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 Otto Vondrak
I'd like to take pictures at Joliet Union Station on Monday... Going to be there in the morning, is there a good place to take pictures from to get the diamonds? What about afternoons? Was going to try to catch some Rock Island District trains and anything else that comes through...


  by doepack
The Amtrak side of the station offers better photo ops overall (including the diamonds) and tends to have more action after about 9am or so, when traffic on the Rock side dies down after rush. Afternoons are ok for the most part, but shadows can start to make photography trickier as the day goes on, especially when attempting to shoot southbound trains heading toward the diamonds, something to keep in mind. Oh, and don't forget to get JUD tower during your visit...
  by Otto Vondrak
Well, I spent about an hour there standing in the wrong place at the wrong time when trains were coming through, but it was still a great place to visit. I will have to return again soon!

And then I sent a couple of hours shooting the evening rush at Highlands...

  by CSX Conductor
How was the neighborhood Otto? I was thinking of Joliet but a conductor out of NHV said it's not a great neighborhood
  by CSX Conductor
I'm staying in Chicago tomorrow into Sunday without a car. Planning on taking a train to a suburb to do some railfanning and grab a nearby hotel. Where should I go for the best spot and most trains?
  by doepack
I'd rate this a toss-up, you won't go wrong at either location in terms of freight traffic (though Metra service on BNSF is a little more frequent on Saturdays). But with nearby lodging in mind, I'd give a slight edge to Joliet, the station is within the CBD, and it'll probably be easier getting a hotel near the station; you'd have a little more of a walk to Aurora's downtown from the Metra station.

Welcome to Chicago, and enjoy your stay!
  by CSX Conductor
Thanks DoePack. I'm still in Boston lol. I think I'll do Joliet. I assume that it is such a popular spot with railfans that I shouldn't be harassed. Please forgive me, but what will I be looking at as far as what line is what and which carriers I'll see. Thanks again.
  by CSX Conductor
Btw, what is CBD?
  by qboy
CSX Conductor wrote:Btw, what is CBD?
That would be Central Business District!
  by JLJ061
I once railfanned all night long at Joliet with never any problems; I'm sure mostly because the tracks are elevated above street level at that location which really helps.
  by Otto Vondrak
CSX Conductor wrote:How was the neighborhood Otto? I was thinking of Joliet but a conductor out of NHV said it's not a great neighborhood
I didn't have a problem there... None at all. The station was deserted when I was there around 3:00... There are three Chicago-bound Heritage Corridor trains in the AM, three back in the PM, and a handful of Rock Island District trains, too. Looks like some recent construction has messed up the platform area with chain link fences and light poles, so photography can be challenging.

Where is NHV?

  by CSX Conductor
New Haven! Lol
  by Tadman
Joliet is fine, the rough part is north of downtown and just west of the EJE yard, and thats cleaned up a bit, too. If you have a car, cruise past the EJE yards, they're interesting.
  by AMTKHawkeye
but what will I be looking at as far as what line is what and which carriers I'll see?
The major spot in Joliet, as previously mentioned in this thread, is obviously Joliet Union Station. The station is situated at the crossing of the former Rock Island main line and both the former Santa Fe and Gulf Mobile & Ohio main lines.

The Rock Island trackage is now a single main track, operating East-West through Joliet, and owned by Metra until a point just West of the station. Joliet represents the end of the line for Metra's Rock Island District trains, which will either lay over and turn at the station platform, or turn to/from the coach yard located just East of the station. Moving Westward, track ownership is taken over by CSX, with trackage rights granted to the Iowa Interstate Railroad. A good clue regarding freight traffic is the 407 Bridge, easily in view to the West: The bridge is normally in the raised position for canal traffic, and is only lowered when a train is approaching to cross.

The BNSF Chillicothe Sub makes up the two North-South tracks closest to the station building and platform. The vast majority of traffic on this line is intermodal, as Corwith Yard more or less represents the end of the line to the North.

The former GM&O mains are the two running North-South furthest from the station platform, and closest to UD Tower. These tracks at the station proper are now owned by Union Pacific (by way of SP legacy), with newly constructed intermodal terminal Global 4 located approximately 5 miles to the South. Following the line Northward, though, these two mains change ownership approximately 1000 feet from the station, and from there begins CN ownership. Metra's Heritage Corridor (3 trains each rush period) and Amtrak's Texas Eagle and Lincoln Service trains (5 a day each way between them) utilize these tracks as well. (Note that the Texas Eagle is being detoured away from Joliet, though, until Wednesday 4/25 account track work downstate).

I hope this helps! Sorry, I don't have any idea of radio frequencies - not sure if you are scanner-equipped.