Posts Tagged ‘BNSF Raceway in Chicago’

Metra, BNSF Ripped at Public Hearing

December 12, 2018

A Chicago congressman has accused commuter rail agency Metra and host railroad BNSF of having “failed all to often” to provide reliable service.

The charge was made by U.S. Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D-Illinois, during a public hearing that he described as an effort to force Metra and BNSF to improve service.

“We all understand that problems can occur, but this year the Metra BNSF line has failed all too often. There have been repeated delays, cancellations, broken air conditioners, and other problems,” Lipinski said during the hearing in Western Springs. “I’ve told Metra and BNSF that this is unacceptable and the problems must end.”

Metra CEO James Derwinski and BNSF Vice President for passenger operations D.J. Mitchell told the audience of 80 that their organizations would do their best to address problems on the line.

The BNSF Line between Chicago Union Station and Aurora, Illinois, is the busiest of Metra’s 11 lines, carrying 64,000 riders a day.

The line is also used by Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, California Zephyr, Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg trains.

Metra operates 94 trains on weekdays while BNSF has up to 60 trains a day.

Generations of Motive Power

February 20, 2017

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Amtrak train No. 4 is departing from the station in Naperville, Illinois, and is about to cross over to the center track for the run into Chicago.

I made this image of the motive power consist because I found it interesting how there are three distinct locomotives represented.

On the point is a P40DC locomotive with the fading stripes that are original to those units, but which proved to be short lived on Amtrak.

In the middle is a P32-8 wearing its striking and original livery that proved to be unique to these locomotives.

And the third unit is an F40PH in the Phase III livery. At the time, F40s were still commonplace, but starting to fade from the roster.

Just 11 Miles Away from Journey’s End

January 9, 2017

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Passengers aboard the inbound California Zephyr are just 11 miles away from the end of their journey to Chicago Union Station as train No. 6 rushes through Riverside, Illinois, on the BNSF Raceway.

Those who know the route might already be gathering their belongings and thinking ahead to what they are going to be doing once they disembark at CUS.

Others, though, might be watching a suburban landscape that must must appear to be one Metra station after another.

Whatever the passengers are doing, the end of their trip aboard this train will arrive soon.

Double Shot of Amtrak P32-8 Locomotives

December 30, 2016

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I’ve only seen a pair of Amtrak P32-8 locomotives paired together on the point of a train one time. Maybe it used to be a common occurrence, but not that I saw.

Usually, one P32-8 was paired with a P40DC or P42DC. I even once saw a consist of a P40, a P32-8 and an F40PH.

I had my camera with me when I saw these two P32s, each wearing their original livery, wheeling the Chicago to Los Angeles Desert Wind through Riverside, Illinois.

It is April 8, 1996, and during the height of the era when some Amtrak long-distance trains did not operate daily.

One of those was the California Zephyr, which had long forwarded the Desert Wind through cars out of Chicago.

But on this day the Desert Wind is operating solo. The Zephyr will be back tomorrow, but probably not a pair of P32 units working in tandem.

Express Cars Remind Me of George Warrington

October 29, 2016

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Whenever I see a photo of an express car attached to an Amtrak train I think of George Warrington.

I will always remember the former Amtrak president for saying that Amtrak was on a glide path to profitability. Mail and express revenue was the centerpiece of the “flight plan.”

On paper the idea that Amtrak could use head-end revenue to wipe out its operating deficits might have made sense.

For many years the private railroads did well with head-end business. Then the post office yanked most of the railway post office cars and head-end business was diverted to freight trains.

Of course the railroads had more of an infrastructure to handle head-end business back then. They also had dedicated mail and express trains and/or carried most of their head-end business on slow locals.

So Amtrak was trying to gin up business that it had never seriously sought before. Amtrak over the years has carried some mail, but it never sought to emulate the late Railway Express Agency until the early 2000s.

Warrington was probably telling Congress what some of its members wanted to hear. They didn’t want to fund Amtrak in the first place and there was political advantage to be gained by sniping about its financial losses.

Shown is an express car on the rear in the Southwest Chief, which is passing through Riverside, Illinois, on the BNSF raceway.

If you rode Amtrak back in the early 2000s, you probably remember your train pulling out of Chicago Union Station and stopping to add head-end cars.

The crew assured you the time needed to do that was built into the schedule.

Warrington’s sucessor, David Gunn, gave up on head-end business although it took awhile for it to cease altogether.

Some of those express cars that Amtrak leased or acquired are still in service and can be spotted on manifest freights from time to time. Some of them are still wearing their Amtrak silver.

Three-way Meet in Hinsdale

October 12, 2016

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I was hanging out in Hinsdale, Illinois, on the BNSF Raceway with my camera making photographs of whatever came along.

I was between trains in Chicago and had a few hours to kill. Watching trains on the Raceway is one of my favorite pastimes when connecting between Amtrak trains.

An Aurora-bound Metra train pulled into the station and stopped. I could see on the center track an approaching stack train with a CSX locomotive on the point.

Just as the stack train was reaching the Metra station, Amtrak’s inbound California Zephyr rushed into the picture. It was perfect timing to get a three-way meet.

That Early P42DC Livery Look

September 15, 2016

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It only seems that Amtrak’s P42DC locomotives have worn blue and silver forever. Fact is, when the Genesis series of locomotives was introduced in the early 1990s it featured the Phase III livery.

In case you’ve forgotten what that looked like, take a look at this image of the inbound Illinois Zephyr.

It is a late spring day in Berwyn, Illinois, in 1997. I’ve just disembarked from a Metra train on the Chicago-Aurora, Illinois, raceway.

The IZ is rushing along on the center train, passing a westbound Burlington Northern & Santa Fe manifest freight. BNSF has been in operation less than a year and the BN heritage of this line is still much in evidence.

The Illinois Zephyr has its standard consist for the time with a lone P42DC on the point, three Horizon Fleet coaches and an Amfleet food service car. All of them are clad in the Phase III look. It was the way it was in the 1990s and still is today.

Somethin’ Different on the California Zephyr

September 3, 2016

Amtrak WB California Zephyr 2013 04-x

The knock on Amtrak trains is that they all look alike. The California Zephyr looks the same as the Southwest Chief which looks the same as the Empire Builder.

It’s all Superliner equipment pulled by a pair of P42DC locomotives painted in blue and silver. It’s been that way for years and promises to be that way for the future.

Aside from an occasional heritage P42, another thing that can add some interest to a passing Amtrak train is private cars.

Shown on May 23, 2013, on the rear of the westbound California Zephyr is open platform car Suitsme, which is owned by Zephyr Rail Services.

The car was built in 1928 as Pullman Palace Car No. 100 for the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad and named Itsuitsme.

The name is reportedly taken from the comment made by B&A President Percy Todd when asked what he thought of the new car.

Todd is said to have replied, “it suits me.” The next day that name was painted on the side of the car in gold lettering. The car is shown in Riverside, Illinois, on the BNSF raceway.