OTOL Windy City Rail Fest 2003
July 16-21, 2003
We headed south on the North Side Elevated (now known as the Red Line) as far as the Belmont station, where our itinerary called for us to transfer to the Brown Line. However, our group of eleven had peaked for the day and was about to shrink. HaRRy, Owen, and Isak decided to go to the Field Museum. HaRRy would rejoin us later, while Owen and Isak had other plans for that evening.
The three of them remained aboard the Red Line train, which they took to Roosevelt/State and then walked to the museum. The rest of us detrained at Belmont, walked over a pedestrian bridge to the northbound side, and awaited a Brown Line train on the outside track.
Chapter 3.13: WCRF Part A10: CTA Brown Line, Belmont to Kimball
Eight of us (Skip, Jishnu, Bill, Alan, Steve, Irwin, Michael, and I) took our ride on the Ravenswood Line, now better known as the Brown Line. We rode out to the end of the line at Kimball. We had to walk to the end of the platform on which we had arrived, and around to another platform to board the next inbound train.
Chapter 3.14: WCRF Part A11: CTA Brown Line, Kimball to Adams/Wabash
We continued inbound, rejoined the North Side Elevated near Wrigley Field where the Ravenswood Line ends, and continued in local fashion south towards the Loop.
Irwin said that this is one of his favorite portions of the CTA system, because the city skyline constantly changes as the trains go through a series of curves approaching the Loop from the north.
Once in the Loop, we continued around the Outer Loop until we were facing north at Adams/Wabash. There, we transferred via the mezzanine level beneath the elevated tracks to a southbound Green Line train.
Chapter 3.15: WCRF Part A12: CTA Green Line, Adams/Wabash to East 63rd/Cottage Grove
We could have taken a Green Line train to either southern destination, since we would be exploring both southern branches anyhow. My itinerary called for us to do the Cottage Grove branch first, and as luck had it, that is the train that came first.
Meanwhile, before we were done with the entire southern portion of the Green Line, we would lose one person and gain another. Bill decided to spend the next part of the afternoon on the Roosevelt Road bridge that spans most of the rail lines into and out of Chicago. He wanted to photograph the CALIFORNIA ZEPHYR and SOUTHWEST CHIEF as they came out of Union Station to begin their westward journeys to California. So Bill left us at the Roosevelt/Wabash station and we did not see him again until Saturday morning.
The use of the cell phone to get people together was not yet over for the day. On our way south, I got a phone call from Brad Smith. Brad had said he would join us sometime Friday and Saturday, but I was not sure when he intended to meet us. I told him we were headed south on the Green Line, and were running a little early.
He said he was on the Brown Line at the Armitage station, which is right where the Red Line ducks into the subway from the North Side Elevated. He would follow the same routing via Adams/Wabash to meet us. I told him to get off the Green Line at Garfield, figuring he would meet us there when we transfer between the two branches.
We continued to the terminus at Cottage Grove/East 63rd Street. This station became an endpoint station as a result of the elevated structure being torn down east of there. It was never intended to be an endpoint station; in fact a makeshift walkway was built beyond the bumping posts to allow pedestrian access between the two side platforms.
When we came to a stop on what was once the inbound platform, we figured that a train sitting on the other side was the next inbound train. Its doors were closed, but they later opened and we boarded.
Chapter 3.16: WCRF Part A13: CTA Green Line, East 63rd/Cottage Grove to Garfield
We sat there for some time with the doors open, before they were closed and the train proceeded inbound. This was a short trip just a few stops to Garfield. At the Garfield station we detrained, walked downstairs, and went through the station's new headhouse to the opposite side so we would be heading south again.
We had to wait a while for a train headed for Ashland/63rd Street on the branch we had not yet visited. In fact a train for Cottage Grove came in first. I thought that Brad might have been on either this or the next train, but I was wrong. I tried to call him to find his location but could not get through. He apparently was still on his way south towards us.
Chapter 3.17: WCRF Part A14: CTA Green Line, Garfield to Ashland/63rd Street
Our group of seven boarded the train bound for Ashland/63rd Street, and rode that over its curvy route to the end of the line. At Ashland, our outbound train became our inbound run, since there were no other trains in the station. We just changed ends, as did the motorman. While we sat in the station awaiting our departure time, Irwin met a CTA supervisor who he introduced to the group.
