Rondout is a well-known location that is easily reached from downtown Chicago. Take the Kennnedy Expressway, then the Edens Expressway, then the Tri-State Tollway (all I-94) to Illinois Rte. 176 (Rockland Road). Head east on Route 176 about a half mile and cross the Metra/CP main line. Before crossing the next railroad, turn right onto a road (Arcadia St.) that goes through an underpass. You can park alongside the road at the entrance to the Metra area around the tower. The elevation above the underpass has a public bike trail at the top. From Arcadia Street, you will see a path leading up to it. Walk up the path to a chainlink fence at the top; you will see an entrance through the fence once you're up there. The elevation provides an excellent bird's-eye view of the junction from two bridges over the rail lines that cross here.
Alternatively, turn right off Route 176 just before Arcadia at the Metra/CP tracks and park by the underpass there. A trespass sign prevents you from proceding further. At one time, there was a commuter station at the junction, but Metra closed it in 1979. This made access more difficult and train service to the junction impossible. The nearest stations are not within walking distance.
The double track north-south route through here is the former Milwaukee Road main line to Milwaukee and the Twin Cities. Chicago's commuter train agency, Metra, owns the line south of here and is used by their Milwaukee North Line trains. To the north, the tracks are the property of Canadian Pacific. CP uses trackage rights on Metra to access the Chicago area. Crossing Metra/CP here is Elgin, Joliet & Eastern's single track main line from Joliet. It terminates at Waukegan, about nine miles to the northeast. Canadian National purchased EJ&E in January, 2009, but it's unlikely that traffic patterns will change much.
A small interchange yard occupies the southwest quadrant of the junction, and another connection is located in the southeast quadrant. Just north of the diamonds, a Metra-owned ex-Milwaukee branch line leads off to the northwest. All Metra trains use the branch and terminate at Fox Lake, near the Wisconsin border. An occasional Wisconsin & Southern (formerly Wisconsin & Calumet) freight also uses the branch on trackage rights, as does a CP local. Beyond Fox Lake, W&S owns the line.
All CP road freights and Milwaukee-bound Amtrak trains continue on the main line north of here. About 25 CP trains can be seen on a given day, most of them headed to/from Bensenville yard, CP's Chicago terminal. Amtrak service features seven round-trips between Milwaukee and Chicago, as well as the Empire Builder to the west coast.
Nearly all of the action--over 80 trains on weekdays--is on Metra/CP and the Fox Lake branch. CN/EJE sees only light traffic, with some of it running at night. However, an occasional UP coal train on trackage rights can be seen here. CN's main interest in "the J" extends from Leithton south to Joliet. The Leithton-Rondout-Waukegan segment is not a part of their upgrading plans and it is rumored that this stretch may be sold to a shortline. Rondout Tower, one of the largest towers still in operation in the Chicago area, sits in the southeast quadrant. It is owned by Metra but staffed by CP operators.
EJ&E: 160.350, 161.475, 161.145
The elevated bike path provides a safe and legal vantage point. The elevation once carried interurban trains on the Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee's branch line to Mundelein, but the tracks were taken up back in the 1960's. Access at ground level is difficult and not recommended. There is a trespass sign at the tower and another at the underpass along the Metra/CP tracks. Just north of the diamonds on the west side of the tracks, is a platform that was once part of Rondout station. Unforunately, Metra closed the station back in the 1970s.
For more on the Metra/CP Milwaukee North Line, see Western Avenue. See also Techny at Other North / Northwest Suburban Junctions, as well as Mayfair and Pacific at Other North Side Junctions.
For more on EJ&E locations, see Chicago Heights, Griffith, and Turner (West Chicago). See also Van Loon and Pine at Other Northwest Indiana Junctions and Eola at Other West / Southwest Suburban Junctions. See also Leithton, et al. at Other North / Northwest Suburban Junctions.
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