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Metra (officially the Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation) is a regional rail system that serves the city of Chicago, Illinoismarker, United Statesmarker and surrounding suburbs. Its railroad serves over 200 stations on 11 different rail lines across the Regional Transportation Authority's six-county service area (Cookmarker, DuPagemarker, Kanemarker, Lakemarker, McHenrymarker and Willmarker Counties) providing over 80 million rides annually. Metra has been honored with several E. H. Harriman Awards for employee safety, most recently with a Bronze award in class B (line-haul railroads with between 4 and 15 million employee hours per year) for 2005. Previous Harriman Awards conferred to Metra include Gold awards for 2003 and 2004 and a Silver award for 2002.


Metra locomotives at Waukegan.
The commuter rail service in Chicago had slowly started to decline from the mid to late 1960s, and by the mid 1970s, they faced an uncertain future. The railroads operating the lines (the Burlington Northern, Milwaukee Road, Chicago & Northwestern, Illinois Central and many others) were barely making enough revenue from the services to continue them. This, coupled with a need for newer passenger equipment (the railroads were still using passenger cars from as far back as the 1920s ) left the future looking bleak and uncertain.As a result, Chicago formed the Regional Transportation Authority in 1974 to handle public transportation. In the beginning the fleet consisted of second-hand equipment, until 1976 when the first order of new EMD F40PH locomotives arrived. The F40PH fleet has been in service since its delivery.

In 1984 the RTA's rail operations were reorganized into Metra, and all commuter rail operations were handed over.

Lines and stations

Line Chicago Terminal End station Length Stations Date of construction Former owner

  Heritage Corridor Union Stationmarker Jolietmarker 37.3 mi 6 1947 Alton Railroad
  BNSF Railway Line Union Stationmarker Auroramarker 37.5 mi 26 1864 Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad
  SouthWest Service Union Stationmarker Manhattanmarker 40.6 mi 13 1880 Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific Railway
  Milwaukee District/West Line Union Stationmarker Elginmarker/Big Timber Roadmarker 39.8 mi 22 1847 Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad
  North Central Service Union Stationmarker Antiochmarker 52.6 mi 18 1851 Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie Railroad ("Soo Line")
  Milwaukee District/North Line Union Stationmarker Fox Lake 49.5 mi 22 1924 Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad
  Union Pacific/West Line Ogilvie Transportation Centermarker Elburnmarker 36.7 mi 19 1865 Chicago and North Western Railway
  Union Pacific/Northwest Line Ogilvie Transportation Centermarker Harvardmarker or McHenrymarker 62 mi 23 1865 Chicago and North Western Railway
  Union Pacific/North Line Ogilvie Transportation Centermarker Kenosha 51.9 mi 27 1854 Chicago and North Western Railway
  Metra Electric Line Millennium Stationmarker South Chicagomarker, Blue Islandmarker or University Park 50.3 mi 49 1856 Illinois Central Railroad
  Rock Island District LaSalle Street Stationmarker Jolietmarker 40.2 mi 25 1852 Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad

Locomotive 180 with bi-level cars at West Chicago.
Bilevel electric train at University of Chicago/59th Street Station
Until the 1960s, Chicago had six major intercity terminal. Three of them – Central Stationmarker, Dearborn Stationmarker and Grand Central Stationmarker – have closed, and Metra still uses the other three – LaSalle Street Stationmarker, Union Stationmarker and the Ogilvie Transportation Centermarker, and the Millennium Stationmarker (formerly Randolph Street Station), a terminal for commuter lines that operated through Central Station.

Union Station serves all Amtrak intercity trains. It also serves Metra trains on several lines that operated into Union Station from before the 1960s:

Since the 1960s, other routes have been rerouted into Union Station:

The Ogilvie Transportation Center, originally the Chicago and North Western Terminalmarker, serves the three lines formerly operated by the Chicago and North Western Railway – the Union Pacific/North Line, Union Pacific/Northwest Line and Union Pacific/West Line.

LaSalle Street Station serves only trains of the Rock Island District, originally operated by the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad.

Millennium Stationmarker (previously Randolph Street Station) serves the ex-Illinois Central Railroad Metra Electric Line, and the South Shore Line service to South Bend, Indianamarker, a former interurban railroad operated by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District.

