Chicago and its extensive railroad network evolved hand in hand. The city grew around its elevated and streetcar lines, while many suburbs grew around the commuter railroads and interurban lines. The streetcar lines have been replaced with buses and the interurbans are mostly gone, but Chicago remains the railroad center of the nation.
CHICAGO'S COMMUTERS DEPEND ON PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
Chicago is an area where public transportation is extensively used, even by those who can afford automobiles. More people who work in downtown Chicago use public transportation than drive. Visitors flying into both of Chicago's airports have access to rapid transit lines. And both of Chicago's baseball parks are located along a rapid transit line.
America's finest commuter rail system is now known as Metra, with 12 routes radiating from downtown Chicago. Metra not only provides interesting train riding for railfans, but can also be used to reach many of the Chicago area's great train watching spots.
The CTA runs the rapid transit trains over a variety of routes, constructed over a hundred year period. CTA also runs Chicago's buses, most of which operate over routes which originated as streetcar routes.
Chicago's suburbs once included several privately owned streetcar and interurban lines. And in later years, new privately owned bus companies were formed, and the electric railways were replaced with buses. These buses are now operated by Pace. Although many railfans lament the passing of the electric railways, some Pace bus routes now can come in handy for railfans, allowing cross-suburban travel between Metra lines without needing to double back through downtown Chicago.
The Regional Transportation Authority was formed in 1974 to subsidize and coordinate public transportation within the 6 county Chicago metropolitan area. The RTA now oversees the 3 operating agencies: Metra, CTA, and Pace.
Descriptions and brief histories of all railroads in the Chicago area. Included is information from railroad employee timetables and other sources, detailing stations, crossings and junctions, mileposts, number of tracks, and signal systems. Also included for most lines are track diagrams, and links to zoomable Google Maps showing locations of former stations.
Zoomable Google Maps will help one untangle the complex network of railroads in Chicago.
General information on Chicago's railroads, and how to best enjoy railfanning in the railroad center of the nation.
As the railroad center of the nation, Chicago was hub to the extensive nationwide passenger rail system in the golden age of passenger trains, using six major downtown terminals, and connecting the entire country. Chicago continues as Amtrak's main hub outside the Northeast Corridor.
The South Shore Line, now the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, connects Chicago with Hammond, Gary, Michigan City, South Bend. This line is regarded as "America's Last Interurban". In addition, those cities in Indiana once had streetcar systems and other interurban lines, which eventually evolved into today's bus systems.
The Milwaukee area has a rich transit history, with buses continuing to provide extensive service formerly provided by streetcars. Electric railways formerly provided local and interurban service around other parts of southeastern Wisconsin.
Concise histories and links for most other transit systems throughout the United States.
In the early 1900's, electric interurban lines were developed to handle many local passengers in the Midwest, including in the Chicago area. But by the 1930's, the development of paved roads enabled buses to more economically handle such local traffic. That, along with increased automobile ownership, resulted in the eventual abandonment of all interurban railways, except for the Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad.
Beginning in the 1920's, buses became the primary mode of interurban transportation for shorter distance travel. Many of these bus lines eventually evolved to the nationwide Greyhound system, which for reasons of economics gradually shifted its focus to longer distance express intercity bus services, mostly abandoning local service to smaller towns.
Includes contemporary photos of buses in Chicago and other cities.
Recent additions and changes to this site.
Chicago's official Web site.
Includes a collection of personal trip reports, and favorite links to various Web sites in Europe, where public policy has always been more supportive of trains and public transportation.
Information contained on this site is unofficial. Any suggestions for additions and improvements to this site are welcome. Thanks for visiting! Bill Vandervoort
I am on Facebook. But I do not accept Facebook friend requests from people I do not actually know. I use Facebook for the areas of my life which are not transportation related. In the past, I have been contacted by railfans who found this site. And I eventually became friends with some of them, including friends on Facebook. Simply put, I need to get to know the person, in order to accept that person as a Facebook friend.