Chapter 3.18: WCRF Part A15: CTA Green Line, Ashland/63rd Street to Roosevelt/Wabash
Once we departed from Ashland on our inbound train, I was finally able to contact Brad. He was at Garfield. I told him to stay there, and that we were two stops away. We would meet him in the front car.
We had lost some time at Ashland due to the turnaround time of the train on which we had arrived, but we were still ahead of our own schedule.
When we got to Garfield, Brad joined us, and we were back to eight participants. We remained on this inbound train, and headed for Roosevelt/Wabash, where we would transfer to an Orange Line train to get closest to Union Station.
A minor drama would unfold once more when we got off at the Roosevelt station, although to those of us on the platform, none of us knew it at the time.
Chapter 3.19: WCRF Part A16: CTA Orange Line, Roosevelt/Wabash to Quincy/Wells
We had to wait a few minutes for an Orange Line train. Honestly, we were just there to change trains, and our eyes were on the tracks and the platforms, and some of us were of course holding conversations. None of us looked down into the street.
To go back a little, when HaRRy, Owen, and Isak remained on that Red Line train back at Belmont, they rode down to Roosevelt/State (the station a short block to the west) and then walked over to the Field Museum. They viewed a traveling display about baseball, and then they split up. Owen and Isak would later go to a real baseball game at U.S. Cellular Field, using rainchecks from the previous evening's washout. HaRRy got some photos of the museum's pet T. Rex, Sue. He then walked over towards the Roosevelt/Wabash station, hoping to catch us there at 4:17 PM, the time I had noted in my itinerary that we would be making our transfer at that very station.
Once again we were running a little early, although we had lost some of that time with the long dwell at Ashland and the long wait for the Orange Line here. So when HaRRy got near the station, from the street he saw our group on the elevated island platform waiting for our next train. Nobody saw him waving at us. When he got upstairs, we had boarded the train, its doors had closed, but it had not left the station yet. Almost, HaRRy!
Our ride on the Orange Line was no longer than five minutes. We detrained at Quincy/Wells and walked on Adams Street to Union Station. Meanwhile, HaRRy caught the very next train and did the same, joining us at Union Station when he arrived.
The stage was set for nine of us to end our day's travels with a METRA round trip to Joliet, over two different routes.
Chapter 3.20: WCRF Part A17: METRA Heritage Corridor, Chicago (Union Station) to Joliet, IL
One of the people who saw my announcements for the Windy City RailFest on various internet sources was Gary Rhebergen. Gary is a METRA conductor, and he happens to work the very train we planned to ride on the Heritage Corridor. Contacting me via e-mail, he told me that many of the passengers on the train tend to gravitate to the same seats on a daily basis, so the presence of our group might raise a few eyebrows. He also said he would wait near the cab car of the train and meet us when our group approached the train.
Well after such a long day thus far, exhausted at keeping tabs on everyone's comings and goings, and already feeling hungry for dinner, all I wanted to do was to get on the train and relax. I did see two people standing where he said he would be, but it did not click and I just boarded the train with Michael, and some others from our group following. I was also on the cell phone with Alan, who had stayed behind to make sure HaRRy and Skip (who had gone upstairs for a drink) knew we had gone out to the train.
We sat in our seats and as the conductor came from behind us collecting tickets, I heard him say that my ticket was no good, that it could not be accepted. I was thinking, what did I do wrong? It turned out that this was Gary in friendly retaliation for my not stopping to say hello before we boarded.
We talked to Gary, and he introduced his friend, John Pisciotto, another railfan from the area. John sat with us and gave us some commentary on what we were seeing along this former Gulf, Mobile, & Ohio (now Canadian National) route.
One interesting thing that impressed us during this trip is that like New Yorkers and New Jerseyans, commuting Chicagoans seem to be in quite a hurry. Since there are only four intermediate stops on this line between Chicago and Joliet, there are a lot of people detraining at each stop. We noticed that some people had run to their cars, started them, and were out of the parking lot before the train had fully unloaded. This sudden influx of commuters coming from the train and into the parking lot caused slight jams as everyone tried to make their way out of the lot at once. Hopefully in the winter months these people allow their engines to warm up before putting their vehicles into motion!
