Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

Moderators: JamesT4, metraRI

  by Rockingham Racer
Came across an article that says studies are to resume for extending commuter rail to Sandwich on the BNSF Mendota Sub. I wonder if the railroad will want to continue the triple track out that far.

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  by Engineer Spike
I left BN in 2000. In 2009, I went out for a visit. I couldn't believe how much Plano and Sanwich had grown up. New subdivisions were where corn fields had been a few years before. This would compliment the extension on the C&NW to Elburn.

As to Rockingham's comment about track layout, this would need improvement. Track 3 would need to be replaced between Eola, and Aurora. If I recall correctly, the Montgomery crossovers were slow speed. It was signaled with a Restricting indication. The slow speed crossover was bad enough, but having to go restricted speed for the whole next block is no good.

How to handle the servicing of the trains is a problem too. A job would have to leave the Hill Yard, then change ends, and head west. The time of changing ends would tie things up good. How would Sandwich trains handle an Aurora stop? Could new platforms be made up on the main? They could put stairs, or an escalator from ATC?

Another point would be whether the trains would deadhead from the Hill Yard. I mentioned the problem with that. If some of the trains were held over in Sandwich, than a whole additional staff of coach cleaners would be needed. They had some mechanical staff in the Hill Yard. This was a good insurance policy, in case of emergency. A good example was one time when our cab car had a cab signal failure.
  by Rockingham Racer
There was also a proposal to extend down to Oswego at one point in time, leaving the BNSF at Montgomery. Either extension option provides logistical problems leaving Hill Yard. It might be possible to add a third track leaving the yard for run-around moves to go west, and build a connection to the Chicago Subdivision so deadheads can out to the destination and back home at night.

As for Aurora, the station tracks are pretty much right next to the mainline, with a road in between. It's quite possible to build a platform on the track 1 side of the main line I think. The East End dispatcher will love that!
  by Engineer Spike
A platform on the track 1 side would present a bottleneck for C&I bound movements. Maybe a pedestrian tunnel could be built under the mains. This way the passengers could load on track 2, or better yet track 3 really should be relaid, if this extension does go forward.

Maybe at some point the Hill Yard will be abandoned. I can see the sprawl reach Mendota before too long. Sandwich isn't really that far from there. On the same note, how about C&NW service to DeKalb, or even Rochelle? It is obvious that nobody ever thought that the suburbs would ever expand past the traditional boundary of Elgin, Aurora, and Joliet. The stub end design of ATC shows that lack of foresight.

This makes me retract my statement in the last post about 2 layover yards. It might be just too far to deadhead equipment that far. Another factor is how heavy the service will be. How early will the first dinky run, and how late will the last one be? This could limit the freight window. With that thought, could anymore trains be shifted to the Santa Fe?
  by Rockingham Racer
There's already an underground passageway in place that goes under the Chicago Sub. It's to get to the parking lot on the south side of the Chicago Sub ROW, which was three tracks at one point. Drop track 3 back in place, and you've got a lot more flexibility running Metra and freights through the area. Apparently, it was a three-track railroad all the way out to Montgomery.

A platform on each side of the railroad would make operations even smoother there at Aurora.
  by Engineer Spike
I never knew that three tracks went out the Mainline (Mendota Sub) to Montgomery. Maybe I didn't notice, but it didn't look like the roadbed was wide enough, unlike how places around Naperville where the 4th. track roadbed are noticeable. When was the third track in? Was it before the line was elevated? In this area, the Sheep Yard is on a lower level. This yard is in the crotch between the C&I, and Mainline, and is adjacent to the Mainline.

Like I said, the Montgomery crossover was 10mph, with a restricting signal. This would need upgrading, as would the need for universal crossovers here, and Bristol. Something would be needed in Sandwich too, since there are no crossovers until Somonauk.
  by Rockingham Racer
Take a look on Google Maps or such. You can clearly see that the ROW used to be 3 tracks thru downtown Aurora on the viaduct there. I do not know when the third track was lifted. It would be a cinch to add it back for commuter service. I haven't heard anything new on the extension proposal.

If the extensions suggested [Sandwich / DeKalb] go forward, the counties involved would have to join the RTA, I think. I don't believe they are currently part of it.
  by Engineer Spike
I followed your suggestion, and it does appear that there is a third track between Aurora Plant, and Montgomery. Some of this is the industrial leads, and remnants of the Sheep Yard.

If memory serves me well, track 3 between W. Eola, and Aurora was lifted about the time that the ATC replaced Aurora Depot.

As to say Kendall County joining RTA, certainly the community growth will push the hands of government. The residents of the area will certainly need something, since there are only so many parking spaces at Aurora, or Route 59. Perhaps a bus service could be a stopgap solution. The bus could connect with the train at ATC.
  by Rockingham Racer
Maybe someone out that way has found an update. The latest one I found is 2013.
  by Drtrack
If you look at whatever map program you use in Downtown Oswego you will see a street named Station St just west of Orchard Rd.Follow it North and it ends at the BNSF main line. Now open Google Earth at the same spot and you will see a parking lot, about small commuter station size. Pace ran a shuttle bus from this route to the ATC. "907 - Oswego-Aurora Shuttle - introduced 6/7/2004, as first Pace route mostly in Kendall County, outside RTA area but subsidized in part by Village of Oswego. Operated by Pace Fox Valley Division. Discontinued 1/2/2013, with replacement service operated by recently formed Kendall Area Transit." From the Chicago Railfan.com Web site. A quick look at KAT's web site seems to suggest that it is no longer operated
  by Milwaukee_F40C
Extending Metra out to Sandwich wouldn't go over as well as the UP extension out to Elburn a decade ago, if all of Kendall County needs to be included in the RTA sales tax. It AIN'T the same demographic out in Yorkville, Plano, and Sandwich. Extremely few people work in Chicago or anywhere close to a stop on the BNSF. It's more like work truck land, and in Sugar Grove, cop land. The Elburn extension was in a county already paying the sales tax with three Metra lines spread evenly through it, and had the in-demand Geneva and St. Charles area backing it.
  by Rockingham Racer
That is probably why this idea is going nowhere, fast.
  by Engineer Spike
Where do studies show the people in the Sandwich area work? I know that there are lots of companies, which are based in Naperville. A good percentage must work in Chicago. With the way the area built up between 200, to 2009, it is doubtful that Kendall County had a sudden baby boom, or something. People keep moving further out, as housing costs rise, in the traditional suburban area, east of Aurora.

As to making a connection to the main line west, I think there was a ramp, which was used to go from the Hill Yard, to the old Aurora Depot. Apparently this was taken out, when the ATC was built.
  by Milwaukee_F40C
Plano and Sandwich are very "blue collar" towns. Sandwich was not built up much at all in the 2000s. Plano gained a few small residential subdivisions that are more logistically connected to Yorkville, which was built up the most (with many ghost subdivisions). All three towns are full of rental housing. Yorkville is most likely to have the commuters going to Chicago (insane) or the big offices along the highways.

Many Plano and Sandwich residents work locally, or probably in service type jobs scattered around the nearby suburbs. There's Plano Molding and the giant Menard's distribution center. Big factories southwest of Aurora, such as Caterpillar, although that's closing. It also seems to be a popular area for utility workers, who work everywhere.