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MEEMAP OF THE MONTH. Moving freight through Chicago ‘Twelve years afier the July 2003 special issue on the Windy City, check out the nation’ rail hub now [ep can set | ‘tomate UP Mnshee Sb we Unto North ona) == bce a ENS capo sat] yar esto “ Rapa [ov mnos River sb} ——, ns toront 22 Trains. 208 Improvements in progress or completed since 2003 New Noes JE cometng act Letton COMPLETED New (NUP connecting racks es Chicago COMPLETED Fiveren BNSF stage tracts at Els COMPLETED ow HB) tower ack ani main inet Proviso COMPLETED Tre new BNSF storage tracks at Mestr Av. COMPLETED ew conecting rack Fores Hct. COMPLETED FEnglenoos oer ack COMPLETED New conection le land Je. COMPLETED New St connection at hrron Jt. COMPLETED Now Norms EE conections at Watson COMPLETED ow ore int kr Yd COMPLETED (5 porpatua easement ove san Sub COMPLETED New TC ang sigalg for Western ve adr M PROGRESS Fiverencrassovers nd T les Sti rack, ins tate neo Porte, IM PROGRESS XC) DOOOOOOOOOOL %\ Be oS Ee BN Bay orp ae iii, Ve ecivet eb] WB ain tne METEA Re & ¢ Nosakintal ie tom sienna vavion! GH Ghicage Fort Wayne Easter, = Conadantatnn! SF coradan oct atvey SS &%_Etrnepertaten Wi antroor bat Tc = Ww tena sue gS ssw ie cumvem it | o st | chew a METAR = ‘S COLEHOUR YARD ae > a — ge ssuzui SS aa " = ott otro] oy x a8 mee We ot rs F5tN St Northern indiana THB Kankakee Line onl an) Sessa ome i Wikdwood 2 yo, Fort Wayne | eae \ coun te” recsmam yf a ot 5 BS \ e ya In, ca ‘S = om rt set. (a) watt Ne ae “tp ae ot tae sn) 2 one. vroocne 4\> ([sstmaee oma, cu, \ No Battie sent iy (itwns] tiene) \ erties a c 3 [easy ater seh et] ~ Dyer ‘On RIFT YARD cman is oe T fae a fgets t 1 [esx none sw] — ‘hater 0] state © Wisc sen) | Pes ceeaa eee i =H tnt cl at et ritinitstotmmn, | ets ett aieemin cine ah dice, Palas F Mp Sm ~ ue id Hs“ Nis ee ee ABABA. S ———— 4 ners COU ES Nae ‘ASX train waits out Metra’ afternoon rush at Forest Hill Junction, part of the proposed 75 Street project. vee shtos, Suns: Davis Lassen FIXING Are railroads ready and willing to repair the nation’s rail hub? by Fred W. Frailey ew cities define an industry the ‘way Chicago does its railroads Cindy Sanborn, the executive vice president-operations of CSX Trans- portation sas it best: "When Chi cago works, that’ where you want to go be: cause everyone’ there" But when it doesnt work, the pain is almost physical. Thus, on New Years Day of 1999, Chicago was buried bya blizzard that froze its unprepared rail- oads in place, Not until April did they dig 2B Trains 1 208 cout and start to catch up, Then on June 1 1998, CSX and Norfolk Southern split Con- rail, beginning five more months of chaos "Tews the longest summer of my life? re calls Charles Allen, then general manager of Indiana Harbor Bel. Echoes Mark Hin dale, CSK Chicago Division manager in 9: “Lait count the sleepless nights” ‘That bruising experience revealed just hhow litle wiggle room remained in the ‘Windy City. It spawned a $3. billion pub ivate partnership called CREATE (the (Chicago Region Environmental and Trans portation Eifciency Program) to streamline the city’s rail infrastructure, and a Chicago coordinating office to improve communica- tions and cooperation among the players. [As years went by these efforts seemed to work. True, CREATE stalled out when public money became scarce. And as years passed, the Chicago Transportation Coor ination Office seemed irrelevant to some railroads. Afterall, during the Great Reces- sion of 2007-2008, loads of excess capacity ‘existed. Everyone admits to complacency Below the calm surface, strains on the system resumed, Ral trafic recovered from the recession faster than did the underlying, ‘economy, Switching became concentrated in fewer classification yards, So more cars crowded onto fewer tracks, competing for space with increasing hordes of unit trains needing to interchange between railroads. Unbeknownst to everyone, Chicago was again one bad event from a meltdoven Winter 2014 became that event. The city experienced the coldest four-month period since weather tracking began in the 1870s. Eighty inches of snow fll. Switches froze, yards congealed, locomotives filed, and. ‘crew boards emptied, Then with spring ‘came an unpredicted surge of railroad trafic across the northern pact ofthe US, a 20-25 percent jump from a year ealier, and all of it seemingly addressed