Union Pacific / Northwest Line

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Union Pacific / Northwest Line
METX 142 in Norwood Park on the UP Harvard Subdivision.jpg
A Union Pacific / Northwest Line train led by an EMD F40PH in Norwood Park, Illinois
Service typeCommuter Rail
LocaleCook, Lake and McHenry counties, Illinois
Current operator(s)
Ridership38,600 (Avg. Weekday 2014)[1]
18,800 (Avg. Weekend 2014)[2]
StartOgilvie Transportation Center
EndHarvard, McHenry
Line(s) used
Track owner(s)Union Pacific Railroad

The Union Pacific / Northwest Line (UP-NW) is a commuter rail line provided by Metra and operated by the Union Pacific Railroad in Chicago, Illinois and its surrounding suburbs. While Metra does not refer to any of its lines by colors, the timetable accents for the Union Pacific/Northwest line are bright "Viking Yellow," honoring the Chicago & North Western Railway's Viking passenger train.[3]

The line runs from Ogilvie Transportation Center to Harvard, Illinois. However, most trains terminate in Crystal Lake, Illinois. A branch line to McHenry, Illinois operates during weekday rush hours in the peak direction. Overall, this is Metra's longest route and one of three routes with branches (the others being the Rock Island District and Metra Electric District). The terminus of the McHenry branch originally was in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, but was cut back to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin in 1965, Lake Geneva to Richmond, Illinois in 1975, and Richmond to McHenry in 1980.[4][page needed]

As of April 2013, the public timetable indicated 33 trains leaving Chicago each weekday, with 3 terminating at McHenry, 14 terminating at Crystal Lake, 4 terminating at Barrington, 11 at Harvard, and 1 at Des Plaines.

The line has many riders from southern Wisconsin due to its proximity to places like Madison and Janesville. The railroad in its entirety passes through Madison and Janesville, with the current official ending of the track located 4 miles North of Evansville Wisconsin, at or near milepost 124 (measured from Ogilvie Transportation Center). Although passenger service does not serve the Madison subvision at this time, the ownership of this portion of the railroad shifts after the end milepost 124, and the rail that was maintained to passenger severity now operates for freight car storage under State of Wisconsin ownership. The track then continues for over 70 miles until it terminates in Reedsburg Wi, at milepost 191. Wisconsin Department of Transportation has funded studies on extending the line from Harvard into Janesville, with potential stops along the way.[5] This line is also used by a handful of commuters from the Rockford area.[6] There has been talk of rebuilding the KD Line from Rockford to Harvard.[citation needed] A 1.6-mile (2.6 km) extension of the McHenry branch to Johnsburg is proposed as part of CMAP’s Go to 2040 Priority Projects. This service enhancement would include the addition of two new stations: Prairie Grove on the McHenry branch and Ridgefield on the Harvard branch.[7]

The Union Pacific / Northwest Line is Metra's second busiest line, with an average of 38,600 boardings on a weekday. It is second only to the BNSF Railway Line.

The line is triple-tracked from Clybourn to just southeast of Barrington, with a bidirectional express track, and double tracked from Barrington to Harvard. The McHenry branch is single-tracked. Historically, double track was maintained from Harvard to Baraboo, Wisconsin. A now-gone portion of the Union Pacific / Northwest Line diverged at Harvard and passed through Beloit, Wisconsin, and reconnected to the main line at Evansville junction to allow a separate passenger and freight line. Around the time the Beloit line was abandoned, the railroad single-tracked the line from Harvard to Janesville.


