Wednesday, December 16, 2015

C&NW's Proviso Roundhouse, Yard, and Freight House

(General: Satellite; Turntable: Satellite)

video that includes a 1947 description of the Proviso Yard operations.

Patrick McNamara comment
Proviso Diesel Shop, Roundhouse, Turntable c 1955
David Daruska and Patrick McNamara provided the following information in the comments.

Proviso turntable. The roundhouse was re-purposed for a trash collection company and torn down in the early 90s.

A big slice of the pie is missing because there was a  fire and that was the beginning of the slow destruction of the Roundhouse.

The yard is so big that it takes two aerial photos to cover it. Patrick's view is looking southwest because the roundhouse was on the north side in the middle of the yard. Note that most of it was still surrounded by farm land.

The rectangle building on the west end of the yard is the LCL freight transfer house. According to a video, the 21-acre building has 24 tracks, each of which can hold at least 36 cars. There are 72 tractors to pull 4600 trailers. In fact, quite a bit of the video deals with the operation in this building. Note that for LCL freight, there is paper work to be handled for each package. In this case, the waybill for a boxcar is a packet of papers.

1939 Aerial Photo from IHLAP
1939 Aerial Photo from IHLAP
The turntable and diesel shop still exist. How many of those diesels need work and how many are just being stored on the tracks for their next assignment?

What surprises me is that some major classification yards still exist. Only the yard in the south west area has been converted to an intermodal facility (Global 2). I thought most of the Class I railroads now take the few mixed freights that they still run directly to BRC's Clearing Yard. I was expecting to see long arrival and departure tracks to interchange unit trains with the other railroads.

The video also mentions an ice manufacturing plant and icing facility. I wonder if this is the plant and the refer track with the ice trestle alongside the track.

1939 Aerial Photo from IHLAP
1942 Jack Delano Photo
Jerry Jackson -> Chicagoland Railfan
Looking west, across Proviso Yard 1943. Jack Delano photo. The bridge is Wolf Road, which used to cross from Berkely to Melrose Park, IL. Burned down in the late 50's.
It appears that the above image is cropped and exposure corrected.
Carl Venzke posted
General view of the hump yard at Proviso yard, C & NW RR - Chicago, IL, Dec. 1942 - Jack Delano color photo.

Stuart Pearson -> Chicagoland Railfan
C&NW 3000Class 4-8-4 on the Proviso Yard Turntable. The Roundhouse was comprised of 56 Stalls. I once met a man who was a Freight Train Conductor who told me that he was in the Cab of one of these Locomotives when it came close to 100MPH while Pulling a Freight.
John Nawakowski -> Forgotten Chicago
Chicago and Northwestern railroad yard, Chicago, Ill. 1942 (Photo-Jack Delano)
The consensus of the comments is that Jack climbed the light towers to get his shots of the yard.

Dan Crespo comment on John's posting
About the same shot of the Proviso Yard by Jack Delano. The gorgeous "Yellow Gold" on some of the tracks accentuated on this one. That has to be the Wolf Rd. bridge there.
[Tumblr has higher resolution and did not squeeze this picture into a profile format.]

David M Laz posted
The freight house at a Chicago and Northwestern Railroad yard. In the foreground
[The freight house is in the background. The foreground is the icing ramp.]
David M Laz posted
1942. “Proviso Yards, Chicago. A Chicago & North Western Railroad ... 
Now that is a roundhouse
Thomas Leaton The photo looks Northward and slightly West. Lake Street/US Route 20 ran behind the roundhouse and the three water tanks.
[1942 Jack Delano, LC-UCW36-527]
Jack Delano   LoC: LC-USW361-588

C&NWRR, towerman R.W. Mayberry of Elmhurst, Ill., at the Proviso yard. He operates a set of retarders and switches at the hump.

Jack Delano, cropped   LoC: LC-USW3-012358-D

Chicago, Illinois. Looking toward the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad classification yard from one of the control towers at the hump

Jack Delano   LoC: LC-USW33-014768

Chicago, Illinois. Retarder operator in his tower at the hump in the Chicago and Northwestern classification yard

