Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Union Station’

This Way

February 23, 2022

It’s just another day at Chicago Union Station. Passengers are walking from the Great Hall toward the concourse where Amtrak and Metra trains board.

From here you can reach directly many, if not most, of the cities that Amtrak serves. Among Midwest cities, Chicago is in a class all its own.

No other Midwest city has the level of rail passenger service that Chicago does. Not St. Louis, not Kansas City, not Cincinnati, not Minneapolis-St. Paul, not Cleveland, not Detroit. all of which are cities with multiple busy railroad lines.

All of those cities once had large railroad stations that in their heyday had a level of activity that approached what Chicago Union Station still has.

None of that, though, mattered to those folks you can see in this image made on May 31, 2012. They had other things on their minds and they had trains to catch.

The Capitol Limited Has Arrived

February 9, 2022

It is May 20, 1998. Amtrak’s Capitol Limited has arrived at Chicago Union Station from Washington and passengers are disembarking and heading into the depot to continue on to where they are going. I was aboard this train but don’t remember if we were on time or, if not, how late we were. If the latter it probably was not too much lateness. I had boarded in Cleveland and had a more than six hour layover until boarding the southbound Illini to continue on to Mattoon, Illinois.

In From Milwaukee

January 30, 2022

An Amtrak Hiawatha Service train reposes at Chicago Union Station after arriving from Milwaukee. When this image was made on May 22, 1998, Hiawatha trains used former F40PH locomotives transformed into non-powered cab cars and P42DC locomotives. The latter pulled trains to Milwaukee from Chicago and pushed them back. Although the F40 cab cars had doors for a baggage compartment, I don’t know if those were ever used on the Chicago-Milwaukee route. I do recall seeing them used on Chicago-Detroit trains for a time .

Red Boards at CP Lumber

January 25, 2022

Amtrak’s outbound Capitol Limited is less than 10 minutes out of Chicago Union Station and has just crossed Lumber Street at the southern end of shop and service complex. If you look carefully you will see a P42DC siting on a service track awaiting servicing or its next assignment.

This is still Amtrak-owned trackage although in a few minutes No. 30 will be on the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern, which it will use all the way to Cleveland.

On Amtrak these signals are known as CP Lumber and are a familiar sight to Amtrak locomotive engineers piloting trains from the East, Michigan and St. Louis on their final few miles into Chicago.

Seeing them means their shift is about over and their train is about reached its terminus.

Not every Amtrak train coming into Chicago sees these signals. Trains coming in from the BNSF Raceway from Aurora don’t go past here nor on most days do trains coming off the route from New Orleans and Carbondale, Illinois. And of course trains coming down from Milwaukee use the north concourse at Union Station and don’t see these signals either.

They are, of course, one set of dozens of signals that Amtrak trains pass along their respective routes. But most of those signals don’t offer a city skyline view as these do.

One Morning at Chicago Union Station

June 29, 2021

It is Sept. 9. 1995, on the north side of Chicago Union Station. A Hiawatha Service train sits adjacent to the equipment to be used later today for the outbound Empire Builder.

At the time, Hiawatha Service trains were using former Metroliner cab cars. This equipment also was common at the time on the Chicago-Detroit route.

Note the mismatching liveries on the Superliner equipment on the Empire Builder. Amtrak was moving into a new look for its rolling stock and the old and new continued to mix for a while.

Amtrak, Metra Trade Barbs in Latest STB Filings in CUS Case

February 23, 2021

Recent filings by Amtrak and Chicago commuter carrier Metra with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board show that the two sides remain are fighting  over which party will control the station.

Amtrak owns the facility but claims in its filings that Metra is trying to wrest away control of the station.

The two have long been at odds over a new Metra lease and Metra has raised questions about Amtrak’s ownership of the building.

Metra contends Amtrak unlawfully merged long-time station owner Chicago Union Station Company into Amtrak.

The ownership issue had arisen in 2018 but at the time the STB said it would be premature for it to rule on that matter, indicating it would issue a ruling at an unspecified future date.

Metra contends that Amtrak “bias” stemming its ownership of the station is the basis for many of the ongoing issues separating the two sides.

The commuter rail agency argues that if the STB agrees that the parties would be better served by “balancing public interests” then there would be no basis for imposing Amtrak-requested terms that derive from an entirely different perspective.

Amtrak said in its filing that it must have the ability to manage, oversee, and coordinate service and operations at its station.

Therefore Amtrak said it is seeking clear rights and responsibilities to be delineated in a future access agreement.

The intercity passenger carrier called “not feasible” Metra’s demand that any reduction of the number of Metra trains or revision of peak periods must have its consent.

Metra wants to be able to increase its train movements at Union Station by 5 percent.

Amtrak said as owner it must have the ability to control and coordinate train schedules.

