Possible trip to Macomb via Chicago

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Possible trip to Macomb via Chicago

Postby Roadgeek Adam » Sat May 10, 2014 4:47 pm

So, there's a 50-50 chance I will be going to Macomb, IL to visit Western Illinois University in late June, and since I am 23 and have no Driver's License, we are looking at me taking Amtrak from Trenton to Chicago via the Cardinal, and Chicago to Macomb. However, the plan is to spend time railfanning (station-wise, not equipment) in Chicago on both directions.

Couple questions:

a) I am an Erie geek, and I'd love on the first day to go visit the base of the 63rd Street-Englewood C&WI station, and while I'm from urban life and know how to handle being in the neighborhood, even I have a sense of fear of walking through Englewood. The question I have is, I'm going to be there if I go at all, Thursday afternoon, am I overblowing the Englewood crime issues or do I have to legitimately keep eyes peeled. Everyone keeps telling me to stay away from 63rd and go visit 55th Street and 47th Street station sites instead.

b) What's the suggestion for obscure L stations? One of the things I love doing is photographing the obscure and interesting stations first. I will also be doing a Metra run by bicycle, probably up the UP/N line to see some stations. Is there other lines that might of general interest to a non-Chicago railfan?

Just looking for some ideas, because I have probably Thursday afternoon and practically all day Saturday to photograph Chicago, and I avoid tourist traps, so the big places mean really nothing to me.
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Re: Possible trip to Macomb via Chicago

Postby Rockingham Racer » Sat May 10, 2014 4:53 pm

Roadgeek Adam wrote:So, there's a 50-50 chance I will be going to Macomb, IL to visit Western Illinois University in late June, and since I am 23 and have no Driver's License, we are looking at me taking Amtrak from Trenton to Chicago via the Cardinal, and Chicago to Macomb. However, the plan is to spend time railfanning (station-wise, not equipment) in Chicago on both directions.

Couple questions:

a) I am an Erie geek, and I'd love on the first day to go visit the base of the 63rd Street-Englewood C&WI station, and while I'm from urban life and know how to handle being in the neighborhood, even I have a sense of fear of walking through Englewood. The question I have is, I'm going to be there if I go at all, Thursday afternoon, am I overblowing the Englewood crime issues or do I have to legitimately keep eyes peeled. Everyone keeps telling me to stay away from 63rd and go visit 55th Street and 47th Street station sites instead.

b) What's the suggestion for obscure L stations? One of the things I love doing is photographing the obscure and interesting stations first. I will also be doing a Metra run by bicycle, probably up the UP/N line to see some stations. Is there other lines that might of general interest to a non-Chicago railfan?

Just looking for some ideas, because I have probably Thursday afternoon and practically all day Saturday to photograph Chicago, and I avoid tourist traps, so the big places mean really nothing to me.


The only way I visited Englewood was moving through it on a train or in a car. Better safe than sorry.

As to b) I don't know what you mean by obscure L stations. And yes, there are loads of other lines that might be of interest to any railfan. Depends on what you're looking for. If you're after "a mix", then the BNSF line to Aurora [the Racetrack] would fit that bill.
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Re: Possible trip to Macomb via Chicago

Postby Roadgeek Adam » Sun May 11, 2014 11:09 am

When it comes to railfanning, I am a station geek, so I like seeing stations more than the equipment. (I mean equipment's nice too, but it's nothing to go nuts over for me.) Just going from station to station and seeing things are more my interest. Usually if there's anything interesting or unique to stations, I like seeing them. That's why I asked about "obscure" stations, I mean interesting, like 145th Street on the 3 in NYC, which is only 5 cars long, and stuff like that.
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Re: Possible trip to Macomb via Chicago

Postby Bob Roberts » Sun May 11, 2014 1:06 pm

I am a frequent visitor, not a local so FWIW:

I have driven through Englewood in a rental car a good bit. Never had a problem, but I was not eager to get out of the car and walk around.

I have always found the Beverly Branch on the Rock Island line to be very interesting (you can see the subway-like stop spacing on google maps). If its not Sunday you can switch to the Metra Electric for your return trip at Blue Island. Walking around Blue Island is fine.

The Southshore line is also pretty cool from a bizzare station / landscape perspective but you will see a good portion of those sites (on different tracks) on your way into town.

I may be confused about specifics but if memory serves the UP- North line is the same route the Hiawatha takes to Milwaukee. If that is indeed the case then its the route I consider to be the most boring In Chicagoland (you mostly just pass through well-heeled suburbia)

Next on my Chicago railfan list is the South Chicago branch of the Metra Electric.
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Re: Possible trip to Macomb via Chicago

Postby CHTT1 » Sun May 11, 2014 3:38 pm

It's probably best to avoid hanging around in Englewood. Take a ride on Metra's Southwest Service and you'll see what's left of the C&WI stations. Either 47th or 63rd (I can't remember which) still has platform roofs and broken concrete, but not much else.

The Hiawathas travel the route of Metra's Milwaukee North line.

The South Shore's stations are mostly newer buildings but original buildings still exist at Beverly Shores and along Michigan City's street running. Beverly Shores is still partly used as a station. Michigan City's is boarded up and for sale. The current station is a street side bus shelter.

CTA's Wilson Avenue station on the Red Line is interesting since one of the four main tracks has its own platform separate from the main platforms. I think this is a remnant of the North Shore Line days. The station is set to be rebuilt, so check it out when you can.