Martin G. Sorenson posted
April 1943. "Switchman throwing a switch at the Chicago & North Western RR's Proviso Yard, Chicago, Ill." 4x5 inch Kodachrome transparency by Jack Delano for the Office of War Information.Randy Baran holy cow - i forgot they made kodachrome in 4x5 sheet way back when!
David M Laz posted
Michael Buckley Part of a switch man or brakemans job . Thru a lot of them in my 42 years as conductor for Santa Fe - BNSF . Bad in winter with ice and snow .Jerry Hund Love those Adlake switch lanterns.
Dennis Mize posted
Eastbound 120 car freight nearing Proviso on 4/13/74 with a High-Wide shipment near the head end. C&NW's clearance desk was staffed by an officer and clerk each weekday issuing clearances on all shipments that were more than 16 feet high or more than 10 foot 6 inches wide (dimensions of a regular box car). Each clearance carried an HW-number. Each number was assigned to a particular origin and destination. Since many shipments were repeats, the same number could be used from that file number with the new car number and the measured clearances. C&NW's clearance officer had many route dimensions memorized and could get help from engineering on any new shipments where help was needed. This same desk took the phone calls from each autoplant (GM, Chrsyler, AMC) and created the Hot Car Lists for 2nd and 3rd shift to handle with Proviso.
Glen Miller posted
December 1942. Classification yard at the Chicago & Northwestern Proviso Yard, Chicago. 4x5 Kodachrome transparency by Jack Delano.
Carl Venzke posted
CNW milk cars being rebuilt.
Jim Arvites posted
A 1943 view of the Chicago & North Western Railroad's Proviso Yard outside of Chicago.
(Jack Delano Photo, Edward Jarolin Collection)
Greg Mross posted
BROC Alco #604 brings a transfer freight into CNW's Proviso Yard on a dreary day in January of 1986.
[And a Chessie Cat and four Cascade Green BN boxcars.]

John Smith posted four photos:



Bill Molony posted
The Chicago & North Western Railroad's Proviso Yard at it looked in 1942.
Dennis DeBruler The background on the left shows a dark smoke haze. Looking at a map and the angle of the yard, this smoke might be in the Goose Island and further north areas.

Bill Molony posted
Proviso Yard - 1942
Paul Meier Jack Delano photo?
Mel Patrick yes
Glen Olbermann Good old days, cold beer is always on the third caboose on caboose track. Homemade scotch in bushes by ice house on the north end.

Michael Riha shared the Grève des trains - USA - 1946. album. The captions show the photo number in that album.

David Daruszka C&NW Roundhouse at Proviso Yards, Melrose Park, IL.Terry L. Hunt Back when Proviso was out in the country.

Jerry Jackson posted three photos with the comment:
My late friend Jim Drennan and I each took one of these photos. Which is which? I dunno. Shot from the bridge at CP Hill, overlooking the east end of Proviso Yard. The third photo IS the bridge at CP Hill looking back on a much warmer day. I reference "CP Hill" as overheard by employees, including Jim.
Dennis DeBruler So CP Hill is the IHB overpass. This is one of the few times in Chicagoland where a "now" photo would have more track than a "then" photo. Your view would have been blocked by a new bridge and ramped track to create a flyover connection between IHB and UP so that (slow!) transfer freights do not interfere with commuter trains on the two southern mainline tracks.

Dennis DeBruler See the second photo in



From an album of 1943 photos
John Foster shared
Fascinating photo of a narrow gauge line operating at Proviso Yard in 1943.
Brandon McShane Obviously in the car shop in an era before forklifts and other rubber-wheeled equipment for hauling heavy components.Gerry Walsh The old friction bearing.Dont miss the old repacks.Steven Holding There use to be many "narrow gauge" railroads in a lot of industry. [I've seen them inside foundries complete with turntables in a side track so that it can feed several aisle tracks.]
Patrick McNamara commented on John's posting
 I have a piece of rail from this little line...all evidence of this was erased in the mid 70s...
Chicago & North Western Historical Society posted
Here we (CNW archives crew) are once again with a question of where (community) this photo was taken. There is no photographer or date data on the reverse of the photo. Is that an icing station at the left side of the photo? What are those arched roofs buildings in the top center of the photo? We think that the photo posted "below" is from the same community.
Patrick McNamara This is a view looking West at the Proviso Freight House from old Yard One. The walkway over the County Line Mains from the Berkeley (Proviso at that time) station is at Left, the Hump Yard, Yard Five, is the other side of the elevated line for the pneumatic tube system that ran from the Administration building to the RIP Track, on the Right.

