Other North Side Junctions

Pacific Junction

Like Western Avenue, this location features passenger trains in abundance. Pacific Junction is just north of North Avenue and just east of Pulaski Road. The junction is an impressive sight and very busy at rush hours. The Metra Milwaukee West Line joins the North Line via a triple track connection in the southwest quadrant. Trains from both lines then run south to Western Avenue and Union Station. An extension of the West Line, known as the Bloomingdale branch, once crossed the North Line and continued east to serve some local industries. It is now abandoned, replaced with a hiking trail. A few CP road trains and locals use a connector track in the northwest quadrant to move between the West and North lines (CP's Bensenville Yard is several miles to the west, but most CP freights reach it by a different route). Otherwise, traffic here consists mostly of commuter trains augmented by Amtrak's Hiawatha service to Milwaukee and Empire Builder to Seattle and Portland. Tower A-5 still guards the junction but is probably living on borrowed time. It is manned by Metra operators. A fairly good view of the junction may be had via an access road off Waubansia Avenue in the southwest quadrant, but do not venture beyond the road. The surrounding neighborhood seems reasonably safe, but a little caution wouldn't hurt.

Mayfair Crossing

Located on Cicero Avenue just north of Montrose Avenue, Mayfair is about three miles north of Pacific Junction. It is most easily reached by taking a Metra Milwaukee North Line train to Mayfair Station. The junction is about a block north of the station. However, stay on the station platform. Metra security officers do not like people walking on their ROW. The Metra Milwaukee North route is the former Milwaukee Road main line to Milwaukee and the Twin Cities. Although Metra owns the track here, it belongs to Canadian Pacific (previously the Soo) beyond the Chicago area. Crossing Metra here is Union Pacific's ex-C&NW Northwest Line, which features an even greater number of commuter trains. It ranks with the BNSF's Aurora line, UP's North Line and Metra Electric as one of the area's busiest. If that's not enough passenger traffic for you, the Metra/CP North Line also hosts Amtrak's Hiawatha service to Milwaukee and the Empire Builder. Metra/CP North runs roughly north-south here while the UP Northwest route is on a northwest-southeast tangent.

About a block or so east of the diamonds, a UP (ex-C&NW) freight route enters from the south. At one time, it crossed the Northwest Line and headed north to an industrial area. However, the diamonds have been removed, leaving two separate branches that feed into the Northwest line here, both of which see minimal traffic. There are a few freight movements on the Metra/CP line, but most CP road trains enter or leave the route north of here at Techny. The Northwest Line sees an occasional UP or CP local. Mayfair Tower was closed in 1997 and razed the same year (the above photo, taken by Doug Kaniuk, is from 1969). It was located in the southeast quadrant of the Metra/UP Northwest diamonds. Mayfair is worth a visit only if you're a passenger train junkie.


Located in the northwest quadrant of the Ashland Avenue / Armitage Street intersection, Clybourn Station is where the UP ex-C&NW North and Northwest Lines diverge. The North Line heads north to Waukegan, Kenosha and Milwaukee, while the Northwest Line runs through Deval to Crystal Lake, Harvard and eventually to Janesville, Wisconsin. Traffic here is almost entirely Metra/UP commuter trains. Canadian Pacific locals are occasionally seen here but they are few and far between. Unless you're hooked on commuter trains as though they were heroin, there is no reason to come here.

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U: 11/10/2017