Cool photos document CTA Red Line subway track work

CTA workers recently repaired a section of track in the Red Line subway tunnel. A couple of years ago the half-ties in that area incurred minor heat damage from a track fire. Although damage to the ties was minor, and it was still safe to operate trains in the area, CTA implemented a slow zone until repairs could be made.

The CTA last week released a Flickr photo set of the work. I think the photos are stunning, and have put some of them in a photo gallery. But be sure to check out the full Flickr photo set.


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  • Your article answered someone else's question why they were doing this again. However, I'm still convinced that the entire rapid transit system will be out of commission by 2015.

  • In reply to jack:

    Care to wager? Your statement is stating that in the next 21 months, all rail lines (not clear if you're including buses) will be shut down and that nobody will ride a train at all. If that's your statement, then I'm all in.

  • In reply to chris:

    Kevin hasn't said that he has taken your stake as of yet.

    Rapid transit means rapid transit, not bus.

    But if you add stuff like CTA spent $250 m 5 years ago on the Dan Ryan Red Line, and their construction and slow zone reports said they eliminated slow zones, but the slow zone report only for 6 months, and CTA retirees with exclusive sources still want to call Scooter a liar; the Pink Line has slow zones; the Congress Blue Line is mostly slow zone; the Brown Line was supposedly upgraded from Mdse. Mart to Kimball, but now it needs track and substation work south of Armitage; despite the North Red project, most of its north of Lawrence is on the Feb. slow zone map, I'm certainly not putting money on the Dan Ryan Red Line fix having much of any service life or the system ever being put in a state of good repair.

    Maybe the consistent $8 billion in unmet capital needs that perpetually exist despite these projects is coming home to roost, or the billions spent up to now have been wasted, or various members of CTA management tried to deceive the public on the scope of the prior projects. You asked a couple of days ago when we thought CTA management became incompetent?

  • In reply to jack:

    I understand your point that you feel the CTA is in bad shape. However, I feel it is not enough in bad shape to be completely shut down to the riding public within 21-22 months as you state.

    How much is your wager?

  • In reply to chris:

    Obviously, I am using a bit of license. However, if someone asked you in July, 2007, when the Dan Ryan project was finishing up, whether it would be out of service by June 2013, how much money would you have put up against that proposition?

    In fact, I'll ask you to bet on the date when the rapid transit system is put in a state of good repair, or even when the decline is turned around.

  • In reply to jack:

    I'm not sure your comment was so obvious that you were "using a bit of license."

    My knowledge of the Dan Ryan project was limited so I would not have placed a wager on it.

    I would argue that the system will never be in good repair. It's too big, too old, to ever be 100% in good repair. As for when the decline is turned around, I'm not sure that is possible to know. There are many variables and you would only know in retrospect, probably not at the time it happened. Also, it's potentially subjective.

  • In reply to chris:

    I guess one could argue whether "inoperable" means 100% inoperable either. (Maybe my use of "out of commission, implies that, and, in any event the Dan Ryan line will be out of commission, within 7 years of when it was supposedly fixed. When will the Congress be similarly "out of commission?")

    If grading on the curve, I suppose we can agree that CTA gets at best a "D," where is where I think we can leave it.

  • In reply to jack:

    I would be interested to know whether similar practices/materials were used on the Congress, when compared to the Dan Ryan. Time will tell, and I'll know since that's what I ride now.

    There are many things CTA can be doing better and hopefully will eventually. You're adept at pointing them out. Unfortunately some of the stuff they've done reminds me of tradesman who do work on homes do things to get them done instead of "the right way" which will be better in the long run. But it's not all bad and I like to point that out as well. I'm guessing you agree somewhat since you didn't give them an F.

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack said: "....and CTA retirees with exclusive sources still want to call Scooter a liar;"

    That post has been out there all week and YOU and YOU ALONE keep referring back to it. YOU brought into the language the accusation about lying (implying knowingly being false, deliberately deceiving) I didn't say SL was lying....SL says everyone else is lying. I stated SL being unfamiliar with the facts. YOU nedd to improve your reading comprehension. But more pertinent .... did YOU or anyone else find anything in error in my post? Are any of my statements wrong? Answer, simply put is, NO. Therefore my post didn't accuse PROVED my points without doubt.

