Today I took a trip down the Joliet Correctional Center in, you guessed it, Joliet. It was an active maximum security Illinois state prison from 1858 to 2002 and held a number of well-known inmates, including Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, Baby Face Nelson, John Wayne Gacy, and most famous of all, Jake Blues. It’s interesting that the most famous inmate is fictional.
To get there, I took the Metra Rock Island District to Joliet, then a Pace bus. Of course I got some pictures of the Metra station on the way:
Then, I went into the prison on a tour. It was definitely very eerie being in there. The building is a little worse for wear (it was closed due in part to being in poor condition and has seen virtually no maintenance in the intervening two decades). You can see all of the photos I deemed worthy of publication in my Flickr album, but keep reading to see a selection of them with more detailed descriptions.
We entered via the eastern gate where Jake Blues famously walked out. According to the tour guide the gate was actually welded shut, they only opened it after the film company bribed the warden to let them use it and have a crew break the welding. Even then, they only got one shot and five minutes.
Along the path from that gate were the industry buildings to the north and a few other buildings like inmate intake processing to the south.
We then headed to the solitary confinement building, which had solitary confinement cells on the first floor and death row cells on the second.
Then we headed into the cafeteria building, which was segregated by race into north and south cafeterias (I don’t know/remember which one was which). The north cafeteria in particular included some interesting Simpsons-based graffiti.
Then we left to head towards the cell house, passing by (but not entering) the gymnasium.
The tour guide then let one of the people on the tour open the door to the east cell house.
Apparently the eastern cell house cells had beds removed post-closing for maintenance reasons. Also a sobering fact that the left portion of the ceiling in the cell block was added to prevent inmates from trying to jump to their deaths, with apparently as many as three suicides per day.
We then left the cell block and walked by the hospital but couldn’t enter it.
We then entered the western cell house, which apparently housed inmates that were disliked even by the other inmates (use your imagination).
Here, note the closed doors instead of bars. Apparently this was to avoid inmates throwing stuff at the guards. The inmates here were so disliked that they even had their own yard to avoid contact with other inmates.
We then passed the school and headed towards the chapel.
It’s hard to see in the photos but the ceiling was in pretty bad shape due to apparently the roof being struck by lightning.
We then walked by a few other buildings to conclude the tour.
We then left via the eastern gate via which we entered.
I don’t really have much to say, I think the pictures speak for themselves. It was a very interesting tour.
I arrived mid morning at Little Italy-University Circle, one of the first stations I photographed during my time at CWRU by virtue of it being right by campus. Most of my photos of that station were from freshman year, when my photography skills were nowhere near what they are now. Here’s an example:
Compare with a photo from this time:
Definitely an improvement: better lighting (I got lucky with the weather admittedly), better angling of the camera, etc.
From there I went to Cedar-University, one stop down the line, and serving the southern portion of the CWRU campus. The story was similar to Little Italy for the most part: my photos from 2016 weren’t the best quality due to my inexperience. However, also important was that Cedar-University had a major bus loop attached which I never photographed.
First, see a typical photo of that station from 2016:
Now compare with a photo taken in 2021:
Much better lighting (once again lucked out with the weather, but also knew to photograph in the middle of the day instead of in the evening as I did with the first photo), better angles, all that.
Then, I photographed the bus loop which I somehow never did in my four years at CWRU:
Having finished there, I started the main focus of my expedition, photographing the stations renovated since I had left Cleveland. First, I went to East 79th. For reference, here’s what the station used to look like:
The station at the time was a pretty simple affair: a staircase (behind where I’m standing with the camera) and a wooden platform with a basic bus-like shelter and a roof. The renovations, on the other hand, significantly improved it:
The new station has a concrete platform, a ramp for ADA accessibility, new signage, a significantly improved roof, and a much better-looking entrance. Overall it is a significantly improved passenger experience from the original. It did add one interesting twist though, a grade crossing. For a while the only grade crossing on the Red Line was at Brookpark, where passengers had to cross a track to reach the platform. Renovations at the station in 2016-2017 removed that grade crossing and replaced it with a tunnel under the track, but later on one was added at East 34th which saw a similar renovation to East 79th, including a set of ramps on the adjacent hillside.