to Chicago. Again, the ress took all year to lear up. How on earth could so much seem to go so wrong so fast? Railroad chief executives had to wonder, is this the new normal? ‘Stunned, they picked six retired executives (quickly dubbed the Village Elders or Retir- ee Brain Trust) to take a close look at Chics go and recommend changes. That they ‘would do this publicly seemed to say that railroads would consider dramatic remedies, CENTER OF THE STORM This is ground zero, the most congested railroad point in the Chicago terminal You're on the South Side near 75 Street and Ashland Avenue, @ neighborhood of ‘small, unpretentious single-family homes. Here at Belt Junction, Metra SouthWest Service commuter trains from Union Sta- tion turn west briefly to negotiate a series ‘of crossovers that take them across tracks of the Belt Railay of Chicago heading to- ward Clearing Yard and Norfolk Southern heading toward its nearby Landers inte modal facility. Union Pacific trains from south suburban Yard Center use this line to reach Clearing and other UP properties. Look west a mile to see Forest Hill Janc- tion, where the Blt, Metra, and NS tracks (four in all) are crossed at grade by CSX ‘Transportation two-track Blue Island Sub- division; Just north of Forest Hillis the big ‘CSX 5 Street intermodal facility, at one time the Pennsylvania Railroad's main class yard in Chicago (a double-hump affat until 1965). A trai hits those diamonds about ‘once every 15 minutes. Or turn at Belt junc- tion to look a mile and a half tothe south: cast, and there les 80" Street Junction, ‘where the Belt, NS, and UR along with Am: trak’s Cardinal and Hoosier State, split to go their separate ways (while trains on Metra Rock Island District ly overhead). All three Spice HP SP 3 e Sierra , Pacific | Bolt Railway of Chicago, Norfolk Southern, and Metra tracks cross the CSX at Forest Hill Junction, a bottleneck where a train crosses the diamonds roughly every 15 minutes. ust before sunset on a frig Feb. 27, 2015, ‘Metra SouthWest Service train huries from Bolt Junction toward Forest Hil Junction, followed by a Norfolk Southern lightengine move. facilities are linked tightly a textbook case ‘of what happens when you try to squeeze to0 much railroad into too ite space. For aig mess, a big plan. [See map on page 30,] CREATE wants to construct two Ayovers. One would take the north-south (CSK Blue [sland Sub over the BRC, Metra and NS tracks at Forest Hil. The second ‘would have the Metra tracks go aver the BRC and NS tracks east of Belt Junction and then keep going northeast on an elevated right-of-way to intersect the Metra Rock Is Jand District line. This would bring South ‘West Service trains into LaSalle Steet Sta tion, ereting slots in capacity-starved ‘Union Station. In the other direction, south: ‘west, Metra trains would loop around Land- erson anew double track. This and other clements ofthe plan would eliminate most conflicting moves in the area and permit ‘Metra to ultimately double its number of SouthWest trains. Says Metra board mer ber Norman Carlson: "This is huge for us” Alas, nobody will pay the bill The price is officially $750 million, but Ed Hamberg, cr president of the Association of Ameri- can Railroads, is thinking SI billion, and it could be more. “T donit know where th ‘money will come from” Hamberger con- cedes. Ifthe US. Congress passes legisla tion to Fund surface transportation projects ~ the authorization for such spending was to expire in late May — Hamberger hopes itwould contain provisions for “projects of national importance” such as 75" Street Lack of funding affects almost all of CREATES unfinished business. Railroads have put $234 million of their money into the CREATE package. But Illinois i broke. Federal budget surpluses area memory. Congress now bans earmarks for pet proj- cect Tea party Republicans growl at passen: get trains, And railroads far from poor, look sill carrying around a tin cup. But at 75 Street and elsewhere, the issue is compliat cedby the fact that a great deal of the benefits weil accrue to Metra and Amtrak, and why should freight railroads pay for this and give CREATE'S 75TH STREET CORRIDOR nk ac cxtasacn ‘6 Pedestaneosng At trig Topas eden ing ETT Asumitrcing them a free ide? And ist fair to make CSX, NS, UP and oveners of the Belt Railway pay for 75" Steet, while railroads that dont own, Tines in this