Metra Electric Line

Metra Electric Line

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{{No footnotes|article|date=January 2009}} The '''Metra Electric District''' is an [[Railway electrification system|electrified]] [[commuter rail]] line owned and operated by [[Metra]] which connects [[Millennium Station]] (formerly Randolph Street Station) in downtown [[Chicago]], with the city's southern [[suburb]]s. While Metra does not explicitly refer to any of its lines by color, the timetable accents for the Metra Electric District are printed in bright "Panama orange" to reflect the line's origins with the [[Illinois Central Railroad]] (IC) and its ''[[Panama Limited]]'' [[passenger train]]. The line is the only Metra line powered by [[Overhead lines#Overhead catenary|overhead catenary lines]], and the only to have three branches. Trains operate on 1500 [[volt]]s [[direct current]], and all stations have [[high-level platform]]s. The Metra Electric District shares the main line north of [[Kensington/115th Street (Metra)|Kensington]] with NICTD's [[South Shore Line (NICTD)|South Shore Line]], which is also powered by overhead lines and is an [[interurban]] line that runs through the Chicago suburbs of northern [[Indiana]] to [[South Bend, Indiana|South Bend]]. ===Steam era=== The line was originally built and operated by the Illinois Central Railroad. This commuter service, one of the first outside the major metropolitan areas of the northeastern United States, began operation on July 21, 1856 and ran between the IC's downtown station (at the current location of Millennium Station) and [[Hyde Park (Chicago)|Hyde Park]]. Extensions of the commuter service were later made, and part of the line was elevated for the [[World's Columbian Exposition]] of 1893 in [[Jackson Park (Chicago)|Jackson Park]]. The line predates the [[1871 Great Chicago Fire]] and used to run on a [[trestle]]s just offshore in [[Lake Michigan]]. After the fire, remains of buildings destroyed by the fire were dumped into the lake, creating [[landfill]] that today forms the foundation of [[Grant Park (Chicago)|Grant Park]], which the Metra Electric District still runs through to this day. In the late 19th century two branches were added to the line: one, built in the early 1880s, ran from [[Brookdale, Illinois|Brookdale]] southeast to [[South Chicago, Chicago|South Chicago]], and the other, built in the early 1890s, ran from Kensington southwest to [[Blue Island, Illinois|Blue Island]]. These two branches were later electrified and are still operated by Metra. ===Electrical IC era=== By the early 20th century the IC operated as many as 300 trains each day. Trains were operated by steam locomotives which produced a great deal of exhaust. This might have been tolerable had service been less frequent, but the service was popular with residents of Chicago's fashionable Hyde Park neighborhood. Reducing service would not have been popular, so in 1919, the IC and the [[Law and government of Chicago|Chicago government]] collaborated to build a [[berm]] stretching from the far south suburb of [[Homewood, Illinois|Homewood]] into the city. They also dug a trench from the near south side into the city proper. These moves resulted in elimination of all grade crossings on the busy main line. The main line now has one grade crossing just south of the [[Richton Park (Metra)|Richton Park]] station. The [[University Park (Metra)|University Park]] extension required the line to cross a very long private driveway as well. The South Chicago branch, on the other hand runs at-grade and operates on regular city streets with many grade crossings. The [[Level crossing|grade crossing]] elimination project was followed by the electrification of the line. The steam locomotives were replaced by electric trains which satisfied the concerns of the [[upper class]] residents of Hyde Park regarding the smoke and noise from the steam trains. The IC [[Railway electrification system|electrified]] its commuter tracks in 1926, then stretching from downtown to [[Matteson, Illinois|Matteson]]. In addition to the removal of all grade crossings, the tracks were completely separated from, and moved to the west side of, the two freight and [[inter-city rail|inter-city]] tracks. At [[McCormick Place]] just south of downtown Chicago, the two non-electrified tracks crossed over the new electric alignment to end at [[Central Station (Chicago terminal)|Central Station]]. The electric tracks continued north to the new Randolph Street Station, on the site of the IC's original terminal before Central Station opened in 1893, though it still served commuters. This resulted in the only commuter rail line in Chicago that is still electrified (excluding the South Shore Electric line which serves suburbs in Northwest [[Indiana]]), and the only rail line in the city with an overhead catenary system. The "IC Electric" was once Chicago's busiest suburban railroad, and carried a great deal of traffic within the city as well as to suburban communities. The