Leave No Station Unphotographed: The Blog of SubwayNut.com

 

Metra Down in Blue Island

I’m trying to get all the photos I’ve ever taken in Chicagoland up on the web (I’m getting very close), this update is from a trip I took down to Blue Island about 6 years ago, Metra Electric Down, Rock Island District back north:

Enjoy!

A Good Friday Day-Trip to Kalamazoo (by Car)

Louise and I have formed a little tradition of trying to go and work somewhere like a coffee shop together when I have a holiday off from work for a long weekend when we have no other plans. Good Friday (March 30, 2018) was one of these days and we decided to take a day trip to Kalamazoo to check out this city and what looked like it’s decent coffee shops.

We got a bit of a late start and after stopping at Trader Joe’s and a Starbucks on the edge of Kalamazoo so I could do a time sensitive thing for work, followed by an excellent lunch at the Crow’s Nest, we got settled with a pot of tea inside Black Owl Cafe at about 3:45pm,

As we settled into work in the cafe, I start looking at the Amtrak timetable to decide when I’m going to leave Louise and go for my getting the Kalamazoo station walk. I see Wolverine Train #352 should be arriving right now, but a quick check of the Amtrak app show’s it’s running 10 minutes late. Perfect.

I head outside and there’s a railroad junction nearby so I need to figure out which line is used by Amtrak. Luckily, since this ex-Norfolk Southern line is now owned by Michigan DOT and now operated by Amtrak, I only need to look for the Amtrak logo on the grade-crossing signs to figure out what track the Wolverine will pass through town on, luckily this track is just north of the cafe.

I keep walking along the tracks and notice a neat tower off in the distance, which I approach and walk by getting closer to the Kalamazoo Train Station. This tower is at neat railroad junction and is completely boarded up with Norfolk Southern No Tresspassing signs, although Norfolk Southern no longer owns any railroads in the area (all the other railroads are CN or short line railroads).

 

As I continue approaching the station I see a number of homeless people rummaging around and tresspassing across the Amtrak line. I then pass a mission which I assume is also a food pantry/homeless shelter and understand why there is the crowd around me. I start hearing the whistle of Wolverine #352 approaching in the distance. I then pass this unique sign, which seems irrelevant now with Michigan DOT now leasing the line all the way to Dearborn.

Woverine Train #352 arrives in the station at 4:07pm, 18 minutes late. The lights eventually go up and then I get to watch Amtrak do it’s station work, including trespassers walking around the stopped locomotive, not wanting to wait.

The train leaves after at 4:12, after taking 5 minutes (instead of the scheduled 2) to due its station work, now 21 minutes late.

   

I then walk the final block to the historic 1887 station that has been turned into the Kalamazoo Transportation Center(70 Photos). I’m quite impressed by the facility with 20 bus bays for Kalamazoo Metro Transit and how the modern bus bays were designed in a style that respects the historic integrity of the station. I spend a good 40 minutes doing my photo essay of the facility, witnessing 2 bus pulses on the 30-minute (other routes run 60 minute headways) Metro Transit buses.

      

I also notice the main headquarters and garage for Metro Transit is across the tracks from the station and enjoy the signs saying to go to the transportation center to purchase tokens and passes.

As I finally walk back to the cafe to return to Louise. I notice some other railroad themed buildings, and get a different view of the tower from the grade-crossing.

I spend the rest of the afternoon (until the cafe closes at 7:00pm) working in the Black Owl Cafe, including writing this blog post for the Manhattan and New Lenox Metra Stations.

Louise and I go out for a nice and delicious dinner in Kalamazoo and then hit the road to drive home to South Bend, happy to have had a good adventure to a new nearby city.

Update: 2 Winnetka and 2 Evanston Metra UP North Stations

I’m currently trying to clear my not-uploaded/written archive of all Metra Stations I’ve visited, here are the 4 more remaining on the Union Pacific North Line:

Enjoy! The main goal of this is both to finish as much Metra content as I can, and helping myself in the future by only having to write-up new content blogging about future Metra adventures.