From there I headed to Tower City. When I was a freshman at CWRU in 2016, they replaced the northern track, which resulted in westbound trains going to a temporary station on a normally non-revenue track. They did the same thing again to replace the southern track, and the work was completed prior to my arrival. Here is what the track looked like prior to renovation:
After several years with a new northern track but retaining the old southern and stub tracks, they were all replaced. Here are the new and improved tracks:
Meanwhile, the Blue and Green Lines were not operating due to an eight week construction project shutting down the lines entirely, with them being replaced by shuttle buses in the meantime. However, I did notice that the ceiling had been removed:
I don’t know the reasoning for removing the ceiling, and whether it’s temporary or permanent, but it definitely takes away some of the character of the station. I hope it will be added back. Given that a lot of the mall above was temporarily closed for construction, it wouldn’t be surprising if that were another part of the construction.
From there I took the shuttle bus out to Farnsleigh. Here’s what it looked like prior to renovation:
It’s a pretty basic median station on the Blue Line with two platforms and a shelter. Now see it post-renovation from approximately the same viewpoint:
Heading back to Cleveland was a nice experience, and this photo expedition brought things full circle. I got to see the stations I first photographed when I was still fairly inexperienced and bring to it a new camera and better skills. It really shows how far I’ve come in photography and also brings some closure to my time in Cleveland which was sadly cut short by the pandemic. I’ll definitely be back there another day, and it’ll be nice to see what’s changed and what’s stayed the same then. According to the RTA website, no new station renovations are planned, though they do intend to replace their railcar fleet.
My ongoing project to photograph the Chicago L unofficially started on March 9, 2019, when I took a spring break trip to the city, unaware I’d live there a year and a half later. The first photo taken in Chicago (at least that I deemed worth publishing) is this one, of the entrance to Millennium Station:
The date on Flickr is listed as March 10, but it was actually taken very late on March 9 since my camera was still set on Eastern Time due to coming from Cleveland. Little did I know that this would start my most ambitious photography project so far. I photographed a number of stations in/near downtown as part of that trip, and then returned to Cleveland.
In December 2020 I flew out to Chicago to interview for the company that ended up hiring me, and photographed two stations: O’Hare (where I flew in) and Chicago (Red) (near my hotel).
In March 2020, I had been hired for my current job in Chicago and came back to visit apartments. At that point I knew I would be moving here and had in the back of my mind that I eventually wanted to photograph all the L stations. I stayed in Rogers Park (near Morse) and toured apartments all over the north side. I photographed a number of stations in the process, but knew I would come back.
I’m not sure what will come next – maybe photographing as much of Metra as I can? I’m not sure how realistic photographing every Metra station is given that there are over 200 of them and Metra doesn’t run anywhere near as frequently as the L (I don’t have a car) and some lines don’t run at at all on weekends.
I did get a pretty cool souvenir at the gift shop though, a replica US-66 sign:
When I was waiting in line to experience the RAM truck, one of the brand reps saw me holding the sign and asked me if I’ve ever been on US-66. I must have made him feel old when I pointed out that it was decommissioned before I was born. I have been on “Historic Route 66” in Arizona though.
I have been to Milwaukee a number of times in my life, as I have family that has lived there in the past. However, this was my first time traveling there for non-family reasons. I just wanted to get out of dodge for a bit and also experience the Hiawatha.
It was a bit tough finding a time for this to work, since I wanted to be in Chicago for the Fourth of July (more on that in a bit). I also needed a time when it was going to be sunny, and I didn’t want to take more than two days off work. I ended up choosing the Monday-Wednesday after July 4 (July 5-7), since I already got the Monday off anyway, and the weather looked favorable.
In the meantime, it looked like Chicago cancelled the fireworks, so I looked at options in the suburbs. It ended up looking like Wilmette was my best option since I could easily get there on the Purple Line. However, when I was downtown on July 3, I saw a service alert indicating that there would be restrictions on carrying bikes and strollers on the L in the evening, leading me to check again the firework situation. It turned out that much like when they announced they cancelled the annual dyeing of the Chicago River for St. Patrick’s Day then did it anyway, they did the same for the fireworks and uncancelled them. My guess is that they did so to avoid people traveling from out of the area and also that gave them leeway to make a decision based on case numbers at the time. They did somewhat modify the firework setup, not having a singular viewing area but instead having a seven mile long stretch along the lakeshore where they could be viewed (using bigger and higher fireworks to accomplish this). I thus changed my plans and went downtown, and watched from just north of Museum Campus since that seemed to be approximately in the middle of the viewing area. The fireworks were pretty awesome, just a bit odd having the sound lag behind the visual due to the distance.