Extension projects

Newer locomotive 408 pulls into Blue Island, IL.

Despite the State of Illinoismarker's current budget crisis, Metra is implementing vigorous expansion. Some of this expansion has already been realized: the Union Pacific/West line has been extended from Geneva, Illinois through La Fox to Elburnmarker, and the Southwest Service line has been extended from Orland Parkmarker to Manhattanmarker. Metra is also in the process of extending the McHenrymarker branch of the Union Pacific/Northwest into Johnsburgmarker.

Plans are being developed for a possible station on the Metra Heritage Corridor in Romeovillemarker. The station and accompanying parking would be on property belonging to the Citgo oil refinery between Lemontmarker and Lockportmarker.

Metra is also planning new rail services, the SouthEast Service line from downtown Chicago to Cretemarker and the first entirely intra-suburban commuter line, the Suburban Transit Access Route, or "STAR" Line, between Jolietmarker and O'Hare Airportmarker, linking Metra lines in the western suburbs.

The state of Wisconsin has discussed extending Metra's service to the cities of Racine and Milwaukee. Ultimately, though, Metra decided against extending the service and WDOT decided to work towards establishing it's own commuter line between Kenosha and Milwaukee.

Fare structure

Metra has a zone-based fare structure: fares are determined by the number of zones passed through on a trip. The zones are designated by letters from A (downtown stations and termini) to M. Harvardmarker on the Union Pacific/Northwest Line is the only station in the M zone, and there are no stations in the L zone.

Motive power and rolling stock

Locomotive fleet

Numbers Model Year Built Assigned Disposition
100–127 F40PH 1976–1977 All diesel routes Operating, to be rebuilt
128–184 F40PH-2 1979–1989 All diesel routes, many of which are assigned to the UP lines Operating
185–214 F40PHM-2 1991–1992 BNSF, RI, Milwaukee North, Milwaukee West, and North Central Service. 214 pulled the first North Central Service train from Antiochmarker to Chicagomarker. The F40 PHM-2s are the last F40PH series locomotives built. Operating
401–427 MP36PH-3 2003–2004 BNSF, RI, Milwaukee North, Milwaukee West and North Central Service Operating
305, 308 F7 1949 All Diesel Routes Retired, donated to Illinois Railway Museummarker
514–516, 518, 521 E8 1951–1953 All Diesel Routes Retired
600–614 F40C 1974 Milwaukee Districts 611 and 614 remain on the property; 611 is named Village of Ontarioville, 614 Edward F. Brabec. An unknown number were brought back in service while MP36s were sent to Boise for overhaul.
1–2 SW1 1939 RI Operating
3 SW1200 Milwaukee West, Milwaukee North Operating
4–8 SW1500 RI, Milwaukee West, Milwaukee North, ME Operating

Coach fleet

Entrance to a bilevel car

Numbers Type Heritage Year Built Builder Disposition
740–820 Coach Burlington 1950–1973 Budd Operating
7100–7121 Coach Burlington 1977–1978 Budd Operating
6001–6192 Coach Metra 2002–2005 Nippon Sharyo Operating
7200–7382 Coach Milwaukee 1961–1980 Budd Operating
7400–7497 Coach Metra 1996–1998 Amerail Operating
8200–8238 Coach/Cab Milwaukee 1961–1974 Budd Operating
8239–8275 Coach/Cab RTA 1978–1980 Budd Operating
8400–8413 Coach/Cab Metra 1994–1995 M-K Operating
8414–8478 Coach/Cab Metra 1995–1998 Amerail Operating
8501–8608 Coach/Cab Metra 2002–2005 Nippon Sharyo Operating
553 Club Car C&NW 1949 ACF Operating
555 Club Car C&NW 1949 ACF Retired
7600-7613 Coach C&NW 1955 St. Louis Retired
7650-7866 Coach C&NW 1955-1970 Pullman Operating
7867-7871 Coach RI 1970 St. Louis Retired
7880 Coach (Former Parlor) C&NW 1958 Pullman Retired
7881-7885 Coach RI 1970 Pullman Retired
7900-7901 Club Car (s) C&NW 1955 St. Louis Retired
8700-8763 Cab Cars C&NW 1960-1968 Pullman Retired