Driving back from Thanksgiving in Syracuse via Rochester and Erie

This past Thanksgiving Louise and I drove (for the second straight year) to and from my grandmother’s house in Syracuse. Taking the Lake Shore Limited we’ve considered but in order to get a Roomette would be over $900 total and even going round-trip coach I was seeing prices of $400 to $500. With the price of gas right now, plus rental cars in South Bend ($130 for the week) being so cheap, even with spending two nights in Hotels (on this trip both were paid stays at Marriott Brands, due to their free night certificate after 2 paid nights promotion) and the tolls, the trip cost we knew would be $500 for two people max, much less than Roomettes (during peak times) on the Lake Shore Limited. One thing that made this trip unusual was Louise had a major exam two days after our trip so driving back we planned our trip making strategic stops, maximizing the ime so she could work (with me quizzing her quite a bit in the car while she drove).

On Saturday as my family dispersed we had a friend who’s college student at the University of Rochester, who spent Thanksgiving with us, so we detoured off of the I-90 Throughway via I-490 into Rochester. After dropping him off, we headed to Dinosaur BBQ on the riverfront for lunch. Across the street I left Louise in the historic library and started taking a transit adventure walk, to the modern Rochester train station.

I first noticed the modern Rochester RTS Transit Center.

I kept walking and started approaching the modern Rochester Amtrak Station(35 Photos). First impressions were the impressive design of the depot and the (unfortunately for a me, since I’m not boarding or alighting from a train) very secured platform. I walked into the station and directly in front of we was a well roped off stairs/single escalator down to the modern platform. Luckily out the windows of the station and on the edge of the parking lot I was able to get a good sense of the layout of the platform and how both passengers and baggage get from station to platform. Hopefully at some point I’ll be able to get or off (or be on an on time train) and get photos on the actual platform.

     

I then headed back towards the library and walked through the modern Rochester RTS Transit Center, I liked it’s buses drive into fully covered areas design. Although the stop for RTS routes using articulated buses it was outside in normal shelters across the bus lanes, probably due to clearance issues. Overall I thought the Transfer Center was well designed, but will perhaps trap RTS in a hub-and-spoke model going forward. As large a city as Rochester is, perhaps RTS would do better running as a linear grid with more frequent routes, not all going to downtown.

I walked back to the library and found Louise in a room with a nice view of the Broad Street bridge over the Gennesse River, the slits below the bridge is the now abandoned Rochester Subway (Wikipedia link), crossing the river beneath Broad Street, most portions which were built on the bed of the Erie Canal.

That night we drove to Erie, and splurged a little at the Courtyard by Marriot Erie Bayfront Hotel so I could take a walk in downtown Erie (and finally get this Amtrak station) while Louise worked.

The next morning Louise and I headed out to breakfast (skipping the overpriced Courtyard’s bistro), in downtown. While Louise drove back to the hotel (with 2:00pm late checkout due to my Marriott gold status, not 4pm as seems like a guaranteed benefit), I walked up to the Erie Amtrak Station(31 Photos), located in restored Union Station. Unfortunately the brewery in the historic waiting room was closed (definately a restaurant option on a future drive to Syracuse), and I discovered the Amtrak waiting room (which would have stayed open until 8:00am because the Lake Shore was running a little late this morning) had no windows to the street. The main glass doors Amtrak entrance lead to another set of doors into the waiting room in what must be the former tunnel to the station. I walked around the station and got some photos from behind the historic station and then found a place to photograph the platforms not behind a fence up an embankment. In an ideal world I’d figure out some way to get on or off a train in Erie, to fully experience this complex station (like Rochester).

   

I then had a nice, long walk back, downhill to the Courtyard Bayfront Hotel, noticing some the “e” buses (running very limited Sunday service) had little stop signs that come out of the buses, like schoolbuses, something I hadn’t seen before.

Louise and I had an easy drive home to South Bend that evening, stopping at a neat Asian Market in Cleveland. I’m happy that I’m just 2 harder stops (I need to just do a write-up for Elkhart) from having the entire Lake Shore Limited New York Section (missing 2 stops for the Boston section) on the web.

