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Chicago Trip 2012:

Chicago Trip 2012:




            While I’ve visited Chicago several times in the past, there was still much that I haven’t done. With the Mayan calendar hinting the world might end in 2012, I chose summer 2012 for the “Mother of all Chicago trips”. Besides doing what I’ve done in the past when I’ve visited Chicago, I would also like to go to Kenosha again. Plus I was hoping to visit three trolley museums in the area: The Illinois Railway Museum, the Fox River Trolley Museum, and the East Troy Electric Railway. I had visited the Illinois Railway Museum and East Troy back in 2000, but wanted to go back. I wanted to go back to East Troy because they had former Toronto PCC #4617 which was the 14th car I visited of the 19.


            However in late 2011, PCC 4617 along with East Troy’s other single ended PCC; ex SEPTA 2185 were sold to Kenosha where both were put into service on the line bringing Kenosha’s total PCC fleet to eight cars; six former Toronto PCCs and two ex SEPTA PCCs.


            My plan was to leave on July 2nd and ride VIA train 95 to Niagara Falls where I would meet up with my aunt and get a ride to Amtrak’s Buffalo-Depew station where I would ride train 49 to Chicago. I would visit Kenosha on the 4th and mess around on the 5th and 6th. On the 7th, I would rent a car and drive to the Illinois Railway Museum. The next day, I would visit the Fox River Trolley Museum. On the 9th, I would return the rental car and mess around Chicago before catching train 48 back to Buffalo-Depew then riding the Maple Leaf home to Toronto.


            After I made the reservations, I learned that the government slashed VIA funding which would lead to several cutbacks including all VIA trains that serve Niagara Falls with the exception of the Maple Leaf. The trip unfolded as follows.


July 2, 2012:


            I got to Union Station shortly after 4:00 pm. I made my way to the baggage check area to see if I should check my suitcase for train 95 in case it had Renaissance cars like when I attempted to ride it last time. I was told that I would check my suitcase when I got to the platform.


            I looked around the station and logged onto VIA's Wi-Fi service in the station and worked on this report some more.


            Boarding began around 5:25 pm. I was seated in Renaissance coach #7110, an economy class coach. I was hoping I could have been in a business class coach like when I attempted to ride train 95 last time, but I bailed as a result of a 17 year old girl getting struck by a GO train.


            At 5:30 pm, I watched VIA train 75 depart on the track next to us.  After it had departed, I saw train 87 awaiting its 5:40 departure to Sarnia. It departed on time.


            About a minute before departure, the HEP went out. It can back on seconds later. Train 95 departed on time. Shortly after we departed, I started filmed and got the noise the Renaissance cars make that sounds like someone being choked. I also was able to record the chimes which are identical to the ones on the TTC's Hawker type subway cars and the Scarborough RT.


            Moments later, I filmed train 76 as it passed. VIA F40 #6432 passed in reverse, but I was unable to film it since I wasn't expecting that.


            My ticket was taken and I bought dinner as we passed VIA's Toronto Maintenance Centre. I filmed the yard. However, there wasn't much equipment, but a second rebuilt Park car and third rebuilt Chateau sleeper had been delivered. The line of retired GO F59PHs had been moved to the west end of the yard and were coupled to GO bi level coach #2425 which had had its GO logos blanked out and its windows were boarded up. I found that weird since there was no accidents recently.


            We stopped at Oakville and departed a couple minutes later. An eastbound GO train passed us. Five minutes later, we arrived into Aldershot. We soon departed.


            We passed through Hamilton. We later stopped at Grimsby.


            Later, we passed the St. Catherines Transit bus garage where I saw some Orion 6s in the back. The train then slowed down. After awhile, we sped up briefly before we stopped at St. Catherines. We then moved one coach length forwards to let someone on and some people off. There were a lot of people on the platform. I thought some were waiting for train 98; the Toronto bound Maple Leaf which hadn't passed us yet. There was also a GO bus in the parking lot, but I shouldn't be too surprised since GO runs to St. Catherines and Niagara Falls now. The train soon departed. Seconds later, the Maple Leaf passed. I filmed the train, though I missed the locomotive which was P42 #44.


