From downtown Chicago, head south on the Dan Ryan Expressway (I-94) to 95th Street where you will access I-57. Continue south until you reach US Rte. 30, a distance of about 15 miles. Head east about two miles to Main Street, and turn right. Head south about a mile to downtown Matteson. Parking is available on the street and a parking lot on 216th Street — or you can use the Metra parking lot at Matteson station (although there may be a parking fee).
Of course you can also take a Metra Electric train from downtown to the Matteson platform. Metra trains run frequently from Millennium station at Randolph Street and Michigan Avenue. You can also board a half mile south at Van Buren Street. Be sure to take a University Park train.
From the west or east, take I-80 to I-57 and head south Rte. 30. Then follow the above directions.
Once at Matteson, you can either walk up to the Metra boarding platform or walk south along Main Street to the CN/EJ&E grade crossing. Both locations are worth exploring. A third site was constructed in 2012. CN built a railfan viewing platform east of the boarding platform that overlooks the entire wye interlocking.
Until the fall of 2011, Matteson was a minor location of limited interest. At the Main Street grade crossing, the EJ&E passes underneath the elevated Canadian National/Illinois Central main and the Metra Electric tracks. In 2009 CN purchased the EJ&E, and hence this is now an all-CN location as far as freight traffic is concerned. Before CN acquired the J, a connection in the southeast quadrant enabled interchange between the two roads and a small interchange yard was located just east of Main Street and south of the J main.
That was then. Now, Matteson is one of the most important interlockings in the CN system. In the northeast quadrant, a long, winding double track connection has been constructed that climbs north from the CN/EJE main and then curves west to connect with the CN/IC main.
At both ends of the double track are wyes and a crossover between the two tracks permits trains travelling in either direction on CN/EJE to head north on CN/IC, and also for EB trains on CN/EJE to head south on CN/IC. The original connection in the southeast quadrant remains and enables WB trains on CN/EJE to go south on CN/IC. However, the interchange yard has been removed and the CN/EJE main has been realigned to the south so that the two wye tracks will have sufficiently broad curvature. The wye tracks at CN/EJE are visible looking east from the grade crossing. Those at the CN/IC end are viewable from the Metra boarding platform.
The connections at Matteson have permitted major alterations to CN's operations in the Chicago area. Trains from Wisconsin transfer from CN/WC to CN/EJE at Leithton. Upon reaching Matteson, these trains head either north to the Moyers terminal at Homewood, or south to Memphis and New Orleans on CN/IC, bypassing the congested routes through Chicago.
Trains from Detroit and eastern Canada on CN/GTW transfer to CN/EJE at Griffith, and then use the Matteson connections to reach the same north and south destinations.
The EJ&E is now CN's main line through the Chicago area. Traffic on it increased markedly with the completion of the double wye connection, and will further increase once construction is complete at other interlockings. About 20-25 trains a day now run on CN/EJE and a similar number can be found on CN/IC. An educated guess would be that 30 to 35% of them now use the connections available here. Amtrak trains to Carbondale in southern Illinois also use CN/IC, as does the City of New Orleans. Except for Sundays, Metra trains are plentiful, especially during rush hours.
A former Conrail ex-Michigan Central branch once ran through here parallel to the EJ&E main and about a half mile to the north. It was abandoned in the 1980s but the old ROW is now a walking trail running underneath the CN-Metra elevation at the north end of the station platform.
The Metra boarding platform provides a great view of the CN/IC wye and the double track in its curving descent to CN/EJE. An even better view is possible from the railfan viewing platform. It is east of the boarding platform and affords a view of both mainlines. The Main Street grade crossing to the south is a short walk away and offers fairly good view of the lower wye tracks, as well as the overhead CN and Metra tracks. Be sure to stay on the sidewalks.
For more on CN's EJ&E route, see the Leithton, Griffith and West Chicago pages. For more on CN/IC, see the Homewood page. See also Kensington at South Side (various), and Harvey at South suburbs (various).