Chicago Commuter Railroads - 2009
Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation (METRA)
Northern Indiana Commuter T ransportation District (NICTD)

Chicago to Suburban Communities
Winnetka, Highland Park, Waukeegan, Kenosha
Rosemont, Wheeling, Mundelien, Antioch

Glenview, Northbrook, Libertyville, Fox Lake
Park Ridge, Barrington, McHenry - Harvard

Franklin Park, Bensenville, Schaumberg, Elgin
Oak Park, Lombard, Wheaton, Geneva, Elburn
La Grange, Wheaton, Naperville, Aurora
Summit, Willow Springs, Lemont, Joliet

Blue Island, Oak Forest, Mokena, Joliet
Oak Lawn, Palos Park, Orland Park, Manhattan

South Chicago , Blue Island, University Park
Hammond, Gary, Michigan City, South Bend


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The Chicago Area Commuter Rail System is a fine example of how services once provided by many major railroads of bygone years have changed over time to provide the community transportation need in a new way. In times past, each major, or minor, railroad provided commuter needs as the conditions seemed to demand. This included many trolley rail lines. As auto transportation, roads and highways expanded the electric interurban trolleys were the first to go followed by a relative funk in the commuter rail business. The auto and highway expansion, however, led to rapid development of suburban areas, followed by grid lock in the highway systems. In the meantime, railroads were consolidating and moving toward long haul freight as their major revenue source. Hence the birth of regional Transit Authorities to manage the rebounding need for rail commuter services to ever growing suburban communities. An excellent example is the Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation (METRA) that currently manages the operations of commuter rail services for Metropolitan Chicago in IIllinois and the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD)in Indiana. This transportation grid has tentacles in all directions and resembles the spokes of a wheel with downtown Chicago as the hub. We will follow it in a north to west to south and east in a counterclockwise direction and give you a little genealogy of the railroads as we go,
The map to the upper right shows the many spokes of the METRA system wheel, The map to the right shows the old Chicago South Shore and South Bend line whose passenger rail arm is the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD), The South Shore Line still handles the freight traffic.



Illinois Central Gulf
Sept. 6, 1981
RTA Operation
METRA Timeline
1960's - Chicago commuter rail is deteriorating under individual railroad operation. Equipment and motive power is old.
1970's - Railoads want out of commuter business.
1974 - Chicago forms Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) to run public transpotation needs.
1976 - EMD F40PH passenger locomotives are received to update motive power.
1984 - T the RTA's rail operations were reorganized into METRA (Northeast Illinois Railroad Corporation). and all commuter rail operations were handed over to Metra
Recent Expansions - UP west line (old C&NW) Geneva to Elburn, 9 miles., and Southwest service (old Wabash) Orland Park to Manhattan. 16.4 miles
Left The timetable cover to the left shows the simple black on white covers used by the Illinois Central Gulf electric lines to South Chicago, Blue Island and University Park during the RTA era.
Right The timetable cover on the right is the ICG (old Alton) line to Joliet after METRA took over. They have maintained these colored covers wit maps to the present day. .

Illinois Central Gulf
Sept. 7, 1986
METRA Operation

The Chicago ro Kenosha Metra line is the old Chicago and Northwestern line to Milwaukee. The C&NW was absorbed into the Union Pacific in 1995 however the Metra system had taken over the commuter service in 1976. This 51.6 mile line stretches from the old C&NW station, now the Ogilvue Transportation Center, with frequent service, to suburban communities including Evanston, Winnetka, Highland Park, Lake Forest, Waukegan on the way to Kenosha, Service Chicago to Antioch is very recent, about 1996. It uses the old Soo Line (now Canadian National) from Franklin Park to Antioch through the communities of Rosemont, Wheeling, Buffalo Grove, Mundelein and Lake Villa. Since the old Grand Central station has been torn down the line uses the former Milwaukee Road (now Canadian Pacific) to Franklin Park where the old Soo Line ran up to Antioch. 45 miles, So the Chicago terminus is now the Union Station, north
Wisconsin. This is the route of the famous "400" that ran from Chicago to Minneapolis in 400 minutes during the speed races in the 30's and 40's. concourse.

The Chicago to Fox Lake starts from the Union Station in Chicago on the old Milwaukee Road (Canadian Pacific) former main line toward Milwaukee through Glenview, Deerfield, Northbrook and Libertyville. Here it turns away from the main and heads northwest to Fox Lake, 50 miles. This line was a short cutoff to Minneapolis throgh Janesville and Madison, Wisconsin and formerly had suburban trains to Walworth, Wisconsin to serve the lake areas. The major trains, like the Hiawatha, took The Chicago to Harvard service included the towns of Des Plaines. Mt. Prospect, Park Ridge, Arlington Heights, Palatine, Barrington, Crystal Lake and Woodstock on the way 62.7 miles to Harvard. It branches to service McHenry. This branch formerly ran to Lake Geneva, Lake Como and Williams Bay. This Harvard former C&NW line (now Union Pacific) through Madison to Minneapolis was a shorter alternate to the Milwaukee route of the 400's and at one time some through service
the long way, through Milwaukee to service more highly populated cities. The line to Libertyville and Milwaukee now hosts the AMTRAK Hiawatha serevice. to Minneapolis used this shorter route.. The Chicago terminal is the Ogilvie Transportation Center,