            The drawbridge over the Welland Canal was thankfully down.  However, the Algoma Progress freighter was waiting to go though. Moments later, a GO train passed.  I was going to phone my aunt to let her know where my train was. However, there wasn't any cell phone reception. When I last rode train 95 to Niagara Falls back in 2010, there was reception when the train passed over the Welland Canal.


            I finally got though and phoned my aunt, but got her answering machine. I left a message saying where my train was and that I hoped I got her machine because she had left to meet my train!


            When this was happening, we passed through a level crossing. I saw a kid throw something that seemed to have hit the roof of the train! Good thing there wasn't a dome car on the train! I readied my stuff in preparation to get off.


            Train 95 arrived into Niagara Falls 10 minutes late. As we arrived, I could see my aunt in the parking lot. She saw me on the train.


            I was the second passenger to get off the train. I noticed the coach in front of mine was numbered 70111. I thought that was unusual because the Renaissance coaches are numbered in the 7100 and 7200 series. However, VIA has been modifying the Renaissance cars so most likely they are renumbered to show that they've been modified.


            I walked to the baggage car where I retrieved my suitcase. I then photographed the train.



            I then walked back and met up with my aunt. At least this time, I made it on the train as originally planned!


            I then photographed some WE GO Nova LFSes and some WE GO LFX articulated buses.




            The WE GO buses are what are going to replace the Orion 4s assigned to the People mover. Some have entered service at the time I took this trip.


            My aunt and I drove to a McDonald's near her place where I got an apple pie and a small Coke. I phoned home to let my mom know I was in Niagara Falls. We then drove to a band where my aunt used the ATM. She spoke to some people before we headed back to her house.


            I watched some TV at my aunt's house during the hour I was there. We headed out just before 9:30 pm.


            We drove to the border. There was a line up of cars waiting to enter the U.S. When it was our turn, we had a grumpy agent who asked who I knew in Chicago and asked to see my return train tickets. We were allowed to go into the U.S. upon returning of my train tickets. It was a good thing he wasn't the agent who interviewed us the last time since I didn't have a Transit Windsor Tunnel Bus ticket on me. After we left, my aunt told me how employees who cross the border regularly have been getting hassled by nasty customs agents.


            We stopped at a convenience store near Buffalo, Depew before we headed to the station. I said goodbye to my aunt and went inside the station. The station was pretty busy.


            I occasionally wandered onto the platform since it wasn't too cool out. At one point, I got a couple text messages from my friend Karl in Chicago. I watched a CSX intermodel train pass. I called Julie and found the Lakeshore Limited was running 19 minutes late. I worked on this report some more.


July 3, 2012:


            I headed out onto the platform. While waiting for the Lakeshore Limited, the conductor took our tickets. Train 49 arrived 33 minutes late. I filmed the train pulling in and photographed it.




            I was seated in Amfleet 2 coach #25038. I initially had an aisle seat but the person I sat next to was getting off in Cleveland. The train had to make a double stop to allow people to get on the sleepers assigned to the New York section of the train. We soon departed. I pulled out the blanket I had bought on the Three Rivers and tried to get some sleep.


            I was roused at Erie when my seatmate had to use the washroom. She suggested that she take the aisle seat so she could get off in Cleveland without disturbing me much. I moved over and slept off and on some more.


            I was woken up around Cleveland by my seatmate. We stopped at Cleveland. I saw there was a large crowd getting on at Cleveland. I briefly gained a new seatmate at Cleveland, but she moved before we even departed! However, I noticed she had spilled some water on the seat. I again slept off and on until we arrived at Sandusky. The Amtrak crew replaced the wet seat cushion with another in anticipation that I would get a seatmate in Sandusky. While I did get a seatmate, he moved shortly after we left.


