Friday, July 31, 2015

BRC's West 12th Street Yard and MJ Overpasses

pdf copy from 1915 Smoke Abatement Report, p. 339
Between 12th and 22nd Streets (between Roosevelt and Cermak Roads on modern maps), Belt Railway of Chicago had a freight yard. This was an expensive yard because it was elevated and 16th street went under it. Today, most of the yard area is inaccessible vacant land.

The underpass is interesting because it shows that the west-most track is owned by a different railroad because it has a separate bridge.
Satellite





Fortunately, this 1915 map is detailed enough to indicate that track was owned by the Manufacturers Junction Railway (MJ).


20140928 0059rc
A street level view of the west side of the railroad bridges over Cermak Road/22nd Street also indicates the western bridge has a different owner. Not only is it painted blue, it has a more modern single span design. I'm still struggling with how to take pictures to best capture the "urban tunnel" of a long underpass. It seems the sun can catch imperfections in the windshield when the angle is right. The following three photos are of the 16th Street underpass travelling from East to West. The third photo successfully caught the underside edge of the long BRC underpass and the relatively short underpass of the MJ.




Thursday, July 30, 2015

BRC's Hawthorne Yard

pdf copy from 1915 Smoke Abatement Report, p. 352
Between 26th and 31st Streets, Belt Railway of Chicago had a freight yard. As the yard's name implies (Hawthorne), an important customer of this yard was probably the Manufacturers' Junction Railway that serviced the nearby Western Electric Hawthorne Works. The map indicates that there also was an American Brake Shoe Foundry served by this yard. Given that both of these industries are now retail stores or vacant land, it is no surprise that the yard is now gone.

This was a relatively cheap yard because it was not elevated and no roads crossed it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Manufacturers' Junction Railway

Update: (ShortlinesFlickr photo of treated telephone poles leaving the plant in 1925. The MJ locomotive is a 0-4-0 steam engine.

OmniTRAX
Manufacturers' Junction Railway (MJ) was originally incorporated in 1903 to serve the Hawthorn Works of Western Electric, which was the manufacturing arm of the Bell System. It began operation in 1906. AT&T closed Hawthorn Works and sold MJ to a subsidiary of OmniTRAX in May, 1986. (UP) According to their web site, MJ interchanges with BRC, which in turn interchanges with BNSF, CN, and CSXT (B&OCT). Even though some of the Hawthorn Works land was redeveloped as retail space, enough land was supposed to be redeveloped as industry to make MJ viable. And in 1998 it sounds like the plan was working:
"Our two locomotives were built in 1947, but they still run like tops," said Turk, a 30-year veteran of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway before taking over the MJ four years ago. Its age aside, the MJ is a busy little railroad that keeps Turk and his colleagues hustling from 6:30 a.m. till whenever quitting time occurs. "We already moved 60 cars this morning and have another 27 coming off the Belt (Belt Railroad of Chicago) later today," Turk said. 
The little railroad, which serves seven industries and connects them with some of the city's major railroads and belt lines, has benefited from Chicago's booming economy as well as the efforts of its parent, OmniTRAX Inc., in redeveloping the sprawling but abandoned Western Electric Co. Hawthorne Works as a logistics center specializing in transferring commodities between trucks and railroads. "OmniTRAX bought Hawthorne and is turning it into a warehouse transloading facility," Turk said. (ChicagoTribune)
During its hayday, it had 200 employees and 600 miles of track. In 1998, it had four employees and 5.5 miles of track with 1.78 route miles. (ChicagoTribune) But we have had two recessions since then, and it seems they have taken a toll. A TrainOrders posting in Nov. 2012 indicates there had been no freight customers for a few years. A Nov. 2012 photo of the remaining two engines indicates they are to be scrapped. I wonder if the Menards replaced the industries they did have.

20140928 0059rc
It appears the rail car is on the blue overpass, which would be the MJ route. (The wider overpass behind the blue overpass is the Belt Railway of Chicago.) So I assume that CSX's B&OCT route has been extended south to include the old MJ route.

Satellite

According to satellite images, the roundhouse still stands, but the hand turned turntable has been removed.
Brian Krotzman posted to Off the Beaten Track Branchline
Update: Brian Krotzman caught a picture of an MJ locomotive running light around 2005. He took the shot while sitting on the BRC at 31st Street. The lower track is the BNSF connection from the BRC to the Aurora line.

Facebook has a closeup of this color scheme and Marty caught a different color scheme. From the Facebook comments we learn that bums broke into the roundhouse and set both well-maintained SW1s on fire. The fire was bad enough that neither unit could be salvaged.

In addition to several pictures of the locomotives, Paul Rome has pictures of the interior of the roundhouse and a crane. David Parker posted a 1982 picture of an engine on the turntable in a blue livery. And a shot that includes the roundhouse. Larry Meyer posted a sequence of five pictures of the roundhouse and turntable. (Click on the pictures to go through the sequence.)

