North Central Service
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 June 2018, the public timetable shows 10 weekday departures from Chicago. This line does not run at all on weekends or holidays. While Metra does not refer to any of its eleven routes by colors, the NCS' timetable accents are lavender, a shade of purple. It is the only Metra line that does not have a specific color for a fallen flag railroad that used to operate on this route.
|North Central Service|
A North Central Service train at O'Hare Transfer in 2010.
|Daily ridership||5,800 (Avg. Weekday 2016)|
|Opened||August 19, 1996|
|Owner||Metra (Union Station to River Grove) CN beyond River Grove|
|Line length||52.9 mi (85.1 km)|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
Between Union Station and River Grove station the North Central Service shares tracks with the Milwaukee District/West Line, but does not stop at any of the intermediate stations used by the MD-W between Western Avenue and River Grove. About a mile west of River Grove, 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, makes all stops along the North Central Service from Antioch to Washington Street, then switches to the Milwaukee District/North Line's tracks at a diamond in Grayslake, makes stops at Libertyville and Lake Forest, and then runs express to Union Station.
The CN assumed ownership of this route on September 7, 2001, when it absorbed the Wisconsin Central Railroad ("WC"). The WC operated this route after it was purchased from the Soo Line Railroad in April 1987. Like most routes, 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 2020[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 a limited number of trains.
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, combined with double tracking of large portions of the line and the CN rerouting freight traffic south of Mundelein.
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.
On February 5, 2018 service was reduced from 22 to 20 trains when Metra combined two rush-hour express trains into one rush hour semi-express.
Since 2014 annual ridership has declined from 1.8 million to 1.6 million, an overall decline of 9.7%.
- "Operations and Ridership Data". Metra. Retrieved October 7, 2017.
- http://web.me.com/willvdv/chirailfan/mmnc.html Metra Railfan Tips - North Central Service
- "RIDERSHIP TRENDS ANNUAL REPORT 2018" (PDF). Metra. p. 4. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
- 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