 

 

 

Update: Crystal Lake and Pingree Road

I’m trying to clear everything Chicago and Metra related out of my vast archive from previous trips. One main reason is that it makes writing up more recent adventures so much easier when I have the framework of stations I’ve already visited. This update is two stops I visited back on October 30, 2011:

Enjoy!

 

The Manhattan and the New Lenox Metra Stations

My first South Shore Line bike trip after I moved to South Bend back in June of 2016 consisted of me taking (with someone who had a gas powered bicycle that stank and shouldn’t have been allowed in the bike car) the weekend Inbound Express train at Hammond (still need up to write that station), followed by getting the Hammond-Whiting Amtrak Station, and then biking into Chicago and doing Metra Electric’s South Chicago branch.

After finishing the Metra electric South Chicago branch, I boarded a Metra Electric train at 63 Street, purchasing a weekend pass, and getting off at Van Buren Street. From there I rode across the loop, passing a closed entrance to Adams/Wabash–(1 photo) since trains are only running via the other half of the loop, there I catch one of just 3 Saturday round-trip trains on the SouthWest Service to it’s terminus at Manhattan.

The SouthWest Service ride was largely uneventful, the train felt nice and empty, and got even less croweded after the Orland Park stops, and the line became fully single-tracked on the Manhattan extension. I remember most (writing this nearly two years later) that it was neat going over the Rock Island Line (which I would ride back into Chicago) heading south.

I get off at the last stop of Manhattan(32 Photos) and get a “Have a good bike ride” from the friendly conductors. I enjoy getting a picture of my bicycle in front of the Manhattan sign.

 

The little station (with just 3 Saturday and 2 weekday round-trips as of this writing) has a nice little station house and even it’s own bike path too it.

I start riding north from the Manhattan Station, and stop at the grade-crossing of Smith Road on the northern edge of town. There I photograph the last northbound train until Monday heading over the grade-crossing, in view of the water tower.

  

I’m then stranded in Manhattan until Monday.

Instead, I get back on my bike and ride the 4.5 miles to Laraway Road(34 Photos), which has maybe one car in the parking lot for the infrequent Saturday Southwest Service.

  

I continue north, another 3 miles into downtown New Lenox(34 Photos), which is a busy Metra Station on a Saturday afternoon.

  

I take the next train, which arrives on the outbound track due to a freight passing on the scheduled Inbound track just before (an announcement was made in the station). This train runs express via the Rock Island Main Line, and not longer suburban loop, (connecting with a local train at Blue Island) into La Salle Street Station. I remember getting into an argument with another bicyclist because I put my bike over someone else’s bike who’s getting off before me (standard Metra bike etiquette).

At this point I’ve had enough and decided to call it day on 6:12pm South Shore Line train (the next train isn’t until 9:15pm), walking over to Museum CampusThe ride home to South Bend has the same person with his gas-powered bike in the bike car, an NICTD police offer who’s walking through the train I try to say something to, but this goes nowhere.

After arriving in South Bend, I ride my bike home still in the light.

Pace Bus 802 to a Snowy ride on the UP West Line back to Chicago

This is final section (part 3 or 3) of February 17th, 2018’s adventures on the the BNSF Railway and UP West Line.

After getting on Pace Bus 802 at the Aurora Transportation Center, we leave on time but it’s a slow ride. It’s snowing fairly hard at this point and the driver is definitely focused on getting us safely to our destinations, but not keeping her schedule. The driver also talks about how in this snowy weather she’s not going to keep her schedule. The driver discusses how she’s just started her shift so that’s why I get on, on time at the Transportation Center. We’re also delayed by one person (who’s possibly homeless) requiring at least 3 trips to get all of his stuff on and off the bus.

I finally get off the bus at 3:47, 11 minutes late across from the Geneva Train Station, when the Outbound train to Elburn is scheduled to arrive.

 

I cross the street to the Geneva Train Station(22 Photos), luckily – like most Metra trains today at intermediate stops – I hear the 5 to 10 minutes late annoucements so I’m going to be able to ride the full UP West Line from end to end! I quickly cross to the inbound platform for some depot photos.

