night only" track changes posted on the website with various moves that result in nothing operating off 5 (curiously, one of the changes they posted moves 2235 (which I take about once a week) from its normal track 3 to track 3 (sic).
  by lstone19
 
Fun on the Milwaukee West this morning. The Rohlwing Road grade crossing is closed to road traffic for rebuiling but from what I believe I heard, apparently all those full width of the road barriers couldn't dissuade some idiot from trying to cross there who ended up hung up on the westbound track. As soon as I saw the alert saying 2201 was stopped, I knew my commute on 2220 was in trouble (it comes from a CUS deadhead behind 2201 and 2203) so hurried over hoping they'd have 2216 or 2218 make extra stops but no such luck. Not fun standing there knowing all ten equipments sets for your line are now east of you.
They finally got it cleared. 2201 discharged all at Medinah (about 1:15 late) and then ran express to Elgin and turned there to 2222 annulling Elgin-Big Timber-Elgin (announcements said they were busing to/from Big Timber). 2203 smartly came up behind him on the Stop and Proceed (all of this visible from the platform at Roselle), picked up all, and proceeded. Our deadhead for 2220 then came right behind him. By the time he turned out at Roselle West, 2205 had already come and gone at Roselle (drifting slowly down to Roselle West waiting for 2220 to cross over and head towards us. Finally on the way 30 late so we were getting a lot 2226's load as well. After Franklin Park, we made discharge only stops due to 2224 (Franklin Park originator) which picks up the local passengers from 2220 and 2222 having been sent in on-time. Waiting for a freight to cross over in front of us at Galewood (presumably off the BRC) was the final insult.
The humerous: outbound automated announcements were messed up. As 2205 stopped, "Attention passengers: an outbound train will arrive in approximately zero minutes" (that got quite a few chukles from the waiting 2220 passengers). By the time that finished, 2205 was moving which didn't stop the system from making the "now arriving" announcement not twice (as is normal) but six times (there had been no announcements for the expressing 2201 or 2203 so I guess it was catching up).
The poorly done: announcements were hard to understand and not totally reflective of reality. 2220 was not mentioned at all until very late in the process. I think whoever was deciding what to announce was looking at the delays at Elgin and missed our poor little Roselle originator. Whem announcing that 2201 would run express from Medinah to Elgin, it was also announced that Big Timber passengers would be bussed from Medinah. But I think (but am not sure) that Elgin and Big Timber passengers remained on board and the bussing was from Elgin (it really wouldn't make sense to have the Elgin passengers wait for 2203 when 2201 was still going to stop at Elgin as it turned to 2222 and picked up those passengers). And, the announce kept referring to Elgin as Chicago Street. Yes, that's where the station is but that's not what Metra publicly calls the station.
Anyway, I got to work 30 minutes late so following my boss's saying, I'll just have to leave 30 minutes early to make up for it. :-)
  by lstone19
 
CN derailed a train on Spaulding this morning killing the MD-W. Only two of ten train sets were east of it at the time time so very limited service Bartlett to/from CUS-N. I was on the first extra boarding at Roselle (basically starting out on something close to 2216's schedule) but with long station stops until we filled (no stops after Wood Dale except River Grove to discharge local passengers) and arrived at 2222's time.
Metra is running every two hours CUS-Bartlett for now. No idea how the afternoon will go. Metra is saying they do not anticipate normal service until at least tomorrow. I don't think there's any easy way to get the other train sets east.
To add to the craziness, after River Grove, we passed an inbound local (I assume an NCS train) running inbound on Track 1. Then they held us outside Galewood so its passengers could cross over to board, then send him 1 to 3 at Galewood and then send us 3 to 2.
  by lstone19
 
It looks like Metra has four train sets for this afternoon: the two that are east of the derailment, one clearly stolen from MD-N since they have a train cancelled this afternoon, and I'm guessing they cobbled together a fourth from the spares lying about. About half-service for the PM rush, then planning the normal schedule Bartlett and east from 6:15p on. No information yet on Friday's plans.
From pictures on the Tribune's website (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nati ... otogallery), it's not pretty. CN cars are bunched up accordion-style at 90 degrees to their track on the diamonds. You can see some Metra track ripped up. But it looks like the interlocking control cabins are untouched (but not by much).
  by metraRI
 
lstone19 wrote:It looks like Metra has four train sets for this afternoon: the two that are east of the derailment, one clearly stolen from MD-N since they have a train cancelled this afternoon, and I'm guessing they cobbled together a fourth from the spares lying about. About half-service for the PM rush, then planning the normal schedule Bartlett and east from 6:15p on. No information yet on Friday's plans.
From pictures on the Tribune's website (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nati ... otogallery), it's not pretty. CN cars are bunched up accordion-style at 90 degrees to their track on the diamonds. You can see some Metra track ripped up. But it looks like the interlocking control cabins are untouched (but not by much).
The 4th set most likely came off NCS, from cancelled #111. Curious where Metra will store the 4 sets over night.
  by lstone19
 
metraRI wrote: The 4th set most likely came off NCS, from cancelled #111. Curious where Metra will store the 4 sets over night.
I saw that was cancelled as well when I was in CUS heading home. 2239 (5:23) was augmented to an F40, MP36 (both clearly working), and 10 cars. I was in the fourth car and it was maybe 1/3 full. Demerits to the crew for almost no announcements (including no automated announcements). How about a reassurance announcement so that people know they are on the right train? And since 10 cars does not fit until Schaumburg, how about announcements as to which cars are not opening. They clearly moved some cars around today to build the longer sets - AFAIK, the regular MD-W 10-car was in Elgin all day.

As for where they will store the trains, I'm guessing on the mains west of Bartlett. With Spaulding down, the railroad is essentially two five-mile long stubs west of Roselle so I assume the rush-hour trains were alternating going out 1 and 2 (from the signals, 2239 was staying on 1).

For tomorrow, reading between the lines of their plan, it sounds like they expect one track open. They're saying expect delays so I'm guessing the interlocking will be down and it will be restricted speed through there. Then, starting with 2222, it's back to a Bartlett operation until the 3:30 CUS departure - presumably to do more repair work. They do say there will be some bussing.

Assuming four sets overnighting by Bartlett and eight still in Elgin, we'll actually be plus two trains for the morning.

One thing that worked in our favor this morning was for some reason, 2200, which normally uses the 8-car set, used the 9-car which is normally on 2210. So when the first extra ran (which I was on) using 2200/2201's equipment, we had one more car than I expected.
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