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Posted by Jersey Mike on Sun Feb 19 15:39:42 2012

One advantage of traveling Amtrak and connecting through Chicago is that if your first LD train is 6 hours late they'll put you up in a hotel to catch the next day's train. Now of course often sleeping accommodations aren't guaranteed, but if you have spare AGR points and make a fully refundable backup reservation for the next day and then manage to find the one customer service person that can swap your missed cash paid reservation for the AGR reservation, you can keep traveling in style for the entire route ;-)

With accommodations and out of the way one is free to spend their extra day exploring Chicago's wonderful railfan scene (and I guess its world class architecture and cultural attractions). First and foremost amoung these is the world famous Roosevelt Ave Overpass which provides an unfettered view of Chicago Union Station's support yards and approach tracks. Even on a weekend one doesn't have to wait long for an Amtrak or Metra train to trundle by, not to mention the show of whatever happens to be sitting in the yard at the time.

Along the same walking route is the Metra LaSalle Street Station, which was the former New York Central and Rock Island terminal. However today it is a shadow of its former self housing just a handful of Rock Island District trains, which drop to a mere trickle on the weekend, leaving just an empty expanse of tracks and canopies.

You can see all the photos from these two locations by clicking here.

After waking up after a short night at the Airport Hilton we caught a Blue Line train back into the loop where I was sure to take a seat in 2200-series car #2304. Shooting through two windows in a dim, overcast morning resulted in mostly disappointing photos, but I did get this shot of fellow 2200 series car #2286.

To reach Union Station from the Blue Line one gets off at Clinton then walks the remainder of the distance. Here we see a 2200 series equipped train departing back outbound while an all 2600 series train continues inbound.

After dropping off our bags my friend and I headed into the surviving portion of the historic part of Union Station, which, which pretty, is rather poorly integrated with the nearby functional parts of the station.

Outside view along the interior of the colonnade.

Getting to the Roosevelt Ave overpass from Union Station is a breeze. You simply walks down Canal St past the old US Customs House and then turn left past the Southgate Market. Even better is that in recent years that mall has added a parking structure that allows for photographing the heart of the terminal approach interlocking between the demolished Taylor Street overpass and the current Roosevelt Ave overpass. Using this new vantage point here is a side-on view of the southbound signal gantry for what is now known as CP-ROOSEVELT.

The approach interlocking to Union Station consists of 6 main tracks and 4 concurrent ladder tracks, G and H facing and V and W trailing. All the core connections involve double slip switches such as this stack where the 4 ladders cross the 4 inner tracks. Also note the plethora of pneumatic point machines :-)

Gallery Cab Car #8589 on point leading a commuter train inbound to Union Station.

With MP36PH-3S #404 pushing from behind.

Amtrak P42DC #22 running lite between CUS and the Lumber St engine facility.

Here we see the Roosevelt Ave overpass with a few tarped gallery cars on a storage track in front of it. I assume they were involved in some sort of accident or fire and are awaiting the insurance settlement.

View of the V-Ladder showing off the non-interlocked approach tracks to the METRA storage yard on the western side of the facility.

Good view of CUS operations looking through CP-ROOSEVELT. On the left we see the same METRA train we caught headed inbound now running dead to the yard. On the right we see the lite Amtrak #22 running into the covered part of the station. With te Amtrak yards to the east and the METRA yards to the west, non-revenue moves will stick to their respective sides to keep the main track clear. Likewise METRA trains tend to dock at the west part of the station and Amtrak trains the east.

Also poking about that day on switching duties was the legitimately Phase IV pointed Amtrak P32-8WH. The P38 fleet often finds itself doing switcher work due to it being equipped with crew steps and grab irons fore and aft.

While standing around on the overpass Amtrak Train 371, the westbound Pere Marquette, showed up with P42 #40 and 3 Superliner coaches. The three concrete tied tracks are the "Amtrak" tracks to 21St St Crossing and the CB&Q wye track. The two wooden tied tracks to the right are the former CB&Q main tracks now used by METRA and Amtrak trains using that route.

METRA #404 also passed close by returning to the yard.

If the proximity of two 5-6 track signal gantries mere feet from the Roosevelt Ave bridge wasn't enough, the fact that they represent one of the last installations of US&S Style TR color light units is just icing on the cake. Unlike the more common Style NR units, which have a single large square housing for the lamps, the older TRs had a small individual housing for each lamp, all connected in the same casting.