Then, on Monday, I hopped on the 1:05pm Hiawatha to Milwaukee from Chicago Union Station. Union Station was a lot more chaotic than I expected, I guess people are starting to travel again.
From there everything seemed to go smoothly until somewhere just north of the Wisconsin border, we stopped. After a few minutes, the conductor announced that there was a “vehicle on the tracks” and that they were being “inspected for damage.” My first thought was that we hit a car. However, I didn’t hear any crashes (I was two cars from the front of the train), and I checked Google Maps and didn’t see any traffic advisories in the area.
After about ten minutes they announced that they had moved the vehicle so it only blocked the northbound track, so we just needed to wait for a southbound train to clear the area so we could go around it on the southbound track. After about five more minutes, the southbound Hiawatha passed us and we were moving again. We ended up only being about fifteen minutes late, nothing terrible. From there, I photographed the train in Milwaukee:
I also photographed the Marquette Interchange, a famously obnoxious traffic interchange:
A friend of mine from middle school met me at the station, and we walked around for a bit and got an early dinner at the Brat House, where he got a burger and I got the “southsider,” a bratwurst with melted cheddar, jalapenos, and bacon. It was pretty delicious and a good introduction to Milwaukee. I also got a picture of the Milwaukee river from the park where we ate our dinner:
The Milwaukee River and all the drawbridges was definitely a reminder of Chicago, giving a nice familiar vibe. After that, we parted ways and I continued exploring the city. I scoped out a skyline photography spot, Veterans Park, and determined it would probably be good after the sun set. While waiting for the sun to go down, I got some ice cream and then went back to the hotel to rest my legs for a bit. Then, as dusk approached, I headed back out and caught the “The Hop,” the Milwaukee downtown streetcar, at Wisconsin Avenue and took it to Burns Commons.
After getting off the streetcar, I walked over to Veterans Park again. This time I did not forget my tripod, so I was able to get some good long-exposure shots. This was probably my best one:
Then, pretty exhausted from all the walking, I headed back to the hotel and called it a night.
The next day I hit the ground running, so to speak. Due to COVID measures, the hotel wasn’t serving breakfast, so I went to the Canary Coffee Bar and got a muffin and chai tea, both of which were great. The weather indicated it was going to be sunny in the morning but cloud over later in the day, so I took the morning for some more photography. Importantly, all my photos from the lakeshore needed to be in the morning anyway so the sun would be behind me. Naturally, I started with photographing the streetcar:
I took it to Burns Commons again and got a daytime photo from Veterans Park again.
I then walked down to Discovery World and got some photos from there.
I explored Downtown Milwaukee some more for a while, then figured I’d head up to Glendale to get frozen custard at Kopp’s. I took the bus up to Glendale and from there got Kopp’s. I’m finally old enough that if I say I’m having frozen custard for lunch, I’m having frozen custard for lunch. Kopp’s only has four flavors: chocolate, vanilla, and two rotating flavors (apparently there was only one rotating flavor at a time in the past). One of the rotating flavors when I was there was “grasshopper fudge,” which is a mint base with fudge chunks. I got a cup of that, which was also delicious.
After having enjoyed my Kopp’s frozen custard, I caught the bus back downtown. It was starting to cloud over, so I figured that would be a good chance to check out the Grohmann museum, a museum about art related to labor and industry (and one of the only museums open on a Tuesday). The museum was pretty cool, featuring a rooftop sculpture garden and a massive amount of paintings. The paintings dated from the 17th century (that’s the earliest I remember anyway) to 2020 and featured all sorts of industries. Pretty cool museum, worth a visit.
After leaving the museum, I walked around downtown a bit. One particularly interesting detail is that The Hop isn’t electrified for its entire length, operating on battery power for one stretch. I caught a video of a streetcar raising its pantograph:
Eventually, for dinner, I headed to the Milwaukee Public Market for dinner and got dinner at the Foltz Family Market, a BBQ cheddar burger with fries. Also amazing; I definitely ate well on this trip. After dinner, I walked around downtown for a while longer and photographed some more stuff.
