The Gregarious Railfan
The BNSF "Racetrack"
Map courtesy of Todd Sestero
Scanner: BNSF, 161.100[66] (Metra & Amtrak); BRC, 160.695 [39], 160.500 [26]; CN (ex EJ&E), 161.475 [91];
IHB, 160.980 [58], 161.070 [64]

Railroad: BNSF Chicago Div, Chicago Sub  

Description: The BNSF Railway Line is a Metra commuter rail line operated by the BNSF Railway in Chicago and its
surrounding suburbs. Metra’s BNSF Railway Line handles Metra passenger trains, Amtrak trains, and BNSF freight
trains, the line is nicknamed the "race track" and runs from Union Station in Chicago 37.5 miles through the western
suburbs to Aurora, IL.  There are 26 Stations‎,  It is a favorite of railfans both for the sheer volume of trains and
the healthy mix of Metra, Amtrak, and BNSF freight trains.  The BNSF Railway Line continues to have the highest
weekday ridership of the 11 Metra lines with an average weekday ridership in 2014 of about 65,000.

the following from:
BNSF Chicago Subdivision,  A Railroad of Legendary Traffic by Robby Gragg

"Upon the formation of Amtrak, the Empire Builder was moved off the BN and onto the Milwaukee Road between Chicago and St.
Paul. The line, which had been known for its freight traffic, was introduced to coal trains in 1972 when the BN built its line into the
powder river basin in Wyoming. Another big change was when the BN converted Clyde Yard in Cicero from manifest traffic, into a
intermodal yard. The main general freight yard on the racetrack was moved to Eola yard, in Aurora. Upon opening the new
intermodal yard at Cicero, BN started to operate trains from Cicero to the Twin Cities and the pacific northwest, which are still
operated to this day. In 1995, the BN merged with the Santa Fe to create the present owner of the line, the BNSF. In 1996, Amtrak's
Southwest Chief was moved from the Santa Fe to the BN east of Galesburg when BNSF built a new connection between the two
lines in Cameron, IL, just west of Galesburg.
This also caused a change in freight operations. Currently, mainly trains going to the Belt Railway of Chicago, as well as the Norfolk
Southern, use the racetrack, while trains going to the Indiana Harbor Belt and the CSX use the Santa Fe. There are some grain
trains that have used the racetrack to get to the CSX, however. Currently, the BNSF operates 30-40 freight trains per day on the
racetrack. The types of freight trains are mixed, as the racetrack regularly sees intermodal, manifest, grain, coal, and pretty much
everything. A recent player recently on the racetrack has been crude oil trains. As many as 8 crude oil trains a day going to both the
NS and the CSX run on the racetrack. These trains are often a favorite of railfans, as the NS sometimes sends one or two of their
20 "heritage" units on one of these trains. There are three industries that are served between Chicago and Aurora, Nabisco in
Naperville, Pepperidge Farm in Downers Grove and also there's one transloading industry at Congress Park. All three of these
industries have a local switching them"

Fast Food:    All along Ogden Ave (US-34) which parallels the racetrack from Cicero to Naperville

Pub & Grub:   The Irish Times across from the Brookfield Metra Station N 41.82158, W 87.84378
Mollies Public House, Riverside, N 41.82806, W 87.82064 $$
Two Brothers Roundhouse, Aurora, N 41.76086, W 88.30862
James Joyce Irish Pub in Berwyn, N 41.83104, W 87.80241 across from Harlem Ave. Metra (no food)

Lodging: Better choices and values in the Aurora/Naperville area.  

Personal Observation:   Almost any station on the Racetrack is a great place to railfan. A great variety and volume
of trains and safe neighborhoods. The trains are the same for almost all the stations, There are comfortable benches,
restrooms, generally shade in the summer, and nearby amenities like restaurants and snack shops. Altogether as a group
one of my favorite places to return to.
Metra Cab Car Ride on the BNSF Racetrack (Part 1 of 4) by mt90945557
La Grange
La Grange
The CN Flyover also looking east at LaVergne
Western Springs
Western Springs