On Metra's Rock Island District, the Tinley Park and Tinley Park/80th Avenue stations are spectacular. Joliet Union Station was refurbished nicely about 20 years ago and the Blue Island/Vermont St. station is a old, mostly unrestored structure. The stations along the Rock's Suburban Branch are mostly, nicely restored buildings.

The Lockport and Lemont stations on Metra's Heritage Corridor witnessed the passage of Lincoln's funeral train.
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Re: Possible trip to Macomb via Chicago

Postby Roadgeek Adam » Sun May 11, 2014 4:47 pm

Couple clarifications.

A) I'm likely going to have my bike.
B) I'm not trying to spend more money than I have to, so my preference is to bike on side streets near the lines rather than ride trains.


Also, 63rd Street has the canopies leftover.
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Re: Possible trip to Macomb via Chicago

Postby byte » Sun May 11, 2014 6:48 pm

If you go visit the station at 63rd, yeah, the neighborhood isn't great but I'd be more worried about encountering unfriendly railroad police. That's not public property and if you get spotted around there it's within the rights of the railroad PD to intercept you.
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Re: Possible trip to Macomb via Chicago

Postby Roadgeek Adam » Sun May 11, 2014 9:30 pm

byte wrote:If you go visit the station at 63rd, yeah, the neighborhood isn't great but I'd be more worried about encountering unfriendly railroad police. That's not public property and if you get spotted around there it's within the rights of the railroad PD to intercept you.


I'd be on the sidewalk right at 63rd and Wallace. A piece of the remaining wall and the fenced off green area is all I want. If my camera can reach the canopies, I'd be happy to shoot from 63rd. I try avoiding the police needing to be called.

Right here is what I mean. I wouldn't go past the fence.. This is because it was the station depot site.
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Re: Possible trip to Macomb via Chicago

Postby justalurker66 » Sun May 11, 2014 11:55 pm

Bob Roberts wrote:The Southshore line is also pretty cool from a bizzare station / landscape perspective but you will see a good portion of those sites (on different tracks) on your way into town.


Trenton to Chicago on the Cardinal doesn't go near the South Shore. That is the Amtrak line that comes in from Indianapolis over many railroads as it enters Chicago. If one looks out the right side of the train while crossing CN-IC one might see Kensington (115th St) Metra station from afar ... but not the South Shore. Riding in on the Capitol Limited or Lake Shore Limited would parallel the South Shore line in segments ... but not give much of a view.

That being said: A trip on or along the South Shore Line should be on every railfan's bucket list. (Sorry, no bikes on the South Shore Line.)

For those who are going to be in Chicago for long enough the MED South Chicago line is interesting, along with the Rock Island line. I am very cautious while in Chicago and there are some places I don't need to go back to. Perhaps a return visit when my pictures are old or something major changes.
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Re: Possible trip to Macomb via Chicago

Postby lstone19 » Mon May 12, 2014 9:10 am

Doesn't the Cardinal use the old C&WI (today's Metra SWS) from 74th Street to 21st Street? In which case he will ride through the old 63rd Street station. Doesn't give him the street view he wants but still close.
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Re: Possible trip to Macomb via Chicago

Postby TrainManUPRR » Mon May 12, 2014 11:51 am

^Yes, it does.
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Re: Possible trip to Macomb via Chicago

Postby Tadman » Mon May 12, 2014 12:51 pm

Bingo - the Cardinal should take you right through the Erie Englewood station. Which is good, because that is one rotten neighborhood. I try to stay out as much as possible.

Also, if you're into stations, Chicago had a signature railroad station architect, Arthur Gerber. Skokie CTA is his, as is Beverly Shores on the South Shore and Wilson Avenue CTA. Also, the Hegewisch South Shore station is in a good neighborhood. It's architecturally nothing amazing but it's got a great view of the NS yard at the Ford plant and there's always something going on there, and Burger King is a safe five minute walk.
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Re: Possible trip to Macomb via Chicago

Postby ExCon90 » Mon May 12, 2014 1:34 pm

One thing I've always found interesting among CTA stations is that the extreme ends of the Blue and Pink Lines on the west side are at grade, and you don't see many 3rd-rail rapid-transit stations at a grade crossing (and with the access stairway for passengers in between the two tracks). Shed a tear for 105th St. on the BMT? I think there's also one toward the end of the Brown Line. Someone on here will know whether there's a grade crossing anywhere near the throat of Ravenswood station.
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Re: Possible trip to Macomb via Chicago

Postby Pacific 2-3-1 » Mon May 12, 2014 1:36 pm

I remember boarding the Wabash RR's "Blue Bird" at that station (sometimes referred to as "Little Englewood") in 1958, but it was at night, and I don't remember the station at all, just the train, which was stainless steel with domes. I was 10 years old and traveling alone (kids could do that in those days). I lived just south in a neighborhood known as Normal Park, and remember seeing the commuters get off the Chicago & Western Indiana antique cars at 69th Street. The Englewood business district at 63rd and Halsted was still thriving, with two major department stores and several large movie palaces, but it was living on borrowed time.
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Re: Possible trip to Macomb via Chicago

Postby Tadman » Tue May 13, 2014 4:34 pm

ExCon90 wrote:I think there's also one toward the end of the Brown Line. Someone on here will know whether there's a grade crossing anywhere near the throat of Ravenswood station.


There is brown line running at street level, and there are probably something like ten level crossings. Same with the Yellow line which is almost all at street level, and again 10-ish crossings. I cannot think of any other heavy rapid transit systems in the US with such feature. Certainly not any of the newer systems like DC or ATL.
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