Archive for the 'Trains' Category

Sweet Home

Monday, April 13th, 2009


In the London tube stations there were a bunch of travel ads for Chicago.  I didn’t see many ads for other places — maybe one or two for Aruba — but maybe I just didn’t notice the other places.  

The ads weren’t very good, but everytime I saw one I felt the need to point it out.  Look!  It’s Chicago!  I think it made Shama a little homesick.  It made me a little homesick too even though I’d only been gone for a couple weeks.

Getting Old Isn’t All Bad

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Nancy, one of the engineers on the Guatemala trip, qualified for the “Seniors Ride Free” program offered by the CTA.  Perhaps it’s rude to mention a friend’s age online like this, but I don’t think she’d mind because every time I see her she manages to steer the conversation to free transit, often producing her pass and rubbing it in my face.

One of the nice things about being a student was getting a U-Pass from the CTA that offered me the fun and freedom of being 65 and older, transit-wise.  Unfortunately, that freedom ended in the middle of June and now I’m paying for the train again like a sucker.

If I managed to ride the CTA 1,371 times I could have totally paid my tuition with free fares.  I didn’t.

It Runs On Steam!

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

I was waiting for the L in the loop when a strange old-timey two-car train clattered by. It didn’t stop. It just rumbled through the station.

The Guy Standing Next To Me: What the hell is that?

I managed to snap a photo before it got away, although I nearly dropped my camera on the tracks in the process. I expected to see Doc Brown, Clara, Jules and Verne waving from a window. (And Einstein. Can’t forget Einstein!) Anyone know what the deal is with those old trains? Here’s a better look:

Open The Door, Man!

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

Anyone who rides the “L” regularly has run up to the train right as the doors closed only to see it slither away down the tracks.

I noticed something interesting yesterday, however. As I was getting off the train a man calmly approached the closed doors. He didn’t run, yell, or pound on the window. He just smiled, looked down the train at the operator who was leaning out the window, and nodded. Magically, the doors opened..

Later that evening I reached the doors just as they closed and decided to try the look and nod trick myself. Ding-dong! Open doors.

Eye contact: live the dream.

The lady who missed the train because she was rooting through the trash at the Belmont station took a different approach. She threw her hands in the air and yelled, “I was getting something out of the garbage!” The doors opened for her too, so maybe my theory needs some work.

(Standing in front of those closed doors always reminds me of Eddie Murphy in Trading Places. And, wouldn’t you know, the clip’s on YouTube. Fast forward to 3:50.)

Express Train To Idiotville

Friday, December 21st, 2007

I’m a bad driver.  My problem is that I’m easily distracted and prone to the occasional space out.  It’s probably a good thing I don’t have a car right now.

Unfortunately my spacing-outing is not limited to driving.  I’m also a bad train rider.  I was riding what I thought was the Brown Line when the doors closed at Belmont and I heard the following announcement:

ANNOUNCER: This is a Purple Line express to Howard.  Next stop, Howard.

My ensuing spastic dance was both embarrassing and fruitless.  The doors were closed and closed they would stay as the train rumbled 7 miles north to Evanston.

Public Wordplay

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

It took me a second to decode Jason Pickleman’s public art in the new Montrose brown line station. I knew it was supposed to “reflect the street names of the community,” and at first glance the letters look recognizable, but when read left to right, they don’t actually make any sense.  Wolwarashloak?

A clue, however, is etched into the front windows.

Good Morning Montrose, How Are Ya?

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

I ran into the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Montrose brown line stop today. At first I was going to just hop on the train, but I figured I’d linger about and see if anything interesting happened. It didn’t. There were speeches from CTA head Ron Huberman, Alderman Gene Schulter, and Congressman Rahm Emmanuel. They were all quite boring. “Blah blah blah senior citizens blah blah federal funding blah blah blah cooperation blah blah state of the art.”  They were so boring that I didn’t even stay for the cutting of the ribbon.  I’m sure it was boring.

I also got a chance to chat with a couple of the workers who built the station. They seemed really proud of it. And they should be. It’s probably the nicest El station I’ve ever been in.  In?  On?  Whatever.


Sunday, November 18th, 2007

On November 26, CTA will reopen the Montrose station to customers and temporarily close the Damen station for up to 12 months.