            Awhile later, the sun came up. We stopped at Toledo. This was a smoke stop that I used to photograph the train.






            I got back on the train stayed in my seat until we departed. I headed to the dining car for breakfast. The diner was a Temoinsa refurbished diner. After I had paid for my breakfast, I went back to my coach seat. The train stopped at Bryan, Ohio.


            I worked on this report some more. The train stopped at Waterloo, Indiana.


            I went to the cafe car. The train stopped at Elkhart. I filmed the equipment at the New York Central museum and took some photos.




            The train departed. I returned to my seat and watched Unstoppable on DVD. The train stopped at South Bend. We soon departed. We were running alongside the Chicago, South Shore, and South Bend interurban line.


            The train crew announced we were about 90 minutes from Chicago.


            Awhile later, the train passed through Hammond-Whiting, Indiana non-stop. Other Amtrak trains stop there, but not the Lakeshore Limited.


            At one point, we stopped. We were stopped for several minutes. We had stopped because of an open drawbridge. Given how Chicago is a hub for several freight railways not to mention many Amtrak routes, you would think they would have built secondary drawbridges like in Montreal.


            We soon were underway again. We picked up speed. I caught a glimpse of the Sears Tower in downtown Chicago. We also passed over the Metra electric line. We passed an intermodel yard where I saw a trailer being loaded onto a car.


            I readied my stuff in preparation to get off in Chicago. I was unsure if the train would front in or back in. The train fronted into Union Station. As we passed the Amtrak yard, I filmed it. The Lakeshore Limited arrived into Chicago 30 minutes late which is the closest it's come to being on time of all the times I've ridden train 49 to Chicago.


            There was a delay getting off the train with everyone in the coach standing in the aisle waiting to get off, but I finally got off and photographed the train.





            I then bought a CTA weekly pass and studied a CTA map of the area which didn't show the bus route I would take to my hotel. After awhile, I decided to head over to how I thought I would get there.


            I left Union Station. Shortly after, the handle on my suitcase separated! This wasn't good. I was able to partially reattach it, but I needed a better band-aid solution. I walked to Clinton station and caught a Blue line train to Jefferson Park where I waited for a route 85A to take me to the hotel I stayed at in my Arizona Make-up Trip and my 2008 Chicago trip. Back then it was a Days Inn. It was now an “America's Best Value” Inn.


            I eventually made it there and checked in. I got a room close to the lobby. I phoned my mom to let her know I was in Chicago. I was feeling a bit tired, so I laid down.


            A couple hours later, I got up and headed out. I waited for a route 85A to take me back to Jefferson Park. I got off and had lunch at a McDonald's near the station.


            I then caught a Blue line train to Clark and Lake. I rode in a 2200 series car. There's still plenty in service, but their retirement is imminent.


            I rode the train to Clark and Lake and filmed it pulling out.


            I then went to catch a green line train north one stop. While I was waiting, I saw a six car Pink line train consisting of CTA's new 5000 series El cars which are replacing the 2200s and 2400s. I photographed it.




            I then photographed a green line train going the opposite way since it had some 2400s.




            A few minutes later, my Green line train arrived. I photographed it before I got on.



            I rode to Clinton and filmed the train pulling out. I decided to walk over to a nearby railway crossing to see if I could see one of Metra's F40C locomotives. Along the way, I photographed an Orion 5 which was numbered 714 and lettered for 600 West whatever that is.




            I saw a Metra train pass through the crossing a block away. It was being pulled my an MP36 and an F40C. I took a desperation shot of the train.


Sorry I couldn’t have gotten a better shot of the unit.


            I went to the crossing anyway in case the other F40C would show up. I photographed and filmed various Metra trains and an Amtrak Hiawatha train that was inbound to Chicago.
















