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Friday, December 4, 2015

15-12-04 PHOTOS: Blue Island

Those of us from Philly like to point out things like the Chestnut Hill East and Chestnut Hill West lines as an example of extravagant redundancy. However, this sort of setup is not unique to the Philly area with its dueling railroads. In Chicago both the Illinois Central and Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific, wound up serving the southern Chicago suburb if Blue Island with competing commuter rail services. In this case the community was actually located on the Rock's main line, while the IC was the one reaching in with electric service from is own main line in Kensington.

In addition to two parallel stations, Blue Island also hosts an active interlocking tower with a vintage 1950's CTC panel that controls a sizable portion of the Rock Island line between here and Joliet. The Rock was almost completely abandoned in the 1980's with METRA directly purchasing the commuter portion and Iowa Interstate nabbing the rest. Like other examples of commuter railroads in the Northeast, METRA was slow to close the towers with ROOT ST, GRESHAM JCT, BLUE ISLAND and UD (in Joliet) all in operation up through the 1990's. Today only BLUE ISLAND is still manned.

My trip to Chicago also included brief stops at the Halstead St. METRA station along with a brief walk across the famous Roosevelt St. bridge. You can check those and all the other photos out here.

We begin at the Rosedale CTA stop where 3600 series Budd #3023 is arriving at the head of an inbound train.

Amtrak P42DC #88 passing through the infrequently served METRA Halstead Station on the Aurora Line with an Illinois service train.

I was visiting Halstead St to take pictures of the old 1990's vintage searchlight signals at the large UNION AVE interlocking plant. Unfortunately they had been alreadyreplaced. Of course the searchlight signals in the Eola area are still standing some 3 years after re-signaling efforts began.

Moving to Roosevelt Ave, here we see the lineup of trainsets in the METRA storage yard awaiting the evening rush.

F40PH's #122 and 189 outside the engine-house.

BNSF operates the Aurora Line under contract to METRA and sometimes supplies its own switchers to work the coach yard. Here GP39-3 #2655 switches a trainset.

Across the way Amtrak P32-8W #500 switches private car Sierra Hotel.

Amtrak cabbage F40 #90219 sits attached to a trainset of Superliners, possibly marking it as the Pere Marquette.

The next morning I encountered more CTA Budd 2600 cars at Rosemont.

Gallery Highliner #1243 at the IC Blue Island Station. How I got there will be the subject of a forthcoming video post.

You can see how close the RI station is to the IC station. Forget about a Swampoodle connection to enable electrification to Joliet, the IC line is terribly slow, runnung down streets and through back yards at 40mph. It is also single track with only a single passing siding. 

METRA's BLUE ISLAND tower was high tech shit back in the 1950's when it was built. CTC signaling using an N-X model board all contained in something akin to an air traffic control tower.

Because of the competing IC station, the RI station is technically known as Blue Island - Vermont Street.

A trio if westbound searchlight signals are pulled for an approaching train on the main or express line. The two truss bridges in the background span the Little Calumet River.

The signals were cleared for an outbound express/deadhead run moving a trainset to Joliet. Love the Doppler effect on the horn.

That same trainset soon returned led by new gallery cab car #8547 and MP36PH-3C #409 pushing.

Blue Island actually served two different Rock Island lines. You've seen the main line with its trains rushing through at speed. The other line is known as the Commuter Line or Beverly Branch. This takes the slow route through Beverly, IL, rejoining the main line at Gresham Jct. METRA runs a zoned service with Joliet trains running local to Blue Island and then express from there with Blue Island originating trains taking over the local service on the Beverly Branch. Since I had arrived a Beverly train had been laying over west of the truss bridge and with the Joliet express having departed it pulls forward with cab car #8553 to collect any transferring passengers.

F40PH-2 #179 is providing power.

Most of the Beverly Branch is actually run under a timetable system called Controlled Block. Since station stop are so frequent, trains are run without track circuit or signal protection according to the timetable.

The vintage 1950's US&S H-2 searchlights appeared primed for replacement by LED searchlights.

This inbound train was so express it didn't even bother stopping at Vermont Street! Power provided by MP36PH-3C

Not wanting to get stuck on one of the nasty Beverly locals, I had to catch the last inbound express train of the morning with Cab Car #8577. Note how the express platform is of the holtout variety. Good thing the tower operator has a good view of the goings on to avoid clearly an outbound train while an inbound is platformed. I also learned that the street on either side of the grade crossing is considered part of the platform.

METRA cab cars #8577 and #8549 lines up at La Salle St Station.

Well that's it. Next week tune in for a special Video episode.

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