Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

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.

Cooling Their Heels

May 10, 2020

A gaggle of American Superliners sit in the coach yard outside Chicago Union Station awaiting service, repairs or the call to return to the road.

This image was made from aboard the outbound Illini as it was backing out of the station en route to Carbondale, Illinois, on June 2, 2012.

Last Outbound Amtrak Train of the Day

October 9, 2019

Boarding of the outbound Lake Shore Limited has begun on Track 26 at Chicago Union Station.

The sleeper class passengers are the first to board and I was near the head of the line in that group.

Actually, I wasn’t riding in a sleeper. But if you buy a day pass to the lounge at Union Station you get to board your train along with the sleeper passengers.

Train No. 48 will be the last Amtrak train to depart from the South concourse of Union Station today.

But other trains will be arriving over the next couple of hours including a Wolverine Service train, the Illini, a Lincoln Service train, the Carl Sanburg and an extraordinarily late California Zephyr.

These platforms won’t be empty for long.

Proposal New Chicago Transit Hub Includes Amtrak

June 6, 2019

Chicago may be getting a second Amtrak station if a Wisconsin developer is able to follow through on an ambitious proposal.

Landmark Development wants to create a transit center across Lake Shore Drive near Soldier Field on the southside of downtown Chicago. The location is close to the site of Central Station, which the Illinois Central razed in the middle 1970s after Amtrak ceased using it in March 1972.

The center would serve Metra, CTA and Amtrak. The developer also plans to build a $20 billion residential and commercial complex on a platform that would span the tracks running alongside Lake Shore Drive.

Those tracks are used by Metra Electric trains and Amtrak’s City of New Orleans, Illini and Saluki.

A recent state capital funding plan approved by the Illinois General Assembly would make $5 billion in state funding available to help finance the transit center.

The proposal calls for extending the CTA Orange Line and Metra’s BNSF route to the site.

It is not clear if that would mean that Metra BNSF route trains would no longer use Chicago Union Station.

The transit center would have parking for 6,500 vehicles and feature a bus line connecting it to Navy Pier, museums and other tourist attractions along the Lake Michigan shore in and near downtown Chicago.

The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce paid for a study that concluded that the transit center, to be known as One Central, generate $120 billion in new tax and fee revenues to state and local governments over 40 years.

Student funding is necessarily for the project to qualify for federal transportation funding.

All of Amtrak’s trains serving Chicago originate and terminate at Union Station. Some of those Amtrak routes have suburban stops, but no Amtrak train stops for passengers within Chicago other that at Union Station.

Amtrak Workers Protest Outsourcing

April 25, 2019

Three Chicago area Congressmen joined Amtrak workers on Wednesday for a rally to protest what the workers have described as “a hostile turn” in labor relations.

Reps. Dan Lipikski, Chuy Garcia and Jan Schakowsky appeared at a Unite Here rally conducted by the Transportation Communications Union and the Transport Workers Union.

The unions are decrying Amtrak’s decision to outsource work and proposals by the Trump administration to reduce Amtrak funding, particularly for long-distance routes.

Human Error Blamed for Chicago Service Issues

March 3, 2019

A reported “human error” that disrupted Amtrak and Metra service at Chicago Union Station on Thursday turned out to be a worker falling onto a circuit board that in turn turned off computers used to oversee train operations.

The computers in question operate signals at the station. The service interruption occurred for much of the day.

Amtrak President Richard Anderson issued a statement on Friday blaming human error for the service disruptions, but didn’t explain what that was.

The workers who fell on the circuit board wasn’t the only cause of the 12-hour problem.

Amtrak also had decided to conduct a server upgrade to its computers during peak hours of service rather than during the middle of the night when only a handful of trains would be operating.

In his statement, Anderson acknowledged that the passenger carrier failed to provide the service that its passengers and Metra riders expect.

“We own the system. We will fix this problem. More importantly, we are taking steps to improve our operations in Chicago, which include appointing a veteran Amtrak executive to make sure we deliver the performance our stakeholders expect of us,” Anderson said.

Metra service had returned to normal by Friday morning after signal operations were disrupted starting Thursday morning.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said workers had to shift from automated to manual control of signals and switches and that caused delays.