I cross back to the From Chicago platform as I can see a light in the distance through the snow flakes as my outbound train is arriving.

This train arrives and I take it out, primarily through rural fields on the 2006 8.5 mile extension, we make an intermediate stop at La Fox, followed by a stop just short of the passenger platform in Elburn Yard for a crew change, since the same train will be my train on the trip back to Chicago. We arrive in Elburn(28 Photos) just a few minutes late (this route only has 6 minutes recovery time) for my 20 minute layover. I get my photo essay of the snowy station and parking lot as a snow-shoveler/plowman arrives.

  

I reboard about 5 minutes early, the now front galley car so I can take some pictures out the front window. I really like the perspective these photos give to my station pages (and something I can’t do when I have my bicycle). I get a few of the Geneva Yard and employee platform as we leave the terminus on time at 4:25pm

 

Approaching and Stopping at La Fox(6 Photos), I do a mini-photo essay out the front window.

 

We continue to back a snowy Geneva(6 Photos)

 

I then enter new trackage for me as we pass freight trains between Geneva and East Chicago. I assume these yards were also used by Metra until 2006. Before the extension, a lot of trains terminated at East Chicago instead of Geneva.

Next stop is West Chicago(5 Photos).

 

Then Winfield(7 Photos), which has some modern covered benches on each side of the simple station house.

 

By Wheaton(2 Photos) I’m surprised how crowded the train is getting and give up my group of 4 seats by the front window (I’ve been sitting down on and off), and sit down a row behind.

We stop at College Avenue–(first stop with no front window photos). Then another freight before Glen Ellyn, and then the Glen Ellyn(2 Photos) station. At this point I decide no more sitting (the trains gotten more crowded) and to stay at the Railfan window for the entire ride.

 

Next stops are Lombard and Villa Park, as I can’t decide if its too dark for photos, at Elmhurst(3 Photos), I find the neat effect of snow and the mid-station grade-crossing.

Next is Berkeley, then Bellwood(2 Photos) where the snow covered island platform looks un-connected from the rest of the world, since a freight train blocks our view of the station entrance

We switch to the outbound track just before Melrose Park(1 Photo) to pass a different, inbound freight.

We bypass Maywood, the first stop we skip (trains on weekends alternate stopping here and Melrose Park), and then stop at River Forest(3 Photos) with a historic station house.

Next it’s Oak Park(2 Photos), where I started today’s adventures with a PACE bus ride, we stop on the island platform.

As we follow the Green Line through Oak Park, I get some photos at Oak Park, Green Line(2 Photos), and Ridgeland(1 Photo) of the unique perspective of these trains out the front window of a passing Metra train.

 

It’s a much faster ride than the Green Line downtown. We curve away from the ‘L’ Line at Chicago city limits, bypass the last intermediate stop, Kenzie (the only stop on the UP West Line without weekend service).

We pass over the tracks at a grade shared by the Milwaukee West, North, and North Central Service Lines just before their Western Avenue station. We’re then joined from the north by the other 2 UP Northwest, and North Lines, We rise onto the embankment that leads into Ogilvie, crossing above the same Union Station bound Metra lines again, as we enter our terminus.

There is one final memorable moment, before coming to a stop at the Ogilvie Transportation Center(6 Photos), the conductor is trying to get up the crowded staircase of the galley car to get into the cab. He yells at me “Don’t take any pictures of me” before climbing up to the upper level via the luggage rack to get into the cab and talk to the engineer (probably a Union Pacific/Metra safety violation). We then come to a stop.

 

I leave the station via the lower concourse and look at my phone. I get a $15 Uber credit every month and we don’t have many other travel plans this month (plus Louise’s car is at the Amtrak South Bend station for our return tomorrow night so no need to take Uber in South Bend).

I start looking at Uber Pool rides, and the price falls to less than $5.00 once I walk across the Chicago River so I call one. It’s a very circuitous ride back to the Fairfield Inn Magnificent Mile with one set of passenger already on board, and then taking another person just a few blocks on the snowy evening.

