Chicago Union Station

HemiAdda2d Jan 2, 2008

  1. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    For those of you who've spent some time here, what's the station like? Are there lockers? Are facilities available for young children? I have a 4 and 6-hour layover there come March, while awaiting my connecting trains, the Capitol Ltd and Empire Builder. Apparently, there's no checked baggage service on the Cap thru Chicago, when connecting another train. So, we'll have all our baggage, car seat, and all the gear necessary for a family with a toddler. I'm hoping there's a place to put it, in case there's a decent hobby shop nearby, or a nice museum.
     
  2. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    I'm not sure on your specific questions. Are you travelling first class? Cause if you've got a sleeper, you can store your stuff in the First class Lounge.
     
  3. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    We have bedrooms both ways on both trains, so that's not much of an issue, but I'm unsure if we'll have a place to stash our stuff at Chicago while we wait on our connecting train. That's in case we want to see some Chi-town sights.
    Clear as mud?
     
  4. Stourbridge Lion

    Stourbridge Lion TrainBoard Supporter

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    Last time we passed through there and changed trains it was nearly as crazy as going through O'Hera Airport. We were not there long enough to say what the services were like. We came in via the Zepher and left on the Lake Shore Limited so like a airport layover we spent time just getting off one train, finding where to catch the next and then boarded onto the next with a little time just to sit. Didn't have the camera equipment I have today to take photographs of the expereince otherwise I would share them with you.

    :tb-wacky: :tb-wacky: :tb-wacky: :tb-wacky:​
     
  5. MP333

    MP333 TrainBoard Supporter

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    I went through there, but don't remember lockers. Can Amtrak tell you anything about it? The only thing I remember is having to carry all our luggage up several flights of stairs to the street level, in order to catch a bus. No elevator. Wasn't my favorite part of the trip. FWIW, the immediate area around the station is a very busy downtown area.

    Have fun on your trip!
     
  6. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    First class has a lounge that is manned the entire time with a "cloak room" to store your unchecked baggage. I used it for an hour or so when taking the Chief to LA in 2006.

    Union Station is I would say a bit far on walking distance to the major tourist destinations. In particular with Children, but Bus service and taxis should be able to get you close enough to the museums and such.
    4-6 hours may be a bit too short to make it out to The Museum of Science an Industry, but every model railroader has an obligation to see the Model Railroad (even if it isn't Minton's any more) and the 999 and the Zephyr
     
  7. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Any decent LHSs or museums within walking distance?
    Thanks for the info, guys!
    :thumbs_up::thumbs_up:
     
  8. Stourbridge Lion

    Stourbridge Lion TrainBoard Supporter

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    If I'm thinking correctly you are right on top of the Sears Tower and about 3 miles from Soldier Field. Near Soldier Field is the Museum of Naturla History, Aquarium, and the Planeterium. I think there are a few train track in the area too. :D Bacially, you are in the heart of a major city when you would exit the station.

    http://www.chicagounionstation.com/graphics/UnionStaChi_brochure.pdf
     
  9. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

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    There are storage lockers available for rent, but as other posters have said, since you are a first class passenger,avail yourself of the Metropolitan Lounge and the baggage
    minding/storage/checking facilities there. You will be on the western edge of the Central
    Business District, or "Loop" as it's known in Chicago. There are really no hobby shops in
    the area, not since "All-Nations" and "Downtown Hobbies" closed up. Another poster mentioned the proximity to the Sears Tower. That is correct. It is a short walking distance from CUS. You might want to take the family up the the SkyDeck in the Sears Tower. Quite a view if the sky is clear! The museums are a good distance from the
    station. If you were to go to Museum Campus(Field Museum of Natural History-Shedd Aquarium-Adler Planetarium you would probably need to allow 45mins - 1hr travel time
    each way due to traffic & weather. You mentioned your trip will be in March. The Chicago weather in March can be pretty snarky(not that it's a cakewalk any other time).
    IF you were thinking of visiting the Museum of Science & Industry to see the model railroad/Pioneer Zephyr/Santa Fe 4-8-4 and other transportation related displays, you would need to allow 1hr -1 1/2 hrs travel time each way. MSI is several miles to the south of the Loop, but you could most likely catch some METRA Electric(former I.C.Suburban) and/or South Shore Line interurban action
    There is a food court in CUS,complete with a Mickey D's. Its not a large selection and it
    can be a bit pricey at some of the places. One of my favorites is the "Corner Bakery" for
    sandwiches and coffee beverages. The "Nuts on Clark Street" has some totally awesome
    popcorn, my favorite is the CheeseCorn,but also try the "Chicago Mix"(cheese & caramel corn mix). There is/was also a Chinese food concession(CRS the name). There is also a pub offering adult beverages. There are also a number of sit-down restaurants all around
    the station. One of my favorites is the "Venice Cafe" on the west side of Wacker Drive between Jackson & Adams, but it is busy and CROWDED at lunch time! There is/was also
    a place called "Pockets" on the east side of Franklin St. just south of Jackson. They make pocket sandwiches which are really filling and nutricious.
    Go into the Great Hall in CUS and check out the stairway where the baby carriage went
    downstairs in the movie "The Untouchables". Check out the commuter train action on
    either the South Concourse(BNSF, Southwest Service(former Wabash-N&W) and "Heritage Corridor"(former G.M.& O) or the North Concourse(former Milwaukee Rd North and West lines) or North Central Service(CP/Soo hybrid).
    If you have any other questions or need clarification, just ask on this board,us private message or b/c me!