tangle get off the hook? ‘On a brighter note, CREATE has accom= plished a lot. The most visible achievement {s the Englewood flyover, completed late in — 'ALBNSF train crosses the Chicago River on the route paralleling Western Avenue, subject ofa sot of CREATE projects 30° Traine sy 208 nie Bt aay of nca99 ste outer Nato Me Sout Series Neto Mats ocean Detect Se toate Ahrins = tt Reso ce] CURRENT Sine Meat ren Scie ove st 2014 [see “Englewood Eases Congestion” “News” January 2013) sends Metras Rock and District (69 trains each weekday) over the tracks ofthe NS Chicago Line (46 trains), which are also use by Amtrak (14 trans) In effect, NS gets upto six hours a day back by not being blocked at Englewood by the morning and evening Metra lst. “Another set of projects focused on the western half of Indiana Harbor Belt, which handles about 75 freight trains a day on its line atound suburbia, Hand-theow switches ‘were converted to power, and centralized traffic control was added, alongwith a third main track in some locations and higher- speed connections with Class railroads. A third set of projects, to wrap up in 2016 af fectsa CSK and NS corridor paral to Westeen Avenue, fom a connection with UP at Ogden Junction, to 75% Street on ‘CX and through Ashland Avenue Yar to ‘CPS1B on the NS Chicago Line. “Iknow its chicago = eee al unetion ‘oth street ‘teen tat learner Comet re Sven nuts” Allen says, "but NS runs trains from Narth Jersey to Chicago on CTC, and BNSF does the same from LA to Chicago, but here they were on unsignaled railroad trying to reach each other” CSX interchanges with BNSF on this corridor at Cicero, through hand-throw switches over a slow-speed track. Its name? "Hole in the Fence” Sill it anyone's guess what happens to 75 Street and other undone projects. One isan ambitious plan to reroute Amtrak trains from New Orleans and southern Ili. nois from Canadian National tracks (former Ilinois Central) onto the NS Chicago Line at Grand Crossing. These and other Amtrak. trains from the east would run on tracks separated from NS freight traffic, past En _glewood to within 2 miles of Amtrak own- ership south of Union Station, This would permit abandonment of the St. Charles Air Line south ofthe Loop. “At some point” Hamberger says, “people ate going to have ‘An all train creeps off the Belt Railway of Chic to recognize there will be public funding, or there will not, And if there will not, wats the backup plan? I suspect the Retiree Brain “Trusts thinking the same thing” Even ifcompleted, CREATE wouldn't fix Chicago, “We can make it run more smoothly; Hamberger says, “but Chicago will always bea challenge’ He’ proud that the time it takes the typical fright car to traverse the city has fallen from 44 hours ‘when CREATE began toa recent 33, CHI-TOWN SHOWDOWN In any event, not all of Chicagos prob- Jems carry dollar signs. tart with pride of possession, Nobody, but nobody, wants to cede an ounce of authority ora foot of prop. crt. Railroaders have alow opinion of the ‘Chicago Transportation Coordination Office (CTCO), one reason being that itis ineffec- tual To give CTCO teeth would cede that ‘ounce of authority that railroads jealously protect. Get past pride of posession, and al- ‘most anything could be accomplished You'e in CTCO’ office on South Canal Stree, talking to Stephen Hoye, is director, who is employed by Belt Railway of Chica {go and widely respected by his peers. “Our mission isto oversee the operation of the ‘Chicago terminal” he says, carefully choos ing his words, “By that, 'mean making sure the traffi flow is moving, that the proper ‘communication has taken place between railroads, and that railroads have the proper tools, meaning communications devices, ra- dios, and processes that mirror each other “That railroads now talk to each other is «a good start, but Hoye continues. We Jooked hard a last winter, what we did right and wrong. We knew things had to change, We took our alert plan, which may not have worked in 2014, and turned it up side down, In essence, we went from a gro: cery cart of steps from which railroads ‘could pick and choose what todo, toa >> Fora side show and video of operations in ‘a ‘rapstlag com eon 0 and into BNSF's Cicero Yard on a tight-radius connection. Tratfic-clogging interchanges ‘exist throughout the city, notably at the nearby “Hole in the Fence” connection between BNSF and CSX. ive