Since 2014 annual ridership has declined from 11.6 million to 10.6 million, an overall decline of 8.7%.[8]



State Zone Location Station Connections and notes
WI   Evansville Evansville Closed 1965[citation needed]
Janesville Janesville Closed
Clinton Clinton Closed 1966[citation needed]
Sharon Sharon Closed 1966[citation needed]
IL J Harvard Harvard Pace: 808
Hartland Hartland Closed 1984[9]
Woodstock Woodstock Pace: 807, 808
Ridgefield Ridgefield Closed, proposed new stop
I Crystal Lake Crystal Lake Pace: 550, 806, 808
Pingree Road
H Cary Cary
Fox River Grove Fox River Grove Formerly named Chicago Highlands
G Barrington Barrington
F Palatine Palatine
E Arlington Heights Arlington Park
Arlington Heights Pace: 696
D Mount Prospect Mount Prospect Pace: 234, 694
Des Plaines Cumberland Pace: 208, 221 Wolf Road, 234
Des Plaines Pace: 208, 209, 226, 230, 234, 250, 619
C Park Ridge Dee Road Pace: 209, 226, 240
Park Ridge Pace: 209, 241, 290
CTA Bus: 68
Skokie Skokie Skokie branch; Closed December 1, 1958
Lincolnwood Lincolnwood Skokie branch; Closed December 1, 1958
Chicago Sauganash Skokie branch; Closed December 1, 1958
Peterson Weber branch; Closed December 1, 1958
Edison Park CTA Bus: 68
Norwood Park CTA Bus: 68
B Gladstone Park CTA Bus: 68
Jefferson Park Transit Center Chicago "L": Blue Line
CTA Bus: 56, 68, 81, 81W, 85, 85A, 88, 91, 92, X98
Pace: 225, 226, 270, Pulse Milwaukee Line
Mayfair Closed December 1, 1958
Milwaukee Road trains
Kostner Closed December 1, 1958
Irving Park Chicago "L": Blue Line (at Irving Park)
CTA Bus: 53, N53, 54A, 80
  Parkview Closed December 1, 1958
Avondale Closed December 1, 1958
Maplewood Closed December 1, 1958
A Clybourn Metra Union Pacific / North Line
CTA Bus: 9, X9, 73
Ogilvie Transportation Center Metra: Union Pacific / North Line, Union Pacific / West Line
Chicago "L": Green Line, Pink Line (at Clinton)
CTA Bus: J14, 19, 56, 60, 120, 124, 125, 126, 128, 130, 157, 192

McHenry branch[edit]

The branch, which formerly had service north to Williams Bay, branches off from the main line north of Pingree Road.

State Zone Location Station Connections and notes
Williams Bay Williams Bay Closed 1966[citation needed]
Lake Geneva Lake Geneva Closed 1975
Pell Lake Pell Lake Closed 1975
Genoa City Genoa City Closed 1975
Richmond Richmond Closed 1980
Ringwood Ringwood Closed 1980[citation needed]
Johnsburg Johnsburg Proposed new stop
McHenry McHenry Pace: 806, 807
Prairie Grove Prairie Grove Proposed new stop


  1. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on May 21, 2015. Retrieved April 29, 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on May 21, 2015. Retrieved April 29, 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Did you know?" (PDF). On the Bi-Level: 3. June 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-01-02.
  4. ^ Behrens, P. L. (2002). Steam Trains to Geneva Lake: C&NW's Elgin – Williams Bay Branch. P.L. Behrens, Hebron, Illinois.
  5. ^ Judy Robson Announces Funding of Metra Feasibility Study
  6. ^ Northern Illinois Commuter Transportation Initiative Rockford Bus Service to Chicago Area Archived May 9, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Go to 2040: Comprehensive Regional Plan". Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. 2010. p. 281. Retrieved September 8, 2018.
  8. ^ "RIDERSHIP TRENDS ANNUAL REPORT 2018" (PDF). Metra. p. 4. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  9. ^ Ridership Trends - Annual Report 2017 (PDF) (Report). Metra Division of Strategic Capital Planning. February 2018. p. 32. Retrieved December 2, 2018.

External links[edit]

Route map:

KML is from Wikidata

Media related to Metra Union Pacific/Northwest Line at Wikimedia Commons