For my third and final day, I headed to Discovery World in the morning. I first visited it within a year of it opening, in the winter of 2006. It was interesting seeing it from the perspective of an adult vs. a kid and also what’s changed vs. what hasn’t changed. It’s still definitely a cool museum, featuring a bunch of different exhibits about science, technology, and engineering as well as an aquarium and an old restored ship. Also definitely a worthwhile trip for anyone traveling to Milwaukee.
After leaving Discovery World, I headed south to photograph the Allen-Bradley clock tower.
It was cloudy so the colors were a bit dull, but I can only ask for so much. With that photo in the bag I started heading back downtown, only to be interrupted by a sudden onset of rain. Of course of all things I forgot to pack, I forgot my umbrella. I stood under a bridge for a while hoping to wait out the rain.
After about an hour under the bridge and the rain giving no signs of letting up, I figured I had to leave somehow. I ended up timing it so I was able to get to a nearby bus stop only about two minutes before the bus arrived, so I avoided being totally drenched. Once I got back downtown, I got dinner at Smoke Shack.
Being originally from North Carolina, I wanted to see what sort of barbecue game they had in Milwaukee. The building was clearly supposed to mimic the shacks you see down south, but unlike those this was definitely a well-constructed modern building, as opposed to an actual shack. This was definitely a more upscale place trying to pull off a “casual southern” vibe. All that aside, the food there (I got a pulled pork sandwich) was also excellent (as a former North Carolinian, I approve). I also got a “pecan pie in a glass” cocktail to go with my food:
After finishing dinner, I waited out the rain a bit longer in the public market seating area, then headed back to the Amtrak station to catch the train home. Unlike the journey north, the journey south was pretty quiet. Very few people on the train. I guess that’s what happens with an evening train on a Wednesday.
We pulled into Chicago Union Station right on time, but interestingly came in on one of the run-through tracks and unloaded on the southern side of the station.
My guess is that since this was the last run of the night, they were going to take it to the Amtrak yard, which is located south of Union Station. Anyway, I headed back home. Walking through downtown Chicago was a bit of a shock though, since I headed through several blocks surrounded by skyscrapers. While Milwaukee definitely had tall buildings, they are nowhere near as tall and there are nowhere near as many as in Chicago. Anyway, I made it to Monroe and caught the Red Line home.
Overall, a fun trip! This was my first major vacation in the past year, and it was nice to get out for a bit. Milwaukee is also a pretty cool city and while this wasn’t my first time there, it was my first time really experiencing the city itself rather than the city just being a meeting place.
Today marks the first time I am writing on the topic of copyright infringement, especially as it relates to my photos. As basically every single other post on this blog makes clear, I take a lot of photos. In particular, I take photos of transit systems, especially the Chicago L, since, ya know, I live in Chicago. My long term goal is to photograph every station on the L, but in the meantime am nearly halfway there. Still, I have a pretty sweet collection of photos for the stations I have photographed. All photos I deem worthy of publication are on my Flickr, and I also have posted a number of photos on Wikipedia to improve the respective articles. For example, the article on the Bryn Mawr station includes photos from me:
Anyway, where I’m going with all of this: I have a bunch of photos posted online. Most of my photos do not have any explicit license (i.e. I hold copyright and you need to contact me to use them for any reason that would not count as fair use), though a number of my photos (including all photos posted on Wikipedia) are available under the Creative Commons license. The Creative Commons license basically says “you can use this photo, but you have to give me appropriate credit.” Credit could be as simple as “Photo by Jacob G. from Wikipedia,” it doesn’t need to be anything crazy.
There have, however, been a number of people who have used my photos illegally. Here are some highlights.
I’ll start with the most egregious usage: Brasco, a manufacturer of bus shelters:
This is a page from the Brasco website. Apparently they make bus shelters (or, in this case, a shelter at a light rail station). They are using a fine example of their product, the shelter at the Lee-Shaker station westbound platform, which was installed as part renovations to the station were completed. Hey, that photo looks familiar! I wonder where it could be from…
Yup, they stole the photo from my Flickr (click the image for a link to the original). Obvious hints include the orange work zone sign and the car in the background. I don’t even know how they found the picture, but my guess is that they were just Googling for photos of the station and happened to find that, since it turns out there really aren’t many photos of that station out there (at the time I posted that photo, there was not a single other one I could find with a Google search). This photo was not posted to Wikipedia, so it is not available even under a Creative Commons license, so they could not use it without my permission except under fair use (which this definitely was not).