When we got to Joliet, Gary of course had to stay with the train beyond its revenue run. John got off the train with us, and told Gary he would see him later. We all carefully walked across the BNSF tracks to the station building.
Chapter 3.21: In Joliet
After we detrained in Joliet, we looked around the station. Wanting to get our dinner over with since we were hungry, we went inside and downstairs to Down From The Tracks, as per our plan.
Irwin had warned me that the place might be crowded since it was a game day, and he was absolutely correct. The time we were there happened to coincide with a minor league baseball game being played in the stadium across the tracks from the station. The Joliet Jackhammers were getting set to play the Gary/South Shore Railcats (whose own stadium we had seen earlier on our Fest).
Unable to find a place to sit down, we walked outside to ponder our next move. From my previous scouting mission in April, and from talking with John, we deduced that this was the only available place to eat in town that was relatively close to the train station. Our only alternative was to take an inbound METRA Rock Island District train one hour earlier than the 7:18 PM departure our itinerary called for, and then eat when we got back to Chicago.
We spent the rest of our time in town watching freight trains noisily pass over the diamond. Then we were treated to a visit from an AMTRAK train, the STATE HOUSE, Train 305(17), bound from Chicago to St. Louis. It looked like this:
194 P-42 locomotive 48234 Amfleet I dinette 54573 Horizon coach 54013 Horizon coach 25078 Amfleet II coach
Yes that's right, a Midwest train was carrying an Amfleet II coach in the rear. Was this the Amfleet II coach that the Boston section of the LAKE SHORE LIMITED had been missing? I think I found it!
Our train watching had to end very soon, as we had to board the inbound METRA Rock Island District train to Chicago. We said goodbye to John as the rest of us boarded the train.
Chapter 3.22: WCRF Part A18: METRA Rock Island District, Joliet, IL to Chicago (LaSalle Street Station)
We left Joliet on the 6:18 PM train (Train 526, not 528 as planned) headed eastbound, and immediately passed over the diamonds next to the station. We then passed, on the left, a yard full of METRA equipment of various vintages. This yard holds equipment for both the Rock Island District and the Heritage Corridor trains. We had learned from John that outbound Heritage Corridor trains are backed around a connecting track in the southeast quadrant of the interlocking after completing their runs in the evening to access the yard, and then the same thing takes place in reverse on weekday mornings.
Our trip back inbound was uneventful. We used the slower local routing through Morgan and Beverly Hills. Eventually our train arrived at LaSalle Street Station right on time.
Chapter 3.23: Dinner in Chicago
Here we were back in Chicago, one hour earlier than planned, and starving. We had first thought about walking east on Van Buren to a restaurant at the Palmer House Hilton (where Bill was staying), but we then came across an Italian restaurant/sports bar called Boni Vino. The nine of us descended on this restaurant, and filled most of the establishment's front dining area. In the rear was a bar with some rather loud patrons; they were watching a White Sox game on television.
Hopefully our large group did not overwhelm the one waitress who took care of us. She was unable to provide separate checks for us, but she instead did three checks: one for each group of three sitting at adjacent tables.
Although the place was loud, we had a delicious dinner and good conversation. It was nice to sit down and rest after our long and very busy day on the rails.
When we finished, Brad, Steve, and Irwin left the group to head to their respective homes. The rest of us walked east on Van Buren to State Street, in order to get on the Red Line subway at Jackson. As we turned the corner to walk north on State to the station, a homeless man came up to us and began walking with the group begging for money. This bum was quite brazen, continuing to walk with us at our pace while begging several of us for money. It took a full block's walk for us to shake him off.
Chapter 3.24: CTA Red Line to our hotels
At Jackson/State, Alan, Skip, Jishnu, HaRRy, Michael, and I were waiting for the Red Line. Despite the hour, we did not have to wait too long for a train. At Grand/State, we went upstairs and then retraced our route of the previous evening, with Alan leaving us at the corner of Wabash & Ohio to walk to his Comfort Inn while the rest of us headed for the Cass Hotel.
Two days down, and two to go!!Continued in next section