    Bon Voyage!

    Charlie
     
  10. Stourbridge Lion

    Stourbridge Lion TrainBoard Supporter

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    I know there is a lot of trains coming and going from this station, are there any good viewing spots to catch the action from?

    :tb-biggrin: :tb-biggrin: :tb-biggrin: :tb-biggrin:​
     
  11. Glenn Woodle

    Glenn Woodle TrainBoard Member

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    AFAIK the tracks to the North & south of CUS have been covered by several tall buildings. This makes viewing of the action difficult unless you get to the 12th street/roosevelt road. Not a good place for a family with wee ones. The area north of CUS is just as bad. To be safe, you'd have to get off at a suburban location then take a Metra train into CUS.

    Your best bet for a "train" may be to get a ticket for the downtown L. The CTA ran a tour L service from the old Library. You could also get on an Orange Line train, get off at some point & do a cross-platform transfer to an inbound train, then return to the first station. The CTA should have a great downtown guide for attractions you may like.

    Something you can try is using the Streetview feature of Google Maps. The feature gives you a little character with an X that you use to fit in the middle of a street. From that location you can get a 360deg. view from the area. Most of the "Streetview" pictures are fairly good, but may not show much of RR property unless it is at grade.
     
  12. sillystringtheory

    sillystringtheory TrainBoard Member

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    You could do the Shedd Aquarium in 3 to 4 hours then over to Geno's East Of Chicago for a pizza providing you took a cab everywhere.
     
  13. coloradorailroads

    coloradorailroads TrainBoard Member

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    One Family's Experience

    I've been waiting all year to get this off my chest.

    Traveling with a family through Chicago Union Station (CUS--apt moniker) last April was a nightmare. We had first class tickets from the California Zephyr to the Capitol Limited, which was just about to leave. Thankfully they had held it for us. That was the good news. The bad news was that people weren't exactly calm about the whole affair. One person in particular my family dubbed the Chicago Screamer. My first encounter with this woman (she ain't a lady) was while I was waiting aboard the Redcap's cart (I'm disabled and can't walk very fast or far). She pauses next to us, out of arm's reach of course, and belts out a blue streak of profanity at us for being in the way. The redcap gets on the radio to warn someone to catch this woman at the end of the platform. They don't.

    The Chicago Screamer makes her way past my wife and kids (ahead of me, I'm still in the Redcaps cart), and CS's still spewing all sorts of profanities. My wife looks at her and asks her to be quiet for the sake of her kids. You can imagine how unpleasant the response was. My wife still won't talk about it.

    We roll up to our sleeper car and my wife and kids are either in tears or nearly so. I get off and ask my wife, "Did she yell at you?" She nods and the kids are upset and trying to tell me about it. I spot her surrounded by some Amtrak "blue shirts" and I went over toward her. Fifteen feet away, I pointed at her and shouted over the din of the platform, "Lady, don't you ever say that stuff to my family again!"

