Sunday, March 11, 2018

MoW: One of Chicago's track maintenance nightmares

(Satellite) Taken from Polk Street looking south towards Roosevelt Road.

I have discussed the CB&Q facilities, which has several photos that include this trackwork, that were south of the Chicago Union Station (CUS). In particular, the commuter engine and coach service facilities that still exist. And I have described the Amtrak Yard that is south of CUS. This "multi double slip ladders" allows any Amtrak or commuter train to get from the appropriate service yard to an any track in CUS. These complex station throats are such a track maintenance nightmare that this photo has shown up twice so far in MoW groups.
Joe Kveton posted
Wouldn't this place be a nut house in the middle of a snowstorm.
Mike Mitrovic the Switch Heaters would keep it pretty much clear.
Joe Kveton We had blowers at the old Rugby tower and when it got bad they couldn't keep up especially puzzle switches.
Michael Patrick McDermott I live in NY and when the wind and snow blow off the Hudson River the snow melters can’t keep up. I can throw one switch and then you can’t throw it back because the snow would blow back in the points that fast. The above type of interlocking would be a nightmare for trains,dispatchers,and signalmen.
Vince Davis Photo tag says Chicago, 18th Street, 1983
Dennis DeBruler You are south of Chicago Union Station looking south from Polk Street:!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s4-ukG...
Dennis DeBruler Above you are looking at the Roosevelt Viaduct. This view looking north from Roosevelt shows a lot of the puzzle is still there.!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sQO4...
Dennis DeBruler Amtrak servicing is on the east and BNSF commuter servicing is on the west.,-87.../data=!3m1!1e3
Dennis DeBruler 18th Street is wrong. It is too far south. You can't get the counterweights of the St. Charles Air Line bridge on the left and the Canal Street RR Lift Bridge on the right in an 18th Street photo because that street is south of the Air Line and north of the lift bridge.

Joe Dockrill shared
exit stage left.....
Troy Alan Lloyd #10 Slip Switches
Paul Bond If I recall they were called "Monkey Puzzle" switches
Rob Hess If this is where I think it is, we crossed over this with a tie gang quite a few times. It was tough to get time and when you did, you had to move fast.
Marc Dufour posted
Slipping on the job…
Dennis DeBruler That track work is between Chicago's Union Station's throat to the rear and the Amtrak yard on the left (east) side and the BNSF commuter yard on the right (west) side.,-87.../data=!3m1!1e3

Brendan J Dock shared
Greg Kelly Always fun tamping
That NOT
Tom Werkheiser Ok men we are going to replace #3 switch on #7 crossover to #5 track.
Bob Walsh Lifetime employment for a frog welder.

Hassan Genious posted
Amazing difficult track.
[Almost 200 comments within 21 hours.]

Rocky Myrtle posted a modified version
I see all these crossing frogs and think this is some Track-supervisors nightmare. The last few years I worked I started doing something different. Frogs and crossing frogs are always going to be a problem with bolts. When they put hydraulics on my truck with an impact it changed the game. The trick I did then was when a bolt needed replaced or the nut came off I put lock tight on the bolt. The red lock tight, not the blue. I hammered it with the impact. It wasn't coming off when I was done. It might break, but it wasn't vibrating off. If we had to change a part in the frog or insert the Section was there with their torch to heat up the nut.

Paul Jevert posted
Heading towards Lumber St. and the So. Branch Bridge at 21st. St. 14th St. Amtrak Coach Yard on the left and 16th St. Amtrak Engine House up ahead on the left. CB&Q Suburban Coach Yard and Zephyr pit on the right.

Marty Bernard Flickr

Do the south leads to Chicago Union Station have more double slip switches, rightly called "puzzle switches", than any place else?

The photo is of the GM&O (actually ICG) commuter train called the "Plug" being backed into CUS and a fraction of the puzzle switches on May 26, 1974. The shot is from the Roosevelt Road Viaduct.


Any place have more in the U.S.? Elsewhere?

Twigy BNSF 1y 

So much has changed! I love the domino signals on the bridge still! We have a few at the Illinois Railway Museum.

Another view of the north end of the track complex. Harrison Street Tower is now covered by the new post office and the signals have changed.
Steve Raith posted
The last rays of daylight cut across the exit of Union Station as a Metra commuter train departs Chicago - June 22 2021.

William A. Shaffer posted
Chicago, Circa 1973
(Photo by William A. Shaffer)

20180615 2132
I commented on a post
 I tried one afternoon getting my own photo, and I discovered that it is hard getting a photo of that track without it being skunked by at least one train. Since this train was parked there, I gave up waiting. This photo is facing South from Polk Street by the New Post Office with the Amtrak yards on the left and BNSF's commuter yard on the right. So you see a parade of passenger trains going between their yards and CUS and/or between the trunk lines and CUS. It was not uncommon to see more than one train going through here. This photo has too much foreground. I do plan to make another trip down there to try again.

