Chicago visit by Walter Zulig via Amtrak

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  • Member since
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Chicago visit by Walter Zulig via Amtrak
Posted by daveklepper on Friday, October 29, 2021 9:03 AM


Chicago in October


An Official Trip Report


©2021—Walter E. Zullig Jr.




Each year Suzanne attends the Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society. This year it was held in Chicago so provided the opportunity for some quality train riding and photography while she was in the meetings. Last year’s meeting was to have been held in Cleveland but was canceled due to the COVID-19. This year the program was more lightly attended than in the past due to COVID fears and the inability of some foreign presenters to attend.




We departed from Croton-Harmon station on time at 4:31 pm on Wednesday, October 13th on Amtrak #49, the Lake Shore Ltd. Our accommodation was a bedroom in one of the new Viewliner sleeping cars, in this case the Rivanna River. I’ve no idea where that river is located but presumably in one of the states served by the Viewliner fleet. Although our room afforded a view of the Hudson River we wanted to dine along the Hudson so entered the dining car (2 cars back) around 5:30. The relatively new Viewliner diner gave a good impression with all the tables set and nicely arranged. One pleasant surprise was the menu which was an improvement over the one used during my Milwaukee trip back in August. Several old items had been deleted and new ones added. Sesame glazed salmon was one of the new ones and we both found it to be quite good. Sadly there’s still no apple pie ala mode for desert; that was a brownie or “blondie” wrapped cake. I enjoyed a glass of Chardonnay with dinner.




We finished shortly before Albany but decided to wait in the diner until the train had arrived there because it was moving quite fast in the 110 mph territory. At Albany I detrained for the traditional walk to view the train and note the consist. One unusual thing was the presence of former Frisco RR Pullman Cimarron River in the Boston section. Departure from Albany was on time at 7:05 pm with what now was an 11 car train.




Suzanne and I then started looking at the features of the new bedroom and comparing them with similar rooms in the older cars. Some features were an improvement but others were not. For example, when the lower bed was open it must be made up with the head at the “window end” or the person occupying it could hit his/her head on a bar on the wash basin. Another negative aspect is that the Roomettes don’t have toilets; that didn’t impact us as we had a bedroom. One positive item is the placement of the electric outlets behind the couch so passengers don’t have to run wires across the room. The ride quality seemed to be about the same which means it wasn’t that great.




I woke up around 7:30 am when we were nearing Bryan, OH, and about 35 minutes late. We had breakfast about 8:40 and the train was running fast. As often happens we got caught up with a bunch of freight trains about 30 miles east of Chicago with the result that we reached that city’s Union Station 38 minutes late at 10:28. This was 2 minutes earlier than my arrival there back in August. A taxi soon got us to the Marriott Downtown Hotel on Michigan Ave.






Our room was on the 27th floor and provided a marvelous view of the city. Once settled in Suzanne headed for her registration desk and I set out for some wandering. Numerous CTA buses serve that area of Michigan Avenue and the Grand Ave. station on the Red Line subway was about 2 blocks away. I started by riding the #151 CTA bus to an intersection near the grade crossing of the METRA Milwaukee District tracks and Canal St. There I obtained photos of a few METRA suburban trains and an Amtrak Hiawatha Service train to Milwaukee with one of the new Midwest Service locomotives. Then it was on to the Loop where I boarded an Orange Line train to the end at Midway Airport with return to Ashland to photograph Amtrak #21, the Superliner equipped Texas Eagle. Next I returned to the Loop and boarded a Green Line train to Oak Park where I could photograph trains on the UP [former C&NW] West Line. Naturally along the way on both lines I stopped here and there for a few CTA photos on this beautiful, clear day. That evening Suzanne and I had dinner at the famous Berghoff German Restaurant on Adams, reachable by the good old #151 bus. Oktoberfest was in progress and the meal was delicious.




Amtrak CHI-MKE train under former C&NW with Midwest Challenger locomotive.



Amtrak Superliner equipped Texas Eagle from CTA Orange Line Ashland platform.




CTA Orange Line southbound train between buildings.


METRA UP West Line Train #39 passing freight train in Oak Park, IL.




Friday, October 15: Rode CTA’s 151 bus to Michigan and Randolph where I walked to the Millennium Station used by the former IC (now Metra Electric) and South Shore Line trains. After a few photos I boarded Metra Electric Train # 117 with a 10:20 am departure. It was headed to University Park but I was going only to 111th St—Pullman, a flag stop. There are many flag stops along this line and period announcements were made as to which ones had been requested because “the train will only stop at stations requested or where boarding passengers are seen by the engineer.” We did skip many stops; I detrained with 3 others when we reached Pullman at 10:54.