 

Getting 9 out of 21 Stations on the 5-10 Minutes late Metra BNSF Railway from Berwyn to Aurora

This is the part 2 (of 3) of February 17th, 2018’s adventures.

After getting off Pace Bus 307 I get my photo essay of Harlem Avenue(19 Photos). I then start walking briskly down Windsor Avenue to Berwyn(30 Photos). There I get my pictures and head to the shelter on the outbound platform. A man is sitting there waiting for the train who talks to me and says on weekends the train is late as he expects. The train finally arrives about 5 minutes late as we see it’s lights in the distance though the Cicero Yard. I start thinking I’m going to plan my trip around spending an hour and 10 minutes in Aurora instead of just ten minutes before my a PACE bus up to Geneva.

  

I board and hand the conductor one of my ATM fresh twenties, getting a ten back and my weekend ticket.

From here, I’ve identified a stretch of 7 stations I can photograph with doubling back and some walking (there a few weekday/rush hour only stations that are quite close to stations served by most non-express trains) under the Saturday morning schedule. This is due to the fact that Outbound trains run every 2 hours in the AM, while Inbound trains run hourly, before reversing the pattern for most of the PM.

I take this train to Westmont-(22 Photos)

Since my train has arrived late I quickly walk to Fairview Avenue(25 Photos), getting there just a few minutes before the scheduled 9:47am Inbound train, as I do my photo essay, the train is running 5-10 minutes, followed by 15-20 minutes late announcements begin. I debate walking to Main St./Downers Grove but don’t feel like getting stuck there (it’s a bit of a ways from there to the next stop). The Inbound train finally arrives 15 minutes late.

 

From there I take the Inbound train 2 stops (getting a special BNSF Railway property seat check) to Clarendon Hills(37 Photos)

 

From there it’s a short walk to West Hinsdale(29 Photos) since the station’s are almost connected by the commuter parking spaces on Burlington Avenue.

This station only receives weekday rush hour service (no inbound trains after 8:56am) so I keep walking to Hinsdale(26 Photos), the main station for this village, which is crowded with people waiting to go inbound.

There I have a decision to make, do I wait for the next (presumed late inbound train) and get Western Springs? or walk to and from the next rush hour only station, Highlands? and possibly miss Western Springs (since I know I’ll make it back in time for it). I decide to take my chances and walk to Highlands(23 Photos)

I get back to Hinsdale  to a crowd still waiting for the next (late) Inbound train. A gentleman sees my camera and says “Hello fellow train nerd” before saying something unintelligible about headphones. The 12:55 Inbound train arrives early enough (about 5 minutes late) that I’m not worried about doubling-back and missing my outbound train.

I take this one station stop (skipping Highlands) to Western Springs(31 Photos), there I realize I’m a few minutes before the scheduled arrival time of the next Outbound train but still start my photo essay with the train still in the station and cross to the outbound platform as soon as I can. The next scheduled 1:11 Outbound train comes in about 5 minutes late again.

  

At this point it’s 1:15, and the train I’m sitting on is scheduled to arrive in Aurora at 2:01, over an hour before my 3:10 bus up to Geneva. I’m planning to stay on this train and spend an hour eating lunch in Aurora, but a quick look at Google maps shows few lunch options near the station. I then look at the bottom of the schedule and notice that there’s about 10 minutes of padding (Outbound train’s have a 19 minute run time Route 59 to Aurora, but inbound train’s are scheduled for just 8 minutes from Aurora to Route 59). So I examine Google maps for a place for lunch and plan to get off early and get another station.

Lisle(66 Photos), provides the closest downtown on the outer BNSF Railway line stations that are further apart and where walking between stations is infeasible.

There I walk the couple-blocks to Main Street and find an odd mishmash crepe/pizza place where I have both a decent savory crepe and a slice of pizza.

I then head back to the ‘Lisle Commuter Center’ where it starts snowing. As I wait the Emeryville-bound California Zephyr #5, followed immediately by the Chicago-bound Southwest Chief #4, passes (I can see the trains pass each other off in the distance), both running basically on time. My Outbound Metra train arrives basically on time at 2:31, as I breath a sigh of relief that my bus adventure to Geneva (and Union Pacific West Line) will work!