    The shortest blue shirt spins around and yells back, "Shut up!" She marches over and shouts at me, "One more word out of you and you aren't getting on this train either!" Incidentally, she was a foot shorter than me, eyes popping out of her head and had the demeanor of a caged, wild animal. I held up my hands in surrender and said in my calmest voice, "Yes, ma'am." We crawled into our sleeper and I spent the next couple hours debriefing about the experience with our kids.
    :tb-frown:

    I contacted Amtrak once at our destination and they told me to take the trip back as scheduled (I didn't really have a choice) and then check back with them about a refund. Eventually, I received a voucher for part of our trip. The trip back was nearly as awful because the Cap Ltd was late again and they didn't hold our train from Chicago. Our layover was a jammed First Class lounge, a scary ride in a cab, a night at an over-priced hotel that charged a second mortgage for breakfast and the sad realization that they couldn't give us a sleeper because they were all full.


    This was the last time I travel Amtrak with a family overnight. :thumbs_down: :thumbs_down: :thumbs_down: That kind of treatment has cut off my family from the rails for good, or at least until congress destroys this inept, sick system and somehow institutes a better one. My experience has led me to the conclusion that paragovernmental organizations function with the worst of the private sector and the worst of the public sector, the weaknesses of both instead of the strengths. Lest you think I'm just mad about my kids and such, my inlaws traveled west to the Coast Starlight and they didn't even ride their return train back! They rented a car.

    I love railroads, and I wanted this to be a positive experience for my children. No such luck. I wish this were some strange anomaly, but my impression is that it's absolutely common. God save Amtrak, because the gov't sure can't.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 3, 2008
  14. dakotacowgirl

    dakotacowgirl TrainBoard Member

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    Now please....we are NOT stopping at a hobby shop when we are in Chicago!!!

    Thank you guys for all the help!!!

    Wife of Hemi
     
  15. Stourbridge Lion

    Stourbridge Lion TrainBoard Supporter

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    ROTFLMAO

    BUT DEAR, little HEMI needs another car for his layout and ... YES DEAR...

    :tb-biggrin: :tb-biggrin: :tb-biggrin: :tb-biggrin:​
     
  16. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Yeah, lil' fella wants more Thomas stuff! We still don't have Hector the Horrid... :)

    Thanks all for your experiences and info!

    I hate to say it, but all my family's experiences with AMTK have been pretty positive. At least, I don't recall much negative memories as bad as coloradorailroads....
    My first trip was very nice, except the 4-hour late arrival in Sacramento. The dining car dishwasher going kaput back to Denver sucked, but we still ate, and were treated quite well. We ate on styrofoam plates, and had plastic forks, etc. The fresh flowers on the tables were in Sprite cans!;)
     
  17. dakotacowgirl

    dakotacowgirl TrainBoard Member

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    The problem isn't with little Hemi. It's the big one that is the issue.

    "Honey...Can I have this engine? It's only $700.00. We don't need to eat for 6 months and we can afford it."
     
  18. Stourbridge Lion

    Stourbridge Lion TrainBoard Supporter

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    Watch out HEMI, if our wifes get together we are doomed... :D :D

    My only issue with AMTK is schedule in and out of Denver but in many ways it's BNSF and/or UP fault that is always running late. I just wish we had more RR Passenger traffic in the area.

    It is sad how one person can make a trip so bad for many others just by flying off at the mouth and being rude. If they need to get there so fast they should take a plane and learn how well that works out for them.

    :tb-wacky: :tb-wacky:​
     
  19. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    But Honey, that's a Z scale SD45! There's not that many left! Besides, it would look good pulling that Christmas train of yours....

    Doomed is right!!! ;)

    UP is notorious for putting a coal load in front of Amtrak, and stabbing them for MOW blitzes, but I thought BNSF was pretty good about keeping #5 close to schedule? The 8 hour delay recently was due to a fatality near Chicago, and the resulting NTSB investigation. They hardly left Chicago, and got stuck.
    Not much can be done to help that.

    I love that last comment..... Priceless!
     
  20. coloradorailroads

    coloradorailroads TrainBoard Member

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    Our last flight on a plane is what made me think of Amtrak in the first place, by the way.

    BNSF, UP and CSX were all responsible for our delays. Unless you own the rails, you don't get to say who goes and who stays put.
    :tb-sad:

    Thanks, folks, for letting me vent a bit. I appreciate it. I really do love railroads, but the management...that's another story.
     

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