4.8.07

NOTHING ELSE LIKE IT IN THE WORLD.

I had perceived an obligation to remind readers what real railroading looks like, and a recent commenter reinforced that perception. Friday offered clear skies, falling humidity, and with the university offices closed to conserve electricity, no guilt in returning to the Burlington Racetrack. If I had an afternoon to explain railroading to a European, this would be one place to go. All times reflect the time stamp from the digital camera, which is pretty close to accurate, and are expressed using the railroading convention of p.m. in bold.

2:57. There is a Caribou coffee shop across the street from the station, with outdoor tables and a view of the tracks. A slightly late Train 1235 is in the station. There are heavy passenger loadings midday account a baseball game (the Cubs assumed second place) and Lollapalooza at Grant Park. These loadings mean most of the service is a bit behind schedule.


3:41. Amtrak's Southwest Chief will make its 3:50 Naperville stop on time. I'm offering a selection of trains here rather than illustrate all the dinkies, which have some variation in locomotives and cars, but not enough to go to the trouble of uploading all the pictures. Thus, no pictures of 1237 or 1239.


A three-main-track railroad is particularly useful if there is a principal direction of traffic part of the day. The convention on the racetrack has generally been to use the center track for express services in that direction. But before the Cub game workday ends, the center track can be used for whatever expedited service might be required.


3:59. Here, the eastbound Southwest Chief, about 75 minutes late, overtakes a slightly late 1270. Metra's announcers had been alerting passengers to late running of this train account signal troubles somewhere west of Downer's Grove. Heavy passenger loads rendered the trains later still. Note the trainspotter preparing to capture the Chief on traditional film with a faster shutter speed than I have.



4:17. In the early stages of the evening rush, Downers Grove becomes a terminus for stopping trains out of Chicago as well as the first stop for some of the express services. Here, Train 1241, an all-stopper, and only a minute late, approaches the station. This train will continue to Aurora, turn, and return to Chicago as a Lisle Express, turning again as one of the last westbound expresses of the evening rush. The two diesels are assigned to only a few trains, as mobile protection power. The usual practice is to put a second diesel on the last rush hour trains Chicago-bound in the morning or Aurora-bound in the evening so as to have a protect engine available for the principal direction of travel.


4:22. There's no reason to hold up the time-sensitive traffic, here trailers and containers from several of the express forwarding companies. I dare any European to mix container traffic with passenger trains this way.


The trailers are meeting 1272, here about two minutes late.


4:27. The trailers had a clear run west on the middle track. The third Downers Grove express of the evening, 1243, generally runs on the north track. It leaves Chicago 36 minutes behind 1241 and is due six minutes later.


4:43. The eastbound California Zephyr will only be about three hours late today. Amtrak and Union Pacific have been working on ways to ensure better timekeeping for this train.


I had some plans in Chicago that evening, and boarded 1276. The front window was available for easy viewing of most of the dinky parade, Burlington-speak for the suburban train rush. The view of the West Loop is among the best passenger-eye views a person can get anywhere in the world. There's only one set of empty stock at the Zephyr Pit, and the Amtrak consist at right is probably for the 6:00 Michigan train.


There's always occasion for a new view of the waiting room at Union Station. Here, the view from behind the Jackson Boulevard flag of the "night" and "day" statues from the era when the station never closed. They now lock up around 1:00 am and reopen around 6:00 am.


The Jackson Boulevard exit is available until 8:00 pm.

Cross-posted at European Tribune.

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