SouthWest Service
Metra SouthWest Service 827.jpg
SouthWest Service #827 leaves Union Station in 2011.
OwnerNorfolk Southern Railway (Leased to Metra)
TerminiUnion Station
TypeCommuter rail
Operator(s)Metra, Norfolk Southern Railway
Daily ridership9,600 (Avg. Weekday 2014)[1]
Ridership574,815 (2020)
Track length40.6 miles
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm)
Route map

0 mi
Union Station Amtrak
Chicago Transit Authority Logo.svg
Chicago Transit Authority Logo.svg
IC West to Addison
HC to Joliet
Chicago Transit Authority Logo.svg
47th Street
Chicago Transit Authority Logo.svg
9.6 mi
15.4 km
Western Avenue
11.5 mi
18.5 km
12.2 mi
19.6 km
14.7 mi
23.7 km
Oak Lawn
Stony Creek
16.6 mi
26.7 km
Chicago Ridge
17.8 mi
28.6 km
18.6 mi
29.9 km
Palos Heights
19.8 mi
31.9 km
Palos Park
23.0 mi
37 km
143rd Street
Orland Park
25.2 mi
40.6 km
153rd Street
Orland Park
28.7 mi
46.2 km
179th Street
Orland Park
Hickory Creek
33.6 mi
54.1 km
Jackson Creek
(Jackson Branch)
34.6 mi
55.7 km
35.4 mi
57 km
Laraway Road
Jackson Creek
40.3 mi
64.9 km

The Southwest Service (SWS) is a Metra commuter rail line, running southwest from Union Station in downtown Chicago, Illinois, to Manhattan, Illinois. Metra does not refer to its lines by color, but the timetable accents for the SouthWest Service line are "Banner Blue," for the Wabash Railroad's Banner Blue passenger train.[3] The trackage is owned by Metra north of a junction with the Belt Railway of Chicago at Loomis Boulevard, and is leased from Norfolk Southern Railway south of the junction (NS has trackage rights over Metra's portion).[4]


The line south of the curve at the east end of the section aligned with 75th Street was built by the Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific Railway, which opened in 1880 to Chicago. That curve was a junction with the Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad, of which the Wabash owned one-fifth, and used to reach Dearborn Station in downtown Chicago.[citation needed] Commuter service from Chicago began as early as 1893, with trains running as far south as Orland Park,[5] and by 1909, the service had been extended with several trains operating as far south as Manhattan.[6] The level of service deteriorated in the 1930s, with commuter operations effectively reduced to one train in each direction making local stops from Chicago to Decatur. By 1964, the once daily Chicago–Decatur trains were cut back to Orland Park.[5]

After several reorganizations the Wabash Railroad was leased by the Norfolk and Western Railway on October 16, 1964.[7]: 145  The single round trip continued under the new ownership, who named the train the Orland Park Cannonball.[8] On May 1, 1971, Amtrak assumed control of most intercity passenger trains in the United States. On this date all intercity services operating into and out of Chicago were either routed into Union Station or discontinued, leaving the single Orland Park Cannonball as the only train to still use Dearborn Station. Dearborn Station closed, but the commuter train continued to use a small platform and track on the property until 1976 when it relocated to Union Station, via a new connection at Alton Junction.[9]: 71 

The Regional Transportation Authority began to subsidize the service in 1978.[10] N&W merged with Southern Railway to form the Norfolk Southern Railway in 1982, and for the next decade the line was known as the Norfolk Southern Line (NS). The RTA closed the Western Avenue station on May 15, 1984, as part of a cost reduction plan which saw the closure of twelve other lightly used stations and the removal of ticket agents from an additional seventeen stations across the system.[11] On June 1, 1993 Metra took over operations and renamed it the SouthWest Service.[4]

