Chicago Union Station (North) + Ogilvie Transportation Center Layout

nlaempire Jun 16, 2012

  1. nlaempire

    nlaempire TrainBoard Supporter

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    Now that I'm back, I had a chance to review my layout design from an operation standpoint. I created a spreadsheet for the arrival and departure times for each station according to published schedules.

    Issues with current layout design:

    I thought it was really neat to have developed the design for the trains pass hidden from Chicago North to Ogilvie. However, I think I approached it as more of a "could I" challenge instead of a "should I." After being gone for over a year, I have concluded that the idea is wreckless. Here are the problems I see:

    - Trains arriving at CHN will only have 2 options to drop below grade and turn around or pass through. One of those options has a train arriving beneath a building, which would be difficult to see, although real-world accurate. That would leave just one option. All of the other arriving rail traffic would have to move up a 3% curved grade... backwards, since the Metra trains mostly arrive that way. I can see lots of derailing happening, no matter how perfect I make the track.
    - Metra trains that arrive at CHN for use at Ogilvie will actually depart Ogilvie backwards which is wrong. The only fix would be to have Metra trains arrive at CHN forwards, which is also wrong.
    - Due to the transition occupying a large portion of the Ogilvie Transportation Center, Metra trains that normally operate on that level will have few arrivial options at the station, or will have to be very short (5 cars). Both of these situations are unacceptable because they will limit the fun I plan on having.
    - Additionally, the storage at Ogilvie is a disaster, and while it all would work (no small feat in calculating all of the clearances) storage would be limited.
    - Actually building the transition will be very complicated, with the reward being the above mishaps.

    - My Empire Builder, the train that started this whole project, is the longest train in my fleet. It will be seen only twice a day which means it needs a storage place that will have minimal impact on operations at that level of the layout. I will also need to have a staging area for its departure. The Empire Builder has a specific track for its arrival and departure.
    - The Hiawatha will be seen 14 times a day and runs point-to-point, so it doesn't need to turn around like the Empire Builder does. Those times are pretty spread out though, and I can't have it blocking Metra operations during its downtime and storing it plus the Empire Builder is going to cause problems. The Hiawatha uses the same arrival and departure track as the Empire Builder.

    - Chicago Union Station North (CHN) has 157 train "actions" during a regular weekday.
    - Ogilvie Transportation Center (OTC) has 193. (I have a question on this below)

    Proposed design changes:
    Fortunately, I haven't built so much that I can make major design changes without throwing everything in the trash. So here's what I have in mind, and I think it's GREAT:

    - Remove CHN to OTC transition. (see reasons above)
    - Make all CHN arrival tracks drop below grade, with all but one capable of making a complete circuit. That one track will be able to store a Metra double-header with 9 cars completely out of sight.
    - Designate storage and staging areas for the Empire Builder.
    - Engineer a dedicated storage area for the Hiawatha.
    - Change OTC tracks to continue straight to the end, taking advantage of the removed transition zone. This will result in storage for two 8-car trains, seven 7-car, one 6-car and six 5-car trains - leaps and bounds over what it would be at the current design.
    - Develop ideas for add-on modules to lengthen the OTC station and the north and west departure tracks to allow storage for heavy rail traffic (See question below)
    - Analyze how the design changes will affect operations.

    This redesign could also allow for 2 railroaders to work the layout simultaneously, one handling OTC and one handling CHN which should be challenging and fun!

    Question:
    OTC has 16 tracks. At it's peak traffic time, it has received double the amount of trains it has capacity for. This includes any trains that departed during that time. Where do the trains go? By my calculations, they would have to deadhead 39 trains throughout the day (total of empty arrivals and departures)! This number can not be changed due to a 16 platform limitation. The platforms aren't long enough to hold 2 trains each as far as I can tell. Do you think they really do that? I can't figure out any other way to handle it. My solution will be to build an add-on module that has storage for 6 trains serving the UP-West route, and 10 trains serving the UP North and Northwest routes. Splitting them in that fashion increases the deadheading to 41 trains. If I go 4 and 12, it drops to 40 and I can store the 4 trains on the back of the layout as is, but it wouldn't be too attractive. If the deadhead situation is correct, then I will have to find out if there is just 1 common area they all go so maybe I only need to extend one departure area. I will need to check the arrival schedules though to make sure I can have the right trains showing up in the right places.
     
  2. k-59

    k-59 TrainBoard Member

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    In reference to the deadheads, I would say that number is arcuate. During the evening rush I've seen trains stacked up on the throat and backed up through the Near West side. During the day they layover at the California yard. In-addition to the dead head train movements there are a number of light engine movement from OTC to the shop at Kedzie.
     
  3. mcjaco

    mcjaco TrainBoard Member

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    Whoa boy, let's see if I can help...