Metra electric fleet

Numbers Type Heritage Year Built Builder
1201–1226 MU Coach Metra 2005 Nippon Sharyo
1501–1630 MU Coach IC 1971–1972 St. Louis
1631–1666 MU Coach IC 1978–1979 Bombardier

Notable accidents

There have been several accidents that have caught regional, and sometimes national, attention:

  • At around 5:53 p.m. on August 26, 1991, Mary T. Wojtyla, 41, of Chicagomarker, was walking with her lawyer across the tracks at the Fairview Avenue grade crossing in Downers Grovemarker, directly in front of a westbound train that was stopped at the Metra station. Apparently distracted by ongoing divorce proceedings, she crossed the center track and was struck by a westbound Burlington Northern EMD E9 pulling a "Racetrack" express train, estimated to be traveling at 60 miles per hour. Wojtyla was killed instantly; her lawyer saw the oncoming train and was not struck. The accident delayed between 12,000 and 15,000 commuters on the Burlington Northern line for more than an hour. Trains were further delayed when Downers Grove police ordered the engineer to back up the train in order to re-enact the incident. According to an account in the Downers Grove Reporter, "the engineer was so seriously affected by the re-enactment, where he had to pass by the dead body still on the tracks, he was unable to continue and had to be relieved of his duties." A railfan captured Wojtyla being struck by the train. He was apparently filming at the station to film the last day of one the EMD E9 locomotives. The railfan was traumatised by the incident as Mary's body flew across and knocked the railfan and his camcorder (which was on a tripod) to the ground. The video, dubbed "Traingirl", has been shown with the impact edited out at many Operation Lifesaver events, and unedited on shock site web sites and YouTube. A wrongful death lawsuit brought by Wojtyla's estate was dismissed in 1996.

  • On January 16, 1995, violinist Rachel Barton Pine was severely injured in a train accident in the suburb of Winnetka, Illinoismarker. Her violin case, which contained a $500,000 Amati, was stuck in the train doors, pinning her shoulder to the train. After being dragged more than 300 feet, Pine fell beneath a wheel, which severed one leg and badly damaged the other. She sued Metra for the incident in 1999 and was awarded $29 million. Since the accident, Pine has resumed her performance career.

  • On the morning of October 25, 1995, a Metra train hit a school busmarker that was stopped across the tracks at the stoplight at Algonquin Road and Northwest Highway in Fox River Grovemarker. The accident resulted in seven deaths, multiple injuries, and a massive overhaul in safety, especially with respect to school buses and at short crossings. Millions of dollars were spent in lawsuits and safety improvements.

  • On September 17, 2005, a Metra train from Jolietmarker to Chicagomarker derailed about five miles from LaSalle Street Stationmarker, killing two women – Allison Walsh, 38, and Jane Cuthbert, 22 – and injuring approximately 80 others. While the investigation is still proceeding the indications are that the train was traveling at excessive speed, one report stating that the train was moving at more than 60 mph over the posted speed limit of 10 mph, and this was a factor in the accident.

  • On November 23, 2005, a Metra train from Chicagomarker to Antioch, Illinoismarker collided with multiple cars at the Grand Avenue crossing in Elmwood Park, Illinoismarker. The railroad tracks cross Grand Avenue at a shallow angle, creating a longer-than-normal crossing. Just past the tracks on Grand Avenue (heading east) there is a traffic signal that can trap drivers disregarding the signs around the crossing warning them not to stop on the tracks. Fifteen people were sent to hospitals throughout Chicago. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the signals were working properly and have implied in statements to the press that fault for the accident lies with motorists who ignored warning signs and stopped across the railroad tracks.

Metra Police Department—Fallen Officers

One Metra Police Department officer has been killed in the line of duty, Officer Thomas A. Cook, who died of as a result of gunfire on September 27, 2006.

See also


  4. Doing Business with Metra
  5. Operation Lifesaver assembly. Lake Park High School. 1999.
  6. "Train kills woman in Downers Grove", Chicago Tribune, August 27, 1991, CHICAGOLAND, p. 6
  7. "Pedestrian killed by speeding Metra train", Downers Grove Reporter, August 28, 1991, front page.
  8. Officer Down Memorial Page: Thomas Alan Cook

Further reading

  • J. David Ingles, Metra: "Best Commuter Train", Trains July 1993

External links

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