This popular train watching spot is in the far west suburb of West Chicago, about 30 miles from downtown Chicago. From I-294 (the Tri- State Tollway) or I-355, exit at Roosevelt Road (Illinois Rte. 38) and head west. About a half mile past Illinois Rte. 59 is Joliet St. Turn right and go north to Geneva St. Turn left and then right on Wood St. You can park in the parking lot in back of a professional building on Wood. Or you can proceed to Washington Street, and go left to the junction. Parking is difficult right at the junction area, however.
From downtown Chicago, take the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) and then the East-West Tollway (I-88) to Rte. 59. Head north about four miles to Joliet Street, which feeds into Rte. 59 from the north. Bear left onto Joliet and follow the above directions. However, the easiest way to get here from downtown is to take a Metra/Union Pacific West Line commuter train. West Line trains use the Ogilvie Transportation Center on the second floor of an office building at Madison and Canal Streets in downtown Chicago. The junction is about a half mile west of the West Chicago station.
Union Pacific's ex-Chicago & North Western main line to Omaha is here crossed by Canadian National's single track Elgin, Joliet & Eastern. "The J", as it's known, was purchsed by CN from US Steel in January, 2009. From here, it runs north (tt west) to Waukegan and south to Joliet; it then heads east from Joliet to the industrial areas of northwest Indiana. The triple track UP main is one of the busiest around, featuring freight trains of all varieties and plenty of Metra/UP West Line commuter trains. A given weekday is likely to see over 100 trains with rush hours being a constant parade. Traffic is a bit less on weekends since there are fewer Metra trains operating. Commuter trains once terminated at Geneva, about five miles west of here, but in 2006 service was expanded another ten miles to Elburn. Most eastbound UP freights are headed to Proviso Yard about 15 miles to the east. Intermodal trains run to UP's "Global" yards at Proviso and on Chicago's west side.
Before CN bought the J, only a few EJE trains ran through here--perhaps five or six a day. That has changed drastically. With the CN upgrades to the infrastructure, the J is now CN's main line through the Chicago area, with about 15-20 trains a day using it. CN trains access the J at Leithton to the north (from the former Wisconsin Central), from Matteson on the south (former Illinois Central) and at Griffith to the east, where the J crosses CN's ex-Grand Trunk Western line.
The tower is still here and continues in operation. It is manned by CN operators. UP has trackage rights on the J from here to Waukegan, mostly used by coal trains bound for Wisconsin generating plants.
FrequenciesUP: 160.890, 161.040, 160.575
EJE: 160.350, 161.475, 161.145
The parking lot off Wood Street offers a fine view of the UP line, and the building owner doesn't mind your presence if your parking spot isn't needed. CN/EJE however, is almost 100 yards west of here. If you wish to be closer to the diamonds, the city sidewalks are available, but it is not advisable to stay near the tower. CN owns the property and does not take kindly to trespassers. The local neighborhood consists of well-kept older houses and is quite safe.
For other CN/EJE junctions, see the Matteson, Chicago Heights, Griffith and Rondout pages. See also Van Loon and Pine at the Other Northwest Indiana page, and Eola at the Other West/Southwest page. See also Leithton, Barrington, etc. at the Other North/Northwest page.
For more on UP's West Line, see the Western Avenue page. See also Elmhurst Station at the Other West Suburban page.
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