   

This train arrives at the Aurora Transportation Center(23 Photos) as it starts to really snow at 2:50, 10 minutes early as I predict. I get some photos (will like to return at some point when it isn’t snowing) before boarding Pace bus Route 802 at 3:03 since it’s already waiting.

Continue reading as I take Pace Bus Route 802 to the UP West Line.

Riding the Green Line out to Oak Park to start a Metra Adventure

This is part 1 of what will be a 3 part series on my February 17th Metra adventures.

This past weekend, Louise and I spent in Chicago so Louise could go to a one-day conference on Saturday. I decided to spend the day doing another Metra Weekend Pass adventure. Looking at schedules I realized that the BNSF Line (except for Metra Electric, which seems silly to do when not combined with the South Shore Line) seemed like the obvious route to do since it has the most Saturday service of the diesel lines. I also looked at the Pace map and schedule and found that Pace Bus Route 802 could take me for Aurora up to the Geneva Station on the UP West Line, letting me get a few stations on this line as well (with minimal layovers) and letting me ride a second Metra route on my way back to Chicago.

Saturday morning came and we were not quite early enough waking up and getting breakfast in our hotel for me to make it down to Union Station to catch the 8:40 train (which would have let me make a few quick stops due to an inbound express train) so instead I left the hotel around 9:00, heading to the CTA, to connect to the BNSF line in the inner suburbs via a CTA to Pace Transfer.

Walking past the Grand(2 Photos) stop and seeing a soon to arrive train on the countdown clocks I decide to get on the ‘L’ here, reloading my Vetra card with enough money for today’s ‘L’ and pace rides.

I take the Red Line one stop to Lake(3 Photos)

 

There I follow the signs to Lake Street and the Loop ‘L’ taking advantage of the free transfer with my Ventra Card. I notice on the countdown clocks at street level the next Harlem/Lake Green Line isn’t due for 10 minutes so I enter State/Lake(8 Photos) on the Inner Loop and take an Orange Line train.

 

I take the Orange Line train one stop to the new Washington/Wabash Station(1 Photo), passing through the former area of the Randolph/Wabash station where I couldn’t notice any evidence of the former station from my train. I can see the Green Line approaching going the other direction (with the countdown clocks saying there isn’t a train more than 10 minutes) so I quickly use the underpass, and my attempted photos all except for one as I wait for the Green Line train to open it’s doors are too blurry to share.

I then get on the Green Line and ride it all the way out to it’s terminus at Harlem/Lake(23 Photos) in Oak Park, a station that I didn’t have enough photos of to write a summary for when I made the initial page. I start by getting off the ‘L’, getting some platform photos and exiting into the Marion Street station house.

 

The Marion Street Station house is shared with the Metra Oak Park(42 Photos) From there I use the ramps to begin my photo essay of the interesting station with a bare island platform and unique side platform with a clock tower, second waiting area, and odd old wooden shelter.

   

I eventually walk back to wait outside the unique 1960s Harlem Station house to wait for Pace Bus 307, which is scheduled for 10:05 but arrives a couple minutes late. I scan my Ventra Card at 10:07, paying 30 cents for the transfer.

From there it’s a ride down Harlem Avenue, where we suffer a 5 minutes delay waiting for a freight train to pass on a different (freight only) rail line.

Then I get off in front of Bank of America at Burlington Street, where I stop to get some cash to buy my weekend pass from the conductor and begin my BNSF and Metra adventure with a photo essay of Harlem Ave(19 Photos).

Here is a screenshot of the Ventra app showing my reload and three taps and charges for the trip out from Downtown to Berwyn.

Continuing reading as I board my BNSF Railway Train out to Aurora.

A few more Chicago Northside Metra Stations

I’m trying to get all the Metra Stations I’ve photographed out of my archive. In this update are four stations on Chicago’s Northside, within city limits.

On the UP North Line:

On the UP Northwest Line:

Finally, on the Milwaukee North Line:

Enjoy!