Thursday, February 26, 2015

21st Street Crossing or Alton Junction

(CRJ) Correction: The C&WI had five tracks through the junction. In addition to their four main tracks that went to the Dearborn Station, there was a track on the north side that went to the 18th Street Yard. (Update: NS names this crossing CP-521)

(Update: I finally found some pictures of the tower. Most pictures in this area skunk the tower with a train. Those photos also include this crossing.)

For over a century, the near south of Chicago was a huge collection of railroad yards serving the passenger stations and freight stations in the South Loop. I can remember going over the Roosevelt Road Viaduct and being amazed by the amount of track on both sides. But it was in the 1970s, and there were no trains on all of that track. All of the trains going to the south part of Union Station except for CB&Q and to Dearborn Station plus ICwest trains funneled through this 21st Street Crossing (the Contrail/PC/Pennsy called it Alton, GM&O called it Fort Wayne, and IC and C&WI called it 21st (Tuch) I believe the Sante Fe also called it 21st. Today, all railroads call it 21st.). During its prime it saw over a 150 trains a day, of which 75% were passenger trains. This was probably the busiest crossing in Chicago. (CRJ) A 1948 photo on Bill's page shows most of the 26 diamonds that the crossing had during its prime and a C&WI engine transferring a passenger train back to the yards for servicing.

(The following description of the trackage mixes verb tenses because a lot of the track became obsolete when Amtrak moved all of its trains to Union Station.) Since the Pennsy had tracks through this junction, we can find an interlocking diagram for this crossing (see below). The NS/Pennsy goes through the crossing in a north/south direction. Four tracks merge down to two tracks before entering the crossing and the lift bridge across the South Branch just to the north of this crossing. The double track BNSF/Santa Fe and CN/IC/ Chicago, Madison & Northern branch from the west merged before entering the crossing in a northeastern direction and then diverged again on the other side. The Stanta Fe tracks fed their passenger train (coach) yard as well as Dearborn station. CN/Alton passenger trains take the tracks on the North side of the IC tracks and then turn north to merge with the NS/Pennsy tracks to access Union Station. Alton freight trains would have merged with the IC tracks back at Bridgeport and then they diverge on the other side of the crossing. The Chicago & Western Indiana had four tracks coming from the south and all four of them crossed the Alton/IC/Santa Fe tracks and then the Pennsy tracks.

Alton Junction of Pennsy Mainline
Sante Fe had facilities to service their passenger trains on the station side of this crossing. But C&WI had to transfer the trains for Erie, Monon, C&EI, GTW, and Wabash down south to their various yards for servicing. C&EI's yard was between 31st and 39th, Wabash was between 39th and 47th, and Erie was between 47th and 55th (1920 map). Another source calls the Erie yard the 52nd C&WI Coach Yard, and it also handled the Monon trains. It probably also handled the GTW trains.

Photo from Dan Murray collection

Now (2015) only one of the four C&WI tracks comes from the south and it merges with NS/Pennsy tracks before it enters the crossing. The four C&WI tracks and double Alton tracks on the northeast side is now the Ping Tom Memorial Park. The northern CN/Alton tracks continue to connect to the NS/Pennsy tracks and carry the Metra-Heritage commuters. The CN/IC tracks continue to run northeast to the St. Charles Air Line. But CN is expected to abandon these tracks when they are finished with their Elgin, Joliet and Eastern upgrades. At which time there will no longer be a crossing here, just connection tracks. The Santa Fe right-of-way is now used by the relatively new RTA Orange Line to Midway. It uses an overpass so rapid transit trains do not interfere with the north/south trains. Unfortunately, that overpass was built too low to allow double-stack trains to be interchanged via this route. The CW&I tower was taken over by Amtrak, and it remained in service until 2005 (CRJ).

Update: Since the C&WI and Pennsy tracks are elevated, so you can't get a shot of the tracks from a crossing. But when my daughter was driving me around Chicago so that I could take pictures of bridges, we took the ramp from I-94 North to I-55 West, and that ramp goes over the tracks.