Anyway, as a result of this, I reported this case to Pixsy, a service that handles illegal corporate usages of photographs, and they were able to recover compensation for me.
There have been quite a few illegal usages of my photos on Twitter, I’ll just show the best one:
The follow-up tweet which pretends to explain the original photo is just awesome. Every single part of it is a lie, let’s break them down:
No it’s not a screen capture, it’s a still photo
No it’s not “by you,” I took it
The picture was not taken on a Friday, it was taken on March 12, 2020, a Thursday
It was taken at about 4pm, not in the evening
Trains were passing by every few minutes at the time I took that photo
Yana is obviously just exploiting my photo to get clicks by trying to make a clickbaity headline. There are plenty of legitimate problems with the CTA and Chicago that could be brought up, but apparently actually researching/investigating those was too hard so she just straight-up resorted to stealing someone else’s photo and lying in order to get clicks. She didn’t even look all that hard, she just yanked one off Wikipedia (but of course didn’t attribute it, since that would make it obvious she was lying). It’s extremely disappointing that someone would not only steal someone’s photo but then blatantly lie about it just to get clicks, but apparently that’s what some people will resort to.
Anyway, I filed a DMCA claim and the photo was removed from the tweet. Problem solved.
Beyond The Dalet
My personal favorite one is a case I discovered a few days ago where a blog known as “Beyond the Dalet” decided to steal one of my photos in an article titled “Stepping Thru the Dalet – Out of Fear and Into Confidence.” From what I can tell, the Dalet is a blog of a religious nature, maintained by a woman named Betty Hall, and the Dalet program is something of a religious nature that involves fostering a relationship with God and Jesus.
In this particular offending post, Betty Hall describes using the Dalet program to get over her fear of walking on the elevated platforms of the Chicago L. I wasn’t aware many people feared walking on those platforms, as most of them are fairly safe (with maybe Sheridan and Bryn Mawr being exceptions due to how deteriorated the wood is), but apparently Betty Hall did experience that fear. Through “intimacy with God,” she described her ability to overcome that fear and walk on the L platforms. She describes one station in particular, Chicago/Franklin, being daunting to her due to its longer platform and being located on a curve, and apparently swaying when trains passed over it. The north end of the platform indeed is on a gentle curve, but the platform is about 480 feet long according to Google Earth, while Merchandise Mart (the station immediately to the south) appears to have a platform that’s 470 feet long and Sedgwick (the station immediately to the north) appears to have a platform that’s 450 feet long, so I’m not sure why she thinks it’s so much longer than the others when the actual difference is in the ballpark of 30 feet (since I measured this with Google Earth my measurements are definitely not perfect). The factual error about the length of the platform notwithstanding, all’s well and good. However, she decided that it would be good to illustrate what the station looked like by using a photo. Here is the relevant paragraph:
Hey, haven’t I seen that photo before? Well yes I have! I took it!
Well, what better place to find a photo than Wikipedia, right? She decided to use this photo from the article about the Chicago/Franklin station. The photo is licensed under Creative Commons, so of course she’s welcome to use it as long as she provides attribution. One problem: I don’t see any attribution. The photo also does not link to the original in any way. Strangely, she did provide credit for some other photos in the article, which seem to be stock images she got from pexels.com. Apparently she figured that since it’s on Wikipedia that means you can use an image and claim it as your own? Well, it doesn’t work like that, so I submitted a DMCA claim to WordPress (her site is actually hosted by WordPress, unlike this site which runs on WordPress but is hosted independently). Within 24 hours, they handled the claim and the image was removed:
Not only has the image been removed, but it has been replaced by a large warning sign, clearly indicating something was wrong and pretty hard to ignore.
I post my Chicago L pictures online for viewing free of charge to showcase my photography and show what the L looks like. In particular I post pictures on Wikipedia so when people read about stations, they have a nice visual. It is not my intention that they be used to promote anything religious. While you are welcome to do that under the Creative Commons license (for photos that are available under that license), you still have to provide attribution, and not providing any attribution is implying you took the photo yourself, which clearly Betty did not do. So, I handled the situation, and the situation has been remedied.
