METRA'S RAILROADS

As late as 1972, nine separate private railroads provided commuter rail service in the Chicago area. One line, originally operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad to and from Valparaiso, Indiana, was never part of Metra and was discontinued in 1991.

The eight remaining commuter rail operations eventually all became parts of Metra. All operating under the Metra name, except for the South Shore Line which primarily serves Indiana. Some lines became directly and completely owned by Metra. While with other lines, the private railroads continue to have varying roles in the actual operation of trains. In 1996, Metra opened a new line, the North Central Service.


Union Pacific (3 lines)
Present operating railroad: Union Pacific
Trackage operated by: Union Pacific
Previous operating railroad: Chicago and North Western (1848-1995)
Stations operated by: Union Pacific
Chicago-yard: California Avenue (opened 1926) (located along Geneva Subdivision)
Locomotive shops: Keeler Avenue (opened 1948) (located along Geneva Subdivision)

Milwaukee District (2 lines)
Present operating railroad: Metra
Trackage operated by: CP Rail/Soo Line (trackage owned by Metra)
Previous operating railroad: Milwaukee Road (1873-1982)
Stations operated by: Metra
Chicago-yard/shops: Western Avenue (opened 1926)

Rock Island District
Present operating railroad: Metra
Trackage operated by: Metra
Previous operating railroad: Rock Island (1852-1980)
Stations operated by: Metra
Chicago-yard/shops: 47th Street ("Rocket House") (opened 1950)

Burlington Northern Santa Fe
Present operating railroad: BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe)
Trackage operated by: BNSF
Previous operating railroad: Burlington Route (1864-1970)
Previous operating railroad: Burlington Northern (1970-1996)
Stations operated by: Burlington Northern Santa Fe
Union Station ticket office: operated by Metra
Chicago-yard/shops: 14th Street (opened 1920's/new 1989 building owned by Metra)

South West Service
Present operating railroad: Metra
Trackage operated by: Metra (leased from and dispatched by Norfolk Southern)
Previous operating railroad: Wabash (1880-1964)
Previous operating railroad: Norfolk and Western (1964-1982)
Previous operating railroad: Norfolk Southern (1982-1993)
Stations operated by: Metra
Chicago-yard/shops: Western Avenue (Milwaukee District)

Heritage Corridor
Present operating railroad: Metra
Trackage operated by: CN
Previous operating railroad: Chicago and Alton (1864-1947)
Previous operating railroad: Gulf Mobile and Ohio (1947-1972)
Previous operating railroad: Illinois Central Gulf (1972-1987)
Previous operating railroad: Illinois Central (1987-1998)
Chicago-yard/shops: Western Avenue (Milwaukee District)

Electric District
Present operating railroad: Metra
Trackage operated by: Metra
Previous operating railroad: Illinois Central (1856-1972)
Previous operating railroad: Illinois Central Gulf (1972-1987)
Stations operated by: Metra
Chicago-yard/shops: 18th Street (opened 1925)
Heavy repair facility: Kensington Yard (opened 1993)

North Central Service
Present operating railroad: Metra
Trackage operated by: CN
Previous operating railroad: Wisconsin Central (1996-2001)
Service introduced: 1996
Chicago-yard/shops: Western Avenue (Milwaukee District)

South Shore Line
Present operating railroad: Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District
Trackage operated by: Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District
Previous operating railroad: Chicago Lake Shore and South Bend (1904-1925)
Previous operating railroad: Chicago South Shore and South Bend (1925-1989)
Stations operated by: Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District
Shops: Michigan City

In each situation, the "operating railroad" employs the engineers and conductors operating the trains, and employs all shop personnel and operates the shops where cars and locomotives are maintained. The operating railroad also employs the ticket agents. When tickets are purchased by check, the check must be made payable to the operating railroad.

"Trackage operated by" indicates the railroad which employs the dispatchers, tower operators, and maintenance of way personnel for that line. Although for some maintenance of way projects, both Metra and private railroad personnel can be used. That railroad also issues the employee timetables, train orders, track warrants and track bulletins for the lines.


METRA AND RAILROAD OPERATIONS

After the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) was created in 1974, the original intention was that the private railroads would continue to operate the commuter trains, under purchase of service contracts. The private railroads continued to handle all aspects of the commuter train operations and maintenance, while receiving subsidies from the RTA and meeting RTA standards.

After the Rock Island railroad ceased to operate in 1980, commuter service continued for a year under Chicago and North Western Railroad management. But in 1981, C&NW decided it was no longer interested in managing the operation. The RTA thus had no choice but to form the Northeast Illinois Railroad Corporation (NIRC), as an agency to operate the service. And in 1982, NIRC assumed operation of the Milwaukee Road commuter trains, although the trackage remained under Milwaukee Road ownership until 1985.

The RTA, through NIRC, thus now had a full operating railroad, owning trackage, yards and shops, and employing engineers and conductors, ticket agents, and other personnel required to operate and maintain a railroad and its equipment. Although on the Milwaukee District, continuing to operate over Milwaukee Road controlled trackage under a trackage rights agreement. When Metra was formed out of the 1984 reorganization of the RTA, NIRC became part of Metra. Metra also assumed ownership of the Milwaukee Road trackage, after the 1985 acquisition of the Milwaukee Road by the Soo Line. But the Soo Line retained the operation and dispatching functions of the trackage.

In 1987, Metra expanded its direct operations by acquiring the commuter operations from the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad. The former Illinois Central electric commuter line had its own set of tracks separate from main line, making it simple for Metra to assume full direct ownership and operation. While between Chicago and Joliet via the former Gulf Mobile and Ohio, Metra would operate the trains with its own crews, using a trackage rights agreement. This service was then renamed the "Heritage Corridor".

In 1993, Metra assumed direct operation of the Orland Park service from Norfolk Southern, employing the train crews and renaming it the South West Service. The trackage west of 74th Street would be leased from Norfolk Southern, although NS would continue to dispatch the line from Landers Yard. Metra had earlier acquired ownership and the dispatching functions of the former Chicago and Western Indiana trackage, between 21st St. and 74th St.

And in 1996, Metra opened its new North Central Service, utilizing the Wisconsin Central Railroad and operating with its own crews. The new stations along the line were constructed by the individual towns. This participation of the individual towns was significant in making the new service possible.

Metra purchase of service contracts continue to exist only on the Union Pacific, and the BNSF lines. All personnel involved with the operation and maintenance of those lines and equipment, continue to be employed by those privately owned railroads. All personnel on other lines are employees of Metra, except for those involved in dispatching or maintenance of way for the privately owned lines, where Metra has trackage rights.