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Saturday, June 16, 2012

12-06-16 PHOTOS: Chicago Racine

Well its time for halftime in my second cross country trip and this time around I did not try to make a same day connection between the Zephyr and the Capitol Limited, even thought it turned out we could have made the connection. Still, it wasn't a big deal because my friend had booked a room using some Holiday Inn rewards points and that resulted in a night's stay at what turned out to be the ultimate railfan suite at the Sun Times building. The room occupied the corner of the top floor, right under the satellite dishes and provided perfect overhead views of the CNW station, CNW station approach, Union Station Milwaukee approach as well as both the CNW and Milwaukee Road Western trunk lines.

I am not exactly sure how we got this room and one would probably be hard pressed to request it without paying at least something close to its market price, but this and many of the other rooms near that southwest corner with an outside window will not disappoint the railfan traveler.

Now, the reason for the title of Chicago Racine is because my one goal during this layover was to hike out and take some photos of the location on the former Milwaukee Road approach to Union Station known to local railfans as Racine as it is the site of the Racine Ave grade crossing. What makes "Racine" special is a majorly beefy PRR Position Light signal gantry that is one of the few indications of the routes PRR heritage as part of the old Panhandle Route.

Today the Racine signal bridge is the eastbound home signal for the METRA MORGAN ST interlocking, remote to Tower A-2, and I made due to document both that and the westbound searchlight signal gantry at Green st. You can find these and all other manner of exciting METRA and CTA photos right here.

Now, while we had an amazing railfan room I unfortunately had enabled one of the "dumbass" settings on my new camera and completely forgot about it, which caused it to take horrendous photos in this particular light. Fortunately I had the DSLR to take most of my photos with, but ones like this shot of Milwaukee Road F40C #611 was of far poorer quality than I would have liked. Don't worry, we'll run into old #611 later.

Here we see an inbound Amtrak Hiawatha Service train passing under Halstead St with cabbage car #90221 and P42 #119.

View from the hotel room of the downtown loop as a train of Boeing built 2400 series El cars pass in front of the new Boeing world headquarters.

Two CNW division Metra trains pass at the former Clinton Street interlocking plant on approach to the old CNW station.

Northwest Corner of the loop with views of both the Brown and Pink/Green elevated lines as they cross the Chicago River.

Looking down the western trunk lines at night with a train cleared for movement on Track 1 all the way to Tower A-2.

CTA train crossing the Lake Street bridge at night.

Boeing building and Sears tower at night.

Here we see a Tropicana wrapped 3200 series El train at the Merchandise Mart station.

The west side of the loop was shut down for track work resulting in some very interesting routings as Brown Line trains turned into Orange Line trains at 18th St. Here we see a video of this move.

My first encounter with a 5000 series train on the run from the look to Clinton St. suck!

The reason we find a PRR Position Light signal bright both at Racine at the Western Ave interlocking about a mile west of here is because this use to be the "Panhandle Route" into Chicago. Much like the New York Central obtained two independent routes into the Windy Apple via both the Michigan Central and Lakeshore & Michigan Southern, the PRR had its regular main line via Fort Wayne, and a backup line via Columbus and Indianapolis. The latter, entered the city from the south east and headed north through 75th St Jct and Brighton Park crossing before reaching the CNW line at Western Ave and curving back east to reach Union Station from the north end. The PRR thusly put its stamp on the signaling between Western Ave and Union Station.

Here, not part of Morgan St interlocking, the signal bright displays Clear indication on the 6R signal for an inbound METRA commuter train.

This signal bridge has maintainer walkways wide enough to host a tailgate party!

To deal with the high density of traffic this section of the line has very short signal blocks and with the length of the interlocking what it is, both home signal bridges also have more modern automatics strapped onto the back.

That's more like it...a 2400 series Boeing. Also at Clinton St after hiking out to Racine.

The re-styled Tower 18.

Merchandise Mart, one of the largest buildings in the world. Packed full of...Merchandise.

I took a ride out on the Blue Line to Forest Park to get a last ride in on the venerable Budd 2200 series cars. Here is #2312 at Forest Park.

HD Video of those famous blinker doors as our Blue Line train runs inbound from Forest Park.

Back to the hotel room in time to catch Metra cab car #8445 inbound to the CNW station through Clinton St interlocking.

Metra F40PH #157 coupled to carbon steel Pullman gallery car #8738.

Meanwhile down on the Milwaukee level MP36PH-2S #404 pulls in with another Metra train.

Back up again to see a light METRA F40PH #125 passing over the Milwaukee main.

Union Pacific MP15AC switcher #1488 running light to tow a cut of Metra gallery cars back to the Western Ave coach yards for servicing. METRA engines stay at the CNW station for servicing at the facility there. Not sure why things are done this way...

METRA F40PH #171 about to pass under the LAKE ST interlocking signal Bridge A.

Heading back to Amtrak's Chicago Metropolitan Lounge with over an hour until our departure time I decided to use the time to talk out to the other end of the Morgan St interlocking to photograph the searchlight signal bridge there. While on my way out I was lucky enough to catch #611 waiting to depart with another commuter train. While most of the F40C's were retired years ago when the MP36's were purchased, two, #611 and #614 were put back in service due to problems first with the MP36's and later due to other units needing to be cycled in for overhaul. Here #611 is posing with replacement MP36 #423.

MERTA Cab Car #8504 inbound passing under the Green St signal bridge for MORGAN ST interlocking.

On the opposite end of that train was MERTA MP36PH-3S #419.

Here we see the eastbound automatic exit signals behind the westbound MORGAN ST searchlights at Green St.

In an amazing bit of good fortune I caught #611 on the head of an outbound commuter train not long after I had arrived at the Green St location. I have since heard that both #611 and #614 have again been pulled from service, probably for good. They would be the last purpose built North American passenger locomotives with 6 axles.

Gallery cab car #8516 passing under the Green St signal bridge.

At some point I  shot this video of Amtrak F40PH cabbage car #90221 leading the southbound Hiawatha Service Train 338 past the grade crossing at Green St en route to Chicago Union Station.  For some reason Train 338 was being powered by two P42DC locomotives, #119 and #57 which made this an interesting catch. 

Back at Union Station only 4 axle power was left like F40PH #148.

Well that's it for my brief stay over in Chicago. Next time we can see what has become of the NS Chicago Line and CSX B&O Main Line since I last visited it in 2011.

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