20180615 2183bc
Another comment on the post about the double-slip switches

Wayne O'Shell commented on Joe's share
Chicago....from high above the city.........
Vince Davis commented on Joe's share
London, Cannon St
[Whenever someone posts some complicated track work, especially if they claim it to be the most complex in the world, this is one of the photos that gets posted as a comment.]
On one of my trips to Union Station, I took photos from an upper-seat of a gallery car as I rode the BNSF/CB&Q commuter into town. The windows are tinted green. Believe it or not, I changed cars to get a window with less green. The first one I set in was practically opaque. For the photos I took before (south of) these, see Amtrak Yard. When I noticed the double-slip switches, I just clicked away to see what I would grab until we went under the new post office where it was just too dark to take photos.

20161021 6545rc


You can tell by the way the commuter car jerks around and makes noise when you approach the station that there is some complicated track work under the buildings that use the track's air rights. But there is no way to see the track work.

Bill Ash shared

Randy Oh They took out all the switch heaters because of a few mild winters, global warming,etc. Then had to reinstall all new ones because Mother Nature was just kidding!
[WSJ won't let me access the article, so I can't provide photo credit.]

Steven J. Brown posted
Some action at Roosevelt Road in Chicago - March 11, 1988.
[This is why I never recognized the complexity of the trackwork --- railfan photos have it covered up with trains.]
Carl Venzke posted
Amtrak's Broadway Limited (sixteen cars behind four surprisingly clean-looking Penn Central E-units) accelerates away from Chicago Union Station in 1972. Photo by Mel Patrick
[Part of the maintenance challenge of this track is that it carried, and carries, passenger trains, both commuter and intercity. When I took the above pictures from the commuter train, I think we were well above 10mph. I'll have to pay closer attention during my next trip.]

Mark Losiniecki posted three photos with the comment: "Just a Monday afternoon on Roosevelt Rd."
Larry Klodt I have taken a couple pics from the Whole Foods back lot area of this yard. I like your view better. I will have to take some pics from this bridge when I am in town next week. Is there a best time of day to take pics from here?
Larry Klodt I have taken a couple pics from the Whole Foods back lot area of this yard. I like your view better. I will have to take some pics from this bridge when I am in town next week. Is there a best time of day to take pics from here?
Mark Losiniecki I happened to be there from 4p to at 6:15p for work, it was a definite steady flow of traffic at that time.



Dennis DeBruler commented on Mark's post
n terms of time of day, it depends if you are trying to get photos of the track work or trains. I wanted the track work. I was there after 4p and there were so many trains that the track work was covered up most of the time that I was there! Part of my problem was that Amtrak had a train parked there.

Another interesting view is a couple blocks north and east on Polk Street. It has a sidewalk on the edge of the bridge over the tracks and you don't have to dodge the signal equipment that is attached to the Roosevelt Bridge. But you will get the cab cars, not the locomotives.,-87.../data=!3m1!1e3

You have to go earlier in the afternoon if you want to catch Amtrak's two Superliners. Maybe even four Superliners if the inbounds aren't really late.

You can also catch action south of Roosevelt from several different angles. These are the trains that just happened to be in this shot as I was walking across the viaduct getting BNSF Metra and Amtrak yard shots. A true railfan would have actually stopped and waited for some trains.
Dennis DeBruler Interesting, a comment I made a few minutes ago has disappeared. One observation I made is that if you go a couple blocks north and then east on Polk Street you can get another view of the action. There is a sidewalk on the bridge over the tracks. Here is an example of what I saw:
[But then it reappeared because the yard shot was the comment that had disappeared.]

A steam excursion running through the double-slips (posted)
Jonathan Eau Claire This was 2002, with 261 running a series of trips out of Chicago to Galesburg and more. These trips notably had a near matched set of Milwaukee Road cars. Insurance rates had skyrocketed after 9/11, but most steam groups had insurance policies paid through 2002 and were able to run without diesels. The following year, 261 and other mainline steam groups would be operating under Amtrak's insurance policies.
Rob Olewinski Cmraseye 6/22/02 to be exact
Rob C Dargan Good memories. Helped keep 261 hot the night before & after.
James L. Ludwig Rob C Dargan -I will testify you babysitting-each excursion I worked I'd see you early in the morning at Chicago Union Station.
Andrew Cole I got shots of her coming up out of downtown Aurora, taken at the platform of the old Aurora Depot. She was smoky as hell and had the bit in her teeth.

A video of trains going through these double-slips.

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