Leave No Station Unphotographed: The Blog of SubwayNut.com

 

Busing and Lime eBiking the Beverly Hills Area Rock Island Line Stations

This is part 2 of East Chicago and Metra Rock Island Day, here is Part 1.

I get off the Red Line at 87th Street, and get on the appropriately named 87 bus that leads be eastbound towards the Rock Island Line. I get off when I see a Metra logo on a viaduct at Gresham(29 Photos). 

There I do a photo essay of the non-accessible viaduct station with two entrances.

  

From there I walk to the next Route 87 bus stop and take the next bus to Loomis Street, then I walk south a few blocks to the basically street-median Brainerd Station(24 Photos)

 

I keep walking east following the tracks and then a little south to the most northern Beverly Hills Station, 91 Street(22 Photos)

I get my photo essay of this station basically in a park and it starts raining harder. I walk down a paved bike path along Beverly Blvd that I think will provide direct access following the rail line but unfortunately the only connection to Vanderpoel Avenue to stay closer to the rail line is this gap in a random fence which I climb through.

I keep walking to 95th Street(27 Photos)

 

While I’m doing my photo essay at 95th Street, I see Chicago dockless bike share bikes that are being piloted in this neighborhood since bringing DIVVY bike share so far south is years away. I open the LimeBike app and see that there are some lime petal assist eBikes nearby on 95th Street. These are more expensive than the conventional bikes in South Bend since they charge both a $1 rental fee plus a 15 cent per minute fee. Since it’s raining and the idea I can make the day much more efficient I decide to give one a try. I scan the LimeBike app and am off to 99th Street(15 Photos). At 99th Street I leave the clock on my Limebike running while I do a photo essay including dashing inside the station house.

 

I arrive at 103rd Street(12 Photos), and lock my lime bike. This 13 minute ride cost $2.95 minus $1 I have in credits, so $1.95 out of pocket.

 

After getting my photo essay and debating if I want to take the bus across to the rush hour only 103rd Street-Washington Heights stop on the Metra mainline I decide to check out the same LimeBike again and ride to 107th Street(10 Photos).

I keep my lime bike unlocked as I get my photo essay of this simple station before riding to 111th Street/Morgan Park(39 Photos) where I lock my LimeBike. The 10 minute ride costing $2.50 but only $1.50 out of pocket due to a second $1 credit I have in my LimeBike wallet.

 

I debate what’s next and look at the LimeBike Service area and realize that I can’t LimeBike all the way to 123rd Street in Blue Island because it’s outside the City of Chicago and the LimeBike Service area. So looking at the bus map rent the LimeBike again for a 6 minute $1.90 ride to 115th Street/Morgan Park(15 Photos), where I don’t learn until later the depot recently burned down.

At this point it’s time to call it a day on the Rock Island Line’s suburban branch but not before getting the two intermediate stops on the main line that only receive service during rush hour. To start this process I re-rent the lime bike and take a 13 minute $2.95 ride to 103rd St-Washington Heights(30 Photos), I’m really enjoying the pedal assist feature of the Lime eBikes! There I get some photos of passing Sunday Express train.

 

I do my photo essay and retreat to a bus shelter to wait for the next 112 bus that follows the Blue Island main line to continue north and am treated to two locomotives from a locomotive leasing company going by.

 

I take the 112 bus the short distance to busy 95th Street where I do my final Metra photo essay of the day at 95th St-Longwood Manor(15 Photos). The LimeBike in these photos wasn’t used by me.

I then walk to nearby stop where I can catch the 95 or 112 (and have some Pace buses pass me by), and have a good 10 minute wait with my phone dying from all the LimeBike rides and navigation.

I ride the 95 bus east to the new 95th Street Day Ryan Station with it’s large south terminal building with improved bus bays and a northern building under construction.

  

I get on the next Howard-bound train.

It’s a fairly eventful ride downtown, I end up first switching cars because of a passenger smoking in my car. Next I experience something I’ve never seen before a loosie cigarette seller. A man walks down the train with a pack of cigarettes and multiple people grab a couple of cigarettes from the pack and hand the guy a few bucks. There is strangely no verbal discussion during the loosie cigarette transaction.

I take this train to Jackson-(9 Photos) where I get off and seek refuge with a place to charge my phone (along with a hot chocolate) in the Barnes and Noble in DePaul University to finalize my evening plans.

To be continued in a final section…

Starting a SubwayNut Day Trip to Chicago via a car, LimeBike and the South Shore Line to 55th-56th-57th via a stop at East Chicago with a visit from NICTD’s Finest

This post is part one of East Chicago and Metra Rock Island Day.

This past summer, on June 10, 2018 to be exact. I found myself with a weekend alone in South Bend while Louise was in Poland for a conference. I was hoping to join her in Europe but I’m still too new in my job and wasn’t quite able to horde enough vacation time to be able to. The plan originally for the weekend was to go on a bike adventure into Chicago to tackle some more Metra stations as a day trip on Saturday (when Metra has more frequent service) and then spend Sunday at home doing my weekend audlting. Friday night, my friend Adam texted me to say he would be driving through South Bend on his way to Chicago and if he could stop for dinner Saturday night, this meant I flipped my weekend around and decided to stay in South Bend on Saturday and go adventuring on Sunday. After a nice dinner on Saturday evening with Adam we decided that we might as well meet up Sunday late afternoon as well, before I return to South Bend after my Metra adventure.

