LaVergne Crossing

Location

Located in the western suburb of Berwyn, LaVergne is at the west end of BNSF's Cicero Yard. From downtown, exit the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) at Austin Avenue. Take Austin south about two miles to 26th Street. Turn right on 26th and proceed a half mile to Ridgeland Avenue. Turn left onto Ridgeland; the junction is about a half mile.

From the Stevenson Expressway (I-55), exit at Central Avenue and head north to Pershing Road. Turn left and go a half mile to Ridgeland. Turn right at Ridgeland and head north for about a mile to the junction.

LaVergne Station is just west of the crossing, and a Metra/BNSF commuter train from Union Station will take you there. However, the station sees only limited service on weekdays and none at all on weekends. The Berwyn station, on the other hand, is less than a half mile to the west, and nearly all trains stop there. It's just a brief walk from there east to LaVergne along the aptly named Burlington Street.

The Railroads

This is not a crossing at grade. BNSF's ex-BN, ex-Burlington "Racetrack" passes underneath Canadian National's ex-IC, ex-Chicago Central line to Iowa. BNSF travels on a northeast-southwest tangent while CN runs northwest-southeast at this point. The Racetrack is a busy triple track main that sees a large number of road freights. Cicero Yard begins just east of here and is one of BNSF's two major yards in the Chicago area. It was once a busy general merchandise terminal with a hump at the east end. However, the hump has been removed and it is now devoted almost entirely to intermodal traffic.

Metra commuter trains to the outlying suburb of Aurora use the Racetrack in large numbers, and Amtrak's Southwest Chief, California Zephyr and corridor trains to Quincy, Illinois, can be seen as well. Traffic is usually heavy with rush hours being exceptionally busy. At such times, freight trains are relatively scarce because of the large volume of commuter trains, or "dinkies" as they're known.

The CN/IC line is not nearly as busy--perhaps six to eight trains a day. Foreign power sometimes travels this route. Union Pacific can be found here, and even before the merger with CN, Wisconsin Central could be seen as well. The route originally belonged to Illinois Central, and later to Illinois Central Gulf. It was sold to Chicago Central & Pacific in the 1980s during ICG's "self-destruct" phase (CC&P ownership ended at Hawthorne Crossing two miles to the east). The IC bought it back in the mid 1990s. It is the same line that passes through 21st Street and 16th Street crossings. CN/IC's Hawthorne Yard is about a mile southeast of here.

However, with CN's purchase of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern, this route will be downgraded to just a two or three trains a day once CN finishes their revamping of the J's main line. A connection to the J will be constructed west of here at Munger, and nearly all freight movements from Iowa will transfer to the J main there. Hawthorne Yard will also be downgraded and might even be shut down in the next few years.

Freqencies

BNSF: 161.100, 161.160
CN/I 160.755

Accessibility

This is a delightful place to spend a few hours. The station platforms provide a nice setting for BNSF and Metra trains. The CN/IC overpass is about 75 yards east of the platforms and is easily photographed from Ridgeland Avenue. Peering through the overpass allows you to observe some of the movements in Cicero Yard. LaVergne is situated in a quiet, picturesque neighborhood that poses no safety problems.

For more on BNSF's racetrack, see Union Avenue / Canal St. Wye and LaGrange / Congress Park. See also Eola at Other West / Southwest Suburban Junctions.

For more on CN/IC's Iowa line, see 21st Street Crossing. See also 16th Street Crossing, Hawthorne Crossing and Ash Street at Other South Side Junctions.

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