On my 1984 visit to Chicago I’d made photos and traveled to/from the old North Western Station.
Wow, have things changed.
Yes, I’ve made some visits between then and now, but it’s been a long time.
The old station was torn down not long after my first visit and replaced with an epic glass box. Today, this is known as the Ogilvie Transportation Center.
In the mid-1990s, about the time that Chicago & North Western was folded into Union Pacific, the station’s Bush train sheds were demolished and replaced with more modern platform coverings. I made a few photos during that transition.
Still, it seems a bit strange for me to see the former North Western Station in this modern format. My impressions from 32 years ago remain only in my memory and few photos that I made with my Leicas.
I used my Nikon F3 loaded Fuji Velvia 100F and a 24mm Nikkor Lens to expose this view of an outbound Metra train headed toward Aurora.
I’ve found that a wide-angle lens is a good tool for making use of an impressive sky.
Here, I’ve offset the Chicago skyline with the old power plant at right. The skyscrapers help put the clouds above in relative perspective. By placing the theoretical horizon near the center of the frame, and thus keeping the camera body near level, has allowed for these buildings to remain on more or less on a perpendicular line with horizon.
If I’d aimed slightly more skyward, the nature of this 24mm lens design would skew the visual perspective and the buildings would seem to fall away from the film plane.
The bright blue and white paint on Metra’s MP36-3C nicely mimics the sky above, while the black band on the body of the locomotive emulates the width and tone of the Sears Tower (now called the Willis Tower) both of which help make for a more unified composition.
Amtrak’s California Zephyr on the last lap to Chicago.
Last Saturday afternoon, Chris Guss, Pat Yough and I finished up a day’s photography on the former Burlington ‘Triple Track’ around La Grange, Illinois.
We inspected Metra’s Congress Park Station, which consists of two narrow platforms along the busy mainline. Here the sun held a little longer than other places where trees were causing difficult shadows.
Shortly before sundown, we caught an outward Metra train. An automated voice announced that this train wouldn’t stop. After it passed, I spotted a headlight on the horizon. Mistaking this for a relatively slow moving freight, I returned to the car for a longer lens.
Pat Yough shouted to me, as the train was approaching quickly. I hastily returned to the platform, making test exposures as I ran.
The resulting photos are what our friend Tim Doherty calls ‘Hail Marys.’ I had just enough time to compose and pop off a few frames as the Zephyr blew through Congress Park.
Amtrak Number 6, the California Zephyr approaches Congress Park, Illinois at sunset on November 9, 2013. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D with 200mm.
And there are still six tracks, but now it is in effect two parallel lines; a four-track electric suburban route run by Chicago’s Metra, and a double track line run by Canadian National.
On November 7, 2013, Chris Guss gave me a whirlwind tour of Canadian National operations in Chicago, largely focused on former Illinois Central lines.
We scoped this location on East Pershing Street south of downtown, knowing that Canadian National’s southbound freight from Waterloo, Iowa (symbol 33891) was on its way. We didn’t wait long before it came into view.
In the course of about 25 minutes, we caught the freight followed by a wave of passenger trains run by Metra, South Shore and Amtrak.
The old Illinois Central catenary adds an element of intrigue to the gritty atmosphere of this line.
While waiting for trains, an enthusiastic baker came by and offered us butter cookies. Tasty too!
I exposed photos with three cameras, working with both my Canon EOS 7 and Lumix LX3, plus my Dad’s Leica M4.
During out short visit the sky over Lake Michigan quickly changed from blue to gray, a weather condition all to typical of Chicago.
I made this image of an outbound Metra-Electric multiple-unit in the summer of 1996. This heavily traveled former Illinois Central suburban line remains a rarely photographed operation. I’ve always thought it was odd that it’s so infrequently pictured. Often, photographers neglect the most common subjects. So, there’s a lesson on seeing the ordinary in interesting ways.
On February 25,1995, I made this atmospheric image of an inbound Metra train on the ‘Burlington Triple Track’ at Highlands, Illinois (Today a BNSF mainline). A mix of thin high clouds and smog has tinted the winter sun. A cropped version appeared on the cover of Passenger Train Journal issue 217. At the time, I was employed as an Associate Editor at Pentrex Publishing, including PTJ, and often contributed photograph to the Pentrex magazines.
Chicago suburban passenger railway, Metra operated the only fleet of Electro-Motive Division F40Cs a six-motor cowl-type passenger locomotive similar to Amtrak’s SDP40F, but equipped with HEP (headend power), and featured corrugated stainless-steel side paneling. The 5 EMD F40Cs, were acquired through Metra predecessor agency for service on Milwaukee Road. Numbered 600-614, the F40Cs were the last Metra heritage units in regular passenger service.
These were an unusual modern application of a six-motor diesel for passenger service. Since the mid-1970s, most passenger locomotives have been four-motor ‘B-B’ models.
They exhibit General Motors classic well-balanced utilitarian appearance, and are similar to other cowl models built from the late 1960s and mid-1970s.
In August 1984, I made a ten-day adventure of riding Amtrak. I visited Montreal via the Montrealer, then to Washington D.C., where I boarded the Cardinal for Chicago. It was my first visit to America’s ‘Railroad Capital’; I spent three days wandering around, riding trains and transit, exposing every frame of film I brought with me. At that time, my standard camera was a 1937-built Leica IIIA that my father gave me for my 10th birthday. In addition to this Leica, for this trip, my dad gave me loan of its clone, which he’d bought years before complete with wind-up mechanical drive. Since the drive was weighty, I left it at home. Fitted to this camera was an obsolete collapsible Leitz 50mm Elmar with non-standard f-stops (f3.5, f4.5, f6.3, f9 & etc). While a remarkably sharp piece of glass, this lens suffered from antique coatings that made it inadequate for my color photography and made it susceptible to excessive flare. As a result, I relegated this lens to my B&W work, while using my 50mm f2.0 Summitar for color slides. Among the B&W photos I made was this image of Chicago Regional Transportation Authority F40PH 161 at Chicago & North Western Station.
What I remember best from this solo trip was arriving in Evanston, Illinois, where I had a pre-booked and pre-paid hotel room waiting for me, only to be told in a sneering manner by the woman at the desk that I, ‘wasn’t allowed to stay at the hotel, because I was a minor’. She then began to admonish me for traveling alone! I was 17. I was incensed! “Lady, I’ve been traveling for weeks by myself, and you’re the first to cause me a problem because of my age! So! You’d rather have me on the street than in your hotel?” I walked out. Not one to waste time, I resorted to staying in the Evanston YMCA, which was primitive, but adequate, cheap, and didn’t interfere with my travel because of age.