The following trip took place on Thursday, June 14, 2018.
One of my major goals this summer is to finish the South Shore Line, one major reason I stopped at East Chicago last Sunday on my way to spend the day railfanning in Chicago. Earlier in the week, I had a couple of evening meetings and need to take an afternoon off because I was over time. With Louise away I thought about going on an evening trip into Chicago to get some of the Rush Hour Metra Lines (I have a fascination with them, and really want to ride the North Central Service in particular), unfortunately life got in the way, with some errands to run so I settled for an evening trip (that I could have done after a regular day of work) to get the middle 3 South Shore Stations I am missing.
I decide to bike to the airport on this nice warm sunny day, unfortunately I leave the house a little late and it’s was a sprint to Airport rail station, on my much more comfortable personal bike than my LimeBike on Sunday. I get to the Airport with moments to spare, and just make the train after locking my bike up to the rack. I purchase my mobile ticket for $10.25 that feels a little expensive, since I’m going just about two-thirds of the distance to Chicago and a ticket there is $14.00. I get a seat check with a hand-written ‘MIL’ written on it, as South Shore Line conductors due for westbound passengers going to intermediate stops before Chicago, Intermediate ridership on the South Shore has always felt really low, compared to most of the New York/New Jersey commuter rail lines.
I have an uneventful ride on the train. I spend the ride working on my laptop, on my website. I gain the hour and arrive in Miller-(36 Photos) 5:12 CT. I get off and start my photo essay, running up to get the front of the train while it’s still stopped.
I take a little walk and visit a nearby ATM, wanting to just pay cash for my one-stop intermediate rides, and see how the conductors react. The South Shore Line’s TVMs only accept credit cards, so cash is still accepted on board without penalty except at stations with open ticket offices. On my walk I find a vandalized bus shelter missing pains of glass that this the closest Gary PTC stop (that finally has a modern website, but lacks decent route maps, schedules, and isn’t on Google Transit yet).
I head back to the station, I want to get a far shot from the parking lot but my next train is approaching a few minutes early (South Shore Line trains designate all stops east of Chicago on Eastbound trains as stops where the train may depart a few minutes ahead of schedule, another tactic that discourages intermediate ridership that is a good sign of real Regional rail). I cross back to the platform and photograph the entering 5:37pm train entering to Michigan City.
I climb the steps and get on the mostly empty car (a lot of the ridership on the South Shore at stops east of hear) and the conductor soon comes to collect $5.75 payment from me for my one stop, 5 mile ride, I don’t know if I’ve ever paid so much to go one stop on a Commuter rail line, the reason it’s expensive is I need a two fare zone ticket. I hand the conductor my cash, he gives me change and the strange South Shore Line cash receipt that doesn’t even look like a ticket, god forbid an intermediate traveler at rush hour needed to Transfer between trains, although I only know of one scenario on the schedule trying to get from South Bend (on the 6:00am Express train) to a local stop between Dune Park and East Chicago that would require just an 18 minute layover and this would make sense.
It’s a quick ride, I notice that the regular commuters start lining up at different doors in different vestibules for the low-level platform at Ogden Dunes than they did at Miller, I think to try and distribute seats better. I get off at Portage/Ogden Dunes–(56 Photos) at 5:41, 3 minutes early and do my photo essay walking between the two grade-crossings that lead to the platform, and exploring one of the strange mini-high platforms with an electrically controlled platform extender.
After my photo essay I wait for the 6:09pm train to come in. Here the conductor asks me on the platform while passengers where I’m going as I’m getting on. I tell him Dune Park and am let on, my original thought for this trip was to say South Bend and see where they would tell me to get off to wait for the next train (and how they would handle my ticket). I pay him a “bargain” of $3.75 for this trip for this longer 8 mile ride after I board.
I get off at Dune Park–(40 Photos) and start my photo essay of the two part station, original parking lot, and clearly additional parking lot, built to allow for station consolidation in the mid-1990s. As I get off I notice some people sitting on benches who ask the conductor if this is the train to South Bend, the conductors say no. After walking between the parking lots and getting streetside views of the large 1980s “retro”-looking depot that was built to be the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District Headquarters, I head across the pedestrian grade-crossing that provides access to a trail network in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
At this point on my journey my camera dies, I get some more photos with my phone before it dies too. I’m far enough away from the station when this happens that I don’t get any photos of the 6:29pm train that stops off in the distance. I head back to the passenger waiting room and find an awkwardly placed outlet to charge my phone (I’ve forgotten my camera charger). My phone is just waking up when my final train back to South Bend arrives at 6:29pm,
I board one of the rear cars of this train outside the station waiting area. There is a moment of confusion because the conductors have already cleared these cars asking all passengers to walk forward because of the short platform at the 4 remaining stations. The conductor wants my ticket or my $9.00 in cash for South Bend, hands me my receipt and I walk up to the more crowded front cars. I’m even-able to find a seat with an outlet, and plug my computer in with my phone alongside.
The ride is uneventful except my train has a meet around 7:30 CT with the final Chicago-bound train from South Bend west of Hudson Lake. We slowly hit the merry-go-around and enter the South Bend Airport Station–(4 Photos), my bike is there, I get a few photos of the station and bike home into the sunset, happy to call the South Shore Line (in Indiana at least) “done” until the Double Tracking project brings a bunch of new high-level platforms and improved stations.
Bonus: Hegewisch-(5 Photos), I got a very abbreviated photo essay I once biked there back in 2016 on a not blogged about trip and got a few photos (on my phone before it died after my camera had died) waiting for the South Shore home, I’ve added this page but Hegewisch is on my revisit list.