Sunday morning arrives with dreary-looking weather and a forecast for on and off thunderstorms. I decide I don’t want to spend the day riding around on my bike wet and that a benefit of not bringing my bike is being able to take the faster Lake Shore Limited trip home, giving me a few more hours in Chicago (there is a 9:15pm CT South Shore Line train but that gets into South Bend at 12:46am ET, painfully late, compared to the earlier midnight arrival of the Lake Shore Limited that seems less painful). The next question though is the first mile/last mile how to get to the train station since the South Bend Amtrak Station, and South Shore Line Station are at different places? I decide on what I feel is an indigenous solution with access to Louise’s car. There no LimeBikes by the Amtrak station but quite a few by my apartment so after trying one LimeBike that I can’t seem to get to unlock, at 8:24 I unlock a LimeBike and dump it in the back of the car.

I drive to the Amtrak Station and park Louise’s car, before getting on the LimeBike for a peddling quickly ride to the airport, nervous I’m not going to make the train. I lock the LimeBike up at 8:57 and board the 9:01am Express train bound for Chicago. One of my nearer term goals is to finally finish the South Shore Line, and the Saturday morning schedule means I can easily make a 52 minute stop at East Chicago. I purchase my $11.00 ticket using the app. The conductor soon comes, I tap my iPhone screen and get a little white seat check that has EC written in pen on it. The South Shore Line assumes everyone is riding into Chicago and on westbound trains conductors use a pen to write down your destination, if you’re getting off sooner.

It’s an uneventful, express South Shore Line ride, with a quick stop at the flag stop of Hudson Lake, the train having to briefly pause to activate the signal near 11th Street in Michigan City before making it’s one intermediate stop at Beverly Shores. I then get off at East Chicago(49 Photos) at 9:27 CT. We arrive a few minutes early, just as the first Eastbound train of the day to South Bend pulls into the station. I get some photos of the trains passing and confuse some crew members not wanting to get on either train. Everyone is friendly to my picture taking.

  

I then slowly leave the platform, through the platforms only exit through a station house shared with the one NICTD Police station to get some photos of the train embankment from the parking lot.

  

I first walk to the South Shore Overflow Parking lot under the train line and toll road, shared with Knights of Columbus. I also get a nice view of a South Shore Freight billboard with a locomotive that has lights!

I walk back towards the main parking lot hoping to circle it and get photos of the signage at the other end of the parking lot, but soon I see a policeman leave the police station (in a wing of the passenger) and get into a police car, I keep taking pictures but soon notice the police car driving through the empty rows of the parking lot towards me.

He asks we what I’m doing “Taking pictures of random cars?” I explain, “I’m not, just have a hobby taking pictures of railroad stations and am trying to get some wide-angle shots of the station off in the distance.” He asks me for ID which I reluctantly give him, and doesn’t say I can’t take pictures at South Shore Line stations but he just wanted to check on my “suspicious” activity. Overall it’s one of my better website encounters with the police (which have happened over the years, although I don’t remember the last time, the most memorable was once on BART when a station agent wasn’t happy I was taking pictures, but a BART cop was extremely friendly and supportive of my hobby, ending our conversation with “Time for me to go down and try and calm down the station agent”).

   

I do decide to end my parking lot walk slightly short and return to the station. There I get some headhouse photos and buy my next ticket to 57th Street (as the South Shore Line calls it) from the TVM for $6.25, this stopover has cost me $4.75  South Shore fares definitely favor those traveling longer distances, with a high ‘price to board and ride one stop fee’!

 

I return to the platform, sit on a bench and relax, before getting some photos of my train entering at 10:17 CT.

I board this train, which feels less crowded than the express train an hour ago, get my ticket collected, and make two intermediate stops at Hammond and then Hegewisch, in Indiana and then Chicago, Illinois. We then slowly curve onto the Metra Electric Line and run express to what the South Shore Line simply calls 57th Street(51 Photos). I get photos of my South Shore Line train departing and walk towards the 55th Street exit down a path between the tracks.

   

I don’t currently have an Active Ventra Card (long story) and want to take buses over to the Rock Island Line which doing stations on is my goal for the day. The Ventra website says the Walgreens on 55th Street sells Ventra cards so I head over there. I get there and there signs about Ventra cards in the store windows but the staff rudely tells me “Sorry we’re sold out of Ventra cards we can’t sell you one.” I walk by a historic building originally used by the Chicago Cable Car Company.

I then return to get the 56th Street and then 57th Street entrances of the Metra Electric Station, thinking about my next steps.

 

I then remember that the Museum of Science and Industry at least used to have CTA Farecard machines that I assume have been replaced by Ventra machines. I head the couple of blocks over there are enter by the bus loop, no sign of the machines outside the bus loop so I decide to head down the couple of flights to the main entrance lobby through the underground parking garage. There I find what I need a single Ventra Machine!

It unfortunately can only sell Ventra tickets, not new Ventra cards, so I decide just to buy a Ventra Day Pass for $10 and not think about my taps on and off of the CTA.

After completing my slight detour to get a Ventra card I walk south to the other Metra Electric goal of the day 59th Street-University of Chicago(18 Photos). As I head up to the first platform (each has just one entrance) of the simple station, I notice a Metra police car sitting in the bushes alongside the freight ROW, as much as I might have enjoyed watching a police car drive down the train tracks thinking I’m suspicious I don’t do a full photo essay of the simple platforms and focus on the unique entrance areas and single staircase up to each platform.

 

I then head to Stony Island Avenue where I used my Ventra ticket, to board a Route 15 bus that’s just arriving for a very short ride to 63rd Street. There I board a Route 63 bus that I board and wait for a few minutes since I’m at the routes terminus for a longer ride down 63rd Street, under the end of the East 63rd branch of the Green Line over to the Dan Ryan Expressway.

I tap onto the Red line at 63rd(17 Photos) where at Elevator has been installed since my last visit to the station in 2011.

