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Chicago trip 2008:

Chicago trip 2008:




            This trip has multiple origins. First, I’ve wanted to ride in a Viewliner sleeping car. I also wanted to go back to Chicago since my Arizona Make-up Trip. I determined that it was cheapest to overnight from Chicago to Buffalo on the Lakeshore Limited, so I decided to “kill two birds with one stone”.


            I wanted to spend at least two nights in Chicago so on one day; I could ride Metra to Kenosha, Wisconsin because they have a line with five former Toronto PCC streetcars which were among the 19 that were mothballed in 1995. I went there twice in 2000 when there were only four of the five cars. I went back in 2003 on the way home from SAIT and saw the fifth car, but I wanted to go just so I could say that I didn’t need SAIT to Kenosha again. I also wanted to see my friends Greg and Karl again.


            I waited until mid September to go on this trip. I needed four consecutive days off work at least, though five would be better. However, I managed to get five unrequested days off work as to work around my work schedule.


            Because the price of a sleeping car was pretty expensive, my plan involved me riding VIA train 95 to Niagara Falls where my aunt would drive me to Buffalo Depew station to save time and money. I would then ride to Chicago in coach on train 49 and spend two nights in Chicago. Then I would ride in a sleeping car on 48 back to Buffalo and ride home on the Maple Leaf. The trip unfolded as follows.


September 15, 2008:


            I got down to Union station just before 4:30 pm; about 75 minutes before my train was to leave. I wandered around a bit before I lined up.


            Boarding soon commenced. I was seated in LRC coach 3371. Before I got on, I took two photos of my train.




            I also photographed VIA train 48 awaiting its 5:30 departure to Ottawa.



            I sat down and filmed VIA train 48 leave. I also saw VIA train 68 awaiting its 6:35 pm departure to Montreal.


            VIA train 95 left on time. As we passed VIA’s Toronto Maintenance Centre, I filmed what I saw in the yard. On the other side of the train, I saw some F59PH’s GO Transit has recently begun storing.


            The attendants began serving dinner. I bought dinner from them when they came by. The train stopped at Oakville and Aldershot. We soon departed and were passed by a GO train. The next two stations we stopped at were Grimsby and St. Catherines. We crossed the drawbridge over the Welland Canal.


            The sun went down. Outside of Niagara Falls, we stopped because VIA train 98, the Toronto bound Maple Leaf which was still at the station. It finally left at 7:52 pm and passed us 10 minutes later. I filmed it as it passed. I don’t know what happened to it if the delay was caused by CSX and/or the customs inspection.


            After train 98 passed, we made our way to the station and stopped. We arrived 26 minutes late. I got off and walked to the end of the platform and photographed the train.



            My aunt met me on the platform. I observed the crew was preparing to turn the train where it would become train 90 back to Toronto the following day.


            My aunt and I drove to a McDonald’s where I bought an apple pie and a drink before we went to her house.


            We headed out just before 9:00 pm. We made a stop along the way before heading off to the Peace Bridge.  The line up wasn’t too bad. The agent who interviewed us was okay; not anal. We soon left and arrived made a stop at a gas station before we got to Buffalo Depew station shortly after 10:00 pm. I thanked my aunt and headed onto the platform where I photographed a westbound freight.



            I went back inside the station. I called Julie and found out train 49 was running on time! However when I phoned back later; I found out that it was now a few minutes late.


September 16, 2008:


            I looked outside the station and saw an eastbound freight pass. I found out train 49 was 15 minutes late from Julie. Prior to the train’s arrival, the conductor and assistant conductor who would be boarding at Buffalo took our tickets and gave us seat checks for when the train would arrive.


            Train 49 arrived 17 minutes late. As it arrived, I photographed it.



I walked back towards the coaches. I noticed there was one more coach on the train than normal. I was seated in Amfleet 2 coach #25075, a refurbished coach. Many Amfleet 2 coaches are refurbished now. I found two empty seats on the left hand side of the train and placed my seat check above my seat.


            The train soon left. I pulled out the blanket I had bought on the Three Rivers and lay down across the two seats and tried to sleep.


            I was roused from my half sleep by the conductor as we approached Erie as there were more people getting on. However, no one sat next to me. After we left, the conductor remarked I was lucky. I then laid down across the two seats again.


