Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Just Another Saturday Morning

Wheaton, Illinois, where I live, is bisected by a mainline railroad. Originally, it was the Galena and Western. That was bought by the Chicago and North Western. The C&NW was still an entity when we moved here in 1981. In 1995, the Union Pacific absorbed the Chicago and North Western. The line that goes through Wheaton goes west to Clinton, Iowa, across Iowa to Omaha, Nebraska and onward to the west coast. It's a direct import route for containers from LA to the Midwest. We also have a lot of coal traffic to area power plants from Wyoming where low sulfur coal is mined. Illinois coal is higher in sulfur and requires more emissions cleaning.

There is also a Metra commuter rail service operating on this route. It's not uncommon, if you hit it just right, to have to wait for 2 freight trains and a Metra train to clear a crossing. We have one overpass west of downtown. There have been discussions about creating another over or underpass as the downtown gets terribly snarled when there is a train problem. But there isn't a place to put either an overpass or an underpass. The city grew up around the railroad and it still provides goods and services to merchants.

So, you just need to get used to delays, such as on Saturday past.

I wanted to stop at the Starbucks at the corner of Main and Front Street. As I headed south on Main, I could see the train stopped. I turned right, then right again. Then I made 2 left turns and went straight by the post office. Another left turn and I was on Front Street heading east. You really do have to know your way around because there are so many one-way streets that to get where you're going can be frustrating.

There was, fortunately, a parking spot by Starbucks. I got my hot cocoa and breakfast roll and the train didn't move. I was in Starbucks for about 10 minutes and the barista said the train had been stopped for 10 minutes prior to my arrival. That's a long time to inconvenience people wanting to head south. Add to this, a road closure one block east of where I was and it makes getting around a headache and a half.

The locomotive was 2 blocks east of me. I couldn't see anything wrong with the train. It didn't seem to have hit anything as happens more frequently than it should. I felt badly for people stuck in a position where they couldn't leave the line of cars to continue on. I don't think I heard it move for another 40 minutes after I got home.

There will be renewed calls for "fixing" this. Four crossings were closed including the 3 main ones through downtown. If you like to watch trains, downtown Wheaton is a good spot for it. You might even get lucky and have one stop for you.

Beverage:  Dunkin' Donuts tea


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