5.11.17

BIG AMBITIONS ON THE SOUTH SHORE.

Chicago's Tribune enthuses over the addition of a second track to parts of the South Shore Line, and to the future incorporation of what we used to understand as the Gary Railways into the fold.
Back in 1927, representatives of the South Shore railroad discussed adding a second track to speed travel times, add trains and attract more passengers.

It took 90 years, but Indiana officials think that a double track for the South Shore from Gary to Michigan City, along with a line extension from Hammond south to Dyer, could finally happen. The state along with northwest Indiana counties and municipalities have pledged half the money for the nearly $1 billion project — now it needs the rest in federal grants.
In 1927, the Public Utility Holding Company Act had not yet broken the ties between the Electric Railway and the Light. That's something I've long lamented.

Those ties made it possible for Northern Indiana Public Service and the South Shore to put together a transportation corridor with provision for a second track, even if that track never went in east of Gary.


Ogden Dunes, December 1972.
Note the pole lines, and span brackets in place for a second track.

There's a cardinal rule of railroading, which is that two trains cannot safely occupy the same track at the same time.
The electric trains, which run on regular freight tracks, start in Chicago on Metra Electric District tracks, then switch to the South Shore's own tracks in about 14 miles. The line has two tracks until just after the Gary downtown stop, when it goes to single track for most of the next 25 miles to Michigan City.

The single track creates problems, [transit district president Michael] Noland explained. It limits the number of trains the South Shore can run. If a train has a problem, it will hold up the trains behind it.

"We're running two-way traffic on a one-way street," Noland said.
Yes, and as ridership has increased, so has station dwell time and "This train is running approximately  (pause) four minutes late due to (pause) heavy passenger loadings." (Yes, that's a Metra announcement, and there's something of the preacher scolding his Easter congregation for being in the sanctuary about it.)  Thus, the rigorously timed meets that go with keeping a single track interurban (or the 110 mph section of Amtrak in southwestern Michigan) humming are undone.


Sheridan siding, Michigan City, Indiana, 13 August 1966

For years, the siding at the west end of the Michigan City street running was the traditional meeting point of the electric cars.  But as loadings increased on the east end, that began to disrupt the weekend schedules in particular, which attempted to offer a two-hour headway between Chicago and South Bend.


Sheridan siding, late July, 2006

When all is going well, the westbound train coming off the street is in view as the eastbound train about to head onto the street have close-up views of each other.

Additional rail service appeals.  But Michigan City as a less expensive Naperville, with a lake?  Michigan City currently has more character than Naperville ever had.


As you see from this 1927 poster, which hangs in Cold Spring Shops headquarters, there are still service improvements missing, namely improvements that might be fitting of an upscale, waterfront suburb.


South Bend, 13 August 1966

Keep praying to the Patron Saint of Traction.

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