Kensington is not just a station, but an important interlocking on the Metra-Electric line where both the NICTD South Shore Line and Metra Electric Blue Island Branch split off. It is also the end of the 4-track section of the Electric Line which contrary to east coast practice puts the locals on the inner tracks and express trains on the outer. Until recently KENSINGTON interlocking hosted a manned interlocking tower to not only handle the busy METRA and NICTD lines, but also the adjacent CN-IC freight main line that makes use of the interlocking plant since the two services were united in the Illinois Central days.
This set of photos will cover my METRA trip to Kensington and then subsequent riding of the CTA lines in the loop district. I also took a lot of tourist type photos of Chicago, but I will refrain from going too in depth with those as I am shifting non-railfan related content to my Facebook account.
So we begin at Monroe St near the the Art Institute of Chicago where the Electric Line emerges from the cavernous Randolph St Station and into the light of its lake shore route to the south. More of the former Illinois Central yards and terminal complex had been open air, but they had been more recently covered by the new Millennium Park. Still from Monroe one can still catch a lot of good action and in this photo we see some of the new NICTD gallery electric MU's next to a classic METRA Hi-liner. The NICTD cars are returning to the yard between here and Roosevent Ave and the Hi-Liners are laying over on a station track.
Like the R40/42's you can see that the St. Louis Car built Hi-Liners are beginning to suffer from some roof rust. Here we are looking south toward Van Buren with the Art Institute sky walk connecting its two halves which are bisected by the electric line.
The pantographs of a Hi-Liner are more robust than a typical light rail vehicle, but not the equal of an east coast electric.
Much of the thick copper catenary wire for the 1500v DC electrician system probably dates from the 1920's when it was first installed, although there is some evidence of renewal.
If anyone is wondering what a Hi-Liner looks like inside here you go, They are basically just like a gallery car only a little bit shorter and with a ramp up to the center doors which have to accommodate high level platforms.
Upon arrival at Kensington I was met by an inbound NICTD single level train which looks surprisingly similar to the MARC owned single level K-Cars. Here NICTD #34 is ready to depart northward.
Shortly behind the northbound South Shore train was a southbound headed up by NICTD #42.
This long 6-car train then proceeded to do what makes KENSINGTON interlocking famous...cross over 5 mainline tracks, 4 of which on diamonds. The 4 diamond tracks belong to the CN-IC freight railroads and are also used by Amtrak Illinois service trains and the City of New Orleans.
Speak of the devil, but look what soon appeared. Amtrak train 390, the Saluki arriving from various points downstate led by P42 #127. This is one of two daily Illinois sponsored round trips in addition to Amtrak's CofNO.
Unlike many of the other midwest service trains this was not equipped with a F40 Cabbage Car.
Looking north from Kensington we can see where 2 tracks become 4 with express to the outside to allow for efficient island platforms to be built for the local stops. The same strategy is used for the CTA Red Line on the North Shore. It was Kensington's job to sort out all these trains as well as handle NICTD and Blue Island Branch diverging moves. It's interlocking how Kensington Station was built as a bit of a bottleneck with a single platform located BEFORE the two diverging junctions The junction with the South Chicago branch at 67th St was built as a flying junction and two island platforms.
Worth while to zoom in a little here towards the 111th St station. You can see the block entrance signals at the limits of Kensington's interlocking plant. Originally all 4 tracks were operated under Rule 251 ABS, but within the last 10 years Rule 261 was implemented between here and 67th St interlocking. METRA prudently saved money by retaining the older signals and simply installing new signals in the reverse direction only.
Pulling back a bit we see the 4L signal displaying Diverging Clear for the next Northbound Metra train. KENSINGTON is the only interlocking that I know of that makes use of quad lamped target signals. The 4th lamp is used for a Lunar White indication for Restricting aspects. The CN-IC block signal is still at Approach for the departed Saluki.
Years of frugal re-signaling at Kensington resulted in a real mish-mosh of old and new hardware. Here we see the rear of the 6L signal with three target type heads with the top being an original 1920's US&S design, the middle being a modern Safetran modular clamshell design and the bottom being an defunct 80's US&S modular design. This shows what is possible if a railroad choses not to waste its capitol improvement funds.
From Kensington I caught a train northbound to 55th Through 57th St station to visit the Museum of Science and Industry which unfortunately turned out to be more like a kiddie ride than, well, a museum. So after seeing such artifacts such as the U505 and a certain over hyped record breaking locomotive owned by a certain water-level railroad that shall remain nameless I made it back to the 55th Through 57th St Station to catch the timed meet between local and express Metra Electric trains.
When processing these photos I became irritated by the METRA practice to omit the locomotive number from the front of its trains, displaying only the train number. So here is METRA #???? on local train 324 waiting for express train #124 to arrive.
My northbound destination was the station at Roosevelt Ave, now re-branded to reflect its proximity to various museums. I was there to meet a friend who worked at the nearby Shedd aquarium and while I waited I had some time to take pictures of the burgeoning peak period parade heading southbound. First up is Hi-Liner #???? on northbound train 709.
Northbound train #322 stopped and allowed me a good shot of its pan and front end.
Some new METRA Gallery electrics entered into the mix with #1213 on train 7345. The new gallery electrics have the same front end paint as the regular Metra cab cars.
If you want to tell the difference between the 1960's St. Louie Hi-Liners and the newer Bombardier H-Liners just look at the roofs. Oh, the un-protected HVAC fans are a nice touch.
I even felt obliged to take a video.
At this point I was finished with METRA so it's time to move over to the CTA portion of the writeup. The loop is the most visible part of the CTA system, but with the 2200 series Budds relegated to the subterranean Blue Line that left the 2400 series Boeings as the senior equipment on the L. Here is #2524 at Clark-Lake.
The famous Tower 18 is best photographed from the Clark-Lake station (or from a passing train) and here it is facing along the Green Line axis. There was some sort of re-signaling project going on, but the goals of which I was unaware of. All that was evident was that the original GRA supplied cab-signaling and wayside equipment was being replaced by US&S equipment with additional wayside signals.
Here a Green Line train departs Clark-Lake with a lineup from Tower 18.
A took a video from an Orange Line train as it makes the right hand turn at Tower 18.
Moving north from the loop we catch 3400 series car #3409 southbound at the Diversity Station. This station was built to provide increased opportunity for women and minority riders.
The rebuilt Clark Junction at Belmont has been in service for a few years now after a very long rehabilitation project that included the general rebuilding of the entire line between the red line portal at Armitage and the Brown Line junction here at Clark Jct. Here both Red (left) and Purple line trains have signals to proceed north.
While simultaneously a 3400 series Brown Line local proceeds south.
Traveling up the Brown Line we eventually reach the famous Subway Grade Crossings. Here a 3400 series train crosses the street before the Francisco station.
Flipping to the south end of the loop we come to Tower 12. Tower 12 is no less of an active interlocking tower than Tower 18 is despite being the side of a Potra-Potty. Here an Orange Line train takes the straight through through the interlocking.
At Roosevelt one can zoom in on the big south-side junction where the Orange and Green split and a connection to the Red line joins.
That's pretty much it for trains, but I think I'll still throw in a few random Chicago shots. One of the newest arrivals in the skyline is the Trump Tower Chicago, which is aligned with Wabash street so you can't help but notice it, even from L trains.
I also saw other famous Chicago sights such as Lower Whacker Drive which is close to the Honourable Richard J. Daley Plaza where they have that Picasso, but I'll end with a picture of a Beluga whale getting fed at the Shedd Aquarium because its adorable.
Remember there are many more pictures that I didn't show here so make sure you check them out.