The Amtrak yard facilities are split into two parts, the trainset yard, which services trainsets being turned for service and the shop yard, which handles cars needing to be inspected or repaired at the maintenance facility. Each are served by long ladder track equipped with remote control point machines.

#513 was out that day to switch some cars onto the shoppe tracks. In this case a number of Amfleets.

Video of the same.

All LD trains arriving at Chicago need to be Wyed. Some go it before they arrive, backing into the station with passengers still on board. Others do it after they have discharged their load, which is happening here in the case of Amtrak Train 49, the Lake Shore Limited seen here backing out of the overbuild towards the CB&W wye track. The New York section of Train 49 is on the back with a Baggage Car, two sleepers, heritage dining car and four Amfleet II coaches.

On the front is the Boston section with two Amfleet II coaches, an Amfleet II lounge, a sleeper, a baggage car and the power consisting of P42's #101 and #64, which have run through from Boston (the NY Section using a P32DMAC south of Albany).

Now on the other side of the tracks we get a good view of the H-Ladder.

In the near coach yard we find a Superliner sightseer lounge car that looks like it been having some issues with leaking around the windows.

The far coach yard has had some new hotel power gantries installed which provide long extension cords to power the trains when the locomotives are not attached or not running. METRA has been using these sorts of devices for years to keeps its trainsets from freezing up during the cold winter months.

Unlike Philadelphia's 30th St Station, the CUS steam plant has not yet been torn down.

The B&OCT Bascule drawbridge over the Chicago River as seen from Roosevelt Ave.

Roosevelt doesn't just cross the Amtrak line into Chicago Union Station, but also the Rock Island Line into La Salle. Here in this zoom shot we see Signal Bridge B on approach to the still impressive 8 track stub terminal.

LaSalle St Station itself is zombie apocalypse level deserted on weekends, which at least meant that one was unlikely to be harassed for taking pictures (although I was expecting someone to start bitching over a PA system).

The terminal interlocking is pretty uninspired with mostly single head traffic light type signals, although Bridge A was equipped with small target searchlights and there was a strange hybrid dwarf that appeared to be a color light in a model SA searchlight housing...strange.

LaSalle St Station canopies with the Sears Tower in the background.

The entrance to the LaSalle Street Station waiting room and ticket office built inside the One Financial Place skyscraper that replaced the original station building.

Heading back to the Union Station area we find a train of 2400 series cars on the Green Line crossing the Chicago River on the Lake Street Bridge.

Speaking of Lake Street, north of Union Station we find Amtrak's LAKE STREET interlocking tower, which closed about 5 or 6 years ago. Initially there has been two towers controlling the terminal, Jackson Street to the south, and Lake Street to the north. Each was equipped with a US&S Model 14 interlocking machine until the early 1990s when Jackson Street and the entire southern end of the station was re-signaled with control being transfered to a large NX panel in Lake St. Then again in 2005 Lake Street itself was re-signaled and both the former Model 14 and panel were replaced by video game terminals in the Chicago Union Station office space.

Here we see another MP36PH-3S #421 departing Union Station northbound with a Milwaukee District train.

The exit signal at CP-CANAL soon cleared for another train. The Union Station complex is one of the few adopters of LED searchlight signals in North America. In addition to replacing the PRR and 1990's era B&O position light signals in the terminal, the 2005 re-signaling also drastically altered the signal rules in the terminal area. Previously Amtrak had used NORAC style speed signaling rules, which was different than most of the territories feeding it. To remove a possible source of confusion, Amtrak switched over to a more route signal based system that relied on line speed limits and timetable instructions for trains to properly negotiate the turnouts properly. So here at CP-CANAL what would have been a Slow Clear under the old system is simply Clear.

The Clear signal was for another outbound Milwaukee District train with #414 on point.

Next to arrive inbound was Amtrak Cabbage Car #90224 on the front of a Hiawatha Service train.

With P42DC #170 providing power.

Not railroad related, but still impressive nevertheless is the former World's Largest Building, Merchandise Mart sitting at the tri-junction of the Chicago River branches.

We finish with this photo taken under the Union Station North End overbuild of Metra MP36PH-3S's #411 and 419 waiting their next call to service.

Well, we're down to one final installment in my Empire Builder trip epic adventure as I take Amtrak's Capitol Limited to complete the last miles of my journey across the country. Stay tuned!!


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