Photo Blog | Hanging above the BNSF tracks

Nick Ulivieri | April 28, 2011

My balcony hangs over the BNSF tracks…literally.  If I jumped from the railing I could probably land top of a locomotive or boxcar.  I haven’t tried it yet, but if I ever need to make a dramatic get away this would definitely be my most impressive option. Isn’t it loud?  Does your building shake?  they ask.  Well, yes and yes.  But as the old cliche goes; you get used to it.  When we first moved in I immediately fell in love with the rail-yard.  So what if I didn’t have a sliver at the city skyline to look at.  I mean, when I was a kid I didn’t love architecture…I loved trains.

Day in and day out the freight trains are rolling by on the nearest three rails, shunting boxcars to various pens.  Each growing train destined for a different location. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the Yellow Union Pacific locomotives shuffle back and forth, often having to stop to let off a conductor who flips the manual rail switch.  Not even the weather stops them (except for two days after “the blizzard”).  All of those items need to be at a specific place at a specific time.  Industry depends on it.  Without the rails, our society wouldn’t have become what is is today.

Naturally, I’m always trying to figure out what’s may be rolling by me at any one second. Is that crate carrying Hazardous materials?  What about diamonds or flat screen TVs?  Or is it just 20 pallets of some mundane raw material. I’ll probably never know, but just once it would be cool to find out.

There are plenty of other things I never imagined I’d see, let alone existed, like jet engines that blow the snow out of the rail switches; a train lined with hummers as far as the eye could see in both directions; a hulking monster of a machine that jettisons out sparks as it grinds and smooths down the name a few.

I’m also blown away by  the sheer amount of coal that passes by.  I couldn’t tell you how long the trains are, but the cars stretch as far as I can see in both direction.  By the way, at least two of those trains pass by daily.   And for each load that comes in, there is a train of empty coal cars heading back out.   I suspect all of that coal is burned at the Fisk Generating Station on Cermak (giant smokestack in background of some of my photos) which can’t can’t be good for my health.  Oh well.

So for as long as I’ve been here, the rail-yard has been my photographic muse of sorts.   The pictures below are just a few of the images I’ve taken over the past three years.  Hope you enjoy!


-Click to enlarge-








4 Responses to “Photo Blog | Hanging above the BNSF tracks”

  1. June 7th, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    I’m one of your neighbors (but up on the 6th floor), with a very similar view of the tracks; they serve as a constantly changing muse for me in my own creative endeavors. Very cool photography! I really enjoy your blog/site. 😉


  2. June 11th, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Thanks, Graeme! I really do love living back here. I’m not sure if you keep up to date with my work, but I got some wicked awesome shots of the storms on Wednesday night/morning. . May I ask what your creative endeavors include?

  3. April 5th, 2012 at 3:01 pm


    Your photos touch a nerve (or is it a pleasure point?). And, wow, do I dig them. Not a native CHI-ite, but a Michigander who spends much time here. Thanks for you talent….and location (lucky dog)!

    – Drew

  4. April 13th, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    You’re welcome, Drew! And thanks for the comment. It is a really unique view that I can only imagine will be one of my favorites no matter where I live in the future.