Posts Tagged ‘chicago union station’

No. 1 on No. 29

November 23, 2019

Not many railroads have single digit roster numbers for their motive power fleet, but CSX and Amtrak do.

Although I’ve never ridden on a train pulled by CSX AC44CW No. 1, I have ridden twice behind Amtrak P42DC No. 1.

One of those trips occurred on May 31, 2012, when I took the Capitol Limited from Cleveland to Chicago.

I had noticed No. 1 was the lead unit when the train arrived in the Cleveland Amtrak station.

As I was walking to the station after No. 29 halted at Chicago Union Station I got my camera out and made this image.

My previous trip behind No. 1 was in June 1999 aboard the Empire Builder from Portland, Oregon, to Chicago.

I also photograph No. 1 in Hinsdale, Illinois, once leading the eastbound Illinois Zephyr.

My travel records show that at one time or another I’ve ridden behind every Amtrak P42DC with a single digit roster number.

Hanging With the Hoosier State in its Final Week

August 11, 2019

Boarding has begun for the Chicago-bound Hoosier State on June 25 at Indianapolis Union Station.

By the time I arrived in Indianapolis Amtrak’s Hoosier State had just one week left to live.

I would experience No. 851 three times before it made its final trip on June 30, riding it once and photographing it trackside twice.

I had ridden the Hoosier State several times but not since August 1991.

Interestingly, my purpose for riding the Hoosier State nearly 28 years later would be the same as why I rode it in 1991.

I was moving and needed to go back to my former hometown to pick up a car and drive it to my new hometown.

In 1991 I had driven from Indianapolis to State College, Pennsylvania. In 2019 I drove from Cleveland to Indianapolis.

Boarding of No. 851 began shortly after I arrived at Indianapolis Union Station on the morning of June 25.

I was the second passenger to board the Horizon fleet coach to which most Indy passengers were assigned. The car was about two-thirds full.

The consist also included an Amfleet coach, an Amfleet food service car and two P42DC locomotives, Nos. 77 and 55.

We departed on time but a few minutes later received a penalty application near CP Holt that required a conversation with the CSX PTC desk.

We would later encounter a delay between Crawfordsville and Lafayette due to signal issues.

Yet there was no freight train interference en route that I observed. We stopped briefly in Chicago so a Metra train could go around us.

That was probably because we were early. We halted at Chicago Union Station 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

I had heard the former Monon can be rough riding, but I didn’t think it was any worse than other Amtrak routes I’ve ridden.

There wasn’t any of the abrupt sideways jerking that I’ve experienced on other Amtrak trains.

The journey did seem to be slow going at times, particularly through the CSX yard in Lafayette; on the former Grand Trunk Western west of Munster, Indiana; through the Union Pacific yard on the former Chicago & Eastern Illinois; and within Chicago proper.

Overall, the experience was much the same as riding any other Amtrak Midwest corridor train although it featured an entrance into Chicago that I had not experienced before in daylight.

The crew said nothing about it being the last week of operation for Nos. 850 and 851.

My next encounter with the Hoosier State came in Lafayette on June 28.

No. 851 arrived on time with a more typical consist that included cars being ferried from Beach Grove shops to Chicago.

These included a Superliner sleeping car, a Viewliner baggage car, a Horizon food service car, and a Heritage baggage car. There also was the standard Hoosier State consist of three cars. On the point was P42DC No. 99.

I was positioned next to the former Big Four station at Riehle Plaza so I could photograph above the train.

Although a sunny morning, the tracks were more in shadows than I would have liked. Nonetheless I was pleased, overall, with what I came away with.

After No 851 departed – it operated on CSX as P317, an original Hoosier State number – I went over to Fifth Street to photograph it sans railroad tracks.

One stretch of rails has been left in the street in front of the former Monon passenger station.

My last encounter with the Hoosier State would be my briefest.

I drove to Linden to photograph the last northbound run at the railroad museum at the former joint Monon-Nickel Plate depot.

No. 851 was 24 minutes late leaving Indianapolis Union Station and about that late at Crawfordsville.

It had a consist similar to what I had seen in Lafayette two days earlier. P42DC No. 160 had a battered nose with some of its silver paint peeling away.

I wasn’t aware until I saw them that two former Pennsylvania Railroad cars had been chartered to operate on the rear of the last Hoosier State.

They were Colonial Crafts and Frank Thomson. The latter carried a Pennsy keystone tail sign on its observation end emblazoned with the Hoosier State name.

It was a nice touch and after those cars charged past the Hoosier State was gone in more ways than one.


That’s my Horizon coach reflected in the lower level of the Lafayette station.


Watching the countryside slide by west of Monon, Indiana.

The Hoosier State has come to a halt on Track 16 at Chicago Union Station. That’s the inbound City of New Orleans to the left.

A crowd lines the platform in Lafayette as the Hoosier State arrives en route to Chicago.

The former Big Four station in Lafayette was moved to its current location to serve Amtrak. At one time it also served intercity buses.

