North Central Service
|North Central Service (NCS)|
A North Central Service train at O'Hare Transfer in 2010.
|Daily ridership||5,600 (Avg. Weekday 2009)|
|Opened||August 19, 1996|
|Owner||Metra (Union Station to River Grove) CN beyond River Grove|
|Line length||55.7 mi (89.6 km)|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
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 April 2013 the public timetable shows 11 weekday departures from Chicago, one to Lake Villa and the rest to Antioch.
Between Western Avenue 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. About a mile west of the River Grove station 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. As of 2006[update], 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 because of the limited number of trains (not to mention the lack of weekend service) it is not a recommended method of reaching the airport. However, Metra does operate one express train from Union Station to O'Hare Transfer daily.
No tickets are sold at any North Central Service stations outside Chicago.
On January 30, 2006 four new stations on the North Central Service opened: Franklin Park, Schiller Park, Rosemont, and Grayslake. 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[update]. Service doubled from 10 to 20 trains per day with this change in the timetable.
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.
- J. David Ingles, Ready or not, here we come, Trains November 1996
Media related to Metra North Central Service at Wikimedia Commons
- Metra North Central Service schedule