  • When was the term 'fish plate' replaced by 'joint bar'?

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    I'll ask the waitress at the coffee shop today--assuming the menu actually doesn't list a fish platter special. But I kind of doubt it. ;)

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    Tattler is such a great blog! I am so impressed with all the improvements taking place at the CTA in spite of difficult times. The photo series is an awe-inspiring "behind the scenes" document that makes me appreciate CTA, the women and men making it possible, even more. Before you grumble, just imagine what traveling Chicago would be like without CTA.

  • In reply to Sebastian Huydts:

    Thanks Sebastian. I really enjoyed these photos too.

    I also find negative comments rather tiresome, especially ones like Jack that claim the system will be out of commission by 2015. Jack, really - what planet do you live on to say something like that?

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    Read my reply to Chris.

    Have delay alerts or slow zones ever been that bad? You've been blogging for 9 years. Was the system as decrepit in 1997 as it is now?

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    Kevin O'Neil said: "...I also find negative comments rather tiresome,"

    Very timely......and much needed. You have some negative people who hang out here worse than the homeless on Red and Blue line 24/7 'L'/subway trains. What do they hope to achieve?

  • Than you for sharing Kevin. BTW, I know this is off topic, but are you back in your house yet? Hope all is well.

  • In reply to ibilldavis:

    Hi ibill. Thanks for asking. It will be awhile before my home gets rehabbed. So I get to enjoy a new commute till then!

  • Back to chris (as we were out of reply buttons):

    The Congress apparently has lasted 11 years longer than the Dan Ryan (1958 opening date compared to 1969). Probably even more consistently, as there weren't the periodic "we have to change concrete ties with wood," "the 18th St. ramp support column cracked," etc. the Dan Ryan had.

    But of immediate interest, there just was a TribLocal story, based on the premise that traffic on the Eisenhower Expressway would improve if the Blue Line were extended to Mannheim. Relevant here is that CTA said it had no such plan, but a "Vision study" on upgrading the existing stops. In that I commented a couple of years ago that it didn't take a "Vision study" to fix what's broken, it looks like CTA is again on the path of the "same old stuff" {except that I would have used a term subject to censorship).

  • I noticed that the rails are ground down to make for a smooth ride, but I'm wondering if they're welded together. I know other rail systems which use welded track, and it doesn't seem like the CTA does. Anyone know why?

  • The CTA uses welded track on the embankments & I believe in the expressway medians.
    When the rehabbed the North Mainline from Lawrence to Howard 30 or so years ago, the track was welded together on a outer yard track at the Skokie Shops & then transported at night on work trains.
    Even welded track must have joints, so there can be expansion in really hot weather. Mainline railroads will send out crews to cut out small sections of welded rail to prevent it from warping in 100°+ heat. DC Metro Rail had derailments last year due to track warping.
    CTA uses only jointed track on the trestle sections & over the years have changed from alternating the joints & using 3 ties without any spacing to support the joints to having the joints opposite each other & in most cases having only one tie to support the joint.
    All to save money.
    More false economy!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    I'm not sure I understood what you meant in the last part, but if I got it right, the CTA used to do the "old", and now do the "new."
    old: alternating the joints & using 3 ties without any spacing to support the joints
    new: having the joints opposite each other & in most cases having only one tie to support the joint.

    What sort of downsides do you see to the changes? What, in your opinion, is the best way for the CTA to lay track?

  • The joints aren't as well supported now.
    When they had 3 ties supporting each joint, when a single tie rots, there are two more to support the joint.

    This is deferred maintenance & also makes for a rougher ride.
    Also, there is the remote possibility of the joint breaking & causing a derailment.
    CTA will of course cover up any actual cause of a derailment & invent one to put the blame on someone else.

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