  

From 63rd, I take a Southbound Red Line train in 4 minutes two stops to 87th(15 Photos), there I slowly exit the station, photograph some artwork that isn’t new, notice a new elevator shaft and wait 6 minutes for the 87 bus to get to my first Rock Island Line Metra Station.

  

Continue Reading: Busing and Lime eBiking the Beverly Hills Area Rock Island Line Stations.

Harrison and Rye – Two More Westchester Metro-North Stations

I’ve been working on a verity of website projects over the past month, based on past advenutes but I haven’t been able to quite get any of them finished enough to blog about.

Here though is a minor update of two more Metro-North Stations from the vault, including photos from a unique visit to Harrison when it had a temporary substation built in it’s parking lot after a transformer line blew.

Enjoy!

Two more Metro-North Stations: Larchmont (rebuilt) and Mammaroneck

My current “finishing things” from the archive project is getting every Metro-North Station I’ve visited (and didn’t lose photos from during an unfortunate hard-drive crash, primarily involving the Wassaic Shuttle) up on the web.

Here are two more stations on the New Haven Line in Westchester:

Enjoy!

From the Vault – Metro-North’s Pelham, New Rochelle and Mt. Vernon East Stations

I’m not quite all caught up on my 2018 trips to this date but have gotten a big urge to return to my New York City Routes and get every Metro-North Station I’ve visited with photos processed and a station page made for the website. The bulk of this update will be the Westchester portion of the New Haven Line:

Here are the first three stations (2 are rebuilds from 13 years ago):

Enjoy!

Transportation Camp and a not alone SSL trip home

I have my adventure with the door to the bike car, not quite platforming as I arrive and then start bike riding down Roosevelt Road with the unique crosswalk/bike line towards the UIC Student Center on Halstead Street.

 

I ride over the Railroad yards and turn north towards Halstead Street to get to the student center but find my self stuck, by streets split into two by the wide Dan Ryan Express. This takes me slightly out of my way, but I arrive, lock my bike up tight for the day, and head inside in the middle of Transportation Camp introductions.

The inaugural Transportation Camp Chicago is a unique event that feels much less scholarly than the other Transportation Camp New Yorks and Boston’s I’ve been too. It feels much more of a train buffs, “Let’s Talk Trains” event. There is an interesting introduction presentation on the new dockless bike share pilot in a couple extreme South Side Chicago neighborhoods, which I spend a lot of time talking in because we have LimeBike already in South Bend and have had it since last Summer. I attend a discussion on why the Nashville Transit referendum failed, right-leaning anti-transit funding money, proposals for the O’Hare Express Train/hyperloop, a presentation on Detroit’s Modern Streetcar, and finally a discussion of the O’Hare Express/Hyperloop proposals. The entire event feels a bit disorganized and keeps not fully following the normal propose your own session script. The sessions feel haphazardly put together without a clear session leader. I am not surprised to find out that none of the organizers have attended a Transportation Camp event before and have basically just planned this event hearing about the principals from other camps.

The camp cancels the last session and ends with a few fun rounds of Cards Against Urbanity, Young Professionals in Transportation Edition instead, so I have a bit of social time since I don’t feel like taking the final South Shore Line train that gets me in at 1:00am. I tie myself away from the fun at 6:00pm, head down to by still in one piece bicycle and am on by bike by 6:10. I ride down Harrison Street this time, a much more pleasant ride. I get some decent photos of LaSalle Street Station(3 Photos) as I ride by.

 

I realize I have a moment as I approach Grant Park to refill my water bottle at a water fountain. I then arrive at Museum Campus(8 Photos). My train comes in at 6:28, I get some photos and have the driver wave at me and verbally say from his cab to “Walk Down” to the very front of the platform where the bike car is.

   

I board the bike car and there are two other bikes on the bike rack that I put my bike near.

The ride back is largely uneventful and I don’t take nearly as detailed notes as I did for this morning’s ride. We do curve off the South Shore Line at 6:52 heading onto the South Shore’s unique independent trackage.

I get a few photos of the train going through Gary as the sun starts going down of the historic locomotive and courthouse.

In Dune Park, the other two bikes get off, wheeled off my only one owner. This is in conflict I believe with most transit systems bike policies that require one rider per bicycle. The South Shore Line’s easy to use bike racks really don’t effect this so much, and she can wheel both bikes together at once.

As we go through Michigan City I see passengers walking up front towards my car. This is standard South Shore Line practice so they can close up the rear of the train beyond Michigan City for South Bend’s very short 3 car platform, or even dump cars in Michigan City, leaving them behind. I’ve never been on an Westbound Train where they add cars though. At this point the sun has nearly fully set as we slowly go down 11th Street.

We reach Carroll Avenue 5 minutes early at 8:07pm and I hope we get through this stop with the South Shore Line shops efficiently. The train’s crew changes (this train becomes the 10:16pm final Westbound train back to Chicago of the night) and I hear the dumping of air, since we’re clearly dumping some cars off and leaving them behind, this is a relatively slow process, but we leave Carroll Avenue again at 8:14pm CT. I wish that Amtrak’s didn’t charge $20 extra dollars to use the Capitol Limited’s Bike car, I would have left Transportation Camp at the same time and have been home by now. This is how trips often occur now, the South Shore into town (to avoid Amtrak delays) and Amtrak back to South Bend since it normally leaves Chicago on time.

It’s then a final ride through the night, with me deciding I’m too tired to read and listen to music instead, the track work is definately making the ride a bit slower. We arrive at the South Bend Airport at 10:03pm as a 3 car train, instead of a 7 or 8 car train, about 10 minutes late. I put the lights on my bicycle and ride down Lincolnway home into the night. I’m home by 10:15pm.