Pulling out of Lafayette on the penultimate northbound trip to Chicago.

P42DC No. 160, which pulled the last northbound Amtrak Train No. 851 had a well-worn nose.

Two former Pennsylvania Railroad passenger cars brought up the rear of the last northbound Hoosier State.

CUS Addition Being Widely Panned

July 7, 2018

A proposal to add an addition atop the head house of Chicago Union Station is being widely panned.

The design has been sharply criticized in newspapers, on blogs and on social media.

The design by Chicago-based Riverside Investment & Development and Convexity Properties proposes a modernistic, seven-story steel and glass addition.

It would have 404 apartments while 330 hotel rooms would be added to the head house of the station, which was completed in 1925.

Most critics have said the designs of the original station and the addition at incongruous.

Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin described the addition as having all of the grandeur of a Holiday Inn.

“The architects are trying to create a design that they say would be compatible with, yet distinct from the addition,” Kamin wrote. “But in this case, the addition is not compatible in the least with the existing Union Station. It’s top heavy. It is a grid, a metal and glass grid that is not compatible with the carefully composed classical design.”

In The Architect’s Newspaper, Elizabeth Blasius described the addition as a self-inked address stamper.

“The proposed addition is not only an imbalance in terms of design, it’s also condescending to the station itself, the architectural equivalent of a head patting, or worse,” Blasius wrote.

Most comments on a Facebook page run by Chicago Railroad Historians have described the design of the addition as “an abomination.” Similar comments were made by some on Twitter.

However, DePaul University transportation professor Joseph Schwieterman took a more positive view.

“Having a major hotel become the centerpiece of the design will strengthen the station’s role as a premier travel center,” he said, adding that he considers much of the criticism of the architectural details is misplaced.

“The design leverages the air rights above the head house building while still respecting the station’s historic character. This is a win-win for both travelers to and residents of the city of Chicago,” said Schwieterman, who is head of the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development.

He said the plan could make Union Station’s Great Hall a tourist attraction, saying Chicago has a dismal track record when it comes to preserving historic rail terminals.

Gone are Central Station, Grand Central Station, LaSalle Street Station, and the former Chicago & North Western Terminal.

CUS Addition Unveiled

June 27, 2018

Chicago Union Station will get a quite different look if Amtrak and a developer follow through on plans to build an addition atop the station that will house apartments, retail space and a hotel.

The seven-story addition of steel and glass would be built on top of the existing head house.

It is the second time that a developer has proposed an addition to Union Station, the first having come in 2002 and failed to materialize.

The latest plan, which is expected to cost $1 billion, seeks to make Union Station a seven-day-a-week, year-round “destination.”

Already the proposed addition, which was designed by Riverside Investment & Development and Convexity Properties, has drawn the ire of some who say it is at odds with the original appearance of the station.

Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin described the addition as “utterly underwhelming” and added that the exterior of the addition is “a skeletal metal and glass grid [that] is at odds with the station’s carefully composed classical aesthetic.”

Kamin said the addition is “one era of architecture [that] had been piled, willy-nilly, atop another.”

Amtrak owns Union Station and hired Riverside Investment in May 2017 to create a plan for further commercial development of the depot.

As part of the construction of the addition, natural light would still be allowed to illuminate the Great Hall because the skylight would be retained.

Completed in 1925, Union Station served the Pennsylvania; Alton Road (later Gulf, Mobile & Ohio); Chicago, Burlington & Quincy; and the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific railroads.

The station was designed by Daniel Burnham and successor firm Graham, Anderson, Probst & White.

The addition would not affect operations of Amtrak and Metra commuter trains in the Concourse building located across the street from the Head House.

The redevelopment of Union Station must be approved by the Chicago City Council and Amtrak’s board of directors.

Developers are optimistic that construction can begin in spring 2019.

If built, the addition would be similar to one proposed in 2002 by Chicago architect Lucien Lagrange that called for a 400-foot tower atops the station.

Kamin noted that Burnham envisioned Union Station as a gateway to Chicago’s west loop neighborhood and planned for an office building to be built atop the station. The foundations for that structure were laid, but it was never built.

CUS Gets Emerging Projects Agreement

January 14, 2017

The City of Chicago is joining with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Amtrak, Metra and the Regional Transportation Authority to create an emerging projects agreement that they hope will be able to land $1 billion in federal funding to modernize Chicago Union Station.

Chicago Union StationBy creating the EmPA, the DOT will be able to provide technical assistance for obtaining federal credit through the Build America Bureau’s innovative programs.

The redevelopment of Union Station is a public-private partnership that is seeking to rehabilitate the depot for passengers as well as foster commercial developments surrounding the station.

Cleveland Firm Chosen to do Design Work for Chicago Union Station Restoration Project

July 20, 2016

Arup has been named to be the design team for the Chicago Union Station restoration project.

The Cleveland-based engineering consulting firm will work with Amtrak, Metra, the city of Chicago and the Regional Transportation Authority on the project.