It’s also of course disappointing that she posted in the name of a religion that believes strongly in the Ten Commandments, one of which is “Thou shalt not steal.” Yet, she stole my photo. Simply because it’s not a physical good, or because she probably didn’t directly profit off it (though possibly did use it as a recruitment tool for Dalet, though without looking further into that blog, which I really don’t feel like doing, I can’t be sure) doesn’t make it ok. It’s still stealing, and it’s still immoral and illegal. Just because it’s online doesn’t mean you can use it however you want. It’s not your photo, I’m just allowing you to use it. However, this still means you have to use it under my terms (in this case the terms of the Creative Commons license).
At around 6pm today (June 7, 2021), a Purple Line train derailed just south of Bryn Mawr. Fortunately, no injuries were reported, and there wasn’t any major damage that I’m aware of from what I saw either in person or on the news.
Living in that area put me in a unique position to photograph the aftermath. While I was obviously not there photographing at the exact moment of the derailment, I was able to get some photos not long afterwards. I still can’t afford a drone and use a stepladder instead, which did limit my photographic capabilities, but I made do.
Specifically, the second car of the train derailed. The cars behind it and the front car seemed to remain on the tracks. The tracks on elevated structures have an additional rail in the middle for the purpose of keeping derailed trains from falling off the structure:
Anyway, without further ado, here are some pictures:
I then headed to a parking lot by the site of the derailment, and while I was walking there they removed the four rear cars of the train that did not derail:
You can definitely see that the rear car in the picture is not properly lined up with the front car.
Later that evening, they re-railed the train and brought a “rescue train” to pull the affected cars back to the Howard Yard.
They then restored power to the affected cars:
I attempted to take a video of the coupling of the rescue train to the derailed cars, but another train passed by in the process (a number of trains passed by on the other track during this time, presumably the trains that were taken out of service as a result of the derailment).
Finally, I got a video of the rescue train pulling the derailed cars away from the scene, presumably to the Howard Yard to be inspected.
From there, a number of CTA workers were looking at the site of the derailment with flashlights to see if there was an obvious cause in the track, such as a broken rail.
This was an interesting event to see unfold. Thankfully nobody was hurt and there doesn’t seem to be any major damage (any damage would just be to the one railcar, and even that would probably just be to the trucks, and any damage to the structure would just be the rails in that one spot). This was also one of my first times being able to document something like this in real time, the only other similar things being the last day of operation at 11th Street in Michigan City and the opening of the temporary stations at Argyle and Bryn Mawr. Hopefully I will get more chances to document interesting things in real time, though hopefully they won’t be derailments.
They will be replacing this with a more modern elevated structure. They have similar structures in a few places, but unfortunately I don’t have any ground-level pictures (now that I’m writing this and realize it, I will quickly remedy that), but from above the tracks look like this (Wilson in this case, just south of the work zone):
This new structure will be open underneath, since it will be supported by concrete pillars rather than a solid earth fill. In the process, they will also be rebuilding the four stations (Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn, and Bryn Mawr). All four of those stations are fairly similar to their original 1920s designs, with narrow platforms, a single entrance (with a second exit-only staircase at the north end of Bryn Mawr), and not being accessible to passengers with disabilities. Lawrence and Bryn Mawr still feature wooden platforms, with the Bryn Mawr one particularly showing its age:
Berwyn and Argyle had their platforms replaced with concrete several years ago, but otherwise are pretty similar to Lawrence and Bryn Mawr.
The renovations to the stations will allow them to be fully accessible to passengers with disabilities, and also generally modernize them by making the platform wider, replacing the wood with concrete, and other things.
In the past when undertaking major reconstruction projects, the CTA has closed the line for several months with shuttle buses, like when they rebuilt the Dan Ryan Branch in 2013. In that case, they rerouted Red Line trains via the South Side Elevated (Green Line southern leg). However, in this case, since so many people take the Red Line (or at least did before the COVID-19 pandemic, and this project was planned long before then) and there aren’t any alternate routes, they still will run trains through the work zone. Since the line has four tracks, they will close two tracks at a time. The Purple Line Express will continue to run but will share tracks with the Red Line (I imagine this will be a dispatching nightmare). Lawrence and Berwyn will temporarily close, while Argyle and Bryn Mawr will remain in service, but using a temporary platform to accommodate trains running on different tracks than usual. Here is a very crude Microsoft Paint drawing explaining the situation:
The Last Hurrah
I set out to see the preparatory work in the afternoon on May 15 and take a photos of the stations about to close (Lawrence and Berwyn) as a sort of last hurrah.