A Private South Shore Line ride with my bike to Transportation Camp Chicago

This past May (on May 5th to be exact) I headed into Chicago to attend the inaugural Transportation Camp Chicago for the day. Louise and I considered getting a hotel room and making a weekend out of it but with a big trip (no transit involved) the following weekend, tickets to Kinky Boots in South Bend the night before, it just didn’t make sense to make a weekend out of it. Based on the location of the event, the logistics of not wanting to make Louise get out of bed too early on a Saturday morning, and the weather forecast I decided that taking my bicycle on the South Shore Line was the perfect way to solve the first mile/last mile logistics of the day and get to Transportation Camp — an unconference where it really wouldn’t be an issue — slightly late, but faster than any other option for getting across from a South Shore Station to the UIC Campus for the event.

I wake up at 6:15am ET, leave the house at 7:05am and get to the airport at 7:30am, plenty of time for my 7:45am train. The South Shore Line has a very strict policy requiring bicyclists to only board at high-level platform stations, and through center doors. Like last bike season the bike car is now the very last car of the train and one that won’t platform at most stations, so it’s been closed off meaning I get most-likely (unless there are other bicyclists) a private car. In 2016 when I took the South Shore Line with my bike more it was always a scramble with other passengers boarding in South Bend who don’t feel like walking forward more. The friendly conductor asks me to wait a minute and then asks me my destination – Museum Campus – before opening the center doors for me and then closing them. I put my bicycle in the nice easy to use rack and sit down.

At 7:43 the conductor lets a few last minute stragglers into my car before we leave at 7:45, with the stragglers walking up to the regularly open few cars. This means a car to myself until at least Dune Park. The conductor then punches my final ride on my 10-trip ticket, this evening this 10 trip ticket will be collected. The ticket was purchased last June before the South Shore Line’s last fare hike, Louise and I haven’t been taking the South Shore Line into Chicago as much lately, preferring the comfort of taking Amtrak.

The South Shore Line leaves the Airport on it’s slow merry-go-round like ride out of the airport, along Bendix Avenue (which it crosses at grade-crossings twice), past the concrete plant, retracing my ride to the airport.

At 7:54 we pass the old Honeywell plant, a place where some have proposed relocating the South Shore Station, “to save time”. The original plans to relocated the South Shore Line to the west side of the Airport, was curtailed by NIMBYism from a few landowners (12 to 24) in the unincorporated community of Ardmore who protested that the South Bend City government (a government they don’t vote for) were going to use city money to buy their homes using eminent domain.

7:57 – We finally switch onto the South Shore “Mainline” that continues before it ends at the current Amtrak Station, parallel to the Norfolk Southern Tracks. We pick-up speed, finally heading west in good time, and are soon in fields.

 

8:09 – We pass the train running in semi-revenue service from Michigan City to South Bend that will become the 9:00am Express Train to Chicago that I usually take. At one point pre-2009, ‘reliability’ service cuts nearly all weekend trains running every 2 hours ran all the way to South Bend. These meets today are relatively rare east of Michigan City. The ride here is through fields.

We bypass the Hudson Lake Station, at 7:14 CT, just after passing the Hudson Lake Cemetery. No one has singled the train to stop at this flag stop. This station is just beyond the county line where I gain the hour entering Central Time.

I then listen to music and doze off, my plan for at least the start of this early morning train ride. I wake up and am sitting the Carroll Avenue(3 Photos) train yard with a nice view of the ex-Metra Galley Car, I think the South Shore Line purchased for clearance testing before they purchased their most recent bilevel cars.

 

  • 7:43 – I notice a purple cross by the train line as we enter Downtown Michigan City. I assume this cross is for someone killed by a train.
  • 7:45 – We cross Michigan Blvd and head into 11th Street to begin the one remaining street running section of “the last interurban in America.”
  • 7:46 – We stop at 11th Street-Michigan City in the middle of the street, while stopped the same conductor walks back to “Check in and make sure your doing okay.” We leave the station before stopping again to activate a signal. I notice a gravel parking lot on the north side of the tracks with a South Shore Line parking sign.
  • 7:51 – We transition from 11th Street to 10th Street and cross the Amtrak Michigan Line.

We continue down the middle of 10th Street before passing the Michigan City State Prison. Then we finally enter the paster private ROW through Duneland.

We stop at Beverly Shores at 7:58, I glance at my timetable and see for no reason I can fully think of we’re running 15 minutes late. Perhaps there was a slow down between Carroll Avenue and Hudson Lake that I slept through.

We get to Dune Park at 8:03, let see if any other bikes are riding this morning. The doors on my car don’t automatically open but I platform! The platform has signs for local trails, no other bikes this morning. As we leave, I noticed a pedestrian trail leaving the station leading to Indiana Dunes State Park.

8:09 – Industry returns as we pass the Bruns Harbor area and cross over the NS line used by Amtrak (including all Michigan Service trains) into Chicago.

We stop at Ogden Dunes at 8:15, my car is stopped by the mini-high platform that has a retracted bridgeplate to allow freight trains through without needing gauntlet track. I also notice a strobe light on the mini-high platform to alert the crew if any wheelchairs need to board. I wonder how delayed trains are if a wheelchair wants to get on here.

We cross the NS railroad used by Amtrak again coming to a stop at the simple Miller Station at 8:22, 15 minutes late

We follow follow the Dunes Highway into downtown Gary where we cross and then follow the Toll Road into town. We then pass the RailCats independent baseball team’s stadium.

Almost immediately we come to a stop at the Gary Metro Center Station(1 Photo). The bike car is stopped near the switch used by weekday trains that short-turn at Gary use. The bike car isn’t anywhere close to the platform. I do have a nice view of the New York Central Station.