The signal problems began on Thursday at 8:35 a.m. and trains between Union Station and Western Avenue were halted about an hour later.

Although some delays were brief, other trains were delayed for almost three hour.

Metra shifted to a “load and go” operations plan for trains on its BNSF line between Chicago and Aurora, Illinois, its busiest route in Chicago.

Amtrak’s eastbound Lake Shore Limited did not depart Chicago until 2:28 a.m., nearly five hours late.

Amtrak Cancels Most Midwest Service Due to Cold

January 30, 2019

Amtrak has canceled all trains that are scheduled to originate in Chicago today (Jan. 30) due to subzero temperatures in the Midwest.

This also includes trains that originate elsewhere today en route to Chicago.

Trains that originated on or before Jan. 29 will complete their trip to Chicago. Most of those are long-distance trains.

Amtrak said that all corridor trains will be canceled on Thursday, Jan. 31. Most long-distance trains originating in Chicago are also expected to be canceled on Thursday.

Also being canceled today and Thursday will be long-distance trains bound for Chicago that would be scheduled to arrive on Thursday and Friday.

One long-distance train, the Chicago to Seattle/Portland Empire Builder was canceled on Tuesday due to the severe cold.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told Trains magazine that decision was made in consultation with host railroad BNSF, which handles the train for most of its route.

The only Amtrak trains that will originate in the Midwest today and Thursday will be the two Missouri River Runner round-trips between Kansas City and St. Louis.

Amtrak typically operates 55 trains daily to and from Chicago hub.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said passengers traveling on the affected trains will be able to change their travel to another date without an additional charge.

In a related development, intercity commuter carrier The South Shore Line suspended all service on Wednesday.

The carrier, which operates between Chicago and South Bend, Indiana, said a test train encountered “significant overnight wire problems.”

The South Shore said it will evaluate weather and operating conditions and determine later today if it will operate on Thursday.

The severe cold also prompted Chicago commuter railroad Metra to operate today on a modified schedule.

Lipinski to Head House Rail Subcommittee

January 28, 2019

A Chicago congressman has been named the chairman of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Dan Lipinski represents a district that includes parts of the city of Chicago and some Chicago suburbs.

A news release from Lipinski’s office said he was named to the chairman’s post based on his experience in and knowledge of rail, pipeline and hazmat safety; freight-, commuter- and passenger-rail issues and regulation; and the impact rail and pipelines have on local communities.

The release noted that Lipinski’s district include not only railroads but also several underground pipelines.

“As chair, I will continue the work I have done to advance policies that prioritize rail and pipeline safety, a better environment, more jobs and better public transit,” Lipinski said.

Lipinski also said he will continue to pursue funding for the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency program, a public-private partnership seeking to ease congestion on Chicago railroads.

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.

Grant to Boost Chicago Railroad Projects

June 8, 2018

A $132 million grant to the Illinois Department of Transportation will enable the completion of three components of the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency program’s 75th Street corridor improvement project.

In a news release, U.S. DOT said the projects will improve rail traffic flow at several high-priority chokepoints.

Among the improvements that are being planned are:

• The Forest Hill flyover, consisting of a new north-south flyover structure that will eliminate conflicts between north-south and east-west train movements at the Forest Hill Junction.

• The 71st Street grade separation that will separate the Western Avenue rail corridor from 71st street.

• The Argo and Canal junction improvements, which will address the 87th Street chokepoint and increase capacity at Argo yard.

Funding for the projects will include $106.3 million from Class 1 railroads, or about 25 percent, of the total project costs.

DOT said the railroads have agreed to maintain the tracks to be improved at no cost to the project’s public partners.

Federal funding is being provided through the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects Program.

CREATE was launched in 2003 and involves 70 projects to separate freight and passenger trains at six key junctions, eliminating about two dozen crossings, and increasing rail capacity, speed and reliability in the Chicago area.

The program is managed through a public-private partnership among Amtrak, the Association of American Railroads, BNSF, Belt Railway of Chicago, the Chicago and Illinois departments of transportation, Canadian Pacific, Canadian National, CSX, Indiana Harbor Belt, Metra, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific.