Riding off the beaten tracks
02/08/2012 10:00 PM
One great thing about hockey is the camaraderie. I’ve met some really interesting people through the league including a theater director, an economist, a franchisee, some teachers, as well as guys in pharma, auto and steel pipe sales.
A couple of my hockey buddies are train enthusiasts. They named their team the Zephyrs and fans sound a very loud — and if you are the opposing team, demoralizing — train-like horn when they score a goal. Last week, after they routed my team 6-0, we met up at The Stanley Club Bar at Johnny’s Ice House for a beer and the guys let me in on an upcoming event perfect for West Loopers, transit advocates and apparently hockey players alike.
The 2012 Snowflake Special hits the rails next month. Riders will board one of six Boeing Corporation 2400-series “L” railcars for a full-day, narrated charter excursion of the city via the Chicago Transit Authority’s rail lines. And for the first time, it’s making stops in the West Loop. There will be plenty of photo ops — and bathroom stops — along the “behind-the-scenes” tour which has been operating for more than 50 years. Riders get views one would never get from a commuter train ride while traveling along a number of the CTA’s eight lines. If you’ve ever wondered what happens to the trains when their shift ends, the tour also takes riders along non-revenue trackage, including the “L” car storage yards.
The Snowflake Special is a fundraiser for the Illinois Railway Museum where my hockey buddies volunteer. The museum plans to use the proceeds from the trip to purchase a pair of the 2400-series cars which still operate on the Green and Purple lines. The cars were built from 1976-1978, and are unique in that they are the last examples of Boeing-built railway equipment operating in the United States. With that kind of history, it would be great if Chicago-based Boeing would find some charitable funds to help the museum purchase the railcars for display at their location in Union, Ill.
The Snowflake Special will depart from the Harlem/Lake Green Line station at 8:45 am on March 25. It then travels into the West Loop for a pick up from the UIC/Halsted Blue Line station at about 9:40 am and then the Clark/Lake Blue Line subway station at around 9:55 am. Tickets go on sale February 16 and will likely sell out before the event date. Individual tickets are $42 and can be purchased online at www.irm.org. All Aboard!
Metaphorically speaking, I’ve boarded a train headed down a new set of tracks this week. I’m going to work for the Chicago Public Schools in their office of Family and Community Engagement.
As a graduate of CPS and someone who’s worked and volunteered in and around education for years, I am excited to work with these constituencies in advancing educational opportunities for Chicago’s next generation.
Unfortunately, it means that this will be my last column for the Chicago Journal, at least for a while. I’ve enjoyed sharing my West Loop Wanderings with online readers, and encouraging discourse around topics ranging from parks to restaurants, politics to dog poop.
As with hockey, one great aspect of working with the Chicago Journal is the camaraderie the paper builds amongst West Loopers. I’ve met restaurant owners, retailers, politicos, students, and of course a few hockey fans along the way. Friends and foe alike have sent me notes in response to columns encouraging a different way of thinking, or pointing out a missed opportunity.
Not unlike the Zephyrs, we’ve got quite a few neighborhood enthusiasts. There are plenty of residents ready to sound the horn when we score a new retailer or restaurant and to be a super fan to the community.
I look forward to reading the next voice of the Near West Side, whoever he or she may be, and to helping sound the horn for the West Loop, and all it has to offer. All aboard!