 

We leave Gary-Metro Center and I get a nice photo of the station building with the walkway that angles up from the platform to it over the parking lot.

At 8:33 we come to a stop at Clark Road-Gary Airport, my car is nearly under Airport Road, quite a ways from the short station platform.

We reach the edge of the large East Chicago(2 Photos) parking lot, (with a non-union rat in the distance). My car comes to a stop at 8:40 at the unusued low-level platform area on the opposite side of the elevator/stair landing that leads up to the high-level platform.

 

We head back down to grade-level and enter Hammond where my car actually platforms!

We pass a train yard and a lake and continue into Chicago, where the first stop is Hegewisch at 8:51. We pass a Norfolk Southern locomotive attached to some autoracks.

I see a waiting bus to the 69th Red Line Station, which seems like a fun way to enter Chicago one-day and get a proper photo essay of Hegewisch, I did bike there once but nearly missed the South Shore Line so I didn’t have time to get a proper photo essay.

Leaving Hegewisch, we pass a CSX yard where a locomotive is pulling some autoracks, just like the NS locomotive when we entered.

We pass the modern blue bridge that opened as part of the Create project and more abandoned industry.

At 8:59 I see Metra Electric tracks, and we cross the parallel ex-IC freight and intercity tracks at a grade before slowly switching onto the Metra Electric line at 115th St/Kensington, where the platform signs seem to be missing.

We then immedately pass the Kensington/115th Street Station.

   

We then head onto the outside Express track, and I decide to get out the window photos of the Metra station’s as we pass.

I’m at the ready at the abandoned 67th Street Station, after we pass over the South Chicago branch that arrives at at a flying junction.

Then some photos passing through 63rd Street(3 Photos)

 

At 9:10, as we stop at 55th-56th-57th, we finally get an announcement to expect all trains running to and from South Bend to be 10-15 minutes late due to track work. Probably residual delays due to the weekdays busing that ended the day before.

We then bypass 51st, 53rd/Hyde Park(3 Photos) were I get some nice, final out the window photos.

 

At this point I put my camera away and start to pack up. At McCormick Place I notice the platform has a lot more bright signage. I definitely need to put this unique convention center stop on my re-visit list.

We then come to a stop for Museum Campus with my car not actually platforming.

The conductor is nearby and tells me to wait a minute. The train than pulls-up and makes a double-spot at Museum Campus(8 Photos). Unfortunately the engineer didn’t pull the train up enough. The middle door is now only half-way on the platform. I carefully get off with the conductor asking me “Is everything okay?” not that happy that I’m taking pictures of a safety hazard she’s created not properly spotting the train.

   

Continue reading – Transportation Camp Chicago and a Not Alone South Shore Line ride home.

 

Flying Home From Disneyland to my first ride on Amtrak’s Blue Water to Niles

After a great day at Dinseyland, on a trip designed to keep us on eastern time, we work up (almost naturally) shortly before 6:00am at the Courtyard by Marriot Anaheim Convention Center, quickly packed up and hailed a Lyft to John Wayne Airport. The ride was quick (taking from 6:09 to 6:27) and cost $16.49, plus a $2.00 tip to the driver who waited for us when I realized I had left my camera in the hotel room and ran up to grab it.

We get to the nice, small John Wayne Airport and clear security into a terminal with tons of planes getting ready to depart, although the first take-off can’t be until 8:00am due to the airport’s overnight curfew. At a departures monitor I noticed something unique and helpful, arrows pointing in opposite directions (the terminal is one long building with gates on one side) orienting travelers on the location of their gate.

The only decent thing nearby for breakfast was McDonalds so we head there to grab breakfast before heading back to the gate. The plane boards relatively early with a notice on the jetway to comply with California’s lets put a sign that everything causes cancer to alert us just before we board the plane. There’s also a sign warning us of the effects of drinking like we’re entering a bar (I guess since planes serve booze).

The flight itself has one fun event. Louise starts by napping. I watch Enchanted! a strange live-action Disney movie that takes place in New York on the seatback TV (this is one of the planes American hadn’t gotten to rip the TV out of yet). When the free drink cart comes I order us both ginger ale before overhearing someone else ask for Dr. Pepper. Before the cart moves on I ask if they have Louise’s soft drink of choice Diet Dr. Pepper, and the flight attendant says “Yes we do! Not many people know about it” handing us a third can of soda.

We get to O’Hare pretty much on time around 1:50pm. The next train to the South Bend area is Amtrak’s Blue Water. I booked these during a sale a few weeks ago for $17.00 each, there’s no good taxi service from Niles (Uber and Lyft’s from South Bend can’t pick up across state lines in Michigan), so we’ve arranged for Louise’s Dad to pick us up (in return we will take him out to dinner). So at O’Hare we head for the Blue Line(2 Photos).

 

As we leave O’Hare I watch the train’s destination roll sign and think for a minute we may be running express but the sign soon settles on Forest Park.

We head downtown and get off at Washington Street and head to a Roti for a late lunch since were both quite hungry. After lunch we board a bus on the Loop Link, taking advantage of the free transfers on the $5 single-use Ventra passes I’ve bought at O’hare. I’m convinced that just tapping a regular Ventra card at O’Hare would have been more expensive since you will still be charged the CTA 25 cent transfer fee on most tickets.

We get to Union Station-(1 Photo) at 3:30pm, and soon join the Kindergarten walk to the Blue Water to Port Huron scheduled to leave at 4:00pm. This train runs in a pull-pull configuration with P42s at each end. A Cabbage can’t be used because of the 110mph stretch of running on the Michigan Lines and Cabbages aren’t raited for those speeds.

 

We board and I enjoy looking out at the Horizon cars of some other Amtrak Midwest trains in the station.

