Any tips for railfanning around Chicago?

BNSF FAN Apr 15, 2010

  1. BNSF FAN

    BNSF FAN TrainBoard Supporter

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    Going to be in Chicago on business in a few weeks and will have one free day to do some railfanning. Any tips on good places to go and what to look out for? Thanks
     
  2. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

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    Roosevelt Road between State St. and Canal. It's elevated above the tracks, with full width sidewalks. You can see the Zephyr Pit where the METRA trains are stored during the day for the BNSF Aurora Rte, plus the Southwest Service trains and the Heritage Corridor
    trains. You can also get a good view of AMTRAK Lumber St. facility. You can also photograph METRA and AMTRAK trains leaving and arriving Chicago Union Station. You can also go to Chinatown and go into the riverfront public park and be ground level with AMTRAK and Heritage Corridor trains. You can most likely pick up some freight action too.

    Lots more, but somebody else can come up with some ideas.

    Charlie
     
  3. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    If you have a car, I recommend a trip to LaGrange IL.

    It's a lovely suburb, it's on the Burlington Racetrack. There;'s a hobby shop and it's a short hop to McCook to the original and still semi active EMD plant.
     
  4. CNW 1518

    CNW 1518 TrainBoard Member

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  5. BuddyBurton

    BuddyBurton TrainBoard Supporter

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    Downers Grove, home to the Triple Track mainline.
     
  6. CHARGER

    CHARGER TrainBoard Member

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    If you have a rental car, Rochelle Illinois is a great spot about 90-120mins from Chicago. I'd also recommend taking METRA to Joliet. The station there sits on a diamond lots of frieght and passenger traffic. Des Planes Hobbies and USA something were the best train stores I visited when I lived on the North side. You also may want to check out and search for some EJE units before that road is gone.

    Brad
     
  7. traintodd

    traintodd TrainBoard Member

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    Shoot, railfanning here is easy, just try and get someplace in a hurry and you'll get caught by a train at a crossing and have all the railfanning you want.

    Seriously, you can't go wrong at La Grange. Nice town, I grew up there, with a great old brick station at La Grange Road. BNSF triple track is the busiest stretch of mainline in the world, big freight drags every few minutes, push-pull commuter trains every 20 minutes or so and I think Amtrack still stops at La Grange on a couple of trains. The hobby store is about a block south of the tracks on La Grange Road.

    You also have the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad, the largest terminal railway in the US, a few blocks east. You'll have to sort of hunt around for a good place to see them as it mostly runs through industrial areas, and the trains are much less frequent, but if you are lucky, you might be able to catch one of their famous double SW powered trains.

    As a BNSF fan, you might not be interested, but if you want to catch some UP, best place is probably Elmhurst, which is a few miles northwest of La Grange. Its on the old Chicago NorthWestern tracks that carry plenty of commuter trains, and lots of UP freights, and I think they still all run the wrong way (run on the left instead of the more normal on the right hand track). There is a nice hobby store about a block north of the tracks on Addison street. Also a nice town, both towns have some great restaurants and other places to shop besides hobby stores, but unless you are with your wife, who cares about that, right?

    I'll also throw another idea your way if you will be in town on a weekend day. The Illinois Railroad Museum is about an hour and twenty minutes northwest of the city in Union Illinois. It is open every day in May, but they only run trains on weekend days. Either way, they have a great collection of diesel, steam and electric locomotives. I have been there several times and always enjoy it, and I have heard it is one of the largest railway museums in the country. If you're looking for a pretty cool railroad day, that's not a bad one to do and they have a nice website as well at www.irm.org if you want to check it out.

    Have fun, you should have nice weather, we've been having a real nice spring here.

    Todd
     
  8. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    The Hobby shop in Elmhurst isn't as nice as it used to be.

    Personally I prefer River Forest On the C&NW line as that's where I grew up. The Former B&O Chicago Terminal ends south of here and becomes the Ex SOO Ex WC now CN connecter that prior to the E&JE purchase was one of CN's main connectors to their eastern lines out of Chicago.

    I'm not sure what the traffic volume is on that line. In the Soo and WC days of my youth it was good for a couple trains a day. in 2006/2007 I caught one or 2 daytime freights. I'm sure now it isn't even that much.

    The C&NW line is riddled with Metra and Freight coming into and out of Global I.

    I think the River Forest Station is one of the nicest in Chicagoland too.

    PLUS, river forest is the original westernmost terminus of what became the C&NW AND there's the old legend of the town over Oak Park stealing one of RF's two railroad stations in the middle of the night.


    Finally River Forest is about a mile south of the Former Milwaukee then SOO, now CP main.

    But you'll see more Freight out between Elmhurst and West Chicago, because you'll get Freight out of Proviso/Global III as well as Global I.
     
  9. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    Oh, and if you do stick with La Grange or somewhere else on the racetrack, you're just a couple miles north of the Ex ATSF Transcon.

    Not particularly scenic around Chicago, but hey.
     
  10. BNSF FAN

    BNSF FAN TrainBoard Supporter

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    Some great tips guys. I'm really looking forward to getting some time trackside there. My free time will be on Moday for sure and maybe a little Friday if the meetings end early. Flying in and out of Midway so that will be my starting point on Monday and ending point on Friday.
     
  11. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

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    ====================================================================

    Richard, P.M. me! I live near Midway Airport. Mebbe we can meet for coffee or whatever.

