Both Amtrak Trains 3/4 (Southwest Chief) and 5/6 (California Zephyr) make use of the former CB&Q main main between Galesburg, IL and Chicago and have since the Cameron Connector was built for the BN/SF merger in 1996. Last year I took a series of photos along this route which comprises the BNSF Mendota and Chicago subdivisions from the rear of Train 6. Due to the time of day, cloud conditions and a few other factors almost all my photos were compromised to such an extent with backlighting and purple tint that I didn't even bother to post them up anywhere.
This year, for the 10th pat of my cross country trip via the Southwet Chief I had a somewhat uncommon opportunity to turn the tables on the potentially disastrous afternoon lighting and also avoid shooting a duplicate set of photos. Our train happened to not be equipped with a transition sleeper behind the heritage baggage car. As a result there was a forward facing railfan window from the standard type Superliner that overlooked the roof of the baggage car. Now, this isn't a perfect RFW view and for much of any trip with such a view the window will quickly accumulate a thick coating of bug splat and exhaust soot. However in a second lucky turn of events my train encountered a massive line of rain while on the Mentoda Sub and a good hour of blasting the front window with 80mph raindrops managed to clean it of all the dirt and debris.
Therefore for the final leg of the trip between Aurora and Chicago I too photos from the front of the train. Now shooting angles were still an issue with the two engines and baggage car still in the way, but as I was looking to take pics of the surviving searchlight signal bridges the engines and car would not obstruct my view for that purpose.
You can find all the photos from this set here. If you don't like photos skip to the end for a pretty sweet video of the same material.
I tried a few practice shots approaching Galesburg where my train passed a westbound BNSF freight waiting for us to clear up at GRAHAM interlocking with C44-9W #4180 in the lead.
Fast forward to the end of the Mendota Sub after my train took the approach signal at Montgomery interlocking I got this shot of Burlington Junction SW9 #900 and GP18 #181.
Entering the Chicago Sub we were back into CBQ Searchlight territory.
Here my train takes the Diverging Approach signal at AURORA
NS ES44AC #8006 heading westbound in AURORA interlocking.
Whatever was blocking our path seems to have vanished. Clear signal at West Eola.
Blasting down the express track in Eola yard.
For the station stop at Naperville, we crossed over on a Diverging Approach west of the station. While completing the work an outbound METRA commuter train arrived with F40PHM-2 #196 pulled in.
Taking up the express track east of the station was a westbound BNSF freight with ES44C4 #7096 on the front.
The BNSF Signal Aspect system is a strange chimera due to the merger history. In many cases the name of the signal no longer reflects how the signal is used in practice. The recent resignaling project on the line also included some interlockings being upgraded with 50mph turnouts. This results in a Y/G "Advance Approach" signal in advance of the R/G Diverging Clear. However "Advance Approach" is an Artifact Title as the rule for "Advance Approach" instructs trains to proceed preparing to enter a 50mph turnout and nothing about stopping at a second signal. I'm sure at some point on either the B, N, S or F Y/G probably did have something to do with Advance Approach as it is known on ever other railroad, but today it is almost exclusively used for 50mph turnouts. UP is much more straightforward and named their Y/G aspect "Approach Clear 50".
More CBQ searchlight signals with some Christmas Lights at East Leslie.
MP 22 automatic searchlight signal gantry with looming replacement.
Another outbound METRA train at Belmont with F40PH-2 #183.
Extra wide CBQ signal gantry at Downers Grove.
Train sandwitch at Downers Grove with a westbound doublestack train and inbound METRA commuter.
Good thing this line is equipped with cab signals. CBQ searchlights at East Downers Grove.
Last of the CBQ searchlights, the MP19 automatic displaying 2 eastbound Clear signals.
Metra Hinsdale Station.
Closed Cicero interlocking tower at the east end of Cicero yard.
Yard and road power at BNSF Western Ave yard including GP38-2 #2037 and 2294 and NS C40-9W #8980.
Pair of Union pacific GP15-1's #714 and #732.
The 9+ track wide hyper signal bridge at MP 3.
Burlington Northern era Six track searchlight signal bridge at UNION AVE interlocking.
BN SD70M #9458 with a powder river coal train headed for Amtrak's 21st Bridge.
Relocated searchlights with an outbound METRA commuter train at the turn into the Chicago Union Station terminal complex.
B&OCT and Saint Charles Air Line bridges.
Outbound METRA train pulled by F40PHM-2 #186 at Roosevelt Ave.
METRA F40PHM-2 #208 heading into CUS from the yard at Taylor St.
Alright, like I said in the beginning if you aren't one for looking and photos and reading here is a video I took from about Hinsdale all the way through to Chicago Union Station. If you are wondering how I got both the video and the still photos it was because I was double fisting it with a DSLR in one hand and my regular camera in the other set to record video. Eventually a friend showed up to help out, but yeah, I'm committed that way. Anyway, enjoy!