Kevin Leahy The arched roof building is the LCL Freight Station at Proviso. It was torn down and replaced with the old Proviso Piggyback Plaza.
Dennis DeBruler commented on the above posting
The closer part of the trestle on the left was part of the icing facilities. The ice making building would be out-of-frame to the left. You can see refers parked along part of the trestle. The above photo is very consistent with this 1938 aerial. It looks like Wolf Road used to go over the yard, and the picture was taken from the Wolf Road bridge.
Roger Wihelmi posted
A picture from the February 1946 issue of NorthWestern Newsliner.
Trent Blasco posted
I read a few comments on this picture. A few people say it was a war time era box car used to move explosives. another person says it was exclusive to the C&NW to be moved between the Merchandise mart in Chicago and Priviso Freight house. Any more info as to the facts of the marking would be great.
Erik Spoonmore According to this on the Historical Society FAQ page they were used to load LCL freight from the various Freight houses in Chicago to the large LCL terminal at Proviso Yard. They were called dolly cars and had cages attached to dolly’s to load packages on. Type in “X Door” in the search box on the link below and you will find the info towards the middle of the page
Chicago & North Western Historical Society posted
The C&NW wanted to get heavily into "Piggyback" services and decided that this site where the LCL transfer shed stood was the best place to build it. Thus, the shed had to come down in 1958. We are looking east across the massive shed roof at the west end of the Proviso Yard in 1958. The wrecking of the shed is under way. Going.......
Trent Blasco I think this is where the current day inter modal facility is located on the property?
Jerry Cramer Yes it is Trent. It’s now called Global Two. I used to work out of there a lot. It also covers what used to be Yard One.
After Patrick McNamara posted the above aerial on one of my shares, I took a closer look at the photo we commented:
Dennis DeBrulerYou and 1 other manage the membership, moderators, settings, and posts for Chicago Railroad Historians.  As I was taking a closer look at this photo, I noticed the hump yard tower. Then I noticed that there seems to be two additional towers on either side of the track fan-out. (What is the proper term for the downhill part of a hump?) I now wonder when retarders were automated. Using three towers makes me realized that there is a lot about hump hard control that I don't know about. My first though was that the hump operator could select a track, and relays could throw the appropriate turnouts for that track. But then I realized that would allow only one car at a time to roll down the hump. I believe there can be multiple cars at a time in the track fan-out. As someone who wrote programs all of his career, a program to switch the turnouts at the correct time to handle multiple cars rolling to different tracks strikes me as an interesting (challenging) problem.

Patrick McNamara I'll have my old friend Carl Shaver fill you in on the intricacies of being a Car Retarder Operator (CRO in C&NW parlance). The hill itself is 'the Hump,' a term that was also used when referring to the tracks, Yard 5, that contained the freshly marshalled cars that rolled down the Hump. Proviso's mechanical retarder system dates from its building (in 1927-28) - the tracks switches were automated sometime after that.

Patrick McNamara posted
C&NW 1776 pushes another string of cars over Proviso's Hump. Photo taken at Yard Nine for the US President's Railroad Commission that was investigating safety on the rails in the waning days of the Dwight Eisenhower administration - H. G. Plock, Photographer. 1960
David DaruszkaDavid and 1 other manage the membership, moderators, settings, and posts for Chicago Railroad Historians. They found no safety at Proviso and moved on.
Larry J. Pearlman posted
You spin me round, round, baby....Proviso shops.
One of seven photos posted by Sam Carlson
East end of diesel ramp. The sun is being obscured as a snowstorm rolls in.
At first I thought the above photo was at the 40th Street Yard. But I've never seen that water tower there. So I checked Proviso. Sure enough, Proviso still has the water tower and an even bigger engine servicing facility.

Screenshot @ -0:23
Tom Rutkowski posted
2/26 A locomotive going for a spin on the turn table outside the shops at proviso.
Carl Venzke posted
General view of part of the rip tracks at Chicago and North Western railroad's Proviso yard, Chicago, Ill.- April 1943 - Jack Delano photo
[RIP tracks are Repair in Place.]

Chicago & North Western Historical Society posted
Someone wanted to see photos of the C&NW's "old Proviso yard." Here is one taken by the C&NW company at an unknown date. Note the water tank at the upper left of the photo. Maybe the early 1960s? Also, see the three photos of Proviso taken in 1933 and published here a few moments ago.
Roy Rother There are like 20 cars in this yard!Hannah Miyamoto Given that there are almost no freight cars and no locomotives in sight, isn't this before the hump yard actually opened? In that case, some of the smoke and steam on the left side of the photo may be from steam locomotives.Carl Shaver I think it was more like the late 1950s for the second hump lead being extended over the hill, soon after Heineman came to power. 

When I hired out in '71, it was much like this (except for the lack of water tower). However, we'd never see the yard 
this empty of cars. It was in '72 that they redesigned the hump to have a double crossover in front of Tower A, so both leads could hump into all tracks. 

It was scary to drive across the hump; in my career I saw two cars get hit. I know that one of the signal maintainers lost a leg up there as well. 

Hannah, no, it's not before everything opened...that second hump lead is the key to that. There originally was only one track over the hill. However, I have no idea why the yard was so empty, unless it was during the telegraphers' strike or something like that.

No steam locomotives left at this point in time.

This is after the Wolf Road bridge over the yard was destroyed; I see evidence of what's currently Track 39 there--when the bridge existed a pier would have obstructed that.

