Sunday, March 13, 2016

CB&Q's Western Avenue Yard

Mark Hinsdale posted
Mark's comment:
"St. Paddy's Extra..."
As is normal, Metra provides extra train services on several of its routes to accommodate the large crowds to and from Chicago's annual St. Patrick's Parade in the Loop. Here, something not usually seen on a Saturday, a 1:35 pm outbound express to Downers Grove (and all stops beyond to Aurora) races through Western Avenue, passing two westbound empty oil trains waiting for crews to forward them toward North Dakota's Bakken Oil Field. With St. Patricks Day imminent, can spring be far behind?

Western Avenue Yard has been cut back considerably since its heyday.
1938 Aerial Photo from ILHAP
If you access the above Satellite link, it focuses on the west end of this excerpt to better correspond with  the 1938 view. But the excerpt continues all the way to Racine Avenue to show that the yard has some long tracks to hold entire trains that are running between east and west destinations using NS and BNSF.

In fact, there were two westbound trains setting in the yard the day I accessed the satellite images. At the bottom left are two engines for an empty coal train. Note the two white tank cars on the right. Then follow the train to the left and you can see the red buffer car and the two engines for that oil/ethanol train. As you can see from Mark's photo, they don't waste time changing locomotives. The NS engines will "run through" and pull the train on BNSF tracks with BNSF crews. Since BNSF engines will also run through onto NS tracks, engine usage is kept track of and one railroad reimburses the other if there is an imbalance.

I don't take the BNSF commuter too often, but most of the time that I take it I will pass a long train setting on these tracks waiting for a crew from the other railroad. 

20150502 0386
While I was taking pictures of the Canal Street RR Bridge, I caught a Norfolk Southern eastbound oil train with BNSF engines that would have been coming from Western Ave. Yard. This is one of several pictures I took. It shows the three engines, the buffer car, and the first tank car. If you want more pictures and details such as the engine numbers and models, see Train Watching.
Update: Mark Hinsdale posted four photos with the comment:Sunday at Western Avenue...
A BNSF westbound empty oil tank train and an eastbound Detroit Edison loaded unit coal train meet at BNSF's Western Avenue Yard in Chicago on this overcast, but warm spring afternoon. Both trains will receive new crews here.



Jerry Jackson posted
[In the comments Dan Kalkman identified it as one of his photos. Dna's comments indicate it is a NS empty-oil train waiting for a BNSF crew.]
Mark Hinsdale posted three photos with a comment that confirms this yard is used to interchange run-through trains between BNSF and NS.
"Like Old Times..."
... with "old times" being around 2013 and 2014! During the crude oil boom on BNSF, the long tracks stretching between Halsted Street and Western Avenue in Chicago that BNSF and Norfolk Southern use to interchange trains filled up quickly and often. Not so much, today, but this afternoon, both an empty coal train off Canadian National and NS to BNSF Train 33G pulled up to a crew change stop at Western Avenue's Metra Station, with Amtrak #5, the "California Zephyr," making an on time appearance as well.



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