Scott Griffith posted five photos with the comment:
Any of you OLD HEADS remember delivering or interchanging with this railroad off the Cicero branch? Manufacturers Junction RailwayIf so could you explain the move or give details.
Earl Wacker I guess I qualify. It was a very short, steep connection near 16th St. Early 70s we only had one car at a time.
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John Smith posted several pictures of the roundhouse and turntable from 2006 in a group that is now public.

Marty Bernard posted a nice shot of engine #6 taken in 1991.

Edward Kwiatkowski posted a 2007 photo of #23 pulling a train through Hawthorn Junction. The comments provide the history that the last train ran in 2009, the switchers have been scrapped because the copper was stolen out of them, and the roundhouse was torn down in 2016.

Gary Talsky posted a couple of pictures he took March 1, 2015.
Gary Talsky posted 12 photos he took Feb. 25, 2012.
Gary Talsky posted 3 photos of the interior that he took March 1, 2015.

John Smith collected 30 of Gary's photos into one "Part 1" posting.
John Smith collected 38 of Gary's photos into one "Part 2"  posting, some of them are different.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Old Tractors on Parade

Much of this years July 4th Parade was similar to last year's parade, and I won't repeat those pictures. But the old tractor part of the parade was bigger this year. In addition to the usual IH and John Deere tractors, the parade included an Oliver tractor. This is the first Oliver I have seen personally. I also caught a Minneapolis and Case at a family reunion.

20150704 2460
Before doing the tractors, the out-of-town band stopped to put on a show in our block so I switched to video. After I was done with the recording, people were trying to get my attention to look behind me on my right. It was the tuba player that you hear rather distinctly at the end of the video.










Below are pictures I took of the tractors in the parade. Of particular interest is the Oliver Super 77 Diesel near the end.













Update:

When Downers Grove does a parade, we get a handful of tractors. When Dyersville, IA does a tractor parade, they get 153! I picked this tractor because it is the first time I've seen a Massey Harris.

Screenshot from video
In fact, it had two Massey Harris tractors. And there were a couple of Massey Fergusons.

Screen shot from video
Then a couple of days later a came across a a video of a 1952 Massey Harris 55 that had been hopped with a 390 V-8 for tractor pulling. The commentator describes how over designed the drive train was because you can replace the original 45hp engine with a 400hp engine and not bust the transmission or rear-end.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Silk and Horse Trains

I learned the following from a posting in the "Abandoned Rails" Facebook group. 

Christopher Escott started my education by posting this picture with the comment "48 ft 16 stall horse car. One of 2 in 1964." He added the information:
These cars were utilized for exclusive transport of race horses. As trucking was not an option back then. The horse cars were lashed into high speed silk trains as they were a very time sensitive cargo. Never on passenger consists.
And Ron Pearson commented:
CN also used modified baggage cars for the movement of show stock to the different fairs like the one in Toronto. Can remember them coming through Symington complete with stock men to look after them. Prize cattle, horses and other stock. Now they move by road or air.
In response to a question of why would silk have a speed priority, Ron explained:
Because the raw silk could deteriorate quickly. This article gives an insight .. deals with CP but the same held for CN Silk Train, the term used to describe CPR cargo trains carrying expensive shipments of Oriental raw silk. The trains sped from Vancouver to merchants in eastern Canada and the US, from 1900 to the 1930s. The valuable cargo deteriorates rapidly and the market fluctuated daily, so speed, security and safety were essential. Silk arriving by CP ship in Vancouver was loaded into airtight train cars specially lined with varnished wood, sheathed in paper and sealed so that no damaging moisture or thieves could intrude. Armed guards were the only passengers. Trains of up to 15 cars rushed from Vancouver to Ft William [Thunder Bay] in 15 hours less than the fastest passenger train. The silk trains had preference over any others on the tracks: once a train carrying Prince Albert, later King George VI, was held on a siding while a silk train went through. The trains were discontinued in the 1930s with the advent of air transportation and man-made fibres.

In July 1925, the first silk train special left the Port of Vancouver containing eight sealed baggage cars lined with a special paper to protect the shipment from dampness and dust. It was guarded by two armed C.N. Police. The cargo was worth approximately two million dollars.

In October 1927, the biggest C.N. silk train left the Port of Vancouver enroute to the National Silk Exchange in New York. The train consisted of some 21 express cars in two sections and contained 7,200 bales of silk worth seven million dollars.The "Silker", as it was known, was not operated by any special crew, but by the crew that happened to be "next up" on the board. The locomotives used were fast locomotives that had been designed for high speeds in passenger service. Despite speeds of up to 90 miles an hour, there were few recorded accidents.