20150502 0732c
Zooming in further, you can see that the three NS/Pennsy tracks on the right (east) side are maintained separately from the Metra+UP+CSX/C&WI tracks on the left side. All of these tracks merge into the two on the right before they reach the south tower of the Canal Street RR Bridge in the middle background.

Stuart Pears -> Chicagoland Railfan
Stuart's comment:
SantaFe Streamliner passes beneath the Signals at the Junction with the Pennsylvania about 1 Mile out of Dearborn Station.
On the right is the south tower of the Canal Street RR Bridge, so this is an inbound passenger train. The comments mention Alco DL-109 & 110. In response to a comment about this being a very early warbonnet scheme, Patrick added the color picture with the comment:
Patrick McNamara comment
Not quite - the DL-109 and 110 were built in May of 1941...and they sported some strange liveries thruout their lives. Here's #50 at Argentine KS in May of 1957.......
David Charles Lindberg -> Chicagoland Railfan
David indicated that this is a 1976 photo and that the red and white engine in the background is Frisco. Randy Olson commented that this is the Broadway Limited.

Bill DeMar elaborated:
You're right Dave, ex Frisco, but in this pic it is owned by Amtrak and was used to switch out Amtrak's 21st Street yard ( Santa Fe ). I started Amtrak at this yard in 1979.
I commented:
You can see where they have already removed some of the C&WI diamonds from the two Sante Fe/ICwest tracks.
Mark Lianuza -> F units, E units, FA's, PA's and other Diesel Cab units
Penn Central E-units Valpo train heads through Fort Wayne Jct 1975

Stuart Pearson -> Chicagoland Railfan
Stuart's comment:
"THE CHIEF" still brings a FLOOD OF MEMORIES to every RR FAN no matter if they ever Rode that TRAIN. Show here Inbound for Dearborn St. Station approaching the 21st Street Crossing. SantaFe Photo.
Other comments correct the direction of the train.

Eric Powell This is a beautiful photo! This is the outbound Chief - train is pointed westbound across 21st St. Interlocking.

Mark Bilecki Sr. Its definately heading outbound, the building in the background is the old Cuneo press , which was used in the movie Backdraft at the end of the movie.

Harold J. Krewer Well, it COULD have been pulled out the west end of the coach yard and is shoving back to the depot, but yes, it is indeed pointed west and the 21st St diamonds are in the near background.
Bill Molony posting
Bill's comment: "Here's GM&O #17 to Joliet at 21st St."

Since railfans generally take pictures of sheetmetal, this is the first picture at 21st street I have seen that catches part of the tower in the frame.
Ed Kwiatkowski shared
IC GE U-30-C's stop at 21st street Jct .This train came in from Freeport 1976
A reminder that ICwest shared two tracks through the crossing with Santa Fe.
A Bob Coolidge Photo from IC
It's April 29, 1972 at 21st street
This photo shows the two tracks through the crossing that IC and Sante Fe shared. You can see the diamonds with C&WI and Pennsy. The engines block a view of the diamonds of C&WI crossing Pennsy and of the tower.

Note that you can see the black John Hancock building being constructed over the red building in the middle background.
A Bob Coolidge Photo from IC
It's April 29, 1972 at 21st street
This view catches some of the C&WI tracks turning East and crossing the Pennsy. Amtrak's Super Chief coaches are parked in Sante Fe's former passenger coach yard. The tower must be just off to the left.
Craig Willett posted
Santa Fe 15 the Texas Chief at 21st Chicago. Not the best scan, you'll get the idea.
[Comments indicate a U30CG with two U28's behind it.]
David M Laz posted
PRR E8s, possibly pulling the "General", pass eastbound through 21st Street, Chicago in June of 1959.
[I discovered that David stole this picture from John Dziobko Jr., but he did add some details to the text.]

