Sunday, May 18, 2014

SantaFe Corwith Yard

(BNSF Intermodal HistorySatellite)

Update: 1989 video.

1938 Aerial Photo from ILHAP
SantaFe's extension of its main line from Kansas City to Chicago included the construction of the Corwith Yard in 1887. Midwest Compass and Wikipedia note that this yard at Pershing Road (39th Street) & Kedzie Avenue was the world's largest when it was constructed. With adjacent parking and buildings it covers nearly a square mile of land. Livestock trains would serve the nearby Union Stock Yards.

In the early 50s the yard was reconstructed to remove the old steam engine facilities, including a 35-stall roundhouse, and place the new buildings around the edge so that the maximum number of classification tracks could be placed in the middle. The above Compass link has an overhead aerial view before the reconstruction because you can see the roundhouse. Since this yard is the terminus of all SantaFe freight trains, the new buildings include extensive engine servicing and storage facilities. The new freight house was the first to include a "Towveyor" system operated on the endless cable principle (see above link for a picture). It served six tracks and could hold 156 freight cars. The right side of the above referenced picture is the north side of the yard and connects to the SantaFe tracks. The south side end of the yard had connections to the Indiana Harbor Belt, Belt Railway of Chicago, Grand Trunk Western, and the CR&I RR. The hump is at the south end. A study of resources indicates that by the early 90s, the 1952 facilities are still present, 2 more freight houses had been built, and TOFC facilities had been added to the east.

Since then, several of the classification tracks have been converted to more TOFC loading tracks that use rubber-tired gantry cranes and the name has changed to Corwith Intermodal Facility. The 2000 lifts done a day handle much more freight on the same surface area than the old freight-house/boxcar system handled. The old freight house area in the southwest part of the yard is now used by a JB Hunt Regional Terminal.

David M Laz posted
Taking care of diesels!The Atchinson, Topeka & Santa Fe Corwith Yard engine terminal.
David M Laz posted
Corwith Intermodal Rail Yard Chicago Photograph by Steve Gadomski
Brian Morgan posted
Corwith Yard North. End of the line.
Mark Leininger Wow! Terminal building in background. Corwith tower #1
Brian Morgan That scheme is from the 1940's and 1950's. That is the BFC perishable from Bakersfield via Barstow to Chicago.
Brian Morgan Just think they used to run six trains a day from Bakersfield for Chicago Eastbound with pure perishable loads throughout the entire consists. Assured fifth day delivery from California to Chicago.
I quoted several more comments, then I decided to delete them and suggest that you follow the "posted" link. The comments are dense with interesting information.]
Mike Croy posted
Here is an overview of the "new" Corwith yard as seen on the cover of the Santa Fe's 64th. annual report.
[Note the smokestack configuration of the Crawford Generating Plant in the left background.]
Mike Croy posted again
This view includes the new freight houses.

Mike Croy posted
Cover of a company pamphlet featuring the Santa Fe Corwith yard.
Mike Croy posted again
Jerry Jackson posted
Corwith, sometime in 1991.
[Before 2001 and some railfans doing silly (dangerous) things, it was easy to get access to railroad facilities to take pictures.]
Jerry Jackson posted
Loco Service Area, Corwith, 1988.
In response to a question about the "silver tanks," Jerry added a couple of comments:

Jerry Jackson commented on his posting
Sand tanks, gravity fed and heated in the winter.
Jerry Jackson commented on his posting
All Diesels have sand tanks located at both ends. The sand is gravity fed to the wheels, some are controlled automatically depending on wheel slip, some manually depending on the age of the Diesel and other factors. Pardon the SOO LINE photo, but this pic is worth 1000 words.
Jerry Jackson posted
Next, it's gonna be 30 days of Corwith. The GE unit sitting there will just about set the year, which I think is 85/86. I believe I took this on my first visit, but can't peg the year. Look at all those Topeka cabs!
Bob Reyff Boy that looks familar! Those are probably the second trick yard engines all waiting to go to work judging from the lighting.
Jerry JacksonJerry and 1 other manage the membership, moderators, settings, and posts for Chicagoland Railfan. This is the clearest shot of the Tower that I have! Lol.
Jerry JacksonJerry and 1 other manage the membership, moderators, settings, and posts for Chicagoland Railfan. Bob, what was the brick building on the left, out of the shot. It was along the sand tower track. I was guessing a Locker room?
Bob Reyff It's the roundhouse office (nearest end), Engineers' locker room, Switchmen's locker room, and then the Radio Shop on the far (north) end. From right to left, the GE is on the "Long Road" or "East" (outbound), track. The next (empty) track is the "Short Road" or "West" (outbound) track. The geeps are all lined up on the "Long Yard" (outbound) track. The two partially obscured geeps are in the "Short Yard" or 'yard engine inbound' track. The 'road inbound" is to the left of it. The track with the bumping post visible to the right of the sand tower structure was added in the early 80s (IIRC) to allow us to work the yard engines while we had road units on the actual pit itself. Not that we had enough people to necessarily work all at the same time, but it cut down on the amount of moves neccy when it became time to "work the yards".

Jerry Jackson posted two photos with the comment:
Waycar Wednesday: Waycars get shoved off to the caboose tracks at Corwith Yard back in 88, IIRC. Back then, chat a bit, sign a release and don't be a twit. "Can we go out on the roof?" Sure thing.