The Car Is Dead! Long Live… My Feet

Friday, September 28th, 2007

My old Saturn finally bit it, and it did so in dramatic fashion. I wasn’t there for the accident, but when I went to clean out the car I was impressed by the wallop it took. State Farm decided that the cost of the repairs far exceeded the worth of a 12-year-old economy wagon and gave me a check. Two notes here: 1. everyone involved in the accident is fine. 2. I’m not a big recommender, but if you’re looking for an insurance company, I have had really good experiences with State Farm. It’s like they’re a neighbor who’s really there for you. A good neighbor, even.


So now I’m carless. At some point I’ll probably get another car (any recommendations? I like small station wagons) but in the meantime I’m just gonna hoof it… and take public transportation… and get rides from people.

It’s been going okay for the most part. There haven’t been too many times I’ve wished I had a car, but today is one of them. I already took a bus and a train to get to work. After work I’ll hop on the Halsted bus down to UIC for our Engineers Without Borders Regional Workshop. After that I need to get to Evanston somehow to meet up with a friend who’s in from out of town. Finally, I need to get back home to Lincoln Square. Yabba Dabba Doo!

You Win Some, You Lose Some

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

While I’m very excited about the Montrose Brown Line station reopening this winter, I was kind of bummed that they moved it to the other side of the street, increasing my commute by a whole twenty paces.

Then I realized that the Armitage station also moved to the other side of the street, decreasing my commute by twenty paces.


Speaking of Trains…

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

First in a series of “reasons it’s really hard to be a parent.”

Waiting for the L at the Montrose station, a mother with her son came up on the platform. I have no idea how old kids are. They’re either babies, toddlers, awkward, or teenagers. Beyond that I can’t really guess. This kid was a toddler… I think.

He was very excited about the train. He reminded me of Ralphie’s little brother in A Christmas Story when they’re opening their presents.

Are we going on a train?!!? Choo choo!?! Look at the tracks!! Wow! Is it coming?? Choo choo!!! Choo choo! Trains!!!

It was non-stop. His mom noticed me chuckling, turned, and deadpanned, “He likes trains.”

And that’s when the train came. Woah! This kid took it to another level. He couldn’t control himself! His eyes were bugging out and he was jumping up and down. His mom literally grabbed him to hold him back. I’m pretty sure he was making a move to give the train a hug. All the while, he was shouting, “CHOO CHOO! CHOO CHOO! CHOO CHOO! It’s a TRAIN!” What can I say? Kids love trains! I sure loved the crap out of stupid Tootle.

Why Don’t You Worry About Your Own Problems?

Thursday, January 25th, 2007

They can’t finish rebuilding the Montrose station soon enough ’cause the Irving Park scene is messed up!

I was waiting on the southbound platform a few weeks ago and happened to notice that the northbound train was stopped about 100 yards north of the station. This is during rush hour, mind you. (Well, maybe a little after. I stay at work late, OK? Get off my back.) The point is, there were a lot of people waiting for trains.

The conductor of the train was walking down the tracks toward the station. He wasn’t in any hurry. I wasn’t either, which is why I could enjoy the scene that was about to unfold.

I noticed a little girl standing alone on the northbound platform. She was young enough that it was strange for her to be on an L platform by herself, but she seemed rather calm. The crazy man on the platform, however, was anything but. He was gesticulating wildly for the conductor to hurry over. The conductor did not hurry, but he made it eventually, at which point I learned what had happened: The little girl had accidentally gotten off of the train without her mother noticing. The mother was now waiting impatiently on the train stalled 100 yards north of the station.

The conductor formed a plan, which the crazy man loudly repeated, line by line.

CONDUCTOR: Don’t worry, it will be OK.
CONDUCTOR: I’ll make sure your mom gets off at the next station
CONDUCTOR: Get on this next train and the conductor will help you out.

The conductor motioned for the next train to approach the station. (The crazy man, also motioned for the next train to approach, but with a much larger gesture.) When it got there, the conductor made sure the little girl got on the train and explained the situation to that train’s operator.

NEW TRAIN OPERATOR: Why didn’t you just radio me?
CONDUCTOR: I don’t have a radio.
NEW TRAIN OPERATOR: How do you not have a radio?
CONDUCTOR: Why don’t you worry about your own problems?

I’ve often defended the CTA, even irrationally at times, but if there’s one thing the dude driving the train needs, it’s probably a radio. Wouldn’t you assume, maybe, that the radio would be built into the train itself? I mean, I’m all for personal interaction, but as he slowly sauntered back to his train I couldn’t help but wonder what a wrench this 30 minute detour threw into the CTA’s down-to-the-minute schedules. (Pffft.)

All that said, they did (I assume) reunite the little girl with her mother. So that’s nice.