Freight trains in the city: photos from Ping Tom Park

Array

The train is entering the crossing. 

If you weren’t aware, Chicago has a ridiculous number of trains passing through here. We’ve been the freight train capital of the country for over 100 years (I’m not going to verify this). And apparently it takes a train the same amount of time to pass through Chicago as it takes to travel from here to Los Angeles.

One of the interesting places they pass through in Chicago is at Ping Tom Park, in Chinatown, on the Chicago River at 18th Street. A double track part of the CN line borders the park on the east, separating the park from rowhouses in Chinatown. The Chicago Transit Authority’s Orange Line elevated viaduct shares the right of way.

I was showing the park to some visitors from Spain after we ate at Joy Yee Noodles (2159 S China Place)*. The at-grade crossing bells starting to ring, and the red lights started to flash. Then the gates came down. We were trapped! That’s the neat thing about the freight railroad here and the park: there’s a single entrance that’s blocked by a train. And this one was long.

Array

A pagoda in Ping Tom Park. Here’s another view of the pagoda where you can also clearly see the Orange Line viaduct. 

As we just arrived, we weren’t interested in leaving. We explored the new north section of the park. This outing gave me several opportunities to test out the capabilities of my new camera, a Panasonic GH1, and accompanying lens, a LUMIX G 20/f1.7mm (that means it’s fairly wide angle and has an enormous aperture)**. It takes great photos in the dark without a flash. I was photographing the train, using the “panning” technique – this means you set the focus beforehand and then move (pan) the camera with the object to ensure it appears in focus in the resulting image. I succeeded with 50% of the photos; my issue was choosing the right speed at which to pan the camera.

Array

This photo is one of the better panning shots I created. 

The train, as many Illinois railfans probably expect, was carrying ethanol and empty flatbed cars, but also some hydrochloric acid. I’m going to guess some of the tankers were filled with America’s favorite artificial sugar: high-fructose corn syrup.

* There are two Joy Yee Noodles restaurants in the same Chinatown Square shopping center. They are of the same company.

** I bought the body from a friend and I bought the lens separately. I paid more for the lens than the body.

flattr this!

About Steven Vance

Enthusiast for urbanism, bicycling as transportation, and open data. Building a bicycle culture in Chicago.