South Shore Line train in Randolph St. Station, Chicago.



Northbound METRA Electric train with former Pullman HQ in background.




The purpose of this part of the trip was to visit the restored Pullman car shops, now a National Monument with a new Visitor Center dedicated in September. The Pullman complex had covered several blocks along Cottage Grove Ave. Some  original buildings remain as well as  some of the houses of the “company town.” There are many exhibits and countless artifacts such as china, silverware, tickets, photos and models. Special emphasis was placed on the infamous Pullman strike of the late 1800’s and its impact on labor relations. I met with the Assistant Superintendent to discuss the possibility of an NRHS plaque to commemorate the site. She was very positive but cautioned that federal and state agencies are involved so there may be some bureaucratic problems.




Departure from 111th St.-Pullman was on Train #223 at 1:36 pm enroute to Blue Island for a 1:52 arrival. Since I would change there to a Rock Island train to Joliet, the conductor sold me a thru cash fare covering both the IC and RI trains. Two other RI trains came thru before mine and were duly photographed.  My Train #417 departed Blue Island at 2:15 and reached Joliet on time at 3:00. The station area is substantially different from my last visit. In the past the historic Union Station on the west side of the tracks served all trains. The Santa Fe (now BNSF) double track and the GM&O (now UP) double track lines were parallel in a north-south direction. The Rock Island operated east-west and crossed those at a diamond crossing. The Amtrak and a few METRA trains run on the former GM&O so the passengers had to cross the BNSF tracks to reach the station. Several years ago a new station was built on the east side of the tracks. It is an attractive 2-level structure with a platform serving the RI trains so they no longer have to cross the 4-track main line at grade. And the Amtrak and Metra Heritage Corridor trains (3 each way) now use a new island platform between the UP’s two main tracks.


METRA Rock Island train on the Suburban Line at Blue Island.





New Joliet Gateway Center station. Rock Island trains are on the right; UP and BNSF tracks are on the bridge at the left.




This left me wondering if one could photograph from the platforms at the former station which is best for afternoon photography. Communications with a few friends and a City Engineer for Joliet indicated “yes,” access should be no problem through a gate in the low level fence and even gave me a phone number to use in the event of problems. I did get to photograph a number of trains there but only one BNSF freight came along during my stay. It was a very long container train. Luckily one of the RI District trains I photographed had the METRA loco in the Rock Island color scheme with the RI logo in front. I returned to LaSalle St. Station on RI #432 leaving at 5:15 and reaching the Loop at 6:24. It was the last inbound express train of the day; later trains operate via the “Suburban Line” from Blue Island to CHI making countless local stops.  That evening we had dinner in an Italian restaurant a few blocks from the hotel.





Rock Island line train at its Joliet platform. The UP and BNSF tracks are in the foreground. Former UD [Union Depot] Tower is being converted into a museum.





Train on the left is a Rock Island Line train to Chicago with Metra loco 425 in the former RI color scheme. On the right is a Metra Heritage Line train that had arrived from Chicago and now is backing from UP [former GM&O] tracks to the RI trackage to access the storage yard.




Saturday, October 16th was my day to visit the PCC trolley operation in Kenosha, WI. Review of the UP North Line timetable indicated that Saturday is the only day one can make a round trip to Kenosha during reasonable hours.  And even that schedule requires spending the entire day on the project. My train departed the C&NW Station (now Ogilvie Transp. Center) at 10:35 am. The video display at the bus stop by the hotel indicated 3 #151 buses: the first was due in 25 minutes, the second in 26 minutes and the third in 29 minutes! I has allowed ample time but feared missing the train if waited for one of those. So I walked to the Grand Ave. station and rode the Red Line one stop to State/Lake, then upstairs to the L. Naturally I had just missed a Red Line train at Grand as well as a Green Line train upstairs on the L. Anyway, I caught the 10:35 train with 4 minutes to spare after purchasing a $7 Day ticket at the ticket office. I had wanted a $10 weekend ticket, as shown on their website, but was told those are no longer sold.




My train had 8 cars and was rather crowded with more boarding along the line. The reason for the crowd became apparent when half the train emptied out at one of the Evanston stations; the attire worn by those leaving indicated their destination was a Northwestern U. football game. Departure from “OTC” was at 10:35 and Kenosha arrival was on time at 12:15 pm. My train #805 made every stop along the way as it ran through some nice “leafy” suburbs. Except for a small yard and apparent customer at Waukegan, there was no sign of any freight service.  At Kenosha the line is elevated with an island platform with the station building on street level. However, the station is a restaurant so does not sell tickets. After arrival the train’s equipment made a series of maneuvers to reach the small yard at ground level west of the line elevation. 