The train slowly leaves Chicago on time at 4:00pm and heads down past the train yard on the same route used the Lake Shore & Capitol Limited and all other Michigan trains towards Indiana. The conductor comes and a I learn a few travelers going to Dearborn booked the unnecessary connection Amtrak has built into Arrow by taking the Blue Water to Battle Creek and then transferring to the Wolverine that originates in Chicago 2 hours later. They seem in good spirits about their Battle Creek layover. I’m not quite ready with my camera to get photos as we cross over the Dan Ryan Expressway.

At 4:22 we’re back in Indiana, passing the Casino and then through the Hammond-Whiting Station. We then go through one of the abandoned steel mills.

Soon we’re going through Gary, and past it’s abandoned station, with the South Shore Line’s Gary Metro Station visible, across the Toll Road.

Next landmark is at 4:41 CT when we pass the South Shore Line’s Portage-Ogden Dunes Station.

I have my camera at the ready when we reach the town of Porter Indiana where we curve off the Norfolk Southern main line and onto the Amtrak Michigan district at 4:42 with a sign welcoming us to it in the same style as the one at the other end that I saw a few weeks ago in Kalamazoo.

We then pick up speed as we head towards Michigan City, crossing the South Shore Line (which has to yield to all Amtrak traffic, I’ve been made late waiting for Amtrak trains to cross and even a crossing bar blocking the South Shore’s track), and then Amtrak’s small waterfront station.

We make our one intermediate stop at New Buffalo at 6:10pm. Then its another quick ride through some fields to Niles(24 Photos) where we arrive at 6:29 on the outside track.

  

Louise’s Dad isn’t there so we head into the station to wait on this cold day. I get some photos of the recently closed ticket office while we wait.

  

He pulls up 15 minutes late fuming because he got lost in downtown Niles (just south of the Amtrak Station) due to the lack of a sign telling him when to turn to stay on Michigan 51 (also known as 5th Street) to reach the train station. We take him out to dinner which makes him feel better.

We get home at a reasonable hour by 8:00pm. Staying on Eastern Time definitely works! We both wake up the next morning feeling well rested and not at all jet lagged with long productive days working and none of the usual post-trip (especially from the West Coast) fatigue.

The South Shore Line to the CTA Blue Line to Spirit Airlines to the Metro Green Line to an Uber to Dinseyland

This past April Louise and I had already paid for days at Dinseyland and again headed off to Anaheim for a quick weekend at Louise’s Happiest Place on Earth. Unlike last year when the trip ended with us getting home at 4:00am Monday morning we planned this trip with the goal of “staying on Eastern time” and flew back on a just post-curfew morning flight from Orange County. For the flight out there wasn’t anything cheap out of Orange County but Spirit Airlines had less than $100 each one-way fares out of Chicago O’Hare, and for this short a trip, we had no need for any carry-on or checked bags.

I took 2.25 hours of vacation to do this trip and it began with me hailing an Uber at my desk for $9.28 and meeting Louise downstiars at 12:15pm for a short ride to the South Bend Airport. The Transpo Route 4 bus we like to take but it arrives at 12:43, and this feels uncomfortably short before a trip. Having less than 6 minutes to catch the 12:49 South Shore Train, requires taking the 11:50am bus and my vacation time feels more valuable than this. The Uber follows a Coach USA Airport Supersaver Bus that originated at Notre Dame at Noon and is heading to the Airport for it’s 12:30pm trip to O’Hare (with a connection to Midway). It’s scheduled arrival time is 2:35pm and but would cost us $42 each instead of the $13.50 for the South Shore Line and $2.50 for the Blue Line. Louise also gets motion sickness on buses.

We get to South Bend Airport(2 Photos) in plenty of time to our awaiting South Shore Train.

 

The ride into Chicago is largely uneventful, although we arrive at Van Buren Street in Chicago 15 minutes late at 2:30. We arrive as a train of BiLevel cars is going the other way, on an Eastbound South Shore Line trip only as far as Michigan City. Our train is on the middle track and blocks my view to finally get some photos of the South Shore’s Galley BiLevel cars in service. The reason for the delay seems primarily due to some work on a grade-crossings before Michigan City that I don’t really notice while taking a nice and short train nap curled up against the train window.

On the train Louise and I decide to see if we can download and watch a movie on my iPad on the Spirit Flight. We realize we have problems, Louise only has Bluetooth headphones and forgot the cord to use to them outside of airplane mode, we also don’t have a headphone splitter. We figure out a solution and make a bee-line to Target on State Street to buy a cheap pair of headphones and a splitter for less than $15. We then bee-line it to Moroe Street-(2 Photos) to wait for the Blue Line.

The Blue Line soon comes and we have usual long and slightly jerky  ride because of the short CTA cars out to O’Hare.

At O’Hare we have an easy PreCheck security line and stop at Burrito Beach for some dinner before boarding our plane. The plane is at C9 which does have a Jetbridge (Spirit flights are sometimes forced to a different O’Hare gate C12 that requires passengers to take stairs down to the tarmac and a ramp up into the plane).

On my two previous Spirit flights between Chicago to the west coast we’ve gotten Big Front Seats for as low as $35, money well spent, but the seats are all taken on this flight when we book. I settle in for my first Spirit flight on their “pre”-reclined seats. The big problem with them for me is their lack of padding that makes my back sore, Louise who is tall and has broad hips actually finds Spirit seats (and Frontier seats) often more comfortable than normal airline seats, also since recline can be deadly to her, so flights like these are sort of a compromise in comfort for us as a couple.

