Chicago is the number two city in the United States,
behind New York City, for commuter rail service.
Along with that distinction, Chicago has more
traditional rail stations because of the larger number (compared to New York
City) of heritage railroads that operated in and out of Chicago.
This page will cover the traditional railroad
station/depot. The oodles of other commuter stations are covered in
the Metra section,
here. Stations which are still around, but no longer acting as
stations, will also be found on this page. If you want to read about
their histories, there is a separate page for that, so this page doesn't get
All commuter service today is provided by
Metra. They took over the services of all
of the former railroad's that used to run commuter service.
The following comes from Wikipedia, as such, carries my standard Wikipedia DISCLAIMER: some of the
information may be inaccurate, so take it all with a grain of salt, people like you and me can edit and add info to
Wikipedia.... why Wikipedia? I don't have the time to research all this stuff myself :-)
Since the 19th century Chicago has been
the hub of the North American rail network. It has more
trackage radiating in more directions than any other city in
North America. Railroads set up their headquarters in the
city and Chicago became a center for building freight cars,
passenger cars and diesel locomotives.
Formation of the RTA.....
To provide stability to the commuter rail system,
the Illinois General Assembly formed the Regional
in 1974. Its purpose was to fund and plan the Chicago
region's public transportation. In the beginning the
Regional Transportation Authority commuter train fleet consisted
of second-hand equipment, until 1976 when the first order of new
EMD F40PH locomotives arrived. That F40PH fleet is still
in service today.
Less than a decade later the Regional
Transportation Authority was already suffering from ongoing
financial problems. In 1983 the Illinois Legislature
reorganized the agency. That reorganization left the
Regional Transportation Authority in charge of day to day
operations of all bus, heavy rail and commuter rail services
throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. It was also
responsible for directing fare and service levels, setting up
budgets, finding sources for capital investment and planning.
branding..... Due to the broad range of responsibilities
entrusted with the Regional Transportation Authority, the
Commuter Rail Service Board was created in 1984. It was
renamed Metra in July 1985.
The newly reorganized Metra service helped to bring a single
identity to the many infrastructure components serviced by the
Regional Transportation Authority's commuter rail system.
Metra's operating arm, the Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter
Railroad Corporation, was created as a separate rail subsidiary
which operates seven Metra owned routes. Contracts were
set up with the Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe
railroads to operate four other Metra routes. While Metra
owns all rolling stock and is responsible for most stations on
those routes, the freight carriers use their own employees and
control the right-of-way for those routes. In keeping with
Metra's purpose to provide a single identity for commuter rail
in the region, the freight operators provide service under the
More info can be found on the Wiki page
here.Of course we cannot forget Amtrak. They too come into the downtown, using Union Station as their area hub.
In the past, the downtown area of Chicago also hosted several other stations as noted in the inset of my map below:
1) Central Station
2) CNW Western Terminal
3) Dearborn Station
4) Grand Central Station
5) Wells Station
Some of the Metra commuter stations that are better for railfanning are:
6) Western Springs
Note: Most Metra stations are good for railfanning. These stops are often frequented by hardcore railfans because of the mix of freight and
passenger operations, and some for their nearness to yards.
This page is available without pictures and descriptions, so it is more compact to take along in your pocket. Click here.
If you're into the histories of the stations, that can be found here.
Aerial shots were taken from Google Maps or Bing Maps as noted.
Screen-shots are done with Snagit, a Techsmith product... a great tool if you have never used it!
Pictures and additional information is always needed if anyone feels inclined to take 'em, send 'em, and share 'em, or if you have
something to add or correct.... credit is always given! Contact info is here
first opened in 1925, which replaced an earlier structure built in 1881.
In 1969, the concourse was demolished to make way for two office building
projects. Today, Union Station serves Amtrak as well as Metra’s
North Central Service,
Milwaukee District/North Line,
Milwaukee District/West Line,
BNSF Railway Line,
Heritage Corridor and
The LaSalle Street Station
was built in 1882. It replaced earlier structures dating back to 1852.