This former Milwaukee Road line Chicago to Elgin37 miles provides service to Franklin Park, Bensenville and Schaumberg on the way ,to Elgin. It actually goes beyond Elgin a few miles to Big Timber Road, an example of expanding service to growing suburban areas. This Milwaukee Road line hosted the "City" trains to western destinations when the C&NW was dropped by the UP in 1955. It had a history of ownership changes: The Soo Line 1987, the I&M Rail Link 1996, the Iowa Chicago & The Chicago to Geneva and Elburn is another example of expanding suburban needs. The former C&NW main to Omaha (Now UP) previously ran suburban trains through Oak Park, Elmhurst, Wheaton, West Chicago on this 35 mile run to Geneva. The westward expansion of suburban population pulled this ride out to Elburn 44 miles This now Union Pacific line was one of the earliest lines in Illinois dating back to the Galena and Chicago Union of 1836. This is the line the famous "City"
Eastern (sub. of Dakota Minnesota & Eastern) 2002,and Canadian Pacific 2008. Chicago-Elgin service terminates at Union Station in Chicago. trains took west to meet the UP st Omaha, until the Milwaukee Road took over in 1955 The Chicago terminus is the Ogilvie Transportation Center, on the site of the old Northwestern Station.

The 38 mile Chicago to Aurora Metra line is the only line that has not really changed ownership over the years but has merely expanded i's system, The old "Hill" line, the Chicago Burlington and Quincy, becoming the Burlington Northern in 1956, then the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe in 1996. The line of the fast Denver Zephyr back in 1934 continues on as a passenger line hosting the AMTRAK California Zephyr and serving There are two ways to go southwest from Chicago to Joliet on the Metra system. This one was the old Alton route down the valley of the Illinois-Michigan Canal through Summit, Willow Springs, Lemont and Lockport on this 37 mile trip to Joliet. The Alton was the preferred route to St. Louis. This Alton line was Chicago and Alton until 1931, became sub. of the B&O in 1942, part of Gulf Mobile and Ohio in 1947, Illinois Central
as Metra's host to the communities of Riverside, Brookfield, La Grange, Western Springs, Hinsdale, Naperville and Aurora. The Union Station is the Chicago terminal. Gulf in 1972, back to Illinois Central in 1990, and Canadian National, the present owner, in 1996. The line from Joliet to St. Louis is now owned by the UP. This Joliet line departs Union Station in Chicago. .

The other Chicago Joliet route is the old Chicago Rock Island and Pacific (Rock Island) which served well the southern ends of Chicago and Blue Island before turning southwest through Robbins, Midlothian, Oak Forest, Tinley Park and Mokena before finishing the 40 mile run to Joliet. After the Rock Island went belly up in 1980 its assets were eventually distributed to many other railroads. The line from Chicago to Blue Island is now the Chicago Rail Link and The Metra line from Chicago to Manhattan, 37.6 miles, runs over the trackage of the old Wabash Railroad serving the communities of Oak Lawn, Chicago Ridge, Worth, Palos Heights, Palos Park, Orland Park, New Lenox and Manhattan. From the late 20's until 1960 the Wabash was under the control of the Pennsylvania Railroad. In 1960 it was leased to the Norfolk and Western, purchased by the N&W in 1970 but remained a separate entity until 1991
the portion from Blue Island to Joliet is part of Iowa Interstate. Passenger service is all Metra. It is the only Metra line that operates into La Salle Street Station in Chicago. when it was absorbed into the Norfolk Southern. The line used the old Dearborn Station until 1976 when the Wabash (N&W) commuter services switched to Union Station where they remain with Metra. The train shed, track area, and leads were subsequently revitalized as housing. The station is an office complex and survives nicely into its third century. (mm)

The Metra lines that serve Chicago to Blue Island, South Chicago and University Park are the old Illinois Central electrified lines. The South Chicago branches off the main at 63rd St. The line to Blue Island at Kensington, and the main to University Park serves the communities of Harvey, Flossmoor Homewood, Olympia Fields and Matteson. This southbound main was once the line of the Green Diamond to St. Louis and the Panama Limited to New Orleans. The The southeast end of the Chicago metropolitan area commuter service is the Chicago to South Bend run over the old Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad (South Shore Line). Although the South Shore line still operates as a freight carrier on the line, the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District is the operator of the passenger service. This electrified line is a survivor of the traction days, one of a very few. It serves the communities
Illinois Central had a long life, merging as the Illinois Central Gulf in 1972 back to Illinois Central in 1990 before being absorbed into the Canadian National in 1998 and losing all identity in 2001. This Metra electric line uses the Millennium Station on the site of the old IC Randolph Street Station on Chicago's lake front. of Hammond, East Chicago, Gary, and Michigan City, on the way to the South Bend Airport. This 90 mike run i the longest of any in the Chicago metri area. The Chicago terminal is the Millennium Station and the NICTD uses the Metra (old IC) from Kensington north.

METRA Expansion Plans
Metra is in the process of extending the UP northwest line from McHenry to Johnsburg .
Future plans -(1) Roesmont Station - Milw West line.
(2) Chicago-Thornton-Chicago Heights-Crete - 30 miles (former C&EI).
(3) STAR line Joliet to O'Hare linking west branches.
Our Sources
The private timetable collection of Richard R.Parks
Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia- (web)
The Official Guide of the Railways-Various dates
Matt McClure, The Transformation of Metropolitan Chicago's Railway Pattern 1957-1986. (mm)

Your source for 1930's-1940's Public Timetable and Railroad History
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Web Page Written and Maintained by Richard Parks
Copyright Richard Parks, Last Updated Sept. 20, 2011