The rail line expansion project, which includes 11 miles (18 km) of new track and at least two additional train stations, was completed (except for the Laraway Road station) in January 2006. The number of trains per day increased from 16 to 30, 15 in each direction. For years, Pace operated Route 835, whose bus service enhanced the limited train service in the SouthWest Service corridor. With the rail service expansion, ridership on route 835 became so poor that Pace eliminated it on August 17, 2007.[citation needed]

Metra started Saturday service on March 21, 2009, with six trains between Union Station and Manhattan.[12]

SouthWest Service trains will shift from Union Station to LaSalle Street Station with the reconfiguration of the 75th Street Corridor under the auspices of the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program (CREATE).[13] This will happen no earlier than 2025 when construction is scheduled for completion.[14] Additional mainline trackage will also be built between LaSalle St Station and 74th to handle the increase in traffic. LaSalle St Station will also be expanded.[15] This would relieve congestion at Union Station and improve reliability for the SouthWest Service, as well as allowing more trains to run in each direction.[13]

Service frequency

As of February 5, 2018, the SouthWest Service had fifteen round-trips per day on weekdays and three on Saturday. There was no Sunday/holiday service. All Saturday trains ran through to Manhattan. Of the weekday trains, one terminated at Orland Park 153rd Street, two at Manhattan, and the remainder at Orland Park 179th Street.[16]

From 2006 to early 2018, a third weekday train (a midday one) terminated at Manhattan. Due to lack of ridership as well as service cuts, this train became a short-turn to Orland Park 179th Street effective Spring 2018.

The Laraway Road and Manhattan stations see a combined ridership of under 60 people daily, making them two of the least-used stations on Metra's system.

As of April 2021, the SouthWest Service operates only during weekday rush hours in the peak direction–towards Chicago in the morning and towards Manhattan in the afternoon. There is no train service on weekends or holidays. It is one of 3 Metra lines (along with the Heritage Corridor and the North Central Service) to only offer peak service.

As of July 12, 2021, Metra operates six inbound trains and six outbound trains on the SouthWest Service Line on weekdays. Of these, two inbound trains originate from Manhattan and four from Orland Park 179th Street. Four outbound trains terminate at Orland Park 179th Street, two terminate at Manhattan, and one Orland Park train may continue to Laraway Road and/or Manhattan to discharge passengers on notice to the conductor.

Saturday Service on the SouthWest Service Line is currently suspended. There is no service on Sundays or holidays.


Since 2014 annual ridership has declined from 2,659,040 to 2,356,767, an overall decline of 11.4%.[17][18] Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ridership dropped to 574,815 passengers in 2020.[19]



County Zone Location Station Connections and notes
Cook A Chicago Union Station Amtrak Amtrak (long-distance): California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, Cardinal, City of New Orleans, Empire Builder, Lake Shore Limited, Southwest Chief, Texas Eagle
Amtrak Amtrak (intercity): Blue Water, Hiawatha, Illini and Saluki, Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg, Lincoln Service, Pere Marquette, Wolverine
Metra Metra:  BNSF,  Milwaukee District North,  Milwaukee District West,  North Central Service,  Heritage Corridor
Chicago Transit Authority Logo.svg Chicago "L": Blue (at Clinton), Brown Orange Pink Purple (at Quincy)
Bus interchange CTA Bus: 1, 7, J14, 19, 28, 56, 60, 120, 121, 124, 125, 126, 128, 130, 151, 156, 157, 192
Bus interchange Pace: 755 Plainfield–IMD–West Loop Express
Bus interchange Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach: Chicago-Madison and Chicago-Rockford (Van Galder), Chicago-Louisville (Greyhound)
  Dearborn Station Closed 1976, service switched to Union Station
47th Street Closed between 1976 and 1984
B Englewood DodgerBlue flag waving.svg Closed between 1976 and 1984
Halsted Closed between 1976 and 1984
Racine Closed between 1976 and 1984
Ashland Closed between 1976 and 1984
Western Avenue Closed May 1984
C Wrightwood Bus interchange CTA Bus: 52A South Kedzie, 79 79th
D Oak Lawn Oak Lawn Bus interchange Pace: 381 95th Street, 395 95th/Dan Ryan–UPS Hodgkins Limited, 769 Palos Heights/Oak Lawn–Soldier Field Express
Chicago Ridge Chicago Ridge Bus interchange Pace: 384 Narragansett/Ridgeland
Worth Worth Bus interchange Pace: 385 87th/111th/127th, 386 South Harlem
Palos Heights Palos Heights Bus interchange Pace: 769 Palos Heights/Oak Lawn–Soldier Field Express
E Palos Park Palos Park
Orland Park
Southmore DodgerBlue flag waving.svg Closed between 1976 and 1984
Orland Park 143rd Street Bus interchange Pace: 379 Midway–Orland Park
Orland Park 153rd Street
F Orland Park 179th Street
Will G New Lenox Steele Closed 1962
Brisbane Closed 1962
H Laraway Road Rush hours only
I Manhattan Manhattan Rush hours only


