North Central Service

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North Central Service (NCS)
METX 118 at the O'Hare Transfer Station.jpg
A North Central Service train at O'Hare Transfer in 2010.
Type Commuter Rail
System Metra
Termini Union Station
Stations 18
Daily ridership 5,800 (Avg. Weekday 2016)[1]
Opened August 19, 1996
Owner Metra (Union Station to River Grove) CN beyond River Grove
Operator(s) Metra
Line length 52.9 mi (85.1 km)
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Route map
55.7 Antioch
50.7 Lake Villa
48.5 Round Lake Beach
46.5 Washington Street (Grayslake)
43.4 Prairie Crossing / Libertyville
39.6 Mundelein
35.7 Vernon Hills
34.4 Prairie View
32.0 Buffalo Grove
29.9 Wheeling
26.6 Prospect Heights
Suburban Transit Access Route
19.8 O'Hare Transfer
Blue Line
18.6 Rosemont
17.4 Schiller Park
15.8 Belmont Avenue (Franklin Park)
MD-W to Elgin
Des Plaines River
11.4 mi
18.3 km
River Grove
10.2 mi
16.4 km
Elmwood Park
9.5 mi
15.3 km
Mont Clare
9.1 mi
14.6 km
8.6 mi
13.8 km
7.7 mi
12.4 km
Hanson Park
7.0 mi
11.3 km
6.5 mi
10.5 km
5.9 mi
9.5 km
MD-N Amtrak
Coach Yard
2.9 mi
4.7 km
Western Avenue
2.9 mi
4.7 km
Northwest branch
Green and Pink Lines
0 mi Union Station Amtrak
BNSF to Aurora
HC to Joliet
SWS to Manhattan

The North Central Service (NCS) is a Metra commuter rail line running from Union Station in downtown Chicago through northwestern and far northern suburbs to Antioch, Illinois. In July 2017 the public timetable shows 11 weekday departures from Chicago, one to Lake Villa and the rest to Antioch.

Between Union Station and River Grove stations the North Central Service shares tracks with Metra's Milwaukee District/West Line, but does not stop at any of the stations used by the MD-W between Western Avenue and River Grove. About a mile west of the River Grove, this route turns north at a junction known as tower B-12. The rest of the route operates on track owned and dispatched by the Canadian National Railway ("CN"). A single daily inbound train, #120, uses a combination of the North Central Service's trackage and the Milwaukee District North line's trackage by using a crossing with that line in Grayslake.

The CN assumed ownership of this route on September 7, 2001 when the CN absorbed the Wisconsin Central Railroad ("WC"). The WC operated this route after it was purchased from the Soo Line Railroad in April 1987. Metra provides its own crews for this service and operates under a trackage rights agreement with the CN.

Service began August 19, 1996.[2] As of 2006, this is the only new line in the Metra system since its formation. Prior to the start of NCS, the last passenger service on this route ended in 1965, when the Soo Line discontinued the overnight Chicago-Duluth Laker.

The North Central Service serves O'Hare International Airport, but a limited number of trains. Metra does operate one express train from Union Station to O'Hare Transfer daily.

The North Central Service, the Heritage Corridor, and SouthWest Service are the only Metra lines that are fully ADA-accessible.

No tickets are sold at any North Central Service stations outside Chicago.

Recent history[edit]

On January 30, 2006 four new stations on the North Central Service opened: Franklin Park, Schiller Park, Rosemont, and Grayslake.[3] Another station, at Grand and Cicero Avenues in Chicago (between the Western Avenue and River Grove stops), was scheduled to be completed by the end of as of 2006. Service doubled from 10 to 20 trains per day with this change in the timetable.[4]

On September 11, 2006 service expanded from 20 to 22 trains when Metra split one rush-hour local train in each direction into two express trains.

Notably, the line goes through Des Plaines but does not have a station there. The station in Des Plaines was on Thacker Street and closed in 1965.

Metra has considered adding weekend service to the North Central Service ever since Saturday service was added to the SouthWest Service, and has also considered operating six trains between Chicago and Antioch, like the SouthWest Service.


Zone Station Municipality County Notes
K Antioch Antioch Lake Connections:

Bus interchange Western Kenosha County Transit buses: Antioch Service

J Lake Villa Lake Villa
Round Lake Beach Round Lake Beach
I Washington Street Grayslake
H Prairie Crossing Libertyville Connections:

Mainline rail interchange Metra trains: Milwaukee District / North (at Prairie Crossing)

Mundelein Mundelein Connections:

Bus interchange Pace buses: 572 Washington

G Vernon Hills Vernon Hills
Prairie View Prairie View
F Buffalo Grove Buffalo Grove Connections:

Bus interchange Pace buses: 234 Wheeling - Des Plaines, 272 Milwaukee Avenue North, and 626 Skokie Valley Limited

Wheeling Wheeling Cook Connections:

Bus interchange Pace buses: 234 Wheeling - Des Plaines

E Prospect Heights Prospect Heights Connections:

Bus interchange Pace buses: 221 Wolf Road

D O'Hare Transfer Chicago Connections:

People mover Airport Transit System
Airport interchange O'Hare International Airport

Rosemont Rosemont Connections:

Bus interchange Pace buses: 326 West Irving Park

C Schiller Park Schiller Park
Belmont Avenue Franklin Park Connections:

Bus interchange Pace buses: 319 Grand Avenue

River Grove River Grove Points of interest:

Elmwood Cemetery
Mainline rail interchange Metra trains: Milwaukee District / West Line
Bus interchange Pace buses: 307 Harlem, 319 Grand Avenue, and 331 Cumberland - 5th Avenue

A Western Avenue Chicago Connections:

Mainline rail interchange Metra trains: Milwaukee District / North and Milwaukee District / West
Bus interchange CTA buses: 49 Western, X49 Western Express, and 65 Grand

Union station Connections:

Mainline rail interchange Metra trains: Milwaukee District / North, Milwaukee District / West, BNSF Railway, Heritage Corridor, and SouthWest Service
Mainline rail interchange Amtrak trains: California Zephyr, City of New Orleans, Empire Builder, Hiawatha Service, Illini and Saluki, Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg, Capitol Limited, Cardinal, Hoosier State, Southwest Chief, Texas Eagle, Lake Shore Limited, Pere Marquette, Wolverine, Blue Water, and Lincoln Service
Metro interchange CTA "L" trains: Blue Line (at Clinton), Brown, Orange, Pink, and Purple Line Express (at Quincy)
Bus interchange CTA buses: 1 Bronzeville/Union Station, 7 Harrison, J14 Jeffery Jump, 19 United Center Express, 28 Stony Island, 56 Milwaukee, 60 Blue Island/26th, 120 Ogilvie/Streeterville Express, 121 Union/Streeterville Express, 124 Navy Pier, 125 Water Tower Express, 126 Jackson, 128 Soldier Field Express, 130 Museum Campus, 151 Sheridan, 156 LaSalle, 157 Streeterville/Taylor, 192 University of Chicago Hospitals Express
Bus interchange Pace buses: 755 Plainfield/IMD/West Loop Express
Intercity bus service Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach: Chicago-Madison and Chicago-Rockford (via Van Galder), Chicago-Louisville (via Greyhound)


  1. ^ "Operations and Ridership Data". Metra. Retrieved October 7, 2017. 
  2. ^ Metra Railfan Tips - North Central Service
  3. ^
  4. ^
  • J. David Ingles, Ready or not, here we come, Trains November 1996

External links[edit]

Route map: Google

KML is from Wikidata

Media related to Metra North Central Service at Wikimedia Commons