This includes dwell times for Metra trains. Amtrak wants to decree that Metra trains have as little as 10 minutes of dwell time during peak periods, some thing Metra has called “wasteful, unnecessary and arbitrary” because Amtrak has not presented any evidence that the limits are based on operating experience or need.

Amtrak also expressed concern about a Metra proposal that it be allowed to store some trains in the station overnight.

Amtrak, Metra Remain Far Apart Over CUS Lease

February 18, 2021

Amtrak and Chicago commuter carrier Metra remain far apart in their dispute over a new lease for the latter to use Chicago Union Station.

Documents filed with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board verge on contempt for some positions taken by the other party.

A Metra attorney wrote to the board on Feb. 8 seeking to strike a Jan. 29 letter from Amtrak, calling the letter an impermissible, “abusive” and “highly prejudicial” response to an earlier filing in which the sides jointly offered an update on results of their mediation efforts.

Amtrak countered by telling the STB that its letter was substantive changes to a Metra correction of earlier errors, and says it feels “compelled to address the faux outrage contained in Metra’s letter.”

Amtrak said its letter was providing context for those corrections that Metra “should have provided . . . but did not.”

The intercity passenger carrier argued that its Jan. 29 filing was proper, but it will not object if Metra wishes file a full response.

Both sides face a Feb. 19 deadline to file responses to each other’s earlier filing on remaining disagreements.

STB Filings Show Areas of Dispute Over CUS

January 27, 2021

In documents filed with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, Amtrak and Chicago commuter railroad Metra have listed areas of disagreement in a dispute over Chicago Union Station.

Amtrak owns the station and has been at loggerheads with Metra over various issues.

The intercity passenger carriers wants the STB to help settle the unresolved 16 issues.

Metra has countered that all of the issues can still be resolved through negotiation.

Among the unresolved issues are dwell time for Metra equipment, for boarding disembarking, and turnaround service.

Amtrak wants those to be limited to 10 minutes during peak period, one hour during weekday off-peak periods, and five hours on weekends and holidays.

Metra has described this as an attempt by Amtrak to “impose arbitrary and unnecessary time restrictions on Metra equipment layovers untethered to a demonstrable Amtrak need.”

The commuter railroad would rather that Metra equipment remain at the station as long as circumstances warrant so long as it does not interfere with Amtrak operations.

In its filing, Amtrak said 10 of the 16 remaining issues should be addressed by the Board.

Metra countered that it is willing to accept Amtrak’s most recent proposed terms in two areas with five areas being addressed by the board.

Both parties want the STB to settle procedures governing Metra schedule changes and increases in service.

Amtrak has said it is willing to cooperate with Metra, “but ultimately, a single party must have final scheduling” authority.

Metra is seeking what it termed “protection from arbitrary changes” and opposes Amtrak serving as the sole arbiter of whether a refusal to accommodate additional Metra trains is reasonable.

Amtrak, Metra Lists Areas of Agreement in CUS Dispute

January 25, 2021

Chicago commuter rail operator Metra and Amtrak have filed documents with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board showing areas of agreement in a dispute over Chicago Union Station.

The terminal, which Amtrak owns and at which Metra is a tenant, has been the subject of a long-running dispute.

The joint filing said they’ve reached agreement on such issues as Metra’s right to change schedules and operate special or test trains; Amtrak’s right to review the interoperability of new or overhauled Metra equipment to be used at Union Station; and notification procedures by Amtrak when an event causes disruption or annulment of Metra service.

The document also stipulates that Amtrak will continue to dispatch Metra trains at the station and there will be monthly meetings to review on-time and dispatching performance, as well as service disruptions.

The two sides describe in the document a complex formula for future recalculations of Metra’s rent based on costs including maintenance of way, dispatching, station operations and policing

However, the document indicates that the initial rent figure is among the 16 issues that remain undecided.

The dispute over Union Station has been ongoing for more than two years with some issues having been resolved through mediation.

Amtrak at one point demanded that Metra pay more than $17 million in annual rent.

Metra has been paying substantially less than that, including $9.66 million in 2018.

Amtrak, Metra Want Mediation Over CUS Lease Extended

November 7, 2020

Amtrak and Metra have asked federal regulators for more time in mediation to resolve a dispute over the commuter railroad’s lease at Chicago Union Station.

The two sides told the U.S. Surface Transportation Board that they have made progress in their talks.

The STB is helping to mediate the dispute, which has been ongoing for several years.

The STB’s mediation was to have ended on Oct. 30, but an attorney involved in the process told the agency that the sides want to extend the mediation to Dec. 4.

The letter said “further mediation would benefit them and the Board by facilitating further agreement. … Mediation has already resolved certain issues, and may yet resolve all others.”

Any unresolved issues will be brought to the STB on or after Dec. 4.