My first order of business was to walk to the trolley line; naturally the car passed by as I was a half block away so had a 15 minute wait. Kenosha Transit has 7 PCC’s that had worked in Philadelphia and Toronto and were restored and repainted in the color schemes of former operators such as SEPTA, San Francisco’s MUNI and Cincinnati. The operation is a 2 mile loop through downtown and on out to Lake Michigan. The operator was friendly and a good host, pointing out the points of interest along the way. He was a little mixed up about the origin of the cars saying, “they were built in St. Louis, USA, and sent to Toronto for outfitting and now here.” But he was a real enthusiast for the city and emphasized the devastating blow caused by the closure of American Motors. The area formerly occupied by them has been redeveloped with nice housing and a yacht club. There was new housing elsewhere and a viable business district of 6 blocks or so. The Streetcar is part of the effort to get people back to the city. The adult fare is $1 per ride with a Daypass @$3.50. Naturally I purchased the Daypass which the operator had to fish out of a pouch and record the number on a form. Apparently he doesn’t sell too many of them.





Kenosha’s “Cincinnati” car. Much of the line is on grass covered right-of-way.




Only one car was operating on the day of my visit. The operator described it as being from Cincinnati but, of course, it was only painted in that scheme. After making a round trip I stopped off at numerous photo locations as well as for lunch along the way. I guess I learned how many photos one can take of the same PCC car but it was colorful and I got it in numerous scenic locations. Later I stopped for dinner and the rode around the loop a few times. Back at the station I photographed a 6:15 pm arrival from Chicago with the equipment that would be my 6:49 train back. It didn’t “turn” in the station but went north to cross over from the northbound to the southbound track. And as most know, since this is a former Chicago & Northwestern Ry line, the operation is “left handed.”





Kenosha Transit #4616 at Fountain Plaza. Lake Michigan is behind the trees.




UP Train #824 departed Kenosha at 6:49 and reached the Chicago terminal on time at 8:28. From there I walked to a stop for the 151 CTA bus which I rode to the hotel on Michigan Avenue.




Sunday, Oct. 17 was a good, clear day and ideal for train and L riding/photography. I started on Congress St. end of the Blue Line. After Western Ave. the ride was very slow with some swaying in places; track work was in progress although not on Sunday. Next I switched to the Green Line at the downtown Loop elevator equipped transfer point and went out to Oak Park. Then it was back to Union Station for a bite to eat and to board a BNSF train to LaGrange Road for some photos. The 3-track former Burlington line between Chicago and Aurora is a favorite of mine because of its good commuter service, frequent freight trains and use by numerous Amtrak long distance and regional trains. I was not disappointed as was able to photograph four freights as well as the eastbound Southwest Chief right on time from LA and the westbound California Zephyr. As my return train neared Union Station about 3:30 pm I noticed the equipment from today’s Lake Shore Ltd backing out of the station. It had been due at 9:45 am but was combined with #29 at Elkhart, IN, due to the failure of that trains locomotive, thus making for a very late arrival for both trains. Back in Chicago I headed for the L to do some riding and photography on the former Douglas Elevated, now known as the Pink Line. Dinner was at a restaurant a few blocks from the hotel.



Amtrak Train #5, California Zephyr, in LaGrange, IL.




Suzanne had finished her programs and I had done plenty of train riding and photography. So we devoted the afternoon of Monday, October 18 to sightseeing activities, including an excellent boat ride on the Chicago River on this beautiful day. The guide pointed out the architectural features of many buildings along the way. Just as in New York, numerous residential and office buildings are under construction in downtown Chicago. The boat passed the Amtrak servicing facility which enabled some photos. That evening we joined our friend, Steve Abrams of CTA, for dinner. Our choice was the famous Italian Village Restaurant but one look at the long stairway to access it told us to seek another place. The hostess came downstairs and phoned a very nice nearby restaurant to make a reservation for us.


When finished we rode the 151 bus to Union Station and entered the Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge until our train was ready for boarding.








The Lake Shore Ltd began loading about 9 pm for its 9:30 departure. It had the normal 10 car consist and our sleeper, the St. Johns River, was second from the rear just ahead of the baggage car. Once settled into the bedroom I walked up to the dining car for a drink with the hope that it would help me sleep. Departure was on time at 9:30 and we moved along at good speed. Although most westbound trips through this area are delayed by freight trains, somehow the eastbound departures in the evening manage to move along with no delays. The attendant made up the beds about 10:30 and I climbed up the ladder shortly thereafter. I dropped off to sleep after the South Bend stop at midnight, Eastern Time.