I hired out 42 years after the hump opened, and spent 39 years there, mostly working Tower A.
Don Wittmuss Is the method for reclassing cars still using the hump ramp...Chicago & North Western Historical Society Yes, Day after day with Gensets
[Evidently UP hasn't given up totally on gensets,]
Brian Niedert Patrick McNamara when did they add the second hump lead?Patrick McNamara In the 60s - when I hired out in 72 they used a small shanty across the Hump Leads from the present Hump Office and called the little shanty 'Sputnik' (after the first Russian satellite) - the name stuck.
Patrick McNamara commented on a post
After searching my Archive I found these photos - they were taken just after the Telegrapher's strike in 1962.

Patrick McNamara commented on a post
 The track to the right ?
Fred Van Dorpe posted
Dennis DeBruler Proviso is big. And I learned that when I went to Highland a couple of times traffic is a mess because Wolf Road stops and Mannheim Road looses a lane over the bridge. And, in general, most railroad entrances are not public friendly. Can someone suggest where in Proviso we should aim for?
Fred commented on his post
Fred Van Dorpe Just drive in this way, park in the parking lot you will see, and 1111 is where i circled. Just stay behind the yellow barricades, they don't want you getting too close.
Mathan Mackey posted
And just like that 90 years of the Proviso hump comes to an end. 07/07/19
[More comments about the closing of the hump and Global 1. Trains article This will cause trucks in the Chicago area to use even more interstate capacity so that UP can use less rail capacity.]

Jeff Braxton posted
The old CNW Proviso hump officially closes at 0600 this morning [July 9, 2019] forever after 90 years.
Thank you PSR
Alan Ott My Mom once told me that there was a footbridge that ran crossways over that yard that was a mile long. If I understand right, Proviso was at one time the largest railyard in the world.
Jeff Braxton Alan Ott at one time it was the largest in the world. Until bailey came around.
But still. Proviso has history.
Josh Neely I’m a Yardmaster at Radnor in Nashville we went to flat switching for about a year then they opened us back up as a hump, maybe y’all will have the same fortune...Hang on though, PSR is rough and they will cut everything to the bone....
Tom Danza Alan Ott , you are correct it was the largest yard in the word in the 40’s 50’s. The foot bridge your mom spoke of is now Mannheim Rd. still spanning the width of the yard. The wooden bridge burned many years ago, from cinders from a steam loco. I pulled pins on that Hump many a night.
John P. Pisciotto The wooden bridge was wolf road. Burned when someone parked a steam loco under it.
Tom Danza John now that I think about it you are correct. And it was never replaced I think.
Janet Schultz Where will the switching go?
The UPRR closes Shortline yard in DM, transfers all those cars to Neff Yard in KCMO. we used to switch 500 cars a night, flat switch , bowl yard with about 40 tracks, 4 receiving tracks.

They closed Butler WI, laid off a bunch of employees, same thing at Hinkle OR.
North Platte has into the hundreds of employees laid off.

Meanwhile, there is a newly painted "employee engagement" locomotive roaming around the properties that UPRR owns.

And of course, tickets to ride the newly revamped 4014 BigBoy locomotive train are 300 to 750 dollars, and that's just for the Omaha to Boone leg, says its fundraiser for UP museum at Council Bluffs.

More work from far less people, and the privileged people who can afford it, can ride the fancy trains.
Lay off people with many years of service, screw em and their years of service....all in the name of something called Precision Railroading

Oh, and the "father " of Precision railroading was paid 85 million dollars for 1 year of his job slashing by the railroad which contracted him, only 1 year because he was using an oxygen tank to breath and died cutting jobs. E Hunter Harrison .

What is happening ? Who are we working for? I wonder.
Harold Lemmon It seems they are cutting off their arms so they can save on shirts.
Jeff Braxton The hump is being bulldozed and G2 ops are being extended into what once was the hump. They want to expand intermodal.

It won’t be reopened.
Elcamino Pasztor CP Rail has had a few humps ripped out over the Hunter years. Now they're being rebuilt and put back in to service.
Elcamino Pasztor Peter Jugo Calgary completely ripped out the old hump yard about 8 months ago and put a new one in... all spanking brand new.
Hugo Humphreys Mike Molnar Alyth yard in Calgary, and now they are doing Winnipeg, next up is Toronto I believe.
Dee Kizzle They shut down, and tore up the Alyth hump yard when Hunter took over. They just spent millions building a new one that is less efficient than the original.

1966 Marty Flickr photo (source, includes a discussion of 1943 cameras) of two mother-slug units shoving cars over the hump.

An album of 168 1943 photos.

Arturo Gross Flickr 1996 Photo  (source)

Bob Lalich Flickr 1990 Photo, Yard 9

Kevin P. Keefe's Milestone Blog post (source)


  1. You might join this group for RailRoad photos from life. Lots and WWII stuff.