That evening, I periodically checked around the four affected stations to see what sort of preparatory work was being done. Nothing much seemed to be different until about 10:30pm, when they removed the wood covering over the Bryn Mawr temporary entrance:
The Argyle entrance was still closed at the time, so I returned home to post that photo and charge my camera. Then, I headed out again to check if there was anything new at Argyle, and unfortunately there was not, so I walked back to Bryn Mawr and then back to Argyle, at which point the wood paneling had been removed, making the fare mezzanine visible:
I then headed to Berwyn, aiming to catch the last train at that station (which by my guess was the last one listed on Ventra to arrive prior to midnight). The train ended up arriving just after midnight, so this probably was the last train ever to stop at Berwyn (no southbound trains were listed on Ventra for a while and I couldn’t see any headlights coming from the north).
From there I took it one stop to Bryn Mawr, where it stopped at the old station (now only used for northbound trains). From there, I hightailed it to the temporary southbound entrance. They were still in the process of removing the wrapping from the Bryn Mawr sign, so I waited for that, then got a photo.
At that point, I just started photographing everything I could. A photographer from the construction contractor noticed me and explicitly invited me to take as many pictures as I can (and also informed me I was the second customer ever to board at that station). That was a nice change of pace, since usually employees get mad at me for taking photos (even though non-commercial photography is allowed without any form of permit). I took a bunch of photos of the mezzanine and passage to the platform:
Unfortunately around this time it started raining, so I was only able to take photos with my good camera under the canopy, and was limited to using my phone outside of it.
From there, I caught a train (the second one ever to stop at this temporary platform) to Argyle:
At Argyle I resumed photography, but the rain had intensified, limiting me again to under the canopy.
However, it eventually stopped raining, enabling me to photograph the rest of the platform.
While I was there, I also got to talk to some of the construction crew and learn a bit more about the project, and a few guys asked me to take a photo of them (I did make sure they were aware I would post it online):
From there, I headed out of Argyle, photographing the exit along the way:
Interestingly, Argyle has the temporary mezzanine and regular mezzanine connected (and they both lead to both platforms), but closed the main mezzanine when opening the temporary one:
From there, I walked up to Bryn Mawr, stopping at Berwyn to see what it looked like after they closed it:
Then I continued up to Bryn Mawr, noticing a sign at the corner of Bryn Mawr and Broadway that was not there earlier in the evening. Since Bryn Mawr now has a separate station and entrance for each direction (about a block apart), it’s important that people know which one to use, so they put up a sign at the corner to help out.
I also photographed more of the station since the rain stopped:
Now a massive four year construction project has really kicked off. Berwyn and Lawrence are closed for four years and will probably be demolished relatively soon (I will provide photos as I am able once that happens). I really look forward to seeing the end result, even if the intermediate process is going to be a challenge. I don’t currently have a commute to work, but probably will long before this project is over, so I will be boarding at this station. I do also have the 147 Outer Drive Express bus as an alternate if this becomes too difficult.
The day after I visited Lawrence to see the station one last time before it closed.
I also noticed there was a mural across the street from the entrance, and sadly that mural will probably be lost with the construction.
It’s going to be quite the adventure, that’s for sure.
On May 1, 2021, the 11th Street Station in Michigan City closed for reconstruction. The closure is expected to last about two and a half years, after which a new, more modern station will take its place. This is a bit of a bittersweet moment, as the new station and other associated improvements will provide a much better experience for riders (faster, fewer delays, easier boarding, etc.) but this is also the end of nearly 100 years of history.
The station as it existed prior to the closure was a fairly unique setup. It was in the middle of a street running segment on 11th Street in Michigan City, where the train runs in the middle of the street. The street is configured with one lane in each direction, with a third “lane” in the middle which carries the track.
Trains run down that track in the middle, and they also have to stop at red lights, just like cars. The crossings are generally unsignaled, with just a stoplight or stop sign.
The station is similar to a streetcar stop. The train stops in the middle of the street, and then passengers have to cross a lane of traffic to board or disembark. There is a stoplight to protect passengers from oncoming traffic while trains are stopped. The station just consists of a shelter, parking lot, and no platform. There used to be a station house adjacent to the current location of the station, but the building has since fallen into disuse.