The plane leaves the gate a couple minutes early at 5:03, after we wait to finish fueling. It’s the usual long O’Hare Airport taxi and we take off at 5:19. Our stop at Target works well. We watch UP! which I hadn’t seen before on my iPad is the perfect inflight entertainment for us and helps pass the time. We finally land in L.A. at 7:15 and have a quite long taxi to our gate where we arrive at 7:28 Pacific Time.

The time we did this trip last year we arrived later and took a Prime Time Shuttle down to Anaheim which cost $31.95 for two tickets but required waiting a good half-hour to 40 minutes for a shuttle with enough seats for us to show up. This time I figured out a new idea, an Uber all the way from LAX to Disneyland costs about $50, but about half of the journey is in the median of the Century Freeway and an Uber from Norwalk would only cost about $25. We arrive and Louise is okay and not too tired for the idea so we find the right curb for Bus Route “G” (only passengers with TAP cards arriving at the airport are allowed on board, I would think LAX would be happy letting people get dropped off at the Green Line station and reduce curb congestion) and wait about 10 minutes for the bus. The LAX Airport Shuttle’s use Ride Systems the same system I’m used I help manage for work. They’ve programmed there’s in a way so there a bunch of idling shuttle icons sitting in their bus garage, and its a bit confusing.

We have an uneventful bus ride to the Aviation/LAX Station-(3 Photos) where I notice the guideway built for the Crenshaw Line that’s going to open in a couple years. I buy us TAP cards loaded with a single ride for $2.75 each ($5.50 total). There definitely not enough TVMs at the Aviation Station entrance for the busiest of an airport connection station. The Transit App is giving inaccurate data saying a Green Line will be there in 6 minutes (it’s frequency is sadly every 20 minutes at this hour) before live tracking goes blank, soon we see the lights of a train arriving in the distance and we get on.

 

The Green Line ride east in the middle of the Century Freeway is a bit eventful. Yet again I overhear some random strangers getting into a deep conversation with one another on Metrorail. This seems to be something that I witness a lot more when riding transit in California than back in New York City. We get to the last stop at Norwalk Station(8 Photos) and leave to the west exit plaza.

   

At the west exit plaza we wait by the Bumble Bee sculpture for about 15 minutes for our Uber down to Anaheim. We see Metro Bus route 460 that goes to Disneyland from Downtown Los Angeles and the Norwalk Green Line Station, it’s a 67 minute ride making lots of stops that is just not feasible for us (although costing just a 75 cent upcharge).

Our Uber driver is a Disneyland season pass holder and a bit chatty. The cost of the ride is ideal at just $22.35, so the total cost from the airport is $25.85 (plus the $1 per new TAP card which is a one time cost). This is a price I can get behind, and $5 cheaper than the unreliable primetime shuttle (it’s also cheaper than )

We arrive at the Courtyard Anaheim Convention Center, that feels like a Courtyard that could be in any city. It’s chosen because it’s a Category 5 hotel that I can use a free night certificate that we earned by staying in Marriott Hotels on our roadtrip to Syracuse for Thanksgiving.

We’re in bed before 10:00pm Pacific Time and soon fall asleep on this trip where the goal is to keep our bodies on Eastern Time. We wake up the next morning at 6:00am naturally. We walk up Harbor Blvd, stopping at CVS for last minute items and are inside Disneyland on Main Street at 7:30, forth group through the turnstile. We grab breakfast at the now Starbucks on Main Street and head outside and enter the park with the rope drop.

I’m not going to go into details about are fun day at Dinseyland with some brief hopping into California Adventure but might as well include some rail-based transportation photos. We had an interesting ride on the Disneyland Railroad that was in the process of temporarily going out of service to fix something on the tracks (is it real transportation? I don’t know and can’t decide).

The Autotopia, stinking of diesel fuel from it’s lawnmower engines

We went for a ride on a horse-drawn streetcar, pulled by horse Finn (with a normal cast-member name tag). I think this and Dinseyworld are some of the few places you can ride a horse-car.

We we’re planning to ride the monorail back into the park from Downtown Disney but it was “Temporary Closed due to heat since the cars lack air conditioning.” I didn’t fully believe the cast member here either.

We head back to the hotel after a terrible Toy Story Fireworks/Projection show that’s really hard to see, not waiting until Midnight park closing time to keep our bodies on Eastern Time.

Continue reading: Flying Home from Disneyland with my first ride on Amtrak’s Blue Water to Niles.

 

Heading back from Vancouver via SkyTrain, United Airlines, the Lake Shore Limited and 2 Ubers

This is the final post of my Pacific Northwest Up to Date trip. It’s a bit later than I’d like but I wanted to rebuild Chicago-Union Station first to get those 2 photos properly processed with the station.

Me and my Dad have four excellent days skiing at Whistler. We head up there on the 6:00am Friday morning Whistler Express bus (it was a very short night after my Amtrak Cascades day in Portland and then Seattle) and headed back Monday afternoon after skiing. Louise flew into Vancouver on a red-eye Saturday morning from a conference in Honolulu, took the YVR Whistler SkyLynx bus and met us in Whistler. Louise doesn’t ski but had a great and productive two days writing and working in the condo we rented off of AirBNB. We spent Monday night at the nice Delta Hotels Vancouver Downtown Suites.

Tuesday morning our flight wasn’t until 2:00pm. I thought about getting up early and riding the new SkyTrain Evergreen Exteinsion, but decided to take it easy and spend a portion of this vacation exploring some with Louse. I think the best way to fully do the Evergreen Extension is to start with a scenic ride out to it on West Coast Express, which only runs outbound during the afternoons. We awoke to amazing views in our corner hotel suite, and seagulls making noise that we could hear inside the room.

We then headed down to a nice breakfast in the hotel restaurant that was complementary because of our Marriott Gold status courtesy of the AMEX Platinum Card (this amazing benefit at Marriott hotels is sadly ending). We then took walk and ended up getting some views of the Waterfront West Coast Express Station(7 Photos) from the plaza in front of Waterfront Centre.