David M Laz posted
Walt Del Calle Or Panhandle Jct. Or Alton Jct. Or Santa Fe Jct.
Craig Willett posted
Texas Chief Train 15 departing Chicago at 21st St. Tower. Summer 1969
The comments agree that 401 is a GE U30CG and that U30CGs were ugly. We can see a glimpse of Santa Fe's passenger coach yard on the right.]
Steven J Brown posted
Milwaukee Road 261 pokes off the 21st Street bridge in Chicago to get around the 16th Street wye after returning from an excursion to Galesburg. June 20, 2002.
Glenn Miller posted
One of the Pennsylvania Railroad's legendary K4 class 4-6-2 steam locomotive leads a passenger train out of Chicago at 21st street in 1950. Photo by Wallace W. Abbey
John Dziobko Jr.'s 1962 photo shows the Pennsy tracks being crossed by the IC+Santa Fe tracks. It also shows four of the C&WI tracks crossing the IC+Santa Fe tracks and then turning to cross the Pennsy tracks. In the background near the Canal Street RR Bridge, you see the GM&O tracks curving northward to join the Pennsy tracks to cross the bridge and access Union Station. You can also see the bridge tender shack and the top of the 21st Junction Tower.

John Dziobko Jr. also got the first photo I have seen looking south at this crossing. Then I found another photo looking south of a Wabash GP7 on a C&WI track crossing the IC+Santa Fe and Pennsy tracks. Can you imagine the complexity and maintenance nightmare of what amounts to a triple crossing? John also caught an inbound C&WI commuter on the inner track where a locomotive crosses both an IC+Sante Fe and a Pennsy track.

John crossed the IC+Santa Fe tracks and got a Sante Fe train headed to Dearborn. A C&WI engine running light over the IC+Santa Fe tracks. It is probably headed to Dearborn to pull a cut of passenger coaches to a coach yard to be serviced (cleaned and restocked).

The caption claims this Erie train is arriving at Dearborn, but based on the truss bridge in the background and the curve of the C&WI tracks, I believe it is departing.

A GM&O train is rounding the curve towards the bridge.

This 1972 photo from  David Wilson's Photoset shows an ICG train with both IC and GM&O power. The Santa Fe building in the background indicates we are looking West. So the train is outbound. We can see the curve of the C&WI tracks on the left.

Gerry Grzyb posted six pictures of this train going through the crossing. Fortunately it is a public group and you should be able to use the link to access the photosSo many liked my ATSF Dearborn pics, I thought I'd give you my sequence of the El Capitan/Super Chief passing through 21st St. in the late Sixties. Comment away, ATSF experts!
Stuart B. Slaymaker I make it to be just around 20 cars...
Gerry Grzyb My only regrets are that I only took pictures at this spot for one day in my life, and that I can't go back to the time when I could walk among the tracks of Chicago's major junctions with no hassles. I,m usually a bit skeptical when us old farts tell the kids they don't know what they missed....but, they don't know what they missed!
[I wondered if he was an employee or if one really was allowed to cross tracks back in 1970.]

This photo is easy to place because of the Canal Street RR Bridge on the left.

1938 Aerial Photo from ILHAP
This photo was harder to place because I have been in the area of 21st Street Crossing enough to know that a tall, long industrial building no longer exists. So it was time to consult the old aerial photos. The excerpt on the right provides some context. The one below focuses on the building.

Zoomed in
It was between Grove St. and the tracks, and it is now yet another vacant lot. I wonder who owned that building and what it used to make.

The bridges in the foreground of the photo still exist because they are the Canal St. overpass.