The following morning I awoke while the train was east of Erie, PA, about on time. We were in the diner for breakfast during the Buffalo/Depew stop where we left on time at 8:54 am. From there the train generally ran fast, traversing crossovers now and then to overtake freight trains. We had lunch east of Utica while traversing the scenic Mohawk Valley and running more or less on time. The dining car had but a single attendant but he did a superb job of serving everyone. Discussion with him indicated that he has been with Amtrak for 20 years and had been a chef. When the big cuts came he took the waiter in charge (or whatever they call it) job to keep the pension and fringe benefits. Hopefully he and other chefs will be called back to restore on board cooking to the eastern trains. The Assistant Conductor helped him with the lunch service.




After the fast run through the Mohawk Valley we reached Albany 11 minutes early at 2:20 pm. The crew advised that departure of the Boston section would be at 3:05 and the NY section at 4:10 “so you may want to go up into the station.” Several months ago the departure for NY had been at 3:45 but as I noticed on my August trip from Milwaukee it now has been changed to 4:10.  Since they don’t print timetables or even make them available on the Internet many riders probably don’t notice this “dead time” until they experience it. One of the station employees told me the reason supposedly is that Penn Station and Sunnyside yard are too congested for this train to arrive any earlier. I suggested an earlier Chicago departure as a good fix but she just smiled as she doesn’t make the schedules.




The Boston section departed ALB on time at 3:05 and we got underway at 4:10, now powered by P32 locomotive #709. The ride down the Hudson was enjoyable as always and we reached our home station of Croton-Harmon at 5:57 (5:53).




WEZ  10/25/2021




Consist: Amtrak #49 NY to Chicago Oct. 13-14, 2021:




Engines:       716  P32                                                         NYP-ALB


                    94 & 118  P42                                                 BOS-CHI


Cars:            Frisco Cimarron River       Pullman                  BOS-CHI


                    62044 Viewliner Sleeping car                           BOS-CHI


                    48187 Café/Business Class car                        BOS-CHI


                    25004 Amfleet II coach                                   BOS-CHI


                    25054   “         “    “                               BOS-CHI


                    25122   “         “     “                                        NYP-CHI


                    25118   “         “     “                                        NYP-CHI


                    68009  Viewliner dining car Concord                NYP-CHI


                    62008  Viewliner Sleeping Car                         NYP-CHI


                    62506  Viewliner Sleeping Car Rivanna River   NYP-CHI


                    61036  Viewliner Baggage Car                         NYP-CHI












Consist: Amtrak #48 Chicago to NY Oct. 18-19, 2021:




Engines:       99 & 171 P42                                                  CHI-BOS


                    709  P32                                                         ALB-NYP


Cars:            62046  Viewliner Sleeping car                          CHI-BOS


                    48196  Café/Business Class Amfleet                CHI-BOS


                    25088  Amfleet II Coach                                 CHI-BOS


                    25097    “         “    “                                        CHI-BOS


                    25094    “          “    “                                       CHI-NYP


                    25087    “           “    “                                      CHI-NYP


                    68023  Viewliner Dining car Springfield  CHI-NYP


                    62030  Viewliner Sleeping Car                         CHI-NYP                


                    62509  Viewliner Sleeping Car St. Johns RiverCHI-NYP


                    61082  Baggage car                                        CHI-NYP






  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 18,956 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Friday, October 29, 2021 9:26 AM

All photos edxcept one now posted.

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 8,317 posts
Posted by Flintlock76 on Friday, October 29, 2021 3:25 PM

Thanks David!  Always good to hear from Walt Zullig, I've got two of his Morning Sun books, one on the Susquehanna and one on the NYC's commuter operations on the West Shore.

Oh, in case you reach him, the Rivanna River is down here in Viginia, out by the Charlottesville area.

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    September 2011
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Posted by MidlandMike on Saturday, October 30, 2021 9:35 PM

I am incredulous to hear that Amtrak takes almost 2 hours for their Albany stop, including train rearrangement.  The stop at Albany is longer (1:50) than the ride from there to suburban NY (1:43).  The train arrives into Penn Station on its own line about up to the point where it reaches the platform.  With hundreds of commuter and NEC trains, why does this one train get sidelined?

  • Member since
    June 2002
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Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, October 31, 2021 4:29 AM

The absent photo has been inserted and is repeated here.  METRA Rock Island line train at Blue Island:

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    June 2002
  • 18,956 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, October 31, 2021 4:32 AM

Please observe Waklkter's request.  To not copy anything of his to send to others.  Thank you.

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