Silk trains in the west left Vancouver, and locomotives were changed at Boston Bar, British Columbia (BC); Kamloops, BC; Jasper, Alberta; and then Edmonton. This procedure was repeated at each terminal on the Canadian National system until the train reached its destination. It took approximately four to seven minutes to service these trains and put on another locomotive at each divisional point.
(info from the Alberta Railway Museum page)

Update:  The Oscar Heineman Silk Factory in Chicago is soon going to be demolished for apartments.

3D Satellite
Easton, PA, had Simon Silk Mill.
1920sThe silk industry is the largest in Pennsylvania. There are 300 mills statewide and 75 in the Lehigh Valley.... One in three silk workers in the United States is from Pennsylvania. [LehighValleyLive]

Considering how big steel and coal was in Pennsylvania, I'm surprised that silk was even bigger.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Allied Metal Company

While researching some abandoned track near Canal Street Bridge, I discovered a building with an
Allied Metal Co. sign. That building has been torn down. The question is why. Was it relocated and the jobs were moved or did it go out of business and the jobs were lost? It appears that it has moved to a more industry friendly neighborhood along the Belt Railway Co. of Chicago.

Satellite
Satellite
To the right is an image of their old building at the same scale. Even if they don't own all of the above buildings, their new location is definitely bigger.

Their web site indicates they have been in business since 1953. But the core of their original building was built long before that. While researching the track servicing that building, I found it in a 1938 aerial photo and in a 1915 map. Unfortunately the resolution of the 1915 eBook is not good enough to read the label on the building.
pdf copy from 1915 Smoke Abatement Report, p. 344
IHLAP
Since the new location is close to the BRC, I had assumed it had rail service. But when I inspected a satellite image for tracks, I could not find any. But one of the bullet items for their Chicago facility is "Indoor rail siding."
Bird's Eye View
But even if I go back to the Bird's Eye View time frame, I can't find tracks connecting the building to the BRC. I can find where the rail siding was. But it looks like it now uses trucks.

The curve along the north side of the building in the middle indicates that there used to be a rail siding all along the north side of the eastern buildings.

Bird's Eye View


Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Abandoned Track of Jeff's Marina


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While looking for picture angles of the Canal Street RR and Canal Street Bridges, my feet felt something "funny." When I looked down I saw the remnants of an abandoned turnout! After some research, it appears this abandonment was rather recent. When I checked out a satellite image, I not only saw a lot more track, I saw a building that no longer exists!

Satellite
The building and tracks have been removed to expand the parking lot for boats. When I checked out the Bird's Eye View, I not only learned that the building was Allied Metal Co., I noticed that a couple of boxcars were parked by the building! So these tracks were probably still actively used in the 21st century.

Bird's Eye View
FlashEarth
To get a more current view, I used FlashEarth (left image) and caught the building being torn down.

The boxcars raise the question of which railroad served that building and where did the tracks come from? Looking at the Bird's Eye View, you can see tracks in and along Grove Street.
Bird's Eye View
By placing "South" at the top of the map, we see the track is a continuation of the industrial lead that leaves the east side of Alton's Halsted Street Yard. So I conclude that those boxcars were spotted by CN/IC/ICG/GM&O/Chicago & Alton.

A 1915 map confirms the conclusion that C&A served this building.
pdf copy from 1915 Smoke Abatement Report, p. 344
Update: Bing's streetview drove down Grove Street alongside the Allied Metal Co. Hopefully, this streetview link will remain valid after they update the images.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Alton's Halsted Street Yard

Brid's Eye View
pdf copy from 1915 Smoke Abatement Report,
p. 348
This 1915 map refers to the yard as the Chicago & Alton' Halsted St. Yd. A more modern map refers to this yard as IC Bridgeport Yard. But this would be after GM&O/Chicago&Alton merged with IC to form ICG and after ICG changed their name back to IC.
Satellite
It is not surprising that many of the tracks that were in this yard have been removed. What is surprising is how recently they were removed. The Bird's Eye View below shows that, not only are the tracks still present, there are some cars setting on some of them. Note that this was another relatively expensive yard because all of the tracks are elevated. There are two long road underpasses under this yard.



Satellite


The reason why I was studying this yard is the industrial lead that leaves the yard on the east side. I added a red line to this image to highlight where the track used to be. If you follow the link and zoom into the upper-right corner, you can see the shadow of a retaining wall and the lead disappearing because it is going down to ground level.

Bird's Eye View
Rotating a Bird's Eye View so that South is at the top, you see that a building is blocking most of the view of the descending lead. But you can see a portion between the building and I-94. The track on top is one of the CN/IC/GM&O/C&A elevated mainline tracks. The track in the middle is the descending industrial lead. The track on the bottom is an industrial spur servicing the building on the right. In fact, looking back at the Google satellite image, that spur went into the building.

Update: according to HotTimes, the CN called this the Bridgeport Yard. One of the uses of this yard is transfers between the Hawthorne and Glenn Yards.