            I was partially awake as we stopped in Cleveland. I could see taxis waiting and saw one taxi operated by Yellow Cab; the cab that I used on my Cleveland Make-up trip to get me to the Amtrak station. That time, I made the train with time to spare despite the fact they had screwed up by going to the wrong hotel to pick me up and ended up picking me up 10-14 minutes late!


            I also saw two white taxis, but I didn’t see any from the company that made me miss the Lakeshore Limited on my Washington-Cleveland trip at the station.


            Train 49 soon left. I managed to sleep until we were outside of Toledo. I saw Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited was in the station. We were being held outside until the Capitol Limited left. We pulled up to the station and stopped. I stepped off the train and took some photos.




            I then got back on the train. Shortly after we left, I went to the dining car for breakfast. This would be the first time I had eaten in the dining car of the Lakeshore Limited after its heritage diner was replaced with an Amfleet 2 “Diner-lite” car. I had the continental breakfast, though the cereal was given to me in its package rather than a bowl. The meal tasted alright, but the presentation was a bit disappointing.


This is breakfast in the face of progress for you.


            After I paid for my meal, I went back to my seat. The train stopped at Bryan, Ohio and Waterloo, Indiana. The train stopped at Elkhart where I filmed the New York Central Railway museum. Since I had ridden by there last, they had moved some of the equipment around.


            The train continued and stopped at South Bend. After we left, I went to the café car for a Pepsi. While in line, another passenger asked about the smoking stops. She was told she had missed the last one (Toledo), and there wouldn’t be any more until Chicago.


            As we continued on, we stopped for awhile. Eventually, we were underway and soon approaching Chicago. Based on what happened on my Arizona and Arizona Make-up trips, I assumed we would be fronting into Chicago. I would end up being right.


As we passed Amtrak’s 14th Street yard, I filmed various locomotives and coaches. I was surprised to see Amtrak Great Dome #10031, Amtrak’s last dome and the car I rode last fall on the Adirondack. I’m not sure why it was there; maybe it was going to head out on the Lakeshore Limited for use on the Adirondack again this year.


            We soon arrived into Chicago. The Capitol Limited had arrived a few minutes prior and we had been running right behind it since Toledo. We were 75 minutes late. I got off and took a photograph of the train as well as a Superliner Diner-lounge that was tacked onto the rear of the Texas Eagle.




            I also noticed a private car tacked onto the rear of another train; either the Southwest Chief or the California Zephyr. I photographed it.



            I then found a machine that sold day passes for the CTA. I bought a three day pass. I then headed out to the Blue Line subway to head to my hotel. I had decided to stay at the same hotel that I stayed at last time because searching for a cheap hotel that was within reach of CTA was making my head spin so I decided to go with what I knew.


            I rode the Blue line to Jefferson Park and then transferred to the 85A bus. The 85A doesn’t run very frequent though. Since I had been to Chicago last, 85A was now being handled by 30 foot buses. I photographed my bus when it pulled into the CTA station.



            I soon checked into my hotel. The clerk seemed to have remembered me from last time I stayed there almost two years before. In addition, I was given a key to room 613. If my memory serves me correctly, that may have been the same room I stayed in last time! If not, it was close by.


            I dropped some of my stuff off and then headed out on the next 85A to the subway. I ate lunch at a McDonalds near the station. After lunch, I headed down to the station and rode a 2200 series el car to Jackson. I then switched to the Red Line and rode to Roosevelt. I then walked to Amtrak’s 14th Street yard where I photographed the equipment there including the Cardinal and the City of New Orleans. I also saw a Texas Eagle train set. I also saw the coaches from the Lakeshore Limited I had arrived into Chicago on.






            I then crossed the street and photographed the Great Dome in the yard.




            I stopped in a nearby Target department store and bought something to drink as I was thirsty. I then walked back to the El and rode an orange line train to the Library station. I then waited for a Pink Line train.


            Since it’s been two years since the Pink Line opened, the novelty has worn off. The 2600 series El cars that were wrapped Pink to promote the new line have long since been returned to their usual grey livery. Also, the portion of the Pink Line that used to only see service on the Blue Line during rush hour is now completely handled by the Pink line.


            I was also disappointed to see that the 2200 series el cars were no longer assigned to the Pink line, though I thought I shouldn’t be surprised.


