Metra (officially known as the Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation) is a regional rail system that serves the city of Chicago, Illinois, United States and surrounding suburbs. The railroad serves over 200 stations on 11 different rail lines across the Regional Transportation Authority's six-county service area (Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will 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.


In 1926, the Illinois Central Railroad electrified its commuter service between downtown Chicago and the neighborhood of Hyde Park. This would later become the Metra Electric Line. Forty-eight years later, in 1974, the Regional Transportation Authority was formed after a March 1973 referendum to provide financial support from local and county governments to railroads providing commuter service between Chicago and its suburbs. Purchase of service contracts with all the railroads operating commuter service in the area were signed in 1976.

In the wake of the 1980 bankruptcy and liquidation of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, the RTA also acquired ownership and operational responsibilities of that railroad's commuter operations (now Metra's Rock Island District) in 1982. The same year it also leased the Milwaukee Road's Suburban Mass Transit District lines (now Metra's Milwaukee Districts). In 1979, the RTA purchased 27 F40PH locomotives, as well as inheriting 14 F40C locomotives, 18 E8/E9 locomotives, and two F7 units. (They would later come in possession of 45 F40PH-2 locomotives between 1979 and 1989, and 29 F40PHM-2s in 1991-1992.)

The RTA Amendatory Act of 1983 created the current organization, with three management boards for Chicago area public transit: the CTA for city rapid transit and buses, Pace for suburban buses, and Metra for suburban rail. The Metra service mark, short for Metropolitan Rail, was adopted in 1984. Before then, Metra was briefly known just as the Northeast Illinois Railroad Corporation. Many Metra locomotives remained in the RTA paint scheme until the early to mid-1990s.

Metra purchased the Metra Electric Line and took over operation of the Heritage Corridor in 1987, then took over operation of the Southwest Service in 1993. In 1996 it began operating the North Central Service over the Wisconsin Central Transportation Corporation, now part of the Canadian National Railway. Commuter service that had previously been operated on that line by the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie Railway (the Soo Line) ended by 1971. From 1991-1992, Metra purchased 29 F40PH-2M locomotives, and came in possession of the Milwaukee Road's F40C fleet. In the early 1990s, the E and F units were retired (the F units being sent to the Illinois Railway Museum), and in 2005, the F40Cs were replaced by new MPI MP36PH engines.

Metra's other lines are still operated by the freight railroads that own the trackage. The Union Pacific Railroad operates three ex-Chicago and North Western Railway lines – the Union Pacific/North Line, Union Pacific/Northwest Line and Union Pacific/West Line. The other line, the BNSF Railway Line, is operated by BNSF. With over 60,000 daily passengers on 94 revenue trains, the BNSF line is Metra's busiest. Commuter service is also provided by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District's South Shore Line to South Bend, Indiana, one of only a few remaining interurban streetcar lines in the U.S. From 1971 to 1991, Amtrak's Calumet provided commuter rail service to Valparaiso, Indiana, and provides intercity service to Chicago, including frequent Hiawatha service to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, used by some commuters to Chicago.

Lines and stations

Until the 1960s, Chicago had six major intercity terminals. Three of them – Central Station, Dearborn Station and Grand Central Station – have closed. Metra still uses the other three – LaSalle Street Station, Union Station and the Ogilvie Transportation Center – as well as the Millennium Station (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 Terminal, 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 Station (previously Randolph Street Station) serves the ex-Illinois Central Railroad Metra Electric Line, and the South Shore Line interurban streetcar service to South Bend, Indiana, operated by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District.

In 2008, plans were announced for a possible new station on the Metra Heritage Corridor to be located in Romeoville. The station and accompanying parking would be located on the property belonging to the Citgo oil refinery between Lemont and Lockport. Metra would also increase the number of trains in service on the Heritage Corridor line. The plan also calls for Pace Park and Ride bus service from Weber Road, on Romeoville's western boundary, east along 135th Street (Romeo Road) to the new station.

Extension projects

Despite the State of Illinois's current budget crisis, Metra is implementing vigorous expansion in the coming years. Some of this expansion has already been realized: the Union Pacific/West line has been extended from Geneva, Illinois through La Fox to Elburn, and the Southwest Service line has been extended from Orland Park to Manhattan. Metra is also in the process of extending the McHenry branch of the Union Pacific/Northwest into Johnsburg.