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-01-02. Retrieved 2010-01-02.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ Metra Railfan Tips - Heritage Corridor
  3. ^ "Did you know?" (PDF). On the Bi-Level: 3. June 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-01-02.
  4. ^ a b Metra (2013). "SouthWest Service History". Archived from the original on 2014-07-14. Retrieved June 7, 2014.
  5. ^ a b Burgess, Paul (Spring 2013). "Follow the Flag: Chicago's Metra "Wabash Extension"". First & Fastest. Vol. 29, no. 1. Lake Forest, Illinois: Shore Line Interurban Historical Society. p. 12.
  6. ^ Burgess, Paul (Spring 2013). "Follow the Flag: Chicago's Metra "Wabash Extension"". First & Fastest. Vol. 29, no. 1. Lake Forest, Illinois: Shore Line Interurban Historical Society. p. 11.
  7. ^ Schafer, Mike (2000). More Classic American Railroads. Osceola, WI: MBI Publishing Co. ISBN 978-0-7603-0758-8. OCLC 44089438.
  8. ^ Norfolk and Western Railway (July 3, 1972). "Suburban Passenger Service".
  9. ^ Holland, Kevin J. (2001). Classic American Railroad Terminals. Osceola, WI: MBI. ISBN 9780760308325. OCLC 45908903.
  10. ^ Burgess, Paul (Spring 2013). "Follow the Flag: Chicago's Metra "Wabash Extension"". First & Fastest. Vol. 29, no. 1. Lake Forest, Illinois: Shore Line Interurban Historical Society. p. 14.
  11. ^ "RTA closing 13 rail stations". Chicago Tribune. March 9, 1984. p. 51. Retrieved January 20, 2019 – via open access
  12. ^ Hood, Joel (March 2, 2009). "Metra adding Saturday service to SouthWest line in March". Chicago Metra. Archived from the original on 2009-03-25. Retrieved 2009-02-03.
  13. ^ a b "P2, P3, EW2, GS19 75th Street Corridor Improvement Project" (PDF). CREATE. November 2015. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
  14. ^ "Preckwinkle, Partners Mark 75th Street Rail Corridor Improvement Project". The Chicago Crusader. October 1, 2018. Retrieved December 12, 2018.
  15. ^ "Metra Moving". Railway Track & Structures. 12 September 2009. Retrieved 21 April 2012.[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ Metra (October 16, 2011). "Southwest Service". Archived from the original on 2014-07-14. Retrieved June 7, 2014.
  17. ^ "RIDERSHIP TRENDS ANNUAL REPORT 2018" (PDF). Metra. p. 4. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  18. ^ "RIDERSHIP TRENDS ANNUAL REPORT 2019" (PDF). Metra. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  19. ^ "RIDERSHIP TRENDS ANNUAL REPORT 2020" (PDF). Retrieved 2021-04-04.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)

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