THIS CHOICE MIGHT HAVE CONSEQUENCES. Metra will be rebuilding the old Chicago and North Western Milwaukee Division commencing later this month. When this line hosted Streamliner 400s to the Twin Cities and points north, it was a three track railroad. After the 400s quit and Metra took ownership of the line, it became a two track railroad. As part of the rebuilding, the century-old overpasses (with space for three tracks) will be replaced with new bridges that might last that long. But they are being built with two, rather than three, tracks in mind. A third track on a commuter line can be useful for intermingling express, limited, and local trains (the Burlington line starting trains at about the same time from several outer locations, they each make a few pickups and turn into nonstoppers on the center track). Currently, the Commuter Streamliners operate on the same sort of zone pattern the North Shore Line used to use, with inward trains skipping some stops, and outward trains sequenced with the earlier ones running nonstop to more distant stations. Perhaps that will be good enough, even with the Milwaukee Division being the third busiest commuter route. (The Burlington is the busiest, and it mingles Amtrak and freight on the three tracks; the Metra Electric is second-busiest, and it has four tracks for suburban and interurban trains plus two tracks for freight trains and Amtrak; the Galena Division and Madison Division of Chicago and North Western have three tracks.) Word has reached Cold Spring Shops, however, that Metra statisticians are counting Wisconsin license plates in station parking lots close to the Cheddar Curtain, and the day might come when having that third track to path a Commuter 400 or a City of Milwaukee 400 (those are both real names, you could look it up) will help.

Meanwhile, the good folk of the Ravenswood neighborhood, the Milwaukee Division station with the largest passenger loadings (that's a statement of affluence; the Northwestern Elevated CTA's Evanston Expresses stop nearby, they're cheaper and almost as fast) are happy to have a new passenger station, provided it's out of their sight. Sigh.

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