            I rode the Pink Line to Cicero station. I had heard that in 1979, an El train had struck a truck at the crossing just before the station and derailed and there were still flange marks in the pavement today. I decided to see that for myself and sure enough I saw the flange marks. I then rode back to Clinton Station on the Green/Pink line. I decided to film my train pulling out. I was able to film the train departing without a misinformed CTA employee telling me “No pictures!”


            I then left the station and called Greg. He said he was working late. He asked what I had seen so far. When I told him I rode the Pink line to Cicero, he said that I should ride to the end of the line as it has a unique station. After the call, I got back on the El and rode the Pink line to the 54th/Cermak station. This station is unique because there are two platforms one after the other.


            An arriving train crosses over and stops at the unloading platform. The train then either pulls into the yard or reverses to a departing platform. After loading the passengers, the train departs. When I got off my train, I took a photo.



            I then left the station and ate dinner at a nearby Wendy’s. I then got back on the El and rode to Clark and Lake. I then transferred to the Blue line and headed back to my hotel.


            Once I got to my hotel, I decided to call my friend Karl. I was careful to call him as a result of a recent Metrolink crash in California. In this crash, a Metrolink engineer had allegedly run a red signal and crashed head-on into a Union Pacific freight when he was texting some railfan friends. 25 people were killed in the wreck and I didn’t want a similar fate to happen to Karl!


            A few days before my trip, I had emailed Karl to give him my cell phone number so he could call me when it was safe.  However, Union Pacific like many railroads runs with two men in the locomotive cab unlike Metrolink which only operates with one. That would ensure that someone would be watching.


            When I finally got through to Karl, he told me he was busy and so we arranged to meet on the 18th. I then watched a bit of TV before asking for a wake-up call at 8:30 before calling it a night.


September 17th, 2008:


            I got my wake up call at 8:30 am and got dressed and went to the lobby for breakfast. I then went back to my room and gathered my stuff together. Today, I would be going to Kenosha.


            I headed out and caught an 85A bus to Jefferson Park. I had to be at the Metra station for 12:15 as my train left at 12:35 and I had plenty of time. When I got to Jefferson Park, I didn’t get on the blue line, but took a route 81 bus to the Kimball station on the Brown Line. I wanted to ride the Brown line in its entirety. When I got there, I took a photo of a train awaiting boarding.



            I got on the front car and rode the train to Merchandise Mart. I looked around Merchandise Mart for a few minutes before I caught another brown line train to Adams/Wabash and switched to a Green line train. I then rode a 2400 series train to Clinton station. When I got off, I took a photo.



            I then walked one block to the Ogilvie Transportation Center. I then bought a round trip ticket to Kenosha.


            We were allowed to track level at 12:09 pm. I took some photos before we were allowed to board.





            Boarding soon commenced and I took a seat in the cab car. The train departed on time. The train took over 90 minutes to reach Kenosha and made several stops. While on the train, I took some interior shots of the cab car.


            The train ended up arriving 5 minutes late. I took some photos once I got off.




            I went downstairs and saw a mosaic of a Metra locomotive. I photographed it.



            I then went out to catch a streetcar. Kenosha has five former Toronto PCC streetcars painted in liveries of many transit systems. They all retained their Toronto number. Car 4606 is painted in Chicago colours. 4609 is in Pittsburgh colours, PCC 4610 retained its Toronto scheme, PCC 4615 is painted for Kenosha, and 4616 is painted in Cincinnati colours. Car 4609 was originally to be painted in Louisville, Kentucky colours, but the people in Kenosha thought the scheme was ugly.


            When I first visited Kenosha in 2000, only four of the five cars had been delivered from the company in Iowa that refurbished the cars. Car 4609 was still in Iowa and it wasn’t until 2003 when I was on my way home from SAIT that I saw it. Since I am not too pleased with SAIT, I wanted to say I didn’t need them to come back to Kenosha.


            The PCC cars in Kenosha run counterclockwise on a large oval that takes 15 minutes for a car to make a trip. It costs only $0.25 to ride the car. One PCC is usually operated at a time.


            I headed out to the streetcar stop and waited for the car to arrive. Soon, PCC 4606 showed up. I filmed it going around the corner before I got on.