 

We also passed through Waterfront Station(5 Photos) with it’s complicated faregate situation (you have to pass through faregates entering and exiting to transfer between the Canada line and all other rail and SeaBus services at the station)

 

We eventually end up back at our hotel room to pack up our luggage and at 11:50, 2 hours before our flight, we walk through this alley with a unique mural.

We then arrive at the southern entrance to the Canada Line’s Waterfront Station(5 Photos). There I buy two more single use Compass Tickets in one transaction, getting the right setting on the machine to accept my debit card as Chip and Pin.

 

We get onto the Canada Line, waiting for a Richmond train to leave before the next train arrives going to YVR Airport. It’s an uneventful ride as it starts to rain once were on the outdoor stretch.

We get to the YVR Airport(5 Photos) at 12:25. I have an awkward moment. As we approach th faregates to tap out of the SkyTrain System, a woman, I assume a tourist with luggage, approaches me from behind, and as I tap my Compass Card, says I didn’t know I needed to keep my card and follows me through the faregates. This doesn’t sound any alarms so we head down the stairs towards the US and International departures area.

  

We scan our passports for paper boarding passes and head into the US Customs, and pre-clearance area. The first step is security. Luckily I have my physical Global Entry ID card that gets us in a line that doesn’t seem to be moving any faster than the regular line. In Canada there is only PreCheck light, shoes can be kept on but laptops need to be taken out of their bags. The line gets long enough that an additional line is open, although this one is part of a normal line so an employee gets the job of saying “Shoes on, shoes off pointing” to the two lines. All passengers just go through metal detectors with millimeter-wave scanners as a back up in Canada. We don’t mind and choose the “shoes off” line. At the metal detector, I get an odd beep, and an employee tells me I’ve been randomly selected for either a full pat down or a body scanner. I opt into the body scanner which seems easier. The sweat of carrying my ski bag backpack shows with suspicion under my armpits (this has happened on other trips when I’ve been sweaty). The guy barely pats me down and figures it’s just sweat.

We continue to the Global Entry kiosks, these are quick with our fingerprints. Pre-Clearance still requires you to talk to a customs official, so after a couple questions we’re free to enter the not all that big but quite pleasant US Pre-Clearance Area. It’s strange looking into the World-International Departures area across the way, an area we are not allowed in, past different immigration lines.

We end up heading to the Plaza Premium Lounge for 20 minutes where we have some quite decent but simple rice and curry for lunch. Another free meal. The lounge is crowded with the staff warning us there are not too many seats available but we find some.

We see boarding is at 1:20 but since were in group 4, we’ve decided to leave the lounge at 1:30. At 1:25 (a fill 30 minutes before departure of this narrowbody plane), we overhear, over the entire Transborder departure area, that United Flight #298 is ready for departure. We board and find an empty row to ourselves (I’ve done the aisle, leave an empty middle seat, window trick when booking our two separate tickets that Louise needed done for reimbursement purposes). We wait for a few stragglers, but no one for our empty middle seat towards the back and push back at 1:52pm, taxi and take off at 2:16.

The flight is productive. I help Louise talk through part of her dissertation proposal, the extra seat really making this possible. I get some out the window photos of the mainly slow covered Rocky Mountains, and get sad when they fade into the Great Plains.

The flight is overall decent, except Air Traffic Control Delays on our approach into Chicago delay us a bit. We finally land at 7:53 and a long O’Hare taxi gets us to the gate at 8:09pm. We are off the plane and in the terminal at 8:20pm. Just too late to reliably take the Blue Line down to Union Station for the Lake Shore Limited home to South Bend so rideshare it is.

I have a monthly $15 Uber credit from my AMEX card. An UberPool is only $25 but an ETA into Union Station too late for us. LyftLine seems more promising, but after hailing one I immediately hit cancel when the dispatched ride share is over 20 minutes away (there’s no fee when it’s immediate). We end up hailing an Uber for $43. The Uber takes 15 minutes to arrive but we have a decent, professional driver. It’s an uneventful ride down the Kennedy Expressway to Union Station(2 Photos) where we arrive at 9:05. We have plenty of time to hit up the Pret and McDonalds for Chicken McNuggets (during weekends only the McDonalds is open this late, and these are now a post-trip joke between us).

We then head out to board the Lake Shore Limited after most of general boarding has happened.

As we board the last Hiawatha train of the night is detraining on one of the through tracks on the south concourse in push mode so it can head into the yard for the night. I get some photos of the Midwest painted Charger unit as we board, I also notice the logos of the various departments of transportation that jointly funded them.

 

The Lake Shore Limited leaves a few minutes late. It seems like the slight delay is that their trying to fix a PA issue. The conductor comes to our car to ask if anyone had heard her announcement. I say no and she goes back to the vestibule to give a long safety sphael. I should have said “Yes we did”.

We’re both still hungry and head to the cafe car to grab a Pepperoni Stromboli to split in the cafe car. We first ask for a pizza but the attendant says they are too frozen for consumption. It’s fairly good. We sit in the “observation car,” as the attendants/conductor announce it although the Amfleet I Business/Lounge car has smaller windows than the regular coaches. We stop a few times for freight trains and arrive in South Bend more than 25 minutes late at 12:24am.

I hail another Uber for the short $6.18 ride down Washington Street home. It’s a 25 minute wait for this Uber because he’s coming from the south and delayed by two long freight trains that block the grade crossing, creating at least a 10-15 minute delay.

We still get home by 1:00am, when the alternative the 9:15pm Supersavor Bus would have dropped us off at the South Bend Airport.