|Metra SouthWest Service|
SouthWest Service #827 leaves Union Station in 2011.
|Daily ridership||9,600 (Avg. Weekday 2014)|
|Owner||Norfolk Southern Railway (Leased to Metra)|
|Operator(s)||Metra, Norfolk Southern Railway|
|Track length||40.6 miles|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
The SouthWest Service (SWS) is a Metra commuter rail line, running southwest from Union Station in downtown Chicago, Illinois, to Manhattan, Illinois. Metra does not refer to its lines by color, but the timetable accents for the SouthWest Service line are "Banner Blue," for the Wabash Railroad's Banner Blue passenger train. The trackage is owned by Metra north of a junction with the Belt Railway of Chicago at Loomis Boulevard, and is leased from Norfolk Southern Railway south of the junction (NS has trackage rights over Metra's portion).
The line south of the curve at the east end of the section aligned with 75th Street was built by the Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific Railway, which opened in 1880 to Chicago. That curve was a junction with the Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad, of which the Wabash owned one-fifth, and used to reach Dearborn Station in downtown Chicago.
After several reorganizations the Wabash Railroad was leased by the Norfolk and Western Railway on October 16, 1964.:145 After Amtrak assumed control of most intercity passenger trains on May 1, 1971, the Chicago-Orland Park commuter train was the only train which still used Dearborn. It continued to use a small platform and track on the property until 1976 when it relocated to Union Station, via a new connection at Alton Junction.:71 Under N&W operation the train was known as the Orland Park Cannonball. The Regional Transportation Authority began to subsidize the service in 1978. N&W merged into the Norfolk Southern Railway in 1982, and for a while the line was known as the Norfolk Southern Line (NS). On June 1, 1993 Metra took over operations and renamed it the SouthWest Service.
The rail line expansion project, which includes 11 miles (18 km) of new track and at least two additional train stations, was completed (except for the Laraway Road station) in January 2006. The number of trains per day increased from 16 to 30, 15 in each direction. For years, Pace operated Route 835, whose bus service enhanced the limited train service in the SouthWest Service corridor. With the rail service expansion, ridership on route 835 became so poor that Pace eliminated it on August 17, 2007.
Metra started Saturday service on March 21, 2009, with six trains between Union Station and Manhattan.
In the near future, SouthWest Service trains will shift from Union Station to LaSalle Street Station via the new Englewood Flyover connection that was built near 74th Street. Additional mainline trackage will be also be built between LaSalle St Station and 74th to handle the increase in traffic. LaSalle St Station will also be expanded. This would relieve congestion at Union Station and improve reliability for the SouthWest Service., as well as allowing up to 5 more trains to run in each direction.
As of October 16, 2011[update], the last time Metra revised the timetable, the SouthWest Service has fifteen round-trips per day on weekdays and three on Saturday. There is no Sunday service. All Saturday trains run through to Manhattan. Of the weekday trains, one terminates at Orland Park 153rd Street, three at Manhattan, and the remainder at Orland Park 179th Street.
This certain service pattern was done because the entire segment of track from 143rd to Manhattan is single tracked. Because of this, if a southbound train got delayed between 179th and 143rd, the next northbound train would get delayed even more waiting for a clear line to Palos Park.
SouthWest Service trains make the following station stops:
- Union Station
- Oak Lawn
- Chicago Ridge
- Palos Heights
- Palos Park
- Orland Park 143rd Street
- Orland Park 153rd Street
- Orland Park 179th Street
- Laraway Road (No off-peak service)
- Manhattan (No off-peak service)
- Metra Railfan Tips - Heritage Corridor
- "Did you know?" (PDF). On the Bi-Level: 3. June 2009.
- Metra (2013). "SouthWest Service History". Retrieved June 7, 2014.
- Schafer, Mike (2000). More Classic American Railroads. Osceola, WI: MBI. ISBN 076030758X. OCLC 44089438.
- Holland, Kevin J. (2001). Classic American Railroad Terminals. Osceola, WI: MBI. ISBN 9780760308325. OCLC 45908903.
- Norfolk and Western Railway (July 3, 1972). "Suburban Passenger Service".
- Hood, Joel (March 2, 2009). "Metra adding Saturday service to SouthWest line in March". Chicago Metra. Retrieved 2009-02-03.
- "Metra Moving". Railway Track & Structures. 12 September 2009. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
- Metra (October 16, 2011). "Southwest Service". Retrieved June 7, 2014.