Wish there was a better/bigger waiting room for the Northbound track such as the Empire Builder. This area gets pretty crowded, and I feel bad for the people who has to stand and wait.. Also, these delays of the train leaving CHI is pretty sad. Seen it one too many time last winter, and we were one of them.. We arrived half hour early, and I asked, "Is it on time??" And was told Yes, it is.. then 15 min before boarding, "Oh sorry, The Empire Builder departure time has been delay, and don't know..." Almost 4 hours later, we leave at last. I am SOOO glad I happen to have a sleeper for this trip, and not have to sit in the other waiting room. Hope this delay leaving CHI will be an issue for our visit in a few weeks.
PHOTOS: Inside the Amtrak Chicago Control Center
The Windy City is home to one of Amtrak's busiest stations (3.5 million passengers a year!). Throughout our 500-destination system, Chicago is home to most of our long-distance, overnight trains. That makes traffic control along the surrounding railroads a complicated and exciting job.
The Chicago Control Center is one of five Amtrak dispatching offices that dispatch 2,500 trains carrying nearly 900,000 passengers each day.
At the Chicago Control Center, Amtrak employees work round the clock. When one shift ends and new employees take over, a special job briefing takes place called “a turnover.”
“Our objective at Chicago Control is to leverage technology to not simply provide safe and efficient train movement but to deliver an excellent passenger experience,” says Greg Godfrey, assistant superintendent of the center.
From there, train directors communicate with “inbound crews,” which are conductors riding on trains arriving from other cities.
Chicago’s dispatching bureau oversees nearly 560 train movements carrying almost 130,000 people daily in Chicago Union Station, on the Michigan Line and in New Orleans.
Each day, Amtrak movement offices personnel oversee the movement of signals and switches for nearly 2,500 trains, which keeps your trains moving safely from city to city. As you can see in the photos above, the Chicago Control Center team uses state of the art software to provide passengers, engineering teams, conductors and engineers the very best service possible.
Have you traveled through our Chicago Union Station before? Tell us about the experience in the comments below!
I have actually always gone through Chicago Union Station. While it is crazy a lot of times with multiple departures, I'm not sure how much Amtrak and Union Station can do. My trains have always left on time, and no matter how early you start the boarding you will have issues with customers lining up early. The layout is somewhat confusing to a first time traveler but not horribly so. The staff is always willing to help an direct you where you need to go and I LOVE the Great Hall.
Let me start by saying I am a BIG passenger rail supporter and I ride Amtrak. I have passed thru Chicago Union Station many times making Amtrak connections and unfortunately it is NOT a pleasant experience. The Amtrak facilities are way, way to small, poorly laid out and so crowded at departure times. It is not pleasant when there is no place to even stand and Amtrak staff are forced to act as crowd control marshals. In my opinion waiting until 10-15 minutes til train departure time to allow boarding is just poor policy. Lots of seniors and mobility challenged passengers ride trains which compounds the problem. Boarding of these customers is rightfully allowed first but usually not early enough to allow for regular passenger boarding without a mad rush and delayed departure. Amtrak needs a seat reservation feature on website so families and groups can easily sit together.
Somehow Amtrak needs to work with Illinois and Chicago officials to get busy modernizing and expanding Chicago Union Station.