This 1990 photo catches the corner of the industrial building.
Steven J. Brown posted
Conrail light power move at 21st Street in Chicago - January 1993.
SD40-2 6481 (built 1978) became CSX 8845, B23-7 (built 1978) became CSX 3159 then Quincy Bay Terminal then Conway Scenic and finally to the Finger lakes RR, C40-8W 6134 (built 1991) became CSX 7333, SD40 6334 (built 1968 as PRR 6081 to PC 6081) became I&M Rail Link 217 to Iowa Chicago and Eastern 217.
Steven J. Brown posted three photos with the comment:
Sequence of a Chicago Central and Pacific train at 21st Street in Chicago - January 8, 1990. Note the CTA Orange line under construction in the third photo.
Here is a bit of history on the GeeP rebuilds: 8211 builtt 1957 as IC GP9 9211 rebuilt as IC GP10 8211 became ADM 8411 at Enid, OK, 972 built 1956 as Milwaukee Road GP9 2382 rebuilt as MILW GP20 972, 1585 built 1957 as Detroit Toledo and Ironton GP7 957 rebuilt as IC GP8 7985 became AL Gilbert 2004 at Keyes, CA.
Terry Falduto Awesome. The old Cuneo Press building and construction of the Orange Line, which would open in 3.5+ more years.


Steven J. Brown posted
Metra Orland Park train at 21st Street in Chicago - April 10, 2002.
Bill Molony posted
A Grand Trunk Western class U-4-b 4-8-4 (can't make out the number), departing from Dearborn Station in Chicago with an eastbound passenger train, most likely GTW #20, The Maple Leaf.
Undated, but circa 1950.
I added a comment explaining that the train will soon be entering the 21st Crossing.]
Marty Bernard shared a Roger Puta photo
ATSF 3119 (GP20) has just crossed the South Branch of the Chicago River, Chicago, IL in January 1972. This was still during the period when the Santa Fe stored and prepared the trains they ran for Amtrak in their own coach yard. This must be a move between Union Station and that yard.
[It appears that all five of the C&WI tracks are still present.]
Daniel C Carroll Jr. posted
#6200 leaving Chicago in 1948. Caption by Rod Russell.
Mark Hinsdale posted three pictures with the comment:
Freight Around the "Hood"...
A few random catches over the past few days...
1) NS eastbound oil loads at 21st Street
2) Somewhat rare CSX power on a UP bare table train at 21st
3) UP #1938 (w "baby wings") returning from Canal St.




Steven J. Brown posted
Viewed from 18th Street in Chicago, The Amtrak City of New Orleans waits for the Capitol Limited to clear 21st Street/Alton Jct before taking the left and then shoving into Union Station - January 24, 1990. CTA Orange line is under construction.
[This is after the C&WI tracks have been torn up but before the Tom Ping Park has been built. Now the City of New Orleans uses the St. Charles Air Line to go on BNSF/BN/CB&Q tracks before it shoves (backs) into Union Station. I didn't know that it used to use the ICwest tracks to go south on the Metra/Pennsy tracks before it backed into Union Station.]
I found some more pictures showing the Amtrak movement and not only the junction tower, but the bridge control tower.
From Steven J. Brown's "Photos"
January 8, 1990 - 21st Street/Alton Junction during CTA Orange Line construction. Amtrak City of New Orleans arriving around wye connection before shoving into Union Station
From Steven J. Brown's "Photos"
January 8, 1990 - 21st Street/Alton Junction during CTA Orange Line construction. Amtrak City of New Orleans shoving into Union Station.
From Steven J. Brown's "Photos"
January 8, 1990 - 21st Street/Alton Junction during CTA Orange Line construction. Amtrak Ann Rutledge departing for St Louis
[Moving from Amtrak/Pennsy tracks to the CN/GM&O/Alton tracks.]
Kevin Piper posted
A CB&Q GP30, GP20, and GP40 pass 21st Street in Chicago on 6-2-68. This may be a PC run-through train, but that can not be verified. PHOTOGRAPHER UNKNOWN
Dennis DeBruler That is the first photo I remember seeing that was taken from the southeast quadrant.It shows all five of the C&WI tracks.
Keith Bunner posted
WAB GP9 #495 Chicago,IL 1960
Albert J Reinschmidt Sun position suggests the Banner Blue.
Kathee Morey posted
Kathee Morey commented on her posting
Wayne Hudak Kathee Morey, the John Dziobko photo you posted is the Valpo "Dummy" commuter train.
Bill Molony posted
[I omitted the part of Bill's comment that was wrong]
The commuter train was equipped with streamlined coaches that originally were used for the N&W's long distance trains between Norfolk, Virginia and Cincinnati, Ohio.
Bruno Berzins Northbound at 21st. St. crossing, going to Dearborn Station.Brandon McShane Or Polk Street Station, since the train was repainted from blue to red in 1974. [Some stations were renamed to use a north/south street instead of an east/west street.]Stuart B. Slaymaker Known locally, as The Orland Park Cannonball.
Bill Molony posted
Monon Railroad EMD F3A #85A, leading a southbound passenger train away from Dearborn Station.
David Daruszka commented on Bill's posting