            After several minutes and several Metra trains, I made my way back towards Clinton. I phoned my friend Greg and spoke with him for a few minutes. I then got on the El and a Pink line train arrived. I rode it a few stops before I got off at Madison station. I filmed the train pulling out. This was the first time I rode CTA's new 5000 series El cars. A green line train arrived a few minutes later. I photographed it before I got on.



            I rode to Roosevelt and filmed the train departing. I walked over to the Amtrak yard. As I approached the yard, I saw two full length dome cars. I thought one of them was Amtrak's only full length dome, but they were two privately owned cars coupled to a third privately owned coach. I photographed them as well as other Amtrak equipment in the yard.













            I then walked over to a CVS Pharmacy and bought some items I then walked to a nearby Target department store where I bought a belt for $7 for the purpose of a temporary fix for my suitcase handle. After, I wasn't sure what to do next. I decided to ride to Chicago's Midway airport because I've never ridden there before. I boarded an Orange line train and rode to Midway. When I arrived at Midway, I took some photographs of the train I had arrived on.




            I left the station and looked around Midway. I eventually bought dinner from a snack stand before I returned to the El. I had to wait several minutes for a train, but it eventually arrived and I left. A few stations after we left, the train had a minor mechanical problem which was resolved in a few minutes. I rode the train to H.W. Library station before I transferred to the Blue line. I rode to Jefferson Park and caught the route 85A back to my hotel.


            After I got to my hotel, I phoned my friend Karl. He was busy, but we decided to try to meet some point on Friday. I worked on this report some more before I bought some mink from a nearby convenience store. I set the alarm on my phone for 8:30 am and called it a night.


July 4, 2012:


            I got up at 8:30 and got dressed I went to the lobby for breakfast. I then returned to my room for a few minutes before I headed out. I would be visiting Kenosha in the afternoon.


            I headed out. It was hot! After waiting for several minutes for the CTA 85A, I eventually boarded a PACE Orion 6 and rode to Howard El Station. I decided to ride the Skokie Swift.


            Since my last visit to Chicago, a new station had been built along the existing portion of the line.


            My friend Greg told me several years ago, that the residents along the line wanted a station built in the area. They eventually made a deal with CTA. In exchange for the station being built, CTA would be able to convert the line from overhead wires to third rail like the rest of the system. The conversion to third rail power happened in 2004, but the station was built only recently.


            I rode the train to the end of the line which is now called Dempster-Skokie. I photographed the train and filmed it passing through a crossing just past the platform.



            I walked a block east and had lunch at a Subway restaurant. I then returned to Skokie-Dempster and waited for a train back. When it pulled into the platform, I photographed it.



            I rode the train back to Howard and took one more photo of it.



            I then boarded a purple line train and rode to Davis. There's a Metra station next to the Davis CTA station which is used by the route to Kenosha. However, I had a couple hours to kill before my train arrived.


            I went into a nearby convenience store and bought something to drink because it was HOT. The temperature had reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit! After awhile, I decided to ride the purple line to Linden and back. When I got to Linden, I photographed the train.



            I returned to Davis and then found a Five Guys burger place and bought a large Coke. This was the first time since I was in Charlotte that I had seen a Five Guys restaurant. After, I made by way back to the Metra station.


            My train to Kenosha arrived a few minutes late. I filmed it pulling in. I boarded the cab car and we were soon off. I paid the conductor shortly after I boarded.


            While I was on the train, I saw a PACE Orion 1 in service at one of the station stops, but was unable to photograph it.


            The train arrived into Kenosha at 4:16 pm. I took some photos.




            I then headed out to catch a streetcar. At first, I thought I saw ex SEPTA PCC 2185, but that wasn't the case. A few minutes later, PCC 4616 arrived. I photographed it before I got on. I could also see in the distance another PCC. It looked like either 4610 or 4617 as both are still in Toronto colours.



            Greg had told me the fare for the streetcars was now $1 as opposed to $0.25 like the last few times. However, since it was the fourth of July, it was free!


            This was the first time I had ridden PCC 4616. It was the second PCC to be delivered to Kenosha. We headed off.