This station design is a relic from the line’s interurban heritage. Interurbans basically operate like streetcars within cities but like regular trains between cities. The way the line was originally built, it had a number of street running segments, including this one in Michigan City, as well as segments in East Chicago and South Bend. The other ones were removed long ago: the East Chicago segment was rerouted to a new alignment adjacent to the Indiana Toll Road in 1956 and the South Bend segment was removed with the line first truncated before entering the street and then rerouted to a new station at the airport in 1992.
The Michigan City segment remained the last holdout on the line, continuing to operate street running tracks. Plans had existed for a long time to remove the tracks from the street, however due to the expense and property impact involved, it took a long time to come to fruition. Finally, as part of a larger project to double track the line from Gary to Michigan City (the line east of Gary is mostly a single track), they decided they would commence work on removing street running track in Michigan City. The new alignment will replace 10th and 11th Streets with one way streets and putting a second track where one of the lanes used to be.
While the South Shore Line initially announced that there would be no extended station closures during the double tracking project, they recently announced that the 11th Street Station would close starting May 1, 2021. I decided to seize the opportunity to photograph trains on the last day. I took the 5:58 train from Millennium Station out to Michigan City with plans to spend the night. I usually only get out to Indiana on weekends, where they only run single-level cars, but this time since it was a weekday they ran a bilevel railcar. I got to Michigan City right on schedule, and got off at 11th Street.
I found out I was hardly the only person with the idea to photograph the station. There is a pretty large railfan community in the area, and a lot of them were also out there photographing, and I felt way outclassed since they definitely knew way more about this than I did and a lot of them had way fancier camera equipment. Still, I got to talk to some of them, and it was really cool to meet them.
While I didn’t stay for the last ever train to stop at the street-running 11th Street station (I didn’t particularly want to stay up until 2:18am), I did photograph a few more trains, including the last inbound train ever to stop there (there were several more outbound trains after it).
I quickly realized I was out of practice in terms of nighttime photography, as all of my recent photography expeditions have been during the daytime (and mostly during sunny weather). Still, I did my best.
One interesting detail is that the ticket machines were turned off, even though there were still trains running. I wonder if this means that passengers would have to pay the surcharge for buying a fare onboard the train.
I spent the next few hours chatting with other railfans, photographing trains as they went by, including another passenger train and a freight train:
From there, I caught a ride to the hotel where I was staying.
The next day, after getting my second COVID vaccine dose (I got it in Michigan City since at the time of my first dose, it was still pretty hard to get one in Chicago), I went back to the station to see if any demolition or construction had started yet. None had, but I got a few photos of the station from angles I hadn’t before. One other person was out photographing at this time. A train also passed by during this time, not stopping at the station. I realized I hadn’t gotten a good photo of a train including the shelter (to make it clearer how it looks when passengers actually board), so I took such a photo with this train, even if it wasn’t actually stopping.
Then, I got to work photographing various points along the line as well as the buildings that were slated for demolition (or at least the ones that had notices on them at the time).
I also got some photos of some very old interurban cars used on the line.
I also got a photo of the Indiana State Prison (from across the street):
Then I headed back to downtown Michigan City for lunch, and went to a burger place called Royale. The food was excellent, even if service was kinda slow. From there, I explored Downtown Michigan City a bit more, heading to the waterfront. Due to the blowing sand, I didn’t get many photos since I didn’t want to damage my camera. I did get a photo of the lighthouse though:
Then I walked over to Carroll Avenue (the other train station in Michigan City) since I could no longer board at 11th Street to get home. Along the way I photographed the eastern street running portion in Michigan City a bit more, as well as a few more condemned buildings.
Along the way, another train passed by.
Then, I got to the end of the street running.
From there, I walked over to Carroll Avenue.
I also took some photos of the rail yard and shops.
Then, I went to the station to wait for my train home. An outbound train passed by while I was waiting:
Finally, my train entered from the yard.
From there, I caught the train back to Chicago.
I look forward to seeing the progress in upgrading the line. It will be cool to see a new modern station in Michigan City (as well as Miller, and some improvements at other stations as well). The new station will have a full parking garage, two tracks, and high platforms, which will significantly improve the experience for passengers. The double track work will allow them to run more trains and improve reliability, while removing the tracks from the street in Michigan City will significantly improve speed and safety. Still, it is a bit sad to see a piece of history be lost.
With that, the last street-running station on the South Shore Line is no more, and all that’s left are the memories.