photos, uns: Davi Lassen mandatory directive, based on the data” Under thisnew sytem, CTCO monitors the big yards for car nventoryand dwell times, and Key corridors for inbound train numbers and velocity also tracks weather forecasts for anova snow accumulation, and high temperature. When more than three of those components dsteviorate, CTCO institutes a “Operating Condition Yellow” alert that requies raloads to e- dice freight volume by 15 percent throagh the affected yards and routes When sic Components become crit, a “OpCon Red? mandates a reduction of 25 percent “The sem gots ist test on Jn 3 svhen the fith-biggsstsnowll in the city's recorded history ble in, causing an OpCon Red the net dey. Hoye sys the eductons applied to trans and cars using IHB and BRG."Wehad to make certain they stayed Sid Rairoads bit n-through tains st outlying casication yards that avoided Clearing, or eruted tins, OpCon Red worked extremely wel says Moye, Chicago trembled but didnt crumble, But wheres CTCO when it comes to taking the next steps in cooperation be (ores alrondst Crews could be rivera Iy qualified to operate anyshere inthe tina regardless of ownership but are not Now rots coulé be identified that jemp from one raloadé ownership to anothers inorder to move trains to ther destinations fester along the path ofleast resistance. Thats not happening either. Asked what he wishes ad happened dferntly in 2014, Canaan Pact President Keith Cre re sponds “I wish the raioads would have had the sme lee of cooperation that we do today, Conditions would not have been 1 bed” Trust and respect among saroad ers wn both know Chicago and have the authority to make major decision is onthe "pbick bat remain in shor sup Related tol his the fact hat the 83.4 million Metra commuter tran riders in 2014. 3.37 million Amivak riders in 2014. 50,000 Freight cars heating toward Chicago every day 15,000 Freight cars processed by Chicago yards every day. 800 Passenger trains entering or leaving Chicago on weekdays. 500 Freight trans operated inthe termina each day. 241 Metra commuter tain stations. 70 Percentage of CREATE projects completed, being bui, in ral design, der review. yards and tracks and other assets are loosely used. Ron Batory, who revived the lagging Belt Railway during the 1990s, wonders why the BRC and Indiana Harbor Bet arent be ing managed as one railroad by a holding company, If they were, he says, lot more traffic could be pushed through Chicago. ‘Clas I railcoads realized enormous syner- {ges by consolidating” Batory says “The same should hold true ofthe switch: ing compaties” lus, to quote Batory, Chicago “has a di- rminishing amount of capacity to absorb prolonged trafic surges” such as occurred just asthe winter crisis ended in 2014. Yards have closed as railroads rely more on either the Belt Railway to sort manifest cars at Clearing, or at outlying terminals to build Indiana Harbor Belt and CSX trains meet near Riverdale, lI, on the IMB. is:hi.Geecer run-through trains at places like Galesburg, Il; Elkhart, Ind; Bellevue, Ohio, and North Platte, Neb, Meanwhile, unit trains of coal, grain, crude oi, ethanol, sind, and potash raw descend on the terminal at unpredict- able times, interfering with scheduled freight traffic and plugging main tracks be ‘cause there ae few places to store long trains while interchanges are arranged. INDIANA UNBOUND (On a bitterly cold February morning, youie standing atthe epicenter of Chicago freight railroading. But you'e notin Chica- go or even in Illinois, This is Pine Junction Justa it south of Lake Michigan in Gary, Ind, where the vast majority of freight trains from the east briefly come together. Just feet apart are the double-track Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern from Cleveland and Elkhart and the double-track Barr Subdivi: sion of CSX from Cleveland and Willard, Ohio, Both routes easily se 60-plus trains a AAs railroads seek to open up Chicago and avoid future crises, they are consider. any number of opts. Tras spoke to present and retire ral executives who have ‘rapped wth problems in that city. ‘These are amang ther suggestons for making a difference. Bearin mind tat if change were easy, these things would hae long ago been accomplished. @itit needs doing, do it yourself. CREATE was conceived asa private pubic partnership, bt that model no longer works. the benefit is great