            Near the Kenosha Public Museum, I noticed lots of stands as Kenosha was having a fourth of July celebration with fireworks later in the evening. I couldn't stay in Kenosha for the fireworks because the last Metra train left before 7:00 pm.


            I rode PCC 4616 to the garage and I filmed it pulling away. The PCC that was behind it had caught up to 4616. I saw it was car 4617 which Kenosha had acquired from East Troy. I got on.


            While PCC 4617 is still in its Toronto livery, Kenosha will most likely repaint it sometime in the future. I noticed that 4617 still had its original seat cushions and not yet equipped with a wheelchair lift like its five sisters in Kenosha. I rode 4617 past the Metra station and got off at 8th Avenue before I photographed it and filmed it pulling away.



            I then made my way back to the garage. I noticed it was locked up tighter than a drum. I did see some PCCs inside through a window. I saw cars 4606, 4609, 4610, and 2185. I didn't see 4615 or 2120. I made my way back to the streetcar stop and photographed cars 4616 and 4617 when they came past again.




            Meanwhile, I heard the sound a truck makes when it backs up. I saw one of the doors leading into the garage was open and PCC 4606 backing out. I filmed it and took a couple photographs.





            I talked with the operator of the car who was impressed that I was able to visit all 19 PCCs in the 4600-4618 series. When PCC 4616 came by again, I boarded the car and rode to where all the stands were. I got off and photographed the PCCs and then filmed them both pulling away.




            I looked around the stands. I saw a stand for Cold Stone Creamery; the Marble Slab rip-off. I saw there was a stage with a band performing. I photographed the stage.



            I also saw an inflatable Titanic slide which I also photographed.




            I then walked over to the streetcar stop and waited. I photographed 4616 when it showed up.



            I saw 4616 was full, so I chose to wait for 4617 which was right behind it. I photographed 4617.



            I rode 4617 to the garage. I filmed it pulling away. I saw 4606 wasn't in the yard, so I knew it was on the line. I waited. When 4606 showed up, I photographed it.



            I rode 4606 around the line and got off and filmed it pulling away.



            I wandered around the area for a few minutes. After, I made my way back to the garage and waited. When 4606 showed up, I photographed it again and got on.



            I rode 4606 back to the Metra station. I got off and filmed it pulling away. I then took one more photo.



Click to see my updated page about Kenosha’s streetcars:           Kenosha streetcars


            I went upstairs. The train I would ride back to Chicago was there. I photographed the train.



            The doors didn't open right away. The train actually backed out of the station and stopped. In the meanwhile, I photographed a parked Metra train with an older Galley coach and a single level coach behind the locomotive.




            I also photographed PCC 4616 from the station.



            My train eventually pulled back into the station. I filmed it pulling in and boarded the cab car. While waiting for the train to depart, I photographed PCCs 4606 and 4617 from the train.





            The train departed on time at 6:49 pm. If you ask me, that's an odd departure time from an origin station. I remembered back in 2008 that at one station, we were held up because of a disruptive passenger. Fortunately, that didn't happen again. We soon arrived at the Ogilvie Transportation Center. I got off and took a photo.



            I remembered there was a food court at the Ogilvie Transportation Center. Some places were still open. I bought dinner from a Taco Bell and I tried to make by way over to Navy Pier because I thought there would be fireworks at 9:30. However, by 9:30 when I was a few blocks away, I learned they were over. I walked all the way back to Grand Station on the Blue line and rode to Harlem station on the Blue line since it was the closest station to my hotel and I thought there might be taxis there, but there weren't.


            I bought a lemonade and rode one stop further to Cumberland hoping I could catch a PACE route 290 bus to my hotel, but the last bus had long since left. I got back on the El and rode to Jefferson Park where I waited for a cab. While I was waiting, I saw some fireworks.


            I got a cab which took me to my hotel. I went to my room and called it a night.


Click here for the next part:            Part 2