three lines carried 26 million passengers in 1927, the first full year of electrified operation. Ridership numbers rose to 35 million in 1929, and reached an all-time peak of 47 million in 1946. Service was extended {{convert|1.1|mi|km}} southward from Matteson to [[Richton Park, Illinois|Richton Park]], a new station built at the south end of the coach storage yard, in 1946. The main line had six tracks between [[Roosevelt Road]] (Central Station) and 53rd Street, and four tracks from there south to 111th Street. The six-track segment was reduced to four tracks in 1962. The main line has two tracks south from 111th Street, as does the South Chicago branch; the Blue Island branch has a single track. ====1972 collision==== The worst rail accident in Chicago history, the [[Illinois Central Gulf commuter rail crash]], occurred on October 30, 1972. A new lightweight bi-level commuter train inbound to Chicago during the morning rush hour overshot the 27th Street platform and backed up into the station. The bi-level train had already tripped the signals to green for the next train, an older, heavy steel single-level train. As the bi-level train was backing up at {{convert|11|mph|km/h}}, it was struck by the single-level express train at full speed. The single-level train [[telescoping (railway)|telescoped]] the lightweight bi-level train, killing 45 passengers and injuring hundreds more, primarily in the bi-level train. A major contributing factor was that the Illinois Central Railroad used a dark gray color scheme, including the ends of rail cars, that was very difficult to see on the cloudy morning of the accident. After the accident the ends of all commuter rail cars and locomotives in the Chicago area were painted with orange and white stripes for better visibility. ===RTA era=== In 1976 the [[Regional Transportation Authority (Illinois)|Regional Transportation Authority]] signed a contract with Illinois Central to fund its commuter service. The next year an extension of {{convert|2.3|mi|km}} was built to the current terminal at [[University Park, Illinois|University Park]] (originally named Park Forest South). On May 1, 1987 Metra bought the line and its branches for $28 million. Two inter-city freight tracks are still owned by the IC and are now part of the [[Canadian National Railway]]. They are used by [[Amtrak]]'s ''[[City of New Orleans]]'', ''[[Illini (Amtrak)|Illini]]'' and ''[[Saluki (Amtrak)|Saluki]]'' trains. The Metra Electric District is the only line on the Metra system in which all stations (except 18th and 47th Streets, both [[request stop|flag stops]]) have ticket vending machines. The machines originally vended [[magnet|magnetically-encoded]] tickets which unlocked the turnstiles. People with paper tickets or weekend passes, travelers who qualified for reduced fares and anyone who had trouble with the vending machines, were required to pick up a blue or orange pal phone to contact an operator who would subsequently unlock the turnstiles. Complaints from passengers who missed their trains caused Metra to remove the turnstiles in November 2003. The Main line and South Chicago branch run daily, including Sundays and holidays, but the Blue Island Branch does not operate on Sundays or holidays. A unique feature of the Metra Electric schedule is the similarity of the weekday and Saturday timetables. Many express trains run throughout the day in both directions. On other Metra lines, express service operates exclusively during the morning and afternoon rush hours. ==Fleet== [[File:Metra-System.png|thumb|right|300px|Commuter lines shown in Panama Orange on this schematic for the Metra Electric District serve Chicago and its southern and eastern suburbs. Dark South Shore Burgundy on this schematic for the [[Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District]] serve Chicago's southern and eastern suburbs in Illinois and Indiana]] The Metra Electric District uses bi-level [[Highliner]] multiple-unit cars, first built by the [[St. Louis Car Company]] in 1972. In 2005 these cars began to be replaced with [[stainless steel]] bi-level [[multiple unit|MUs]] built by [[Nippon Sharyo]]. These will be supplanted by identical MUs built by the Sumitomo Group to help support a new Illinois located factory built by the corporation. {| class="wikitable" ! Numbers ! Type ! Year built ! Builder |- |N/A |MU Coach |Deliveries begin in 2012 |[[Sumitomo Group]] |- | 1201–1226 | MU Coach | 2005 | [[Nippon Sharyo]] |- | 1501–1630 | MU Coach | 1971–1972 | [[St. Louis Car Company|St. Louis]] |- | 1631–1666 | MU Coach | 1978–1979 | [[Bombardier Transportation|Bombardier]] |} ==External links== *[http://metrarail.com/metra/en/home/maps_schedules/metra_system_map/me/schedule.html Metra / Electric District Schedules] *[http://www.hydeparkhistory.org/herald/ICElectric.pdf Hyde Park Historical Society Article] *[http://web.presby.edu/~jtbell/transit/Chicago/MetraElectric/ Metra Electric District: History and Pictures] {{Commonscat-inline}} {{Metra}} {{coord missing|Illinois}}