enough, pay for these projects yours, even ft means payng Metas share. that 32 Tins .uy208 ‘seems unfl, then charge Metra User fees ach time it runs a train ‘over one ofthese improvements. Bottom ine: Reiroads ae ich but -tiact 25 if they are poor. The ‘sooner they do highretum projects, the sooner tey reap the benefits, Va a day, Close by and parallel to these are lead tracks to Canadian Nationals Kirk Yard, now CN’ principal classification yard in the region, Jast west from where you stand at Clark Road isthe overpass above CSX and INS that brings CN trains to Kirk from the cast, west, and south, via Grifith, Ind. ‘The point is, a year ago Pine Junction was where you could go to witness the mayhem, the lines of stopped CSX and N’ trains (many parked without crews) wait {ng fora nod to get into the Chicago termi- nal, Today, winter weather be damned, ev. erything is moving. AL:10 a.m, comes NS train 21M from Croxton, NJ, followed five ‘minutes later by C8X Q156 to South Kear ny, NJ. and then a westbound CSX inter- ‘modal train, On the overpass above both railroads you see a CN train entering Kirk. On and on come the trans, 13 in one hour, and none as much as slows down, ‘Alot of the congestion that befell Chi cago in 2014 had its origins in northwest @ Make indiana Harbor Belt Chicago version of the ‘he Haor to propose 2 recaptalain in ich al akoads ‘hat nant bent rom hang 2 21° Century bal ravay conte hus of money ines. “is woul eed to nud Union Pasi and BNSF Raiway Tis makes te Harbor a fas, smooth ‘aoa renay rug own, possibly nutng a new yr to Stage and sevice rtermodal and tains being interchange worked wth the Name project at = let whch created a comecton 5 rom ports to main nes east of LA @ Establish a control ‘Alameda Corridor. CSk and NS center with teeth. it coud be Use ther Slipercent ounersin of the Chicago Transportation Indiana a crazy quilt of active railroads that cross and intersect one another. By the same token, this region is also secing rail road- initiated solutions to that congestion. For instance, Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern, a Genesee & Wyoming property, spent alot of money on the former Pennsy ‘ain line through Crestline, Ohio, and Fort Wayne, Ind, to Gary, which itleases from CSX, raising track speed feom as litle as 10 mph to 40 mph. This permits Norfolk Southern to run up to six tains a day on the regional railroad, using its trackage rights Eastbound NS trains enter CF&E at East Hobart, Ind, where a new power switch connects the CF&E with NS Chica go District line to Fort Wayne (a former ‘Nickel Plate route). This began in February. [NS this pring also brooght its expand- ced classification yard in Bellevue, up to full speed. Bellevue can shoot manifest tains to Chicago via either the Chicago Line or Chicago District, taking pressure off the big sump yard in Elkhart ‘And on its Chicago Line, NS in 2014 ‘embarked on a $71 million government- funded upgrade, the Indiana Gateway Pro} cect that will see five crossovers and a total of about seven miles of third main track added ‘between the Ilinois state line and just eas of| Porter (Chesterton), Ind. Also part ofthat project isa siding on Amtrak's Michigan Line noctheast of Porter, to allow Amtrak trains to meet without tying up NS tracks. Across the state line in Tlinois, CSK ‘Transportation had a terrible time getting its trains from the south to their principal des- tinations in Chicago, Clearing Yard (mani fest) and adjacent Bedford Park (intermod- al). After passing Thornton Junction on the Vila Grove Sub (jointly owned with UP and clispatched by the other road), they had to Coordination fice, but in thet case CTCO would need higher calber people inotved. The purpose would not be to dispatch trans within te terminal or tll raloads which tains they can run, But t would establish a benchmark that represents comfort level for congeston. When trafic grows beyond tha, begin teing carers ‘they cannot move more afc into tom until they take that amount cout, o that they can run X trains int the city the next 12 or 24 hours. The control center could ‘also work vith rairoads to develop schedhles and tight windows for ‘moving freight trains trough the ‘terminal andthe ertial uncon, Norfolk Southern train 21M bears down on Pine Junction in Gary, Ind., on Feb. 19, 2015. To the right is CSX's main line. Fes w.Fraiey fight their way north