    As for the Hiawatha and the Builder, they actually use different tracks for arrival and departure. Amtrak has two tracks dedicated for their services on the North end. I never looked, as I just hopped on my Metra train after awhile not thinking about it. So that would fix that problem. The Builder actually loads/unloads on a pass through track to the south end of UTC, so it can be broken down, cleaned, etc. in the Amtrak yard on the southside of UTC.

    For Ogilivie, and UTC lines, there's an amazing amount of in and out traffic during rush hours. Not all inbound trains make out bound trips right after rush hour. Many of them head back to the Western Ave. yards for cleaning. With Ogilvie trains, after their rush hour run inbound, they depart, and will be stacked, on the line to Western Ave. There can literally be three or four trains in a block, just waiting clearance to cross over the Metra Milwaukee North Line and into Western Avenue. Its the same with UTC line trains too. Just reverse the procedure for the evening rush hour. Stack trains, waiting to get into Ogilvie or UTC, and they get sent in as track space is open. The biggest thing about Metra, and Amtrak ops, is that each train has it's own track. Passengers never have too look at the boards for what track their train is on. It's always the same track everyday (unless there's an issue).

    So for intance, I took the 5:31 on the NCS for eight years. It always boarded on Track 5. Everyday. Every train is like that.
     
  4. nlaempire

    nlaempire TrainBoard Supporter

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    k-59 and mcjaco: THANKS!

    I will look up track identifiers and platform designations so I can get the patterns down right.

    mcjaco: All I have to go on for the Empire Builder and the Hiawatha is what track I see them arrive on or leave from as viewed from the W. Randolph or W. Lake overpasses. Maybe I can find a platform map of the station itself. Also, with the OTC ops, that means all deadheads will take the UP-W route out and in. My layout doesn't go as far as the crossover.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 6, 2014
  5. nlaempire

    nlaempire TrainBoard Supporter

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    Here is the redesign for the CHN portion of the layout. It is now completely isolated from the OTC portion:
    [​IMG]
    1 Underground storage for the following trains:
    - Empire Builder
    - US Postal Service
    - CB&Q Zephyr
    - C&NW Varnish
    - Amtrak Heritage
    - room left to hold an F40 + 9-car
    2 Underground storage for the Hiawatha train
    3 Underground storage for an F40 + 9-car train

    There will be a good bit of benchwork cutting that's going to happen, as well as pulling up one whole segment of graded track. Fortunately, that will be the worst of it. These changes solve all of the operational problems discussed earlier at this level of the layout, and the extra storage will allow for a nice show display without having to pull and place trains in the middle of it. That will be a ways down the road though.

    Next I will work out the add-on modules to handle OTC. That will take some time since I have to figure out the movements precisely.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 7, 2014
  6. mcjaco

    mcjaco TrainBoard Member

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    Tracks on the North side of Union are odd numbered. 1 is the far west track. I believe they go to 19.....I haven't worked downtown in over a year after 11 years taking the train everyday. How quickly you forget! Amtrak service is on 15 and 17. 17 and 19, I believe pass through to the south end of UTC, which means the Builder can pull in without turning around, and then head to the Amtrak yard, and vice versa when it's sent on its Eastbound leg. You may want to actually use section 2 for storing it between runs. The you can use the reverse loop to send it back into UTC.

    So Builder comes in from Section 2, pulls through UTC, boards at the north end, and heads out. Goes through the reverse loop, and comes back in as the Eastbound. Enters UTC, drops passengers off, heads out the south end of UTC.

    As far as the dead heads, you may need to significantly drop trains, and just go for the feel, or add some staging for the "California" yard. It could be as simple as a two track yard that can hold all the dead heads.
     
  7. nlaempire

    nlaempire TrainBoard Supporter

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    The problem with using #2 for the Builder is that it isn't long enough, (just enough room for the Hiawatha) and there isn't space in the layout to store it that direction, which is why I developed #1. With that in mind, the flow for the Empire Builder would be:
    - move from #1, staying on west side of loop, to CHN 15min prior to departure
    - stage @ CHN and depart at 14:15, disappearing west and moving underground
    - move into south side of loop, counterclockwise, and hold, occupying east and north portions of loop
    (traffic able to pass through the west side)
    - leave holding area and appear inbound from the west, returning to CHN by 15:55
    (beginning of the evening rush)
    - move into the loop from the west side, clockwise, until it can back through the double crossover into area #1
    (traffic will be hindered during this movement)

    It's a little more complicated than it could be if I had more space, but 12 x 13 is my max. I will only be able to add extra modules if I upgrade my living area, which is in the plans at some unknown point in the future. I suppose that extra complication could provide an unintentional operations "puzzle" to deal with on the fly which *might* prove fun... or financially beneficial for those in the business of selling Kato passenger cars ;)

    I will pause on my OTC study, and finish the full operations study for CHN so I can find any serious issues that would "break" the design.

