Four Images of Fermilab Prairie

For 28 years, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois was the site of the now-dormant Tevatron particle accelerator. For three summers during high school and college, I worked in the archives there, helping to catalogue, maintain, and restore the physical history of the place. (Given the time frame of today’s pictures—the early 2000’s—you’ll forgive the poor image quality.) I wanted to share a few images of the place (in particular, its enormous swaths of restored prairie) and try to convey to you the everyday feel of the place.

Perhaps the most salient feature of the lab is the prairie itself. Other than a berm over the accelerator, a few tangential buildings, and the main complex, the vast majority of the 6,800-acre site is natural midwestern landscape, dotted with disused farms and watched over by birds of prey.

Fermilab Prairie I

The reason for the old farms and strange buildings is linked to the provenance of Fermilab: in the early 1960s, towns competed to be the site of the latest and greatest national lab. The town of Weston, Illinois won the honor, and in doing so, ceased to exist. The residents were bought out (by the choice of their village board) and the remnants of the village still exist on site as ancillary buildings (including the archives, where I worked.)

Fermilab Prairie II

The farmland was largely restored to prairie, and the unique buildings of the lab were assembled. Among the fascinating sights at the lab are these Shinto-influenced power lines, designed by the lab’s first director, R.R. Wilson. (He was also responsible for the lab being finished on-time and under-budget.)

Fermilab Prairie III

Wilson Hall, seen in the distance of this landscape, was named in his honor. Here you can see some of the lab facilities proper, including a beamline on the left of the image.

Fermilab Prairie IV

Train and Storm

Chicago’s suburbs are filled with older train stations like this one. In an area where quaint, older homes are often knocked down to make way for McMansions, these stations are sometimes an area’s only link with the past. (Luckily, Hinsdale is better than most areas in this respect.) On a particularly dramatic and thunderstorm-ready afternoon, this particular train platform feels like it could be unstuck in time.



I’ve always abhorred airports. Actual air travel, if dull, is typically calm and uneventful. Airports are Purgatory-on-Earth where stressed travelers worry and fuss and cope with the imminent delay and cancellation of their flights.

Still, if I have to spend time in an airport, Chicago’s Midway is probably my favorite. It has by far and away the best selection of overpriced food (Potbelly’s sandwiches! Pegasus gyros!) and an at least tolerable amount of seating. In its own way, Midway is not entirely un-beautiful.


After Christmas

One of my earliest posts displayed the surreal beauty of Christmastime in the frigid suburbs of Chicago; given that much of the country is experiencing the balmy joy of summer, I thought a wee reminder of chillier times might be appropriate. (This photograph also continues what has apparently become a series, “Trees Next to Buildings.”)

After Christmas