through Yard Center, past the IMB and CSX east-west crossings in Dolton and then through the byper-congest ced 80" Stret, Belt Junction, and Forest Hill interlockings. Ths took hours. All that pain is largely ended, In 2013, in a swap of rights, CSX began operating and. maintaining Canadian Nationals Elsdon Subdivision from Munster, Ind. and Elsdon, dizectly south of BNSF’ Corwith Yard. CNS Acquistion of Elgin, Joliet & Eastern had makle ths former Grand Trunk Western dlouble-track main line unneeded west of Grifth, In mid-2014 a new CREATE-fund: ced connecting track at Thornton Junction allowed CSX to enter its new territory and go directly (with minimal interference) to both Clearing and Bedford Park, via Hay: ford interlocking In addition, oncea new connection is built at Wellsboro, Ind, CSX has trackage rights to run four trains a day over CN be- tween Munster and Wellsboro, on that part ‘of the Elsdon that CN still operates. Expect to see the four hottest CSX east-west trains take this quick shortcut. Finally, CSX and BNSF havea new inter change: Smithboro IL, 250 miles from Chi ‘cago and just northeast of St.Louis. It on the Beardstown Sub of BNSF and the India- napolis-St, Louis line of CSX. The connect ing track has hand: throw switches, bt isa art, and it gets ol trains out of Chicago, INTO THE CITY The morning you visit Clearing Belt Railway of Chicago is breathing with ‘one lung, the westbound hump having shut down for retarder maintenance. In- side the massive tower at the crest, you find yardmaster Nick Pehlke and yard conductor Nick Zegar minding the east: bound hump, and theresa problem. An empty tank car just came toa halt on a re tarder track, possibly because air had not 2 Up to six Norfolk Southern trains per day tse the Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastorn (here at Hanna, Ind, in July 2011}. 28. olson @ duality crews terminal- wide, Theres amostavays at least ne other way to et rom A {0 Bin the terminal — ifthe crew 's qualified, So work toward ‘unifying crows over a wider are, to ge depatcers moe choices in congested places, This is where (CO or another command Sucre, un on a 24/7 bass, woul come ino ay, suggesting to dispatchers alternate ways to cross the ey. Bu crews have to be cused ois is or aught © Communicate effectively. Develop a standardized, righ focused means of talking, one raloa tothe other, so time is nat wasted when things go wrong. Maginize responsiites and accauntabites among the fewest possible decision makers, When ‘isagreements cart be bridged, have rapid means of escalating the disagreement to senior executives © Avoid the city. Canacian Nationa has its Elgin, Jot & Eastern (above at JB Tower im West @ Find places to berth unit Chicago on CNS fst day n corral the Class I aroads in 2009) to ease congestion But BNSF and NS can make more use ofthe NS Kankakee Branch wth a ‘modest investment. Or sor 2 short ine and relay 15 mies of track over abaroned nehtsotnay to svete the Karkakee line to : Welsbor, ind, to connect with CN and CSX (and NS at South Bend va trackage rights over CN). The Great Lakes Basin alread, envisioned to run around Chicago, code conceivably hancle the overhead traffic, andthe $6 bf to bul it woul be on the balance sheets of trains and run-throughs. Most adional switching yards are ‘Bone ane in any case tacks are ‘often too short. So trains stand on man ines or plag sings ina 150- mie radius of Chicago. Create 8 place where these trans can be held ‘and serviced onrentbythehour ‘racks wile anatng interchange. For example, there appears to be room for suc a place between CSK Barr Yard an IB Ble sland Yar, © Be humble. Recognize that pride of possession isnot a virtue but an impediment to change. A beiter way to un Chicaga may mean giving up tet foot of property, tat ounce of auhorty — Fred W. Fraley Hump conductor Mike Bartz oversees traffic at Clearing Yard, The monitor shows an engine getting a stranded car rev. fraiey been fully drained from its brake line. In any event, the tivo men improvise a plan that sends cars for the blocked classfica- tion tracks to other tracks. Once the long cat is humped, the Belts lacomotive cou- ples onto the errant tanker and sho fn its way ‘The Belt is as much a Chicago insti tion as the White Sox and Soldier Field, and older than both of them, tracing its start to 1882, Its 28 mainline miles are in the shape of an