Museum of Science and Industry

One of the perks of living in the museum is a 30 second commute. I ride an elevator down a few floors and, voila, I'm there. It's really a pretty ideal set-up.

In "real life" I commute to work everyday on the "L", Chicago's elevated train system. The commute takes about 40 minutes and involves a couple of different trains to get to my office. Most mornings I listen to music or read a magazine - I pretty much zone out for much of the ride. But while I'm in a daze, the operator is focused on safely shepherding me to where I need to go. I knew the operator is essential in taking me through my daily commute but I never realized how many people it takes to make it all possible.

A little west of downtown, in a nondescript building with a giant antenna is the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Control Center. As part of "Train Day" I visited to learn about the people and tools that work together to operate the nation's second largest public transportation system. The facility is a central hub for anything and everything that needs to be monitored and controlled out in the field: trains, buses, security, customer assistants (employees on the platforms), communications (announcements on platforms, for example) and power to the tracks. It's kind of like the CTA's central nervous system. I was amazed at the level of sophistication of the center; it looks like NASA with its floor of cubicles all facing toward a wall of video screens. Surveillance feeds from stations, system maps, local and national news and more were on display to provide a complete picture of the state of the system. And when disruptions arise, the team works together to resolve the issue as quickly and safely as possible. All without the customers even being aware.

It was really cool to see it first hand. Thank you CTA for letting me stop by for a visit. I'll definitely have a more complete appreciation for what goes into getting me to and from work each day.


This spot, Tower 18, was known for many years as the busiest rail intersection in the world. I pass it everyday on my way to work but I had no idea. Check out this link to see a vintage photo of it in all its glory.

The interior set of rails (not the shiny ones on which the train rolls) are guard rails and are there in case of a derailment.

We took the Green Line from the Garfield Station. This is a tunnel on the campus of Illinois Institute of Technology.

Thank you David Harrison, from MSI, and Allison Harrell, from CTA, for making this such an informative trip.

  • Readers' Comments (2)
Marla Bowen
November 11, 2011

This is a great photo essay. We just love trains and history about them. Thanks for sharing!

Liz Zielinski
November 11, 2011

Love the picture of the tube at iit! It's one of the many cool things at my school!!

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kevin byrne

A digital marketing analyst from Chicago, Kevin is living inside the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere for 30 days.

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