            This was my first time riding 4606. The last three times I was in Kenosha, I rode on either 4610 or 4615. When I boarded, I took a seat near the back. I noticed that two sets of double seats had been removed for a wheelchair tie down place. I was aware that when the cars were refurbished in Iowa, they added a wheelchair lift. I rode 4606 to the car barn and got off and photographed it.



I filmed 4606 departing and then walked to the car barn to see if I could get inside. There was no one there, but I was able to take shots of the cars in the car barn






            Moments later, I saw something big in the car barn. I thought it was an old bus I saw in the garage back in 2003, but then I noticed a trolley catcher. I realized it was a 6th PCC! At first, I saw thought it was a Shaker Heights car, but soon realized it was a SEPTA PCC. The car was #2120. The car used to reside at the East Troy Electric Railway along with sister PCC 2185 and former Toronto PCC 4617. I photographed it.



            A few months prior, I had been talking to Karl online and he mentioned there were six PCCs in Kenosha. I thought he was wrong because I only knew of the five PCCs from Toronto. He seemed to acknowledge; but here, he was right after all! I was not sure why 2120 was in Kenosha.


            The car barn has a transit terminal where all of Kenosha’s bus routes converge. Soon, I saw lots of buses show up. I photographed them.





            I decided to take another trolley ride, so I rode 4606 again.



            I then walked over to a nearby gas station and phoned home from a payphone. I then bought $26 of Powerball tickets for my dad.


            Later, I wandered back to the transit terminal and rode 4606 again. I had a chat with the operator who said they wanted to extend the line several blocks south and several blocks west.


            He also doesn’t know what they plan to do with SEPTA PCC #2120. For now, the car had some parts removed from it, but it may be restored to operate on the extension.


            I then got off and took some photos.





Click here to see more photos of Kenosha’s streetcars:       Kenosha streetcars


            A little while later, I decided to go for 1 and ½ more rides and got off at the Metra station to prepare to go back to Chicago. However, I had plenty of time, so I went into a café in the station, even though I wasn’t very hungry. However, I did by some corn chips.


            A little while later, I headed out onto the platform to await my train. From the platform, I saw 4606 again.


            Meanwhile, Greg called me on my cell phone. I told him I was at the Metra station and arranged to meet him at the Ogilvie Transportation Center at 7:30; when my train was due.


            Soon, my train pulled in. I filmed it pull in to the platform. After the train unloaded its passengers, it departed and moved to the opposite track. When it pulled up, I photographed it.



            I got on and we soon left on time. We continued down towards Chicago making good time. However, when we stopped at Main Street station, we were held for 17 minutes. Apparently there was a disruptive passenger who had to be removed from the train, though they weren’t in my car. After we left, Greg called me wondering where I was, though the call got broken off because of bad reception. We finally arrived at the Ogilvie Transportation Center and I got off and took a photo.



            Greg was there waiting for me. I told him why the train was late. He said he has seen a few unruly passengers. We then left the station and walked over to the loop. Greg pointed out a reminder of when streetcars ran in Chicago how they were run underneath the river.


            We walked over to the El and rode a purple line train a few stops and went to a restaurant for dinner. While at dinner, I showed Greg the photos I took on my Washington-Cleveland, Cleveland Make-up, and Quebec City trips. I also repaid him the $2.00 I borrowed from him on my last trip to Chicago after I had lost my pass.


I told Greg about the winter carnival in Quebec City and how I learned about it first through my fourth grade teacher who had passed away about a month before I headed off to Quebec City. I also told him that the teacher tried to discourage me talking about trains in class as I was a railfan back then! She obviously failed. My dad believes that if she was still alive and I told her I went to the Carnival de Quebec, she’d be interested, but would roll her eyes if I told her I took the train there!


            For dinner, I had a chicken club sandwich, which in hindsight was a mistake, because it made me sick a few hours later.


            After dinner, Greg and I parted ways and I took a Blue Line train to Jefferson Park. Along the way, I saw a bus painted and lettered for SEPTA, but I was unable to photograph it. I believe it was being delivered to SEPTA. I bought some Advil at a 7-11 because I had a headache. When I got back to my hotel, I was feeling queasy, and I got sick from my dinner. After, I set an alarm for 8:30 am and called it a night.


Click here for Part 2:  Chicago trip 2008 part 2