One-Track Trips: Metra Electric Line

November 17, 2010 (CHICAGO)

It's the only line with three branches, and the only line powered by overhead electrical wires.

"Metra Electric goes back to lakeshore rules that said you could not have trains that were powered by coal along the lakeshore because of the emissions, so that's how it started. There's federal legislation that goes back 100 years," said Judy Pardonnet, Metra.

Your trip can start at the Millennium station. Bright, modern and filled with shops and quick commuter restaurants, the station had undergone a major renovation several years ago.

Catch an outbound train heading to Hyde Park to the Museum of Science and Industry near the 55th-56th-57th Street station.

"It's basically, you come to the front entrance, you come down the steps, and there's a ticket counter. And you come right in and get your ticket," said Anne Rashford, Museum of Science and Industry.

This is a great time of year to visit the museum. Christmas around the World and Holidays of Light will open November 18 with a very special tree in the rotunda.

"This year our theme is inspired by our Jim Henson exhibit, so we will have a 45-foot tall, Henson-inspired tree with wonderful Muppet-like ornaments," said Rashford.

Speaking of, if you haven't seen Jim Henson's Fantastic World, you should try to before it closes in January. The exhibit features more than 130 original storyboards, movie props and famous Muppets from Bert and Ernie to Miss Piggy and Kermit.

For permanent exhibits, Science Storms is right up there, literally. Fifty hands-on experiments explain nature's phenomena, including a 40-foot tornado.

There are many other attractions along the Metra Electric. The Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum are within walking distance from the Museum Campus/11th Street station.

You can get to the Dusable Museum of African American History from the 55th-56th-57th Street station, combined with the CTA's # 55 Garfield bus.

A combination of bus and train will also get you to the Bronzeville Children's Museum at 93rd and Stony Island. Use the CTA's 95th Street bus from Metra's 95th Street station.

University Park is the end of the main branch of the Electric, and you've got a couple of options there. You can take a leisurely walk or a Pace bus to Governors State University. The Center for Performing Arts offers a wide variety of entertainment. Outside, the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park has dozens of large, contemporary sculptures set within the university campus.

And, if that's not enough, you can use Metra to get to the Indiana Dunes.

"Our South Shore Branch of the Metra Electric connects to the NICDI Indiana line and, absolutely, you can go all the way to the Dunes that way," Pardonnet said.

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