Monday, January 30, 2017

C&NW Wells Street Yard and Freight House

When the Galena and Chicago Union first built from Chicago, they had to start west of the North Branch because river men and warehouse owners influenced the Chicago governing body to pass a law that kept the G&CU west of the river. But when they realized that farmers were going to the railroad anyhow, they quickly changed their mind and allowed what became the C&NW to cross the river. In addition to building a railroad along the north side of the river, they built a passenger terminal and freight facilities between Wells Street and the bridge across the North Branch.

Excerpt form 1915 Smoke Abatement Report, p. 328
Another map indicates they had dock facilities on Wolf Point. I included the State Street Yard as well since it easily fits on this page even though this excerpt is at full resolution.

Excerpt from Engineering Diagram
Back then, the Kinzie bridge over the North Branch would have been very busy because most trains, passenger and freight, terminating in Chicago crossed that bridge. By 1938 there was not enough land to handle the traffic, so they built a new passenger depot west of the river. The Wells Street Depot was torn down to make room for the Merchandise Mart. But the freight house still stood. And tracks went through the Mart to serve the State Street Yard, Sun Times Building, Ogden Slip, and Navy Pier.

1938 Aerial Photo from ILHAP

C&NWHS posted
How did all those Christmas present orders get to those small C&NW communities across the road's service area? Part of the answer is here at the C&NW's Wells Street transfer shed. Boxes, barrels and crates either came or went through here (see posting below). This is how things got done before FedEx and UPS. The building in the background is, of course, the newly opened Merchandise Mart.
[Looking East. The bridge and the mainline to Navy Pier are to the right of this photo.]

C&NWHS posted
This is an interior photo of the C&NW freight transfer station at Wells Street where it connects to the Merchandise Mart. This photo dates from the mid 1930s. These guys were the FedEx and UPS of their day. The photo is held at the archives of the C&NW Historical Society.

C&NWHS posted
This is a photo of the Wells Street Chicago freight transfer shed. This is how Christmas orders got shipped in the mid 1930s. Note the box car which will be either loaded or unloaded at the right of the photo. If it is being loaded, it will be sent out to the community were all the orders came from. This was the modern product shipping facility of it's day.
ChicagoSwitching (source)

Xavier Quintana posted a February, 1977 photo of Wolf Point. You can see the Holiday Inn that replaced the freight house.

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