The LaSalle Street station served by the long distance trains of the
Nickel Plate Road, the
New York Central, the NYC subsidiary
Michigan Central, and the
Rock Island. Beginning in 1968,
former NYC trains began running directly to Union Station under the Penn
Central flag. The last remaining tenant was the commuter operation of
the Rock Island, which survive today as Metra’s Rock Island District.
The upper floors of the building once housed Rock Island's corporate
headquarters. However, the structure was torn down in the early 1980's
and replaced with a high-rise office building making LaSalle Street the
smallest of all Metra’s downtown terminals.
Ogilvie Transportation Center
was built as the Chicago & North Western Terminal (or simply “North Western
Station”) in 1911, replacing Wells Street Station across the Chicago River.
Some B&O and Pere Marquette (later C&O) trains also used the station.
Upon the formation of Amtrak in 1971, only C&NW’s commuter operations
remained. In 1984 the head house was razed and replaced with the
42-story Citicorp Center, which was completed in 1987. Two years after
the C&NW was merged into Union Pacific in 1995, the station was re-named for
Richard B. Ogilvie, former governor of Illinois, and former board member of
the Milwaukee Road. The Union Pacific/North
Line, Union Pacific/Northwest Line
and Union Pacific/West Line currently
operate out of the station.
The original Randolph Street Station
served all Illinois Central trains. The City Council required the IC
to electrify its operations in 1926, making this Metra’s only electric
operation to date. All of Metra’s electric lines terminate here, as do
all Chicago SouthShore & South Bend trains (operated by NICTD). The
grungy old station was in a state of constant construction from the late
1980s until recent completion of Millennium Park in 2005. The facility
was thoroughly rehabbed and renamed Millennium Station,
but is still referred to locally as Randolph Street Station.
Dearborn Station (also referred to as Polk Street
Station) was the oldest of the six intercity train stations serving downtown
Chicago during the heyday of rail in the twentieth century and has since
been converted into office and retail space. Located at Dearborn and
Polk Streets, the station was owned by the
Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad, which itself was owned by the
companies operating over its line.
The Romanesque Revival structure, designed by
Cyrus L. W. Eidlitz, opened on May 8, 1885. The
three-story building's exterior walls and twelve-story clock
tower were composed of pink granite and red pressed brick topped
by a number of steeply-pitched roofs. Modifications to the
structure following a fire in 1922 included eliminating the
original pitched roof profile. Behind the head house were
the train platforms, shielded by a large train shed. Inside the
station were ticket counters, waiting rooms, and one of the
legendary Fred Harvey Company restaurants.
The station was closed on May 2, 1971, as the
first step of
Amtrak's consolidation of Chicago's remaining intercity
train operations at
Union Station. By 1976, Dearborn Station's train shed
was demolished and tracks were removed. However, the
headhouse building escaped the fate of several other Chicago
Central Station and
Grand Central Station, which were both demolished. The
train station stood abandoned into the mid-1980s when it was
converted to retail and office space. The former rail
yards provided the land that is now known as Dearborn Park.
Most of this info came from
the Wikipedia page
Disclaimers: Every effort has
been made to make sure that the information contained on this map and in this
railfan guide is correct. Once in a while, an error may creep in,
especially if restaurants or gas stations open, close, or change names.
Most of my maps are a result of personal observation after visiting these
locations. I have always felt that a picture is worth a thousand words",
and I feel annotated maps such as the ones I work up do the same justice for the
railfan over a simple text description of the area. Since the main focus
of my website is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the
signal fan being able to locate them. Since most of us railheads don't have just
trains as a hobby, I have also tried to point out where other interesting sites
of the area are.... things like fire stations, neat bridges, or other
significant historical or geographical feature. While some may feel they
shouldn't be included, these other things tend to make MY trips a lot more
interesting.... stuff like where the C&O Canal has a bridge going over a river (the Monocacy Aqueduct) between Point of Rocks and Gaithersburg MD, it's way cool to
realize this bridge to support a water "road" over a river was built in the
1830's!!! Beware: ANYTHING from Wikipedia must be treated as
possibly being inaccurate, wrong, or not true.