Metra is also planning to create new rail services as well, namely the SouthEast Service line from downtown Chicago to Crete as well as Metra's first entirely intra-suburban commuter line, the Suburban Transit Access Route, or "STAR" Line, which would operate between Joliet and O'Hare Airport, linking together Metra lines in the western suburbs. In 2010, Metra hopes to extend the Union Pacific/North Line to Milwaukee. Stops would include Milwaukee, Cudahy, South Milwaukee, Oak Creek, Caledonia, Racine, and Somers.

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 and range from A (downtown stations and termini) to M. Harvard on the Union Pacific/Northwest Line is the only station located in the M zone, and no stations are located 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. Locomotive #214 pulled the very first North Central Service train from Antioch to Chicago. 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
514–516, 518, 521 E8 1951–1953 All Diesel Routes Retired
600–614 F40C 1974 Milwaukee Districts Retired, although engines 611 and 614 remain on the property. 614 is named Edward F. Brabec while 611 is named Village of Ontarioville.
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

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 Retired
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

Metra, as all passenger rail, has a reputation for being a safe and reliable mode of transportation. However, there have been several accidents in the past that have caught regional, and sometimes national, attention:

  • At around 5:53 p.m. on August 26, 1991, Mary T. Wojtyla, 41, of Chicago, was walking with her lawyer across the tracks at the Fairview Avenue grade crossing in Downers Grove, directly in front of a westbound train which 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 stuck by the train. 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, Illinois. Her violin, which was an expensive $500,000 Amati was stuck in the train doors as she was getting off the train. She sued Metra for the incident in 1999, and it went to court where she was awarded $29 million. Since then, she has been playing violin and still goes in tours, but paralyzed with one real foot and another replacement one from when she was in rehabilitation.
  • On the morning of October 25, 1995, a Metra train hit a school bus which was stopped along the tracks at the stoplight at Algonquin Road and Northwest Highway in Fox River Grove. 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 by several parties in lawsuits and safety improvements.
  • On September 17, 2005, a Metra train from Joliet to Chicago derailed about five miles from LaSalle Street Station, killing two people – Allison Walsh, 38 and Jane Cuthbert, 22 – and injuring approximately 80 others. While the investigation is still proceeding at this time 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 Chicago to Antioch, Illinois collided with multiple cars at the Grand Avenue crossing in Elmwood Park, Illinois. The railroad tracks cross Grand Avenue at a shallow angle, therefore 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. No one died at the scene, but 15 people needed to be 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

In the history of the Metra Police Department, one officer has been killed in the line of duty.

Officer Date of death Age Tenure Cause of death
Officer Thomas A. Cook September 27, 2006 43 12 years Gunfire

In popular culture

Metra has made several appearances in film:

  • In the 1990 film Home Alone, Kevin runs across a bridge as a Metra train pulls under it.
  • In the film She's Having a Baby, the main character takes the Metra to and from work each day.
  • In the film U.S. Marshals, although it's set in New York City, the train that cuts Deputy Gerard off shortly after the graveyard scene is a Metra. This is probably due to the fact that many scenes set in New York were actually filmed in Chicago.
  • In end of the film Weird Science, the train that Gary speeds in front of to lose the police belongs to the Regional Transportation Authority, before it became Metra.
  • Many shots take place aboard a Metra train in the 2005 film Derailed.
  • In the film Cheaper by the Dozen, Mark boards a Metra train in an attempt to run away from home.
  • In the film Stir of Echoes, the main character played by Kevin Bacon works along a Metra line. He also lives in the Wicker Park neighborhood in Chicago, and visits a station there, though Logan Square does not actually have a Metra station.
  • In the film Save The Last Dance, the main character takes a Metra train to Chicago to live with her father.
  • In the Nintendo 64 title Cruis'n USA, a Metra F40PH (With "TOXIC" written in the place of "METRA" on the side) appears on railroad lines in several courses.
  • In R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet, the opening shot of Chicago features a passing Metra train.
  • In the film The Lake House, Sandra Bullock's character is shown boarding and riding a Metra train.

See also


External links

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