Bob Lalich commented on Bill's posting
Believe it or not, the plant was simplified to the above configuration. Here is how the first interlocking plant was laid out.
Bob Lalich commented on another posting
This was the original configuration when the junction was first interlocked in 1893 I believe. Note the Alton line going across the PFW&C. Their original terminal was the old IC depot on the lakefront.
Bob Lalich commented in a different posting
That tower was elevated above the tracks.
Bob Lalich commented on another posting
That was the original tower for the interlocking built in 1893. See the diagram posted above. It was replaced with a brick tower north of the C&WI and east of the PRR at the end of WWII.

Carl Venzke posted
"In all the world there may never have been a junction to rival 21st Street in its prime. It had at one time 26 diamonds, and well over 150 trains a day rumbled through it."
[This view shows both the interlocking tower by the engine and the bridge control tower by the bridge. Click the link and expand the comments. There are some photos showing the world had a lot more complex crossings.]
Evan Jones commented on a posting
Bill Nimmo shared
Carl Venzke posted
Another LIFE photo taken in Chicago by Joseph Scherschel 1948.
Dominic Andrew I’d like to know the degree of curvature that those diamonds were built on that’s amazing trackwork.
Bob Lalich If I am interpreting a C&WI drawing correctly, the curvature of their tracks is approximately 10 degrees.
Bob Lalich It was called 21st St, Alton Jct, and ATSF Jct, depending on the RR.
[I wonder if this was taken from the interlocking tower. Note that there are two different maintenance crews working around the Santa Fe+IC tracks. So speculation that this crossing was a maintenance nightmare is probably well founded.]
Thomas W. Dinsmore commented on Carl's posting
Roughly the same view today:
David Charles Lindberg posted
Scan of a somewhat damaged slide I took...The Broadway Limited departing Chicago with a Pooch and 2 E-Units back in 1977
Jerry JacksonJerry and 1 other manage the membership, moderators, settings, and posts for Chicagoland Railfan. And an ex-Frisco Geep leading another Amtrak train too. Very Nice!Stuart B. Slaymaker That is a switch job, heading to, or from 21st Street. The ex-Frisco geeps were owned by Amtrak.Cameron Applegath C&WI mains beginning to get axed.Brandon McShane The N&W Cannonball commuter train had moved from "Polk Street Station" to Union Station in December 1976. It was the last train to operate through the interlocking on C&WI.Stuart B. Slaymaker I worked for Amtrak at C.U.S., then. Pretty positive the hulking E-Units were just there to provide steam. I'm sure the P30CH had more than enough power. They ran on 48-49 for a while, before being exiled to New Orleans.Steve Kraus I always liked the Pooches; thought they were sharp looking. They had twin pony engines for HEP and I believe that the pair of engines could sync not only with each other but across units as well. (Anyone know for sure?)

I remember frequent viewings
 of the southbound Panama Limited when a Pooch was the primary power with an ex-E9B boiler car to heat the train. The Pooch was led by an E which had the correct signal equipment for the stretch south of Champaign. I think it came off at Effingham or something like that.
Stan Stanovich ...far more photogenic with out the Orange Line bridge in the foreground.

A 1975 Flickr photo that shows 2 of the 5 C&WI tracks have been removed. It also shows boxcars in the C&WI yard by the river in the background.

David Charles Lindberg posted a 1976 photo that shows some of the C&WI diamonds being removed along with "Outbound Broadway Limited with a new P30CH leading two E units out bound from Union Station."