upside-down T; the north south part running from Canadian Pacific at Cragin (CP calls it Cicero West) on the North Side to the vicinity of ‘There, one arm turns east to CP 509 on Norfolk Southern’ Chicago Line near Lake Michigan, and the other turns west to Clearing Yard, a 786-acre forest of tracks that seems to engulf Bedford Park, the sub arb in which it resides, “Were pushing our limits" reports Belt President Pat O’Brien. “Right now our hump number is about 3,000 cars a day: Last fll we peaked at 3,300-3,400, That’ the 34. Traine sy 208 upper end of what we can do” This cannot ‘be good news fr its owners, the six Class I railroads entering the city. As ralloads shut ddovin humps and convert yards from ear- Toad to intermodal, it falls more and mare ‘on Clearing to classify and distribute gener- al freight. This it does with gust, in early 2015 making up roughly 30 trains aday. ‘The box score today sx trains for BNSE Railway, two each for CN and CP, eight for (CSX, five for NS, four for Union Pacific, two for the Belts South Chicago yard and one ‘each for IHB and Wisconsin & Southern. Indiana Harbor Belt flanks BRC around the city from CP at Bensenville in the northwest suburbs, past its Blue Tsland ‘hump yard in the south suburbs, to Gibson Yard in Hammond, Ind. IFthe Belts main jab is classifying cars, the Harbor is mostly a line-haul carrier for trains of user ral roads o get around Chicago’ perimeter and an industrial switching company, pri- marily for steel and other manufacturers in Indiana. Gibsons role isto take loaded a tomobile trains from CN, CP, CSX, and NS, and make up outbound auto trans for BNSF and UP. The Harbor is owned 49 percent by CP and 25.5 percent each by (CSX and NS. (Interestingly, CSX and NS shares in IHB are owned by Conrail, which they in turn own, making it dificult for et ther railroad to dispose ofits shares with- ‘out the consent ofthe other) Both railroads are in good shape. So why not, as Batory suggests, ‘merge them in a holding company and manage the Belt and Harbor as one proper: ty, to better utilize the assets and increase ‘capacity? “I know it has been studied by the ‘owning railroads” the Belts O’Brien says “But its a hard question. The railroads are so diferent” Adds Cindy Sanborn: ‘Tim not sure there isa whole lot of synergy? Probably no other Class [road is more entwined in the Chicago terminal than Ca- nadian Pacific, CP routes about 10 trains a cay through the heart of Chicago to recon- nect with its eastern lines in Windsos, Ont, via trackage rights on Norfolk Southern, ‘And what a path those trains take through town: from Bensenville, 9 miles east on the CP Elgin Sub (dodging Metra trains) to the Belt Railway at Cragin/Cicero West, then ‘on BRC almost 12 miles straight south, parallel to Cicero Avenue and past Midway International Airport, to Hayford inter lacking, followed by a final 11 miles east (Ghrough the funnel at Forest Park and Belt Junction) to reach the NS Chicago Line at ‘CP 509 in South Chicago. Some ofthat traffic could as easly take anall-Canada route, As Creel explains “The shortest route for our erude oi, for Gest atestasn dunes ‘he aka LY Soeeit— MStonsid se enslenctons gee ocr de chase nian ety — instance, is through Chicago. Bu if Chica- {go gets congested, we canilip the switch and go above the Great Lakes. In its frustrations during 2014, CP pro posed taking over management ofthe Indi ana Harbor Belt or buying out partners CSX and NS, "We know how to run a rail road pretty well and saw this as an oppor- tunity? Creel says. “But 49-percent ovner- ship doesit get you alot” The other ‘owners of THB said no thanks. The other railroads would like tobe in the position of BNSF Railway and Canadi- an National, BNSF can run a limited mum- ber of freights in and out of Cicero Yard luring commuter train rush, thanks to having three or more main tracks between Union Avenue near downtown and Eola near Aurora, on the former Burlington ‘Northern line, The railroad got another turn of good luck last September, when Metra moved its Rock Island District tr ‘minus from Joliet Union Station to a new facility that dacs not cross BNSF former Santa Fe line. Thus, freights got 90 more rmintes of green signals at Joliet each ‘weekday rush period. ‘Canadian National’ solution to getting through Chicago and connecting its pieces ‘was to go completely around the city, by Duying the