    Accoring to Wikipedia, Chicago North has 10 tracks, 1-19 like you said, with 2 pass-throughs, 1 with a long platform which I assume would be for the Builder. So Amtrak has that one plus 17 and 19, leaving 8 tracks for Metra traffic? The only reason that detail is important to me is so I can "guess" how many deadheads I need to filter though, since I will only be doing a cursory mockup of the station itself. Will have to install micro cams to view it though, which is in the plans.
     
  8. mcjaco

    mcjaco TrainBoard Member

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    Remember that the Builder varies in equipment from season to season too. You can get a way with running it with 2 P42s, a baggage, and eight cars during the offseason. The Hiawatha is now up to the one loco, the cabbage, and six coaches and a cafe car at certain peak times!

    As for UTC, yes 19 and 17 are pass throughs. 19 is not used for loading and unloading. Amtrak/Metra use it to get equipment from the north side to the south side. Metra services some south end line trains at Western Avenue as well. I was never able to figure out which ones though.

    So, Amtrak uses 17 for the Builder, and 15 for the Hiawatha most of the time. Metra NCS typically uses Tracks 1 and 5, sometimes 7. Track 1 is the shortest, so the NCS having the shortest trains tends to stay to the first 3 tracks (1,5 and 7). The other two lines are kind of a crap shoot. I rode the Milwaukee North for a few years, and we tended to board on Tracks 11 and 13. Milwaukee West, you guessed it, Tracks 7 and 9. This is all from memory, but it should be a good start. :)
     
  9. nlaempire

    nlaempire TrainBoard Supporter

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    Okay, Chicago...ans? Question about Metra cars:

    From time to time, I've seen custom painted versions offered for sale. When searching the web for these cars in real life, sure enough, they are there. Is there a place I can find a comprehensive list of these cars?

    I've seen the following:

    Harris Bank (2 versions)
    Christmas car
    Illinois Presidential car

    I'm sure there are others I am missing. I wouldn't want my OTC portion of the layout to become boring with just silver, blue and orange all over the place.

    Also, I am looking for some MILW bi-levels to go with an E series when Kato releases them. Especially a cab-car. I saw Wig-Wag had some in the proper colors and style back in '07 but I have never seen any available. Any leads? I'd be looking for 5-7, including a cab-car.
     
  10. nlaempire

    nlaempire TrainBoard Supporter

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    I've had a little time to work on the layout, so here's some of the chopping I had to do:
    [​IMG]
    On the left is where I cut to allow for the Hiawatha storage track.
    On the right is the destruction where the tracks go underground from CHN. The openings were already there since there wasn't going to be track there originally. I've had to retrofit supports. Soon I'll cut the panel that will support the track. Also in that same area, I have decided to modify the track to allow for better flow and more routing options via a double slip:
    [​IMG]

    This next image is the progress at the far end where the new 4-track storage will be:
    [​IMG]
    Those 4 tracks go partially under the 3 tracks coming from surface level. There is just enough clearance to allow it.
    The four tracks end with a padded bumper should things get out of hand:
    [​IMG]

    In about a month I'll be moving, so I'm not really sure what the new space will be. Larger I hope.
     
  11. Run8Racing

    Run8Racing TrainBoard Member

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    AHA !!! See ??? I told you way back in post #73 to bring back the E units !!! It's great to see the layout is coming along !!! It sounds like you're searching for the Concor cars, right ??? I'm having a TERRIBLE time trying to find the corrugated cars I need for my CRI&P and BN. And I'll take ANY road name !!! That's easy to fix. A couple years ago, there were scads of 'em at the monthly Dupage show, but they have all dried up. I hope you have better luck than I do. Well, at least after I find MINE !!! :teeth:
     
  12. nlaempire

    nlaempire TrainBoard Supporter

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    Thanks, Run8!
    With all of the variety on the Union Station level, I need something to make "North Western Station" pop. Of course, I'm not even close to getting that level started, but I need these goals to keep me moving along in the right direction. I am also debating adding another couple of feet to the north side so I can get the proper offset for the tracks @ OTC, and enough space to show the building in proper size. Right now, due to space limitations, I designed everything to fit, which meant chopping some of the dimensions of buildings. I'm pretty attached to the park and Blommer Chocolate factory being their proper dimensions, so... we'll see.

    Yes, I'm looking for the Con-Cor cars, the smoothside with 16 windows per side. It looks like there was a bi-level that had 24 per side, but I haven't found any in smoothside, just corrugated. I also haven't found either in C&NW livery. I've seen those where a lot of other model train "stuff" can be found. A cab car to match would be just perfect!
     
  13. k-59

    k-59 TrainBoard Member

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    The smoothside version of the 24 window was made by Wheels of Time. I have one and it's a very nice model, but it's been a few years since the last release and CNW sells out first. However all of the CNW's prototype cab cars were of the 16 window variety, and thus that is only cab car model you will find.
     

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