Chicago Union StationThe next phase of the project involves planning, historic review and preliminary engineering.

The work will focus on expanded concourses and entrances, widening of platforms, Americans with Disabilities Act compliance work,  and improved pedestrian passageways and ventilation. The design work is expected to be completed in 18 months.

“This project will reflect the station’s status as the major multi-modal transit powerhouse for the city and region,” said John Eddy, principal and project manager at Arup, in a news release.

Amtrak Opens New Lounge in Chicago

June 25, 2016

Amtrak has opened a new Metropolitan Lounge for sleeping car and business class passengers passing through Chicago Union Station.

The new lounge is two stories, can seat 360 and with 13,500 square feet is more than twice the size of the existing lounge it will replace.

Amtrak 4Access to the lounge is from the station’s Great Hall as well as street level. It is located in a section of the station that has been vacant for more than 40 years.

City officials said that when work began on renovating the space, workers found ticket stubs on the floor from 40 years ago.

Project architect Leonard Koroski of Goeetsch Partners described the new lounge as having five separate “neighborhoods” for passengers including a common entrance area, a business area with computer work stations, a family area with a children’s play space, a “millennial area” featuring high-backed chairs to accommodate those on cell phones and other tech-friendly features, and a pair of “quiet” spaces.

The new lounge was built in just under five months and cost $7 million.

In 2015, Amtrak opened the extra fee Legacy Club in space once used as a men’s lounge.

A former women’s lounge is being transformed into an event space that can accommodate up to 300 people.

The previous Metropolitan Lounge, which opened in 1991, will be gutted and is expected to become a pre-boarding area that will enable Amtrak to expand its crowded concourse level.

Amtrak Seeking Developers for CUS Plan

May 25, 2016

Amtrak has taken the next step in redevelopment of Chicago Union Station by asking for responses to a Request For Qualification for a Master Developer for commercial elements

The plan covers the station and adjacent land, a total of 613,075 square feet of property and 1.33 million total square feet of building area.

Amtrak 4“Any development solution envisioned by the selected proposer will need to align with Amtrak operational goals as well as integrate successfully with the surrounding West Loop neighborhood,” Amtrak said in a statement. “It is critical that the Master Developer successfully engage the community and incorporate feedback from West Loop stakeholders into any development plan.”

Amtrak is seeking companies that can provide design, construction, financing and maintenance of non-rail assets.

The company will be expected to identify expansion opportunities and commercial development in the surrounding West Loop neighborhood

“The plan must also harmonize with growing passenger volumes at CUS,” Amtrak said in its statement.

“Amtrak believes that bringing in private equity through a Master Developer can best achieve the desired outcome that optimizes CUS as an asset that serves more than 33 million travelers and commuters per year,” said Executive Vice President Infrastructure Development Stephen Gardner. “We look forward to continued communication with the development community to find a talented partner to assist us in transforming Chicago Union Station into a world-class transportation facility that is further woven into the fabric of the great city in which it resides.”

The Chicago Union Station complex includes the concourse, mezzanine, head house, Amtrak parking garage, and the north and south train sheds.

Ongoing investments made by Amtrak include upgrades to the station’s head house building that included asbestos abatement, sprinkler systems, and installation of air conditioning.

Chicago Union Station Upgrades Set to be Made

October 17, 2015

Amtrak and Chicago officials were to announce on Friday a $14 million plan to renovate Chicago Union Station.

The work will include repairing the station’s skylights, restoring an iconic staircase and building a new Amtrak passenger lounge.

Longer term work will include widening station platforms, connecting the station to the Blue Line of the Chicago Transit Authority and improving street access.

Officials have yet to find a source of funding for the long-term projects, which could cost more than $100 million.

Amtrak is expected to kick in $14 million for the initial station work.

Union Station is the third-busiest railroad terminal in the United States, handling an estimated 50,000 daily commuters.

A report that addresses station improvements concluded that the station is plagued by less-than-ideal access and narrow passageways that lead to overcrowding that exacerbates train delays.

A coalition that includes officials from Amtrak, Metra, the Regional Transportation Authority and the city of Chicago will search for a developer and architecture firm to design the station renovations.

In a statement, RTA Chairman Kirk Dillard said the coalition recognizes Union Station’s architectural value and will seek to restore “its former glory.”

Feds Give $7M to Chicago Union Station Project

April 22, 2015

The efforts to improve rail service at Chicago Union Station got a boost last week in the form of $7 million in federal funds that will be used to conduct a terminal planning study and create a service development plan to increase capacity at the 90-year-old station.

The funding will supplement $12 million pledged by Amtrak earlier this year toward renovating the terminal.

Chicago Union Station is the third-busiest rail terminal in the nation, serving more than 300 trains each weekday.

The station, which is owned by Amtrak, operates at or near capacity during peak periods.

In 2014, 32.5 million Metra passengers arrived or departed on trains at Union Station. Nearly 2.3 million passenger trips on Amtrak were made between Union Station and various Midwest destinations.