outer bel lin, gin, Joliet & Eastern, from US. Stel, in 2008, That pro} cect was undertaken by Claude Mongeau, now CNS president, in 2003, while he was chief financial office. The BJ&E starts at Kirk Yard in Gary and sweeps around Chi- cago, meeting CN lines at Griffith (Grand Trunk Western), Matteson (Ilinois Central), Jolit (Gulf Mobile & Ohio), North Iowa (IC Towa extension), and Leithton (Wisconsin Central), CN then moved most freight switching to Kirk from Harvey Il, freeing the later facility to be its intermedal hub, Mongeat figures CN has spent $700 milion on this project, including $150 mil lion on improvements at Kirk, whose hump processes up o 2,000 carsa day in the shadow of US. Steels massive Gary Works So effectively did EJ&E solve CNS Chicago problem that itis no longer a financial con- tributor to CREATE, although it remains a ‘member, Mongeau is no doubt correct in saying, "We created capacity for other ral roads to use in Chicago: ‘Union Pacific will Soon have BNSF’ Alexbiity on 44 miles ofits Geneva Subdivi- sion, from Ogilvie Transportation Center to Elburn, This segment hosts 59 Metra West Line trains and a ike number of UP fieights ceach weekday. UP is working to fill the ast triple-track gaps, 6.2 mile from West Cl ‘cago (Kress) to Geneva (Peck), and 1.6 mle from River Forest (Vale) to the east ‘end of Proviso Yard. Last year a CREATE ‘project brought an IHB connection over UP tracks at east Proviso and added 3 miles of Eo En Norfolk Southern and Belt Rallway of Chicago tains work at Pullman Junction, I, on July 1, 2008. The Belt is owned by the six Class I roads serving the city. ns fescher 7 ‘At Union Pacific's Bryn Mawr control point, north of Bonsenvil, I, Canadian Pacific and UP ‘wains near their yards as a United Alines plane prepares to land at O'Hare. third main adjacent to the yard. “We stand ‘oar trains down from 6 to 9 each morning and 4 to 7 each afternoon says Doug Gat: ton, the Chicago Service Units director of transportation services. “Generally we dont ‘operate a all” Completion of these projects (o-funded with the state of Illinois) means UP wil gett railroad back. And finally, theres whet you cannot yet see: Great Lakes Basin Railroad, the brain child of software developer Frank Patton He envisions a $6 billion outerouter belt around Chicago that would begin just southwest of Janesville, Wis, and make an arc through Ines, avoiding towns (towns ‘mean NIMBY) by going west of Rockford (CN), DeKalb (UP), Earlville (BNSF), Coal City (BNSF), and Peotone (CN). It would then enter Indiana and head north, passing east of Wanatah (NS and CF&E), Wellsboro (CN, CSX) and LaPorte (NS) before ending at Michigan City (South Shore Line). At each ral intersection, Great Lakes would bbuld flyovers and holding tracks. Trains ‘would use each ovener’s locomotives but Great Lakes crews. Think fit a atoll rad. Patton maintains that he has been ‘warmly received by the Class I railroads, ‘but none has made commitments to use his railroad, However, until they do commit, hhow will he atract investors and lenders? Says CSX' Sanborn: "No railroad will ut the door on something that gives you more capacity through Chicago. But will it be built? And what will it cost to use? Patton, the 71-year-old businessman, i the latest in a storied line of ralleoad pro- moters that go back almost two centuries. The facts, some of them succeeded, afew wildly so, because they filled aching needs, You might look upon the Great Lakes Basin this way: It requires a miracle to be built. But ifitor even some foreshortened version afit ‘comes to pass it will cause a second miracle by draining the pressure from Chicago be foe its railroad world explodes again, rcrinatsgcon 35 Canyo iit € fol Tel Te Pe aS) mal A Oe- LN ol) Story and photos by Scott Lothes The chasm of the Feather River's North Fork runs to a depth of 2,000 feet at Pulga, Calif, where the narrow shoulder of state CPO een cee LO a can railroading, On a shelf carved out of granite, the main line of SCM ee eer nee a a Ca eee eee Lay the river. Where the east wall of the canyon becomes too steep, RO CC RC ee ee amc cn Ree Rene eae Tey Pees cS ae ee ao TEU et eee ee ee ee ROO eae Cae Ree eae eee a means ERO a Ce ce Ee ee cc Cer eg ey wash of light through the rainy darkness at Pulga, Calif, iluminating the twin bridges over the Feather River, ile a clear signal beckons around the curve.