    Charlie
     
  12. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    Midway works out really well for All the places we're talking about except Desplaines hobby.

    When you leave midway head South on Cicero and you within a matter of blocks you will be going over CSX's Bedford yard. I've never railfanned this, so I'm not sure the access or views, but it's between Midway and the Ford City Mall, so those are you landmarks.

    If you head back North, you will head to all the places we discussed. First stop should be a right turn on Archer Avenue. This will be just past the Airport.
    A few Blocks down on the left is the throat to BNSF Corwith. Santa Fe's old Corwith Yard. Again, this isn't pristine suburban neighborhood so use your judgement.

    Further north on Cicero will take you to I55 which the BNSF Transcon runs parallel to at this point.

    Continue North on Cicero and turn Left onto Ogden Ave. Right at this intersection starts BNSF-Cicero Yard which is on the former Burlington Race track. Ogden Follows the race track out for quite a ways.
    Ogden is also the start of Old US66.

    If you take Ogden to Harlem and turn right, you can pick up the Racetrack again in about 4 blocks. This is in the town of Riverside which is very beautiful. If you continue north on Harlem for a couple of miles, crossing over I290 you will come to the Elevated tracks right before Lake Street. This Is the beginning of the Lake Street/Greenline L and the Original Chicago and Northwestern now UP tracks west. Turn left on Lake and go down a mile or so to get to the mentioned River Forest Station.

    If you don't turn on Harlem, you can take Ogden all the way out to La Grange and see the sites there.

    If you head to River Forest, You can stay on Lake Street and take it out to Manheim Road which has an overpass that goes over a portion of UP's Proviso/Global III yard. This is a left off of lake.

    If you continue on lake, you can merge on to north Ave and take it to Elmhurst or points west, if you turn left on Manheim, you can go over proviso and then a couple miles south, the road turns into LaGrange Rd and deposits you in Lagrange at the Race Track.
     
  13. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    A friend of mine's Grandparents used to live right on the other side of the Airport of Central. Nice little neighborhood.
     
  14. randgust

    randgust TrainBoard Member

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    I've always liked Joliet, but the herald says why. One of my favorite 'day trips' has been to ride METRA Blue Island one one way, and Amtrak the other, which used to take you on two entirely different routes.

    Another hotspot you can get to by rail if you just like to watch the METRA rush is Western Avenue, with two lines crossing there.

    Another spot not to forget is the (former) Sears Tower. You can see the C&NW terminal and Union Station from different sides,and it actually makes a unique place to see the rush.

    Years ago I took the Lake Shore into Chicago, and spent three days railfanning and never rented a car, purely METRA to various hotspots. That's Chicago!
     
  15. BNSF FAN

    BNSF FAN TrainBoard Supporter

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    I'll do that Charlie. Would be nice to meet you.
     
  16. BNSF FAN

    BNSF FAN TrainBoard Supporter

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    So many spots so little time. Looks like I will be facing some tough choices. It is nice though to have so many options.
     
  17. fgcrail1

    fgcrail1 TrainBoard Member

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    That would be the Belt Ry Co of Chicago's Clearing Yard. You may be thinking of the Bedford Park IM ramp CSXT has, but that is a bit further west adjacent (more or less) to Harlem Ave and quite inaccessible.
    A word of advice about the BRC- VERY non-railfan friendly. Don't even think about doing the drive-in-and-out at Central Ave near the locomotive shop- the BRC Police are headquartered right there and you will get a visit. I've even been questioned about taking photos there where I was waiting on a set of power to be ready for our outbound train, so had a legitimate reason to be on the property.
    Just be careful and there are plenty of shots from public locations, although I certainly recommend you keep aware of your surroundings as it can be very easy to stray into bad areas. I have quite literally seen everything from the locomotive cab in Chicago over the past 17 years running trains in and out of that place...

    George Widener
    CN Fond du Lac, WI
     
  18. noob express

    noob express TrainBoard Member

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    Waking this thread up again! I just moved to North Chicago (I’m in the navy) and am looking for good spot to get some good pictures. Heading up to Milwaukee this weekend for train fest as well if there are any good spots along the way!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  19. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Along your route, Rondout, IL was once a nice spot and may still be, although I think the CN (ex-EJ&E) that crosses there has since become less active above Leighton. I think the North Shore's bridge at Rondout has been restored as a walking trail over the CP (ex-MILW) main and branch to Fox Lake, and could be a good and very safe photo perch. The CP main is double track. We rode Amtrak between Milwaukee and Chicago several years ago and the line is high speed and beautifully maintained, a credit to it's MILW heritage. Use a high shutter speed. (y)

    Techny, just south of Northbrook, IL might be a fun spot too. The CP's (former -MILW) freight line from Bensenville joins the passenger main here and the former UP's (former -C&NW) freight main (the MILW and C&NW shared the same line) from Proviso runs just south on a bridge over the MILW on its way to its connection east to the C&NW's main near Woodridge.

    Disclaimer: I moved from the area 40 years ago and much has changed from what I remember.
     
    Kurt Moose and noob express like this.
  20. noob express

    noob express TrainBoard Member

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    I drive past round out all the time, lots of CTA, and UP passing through. There’s a heritage point for the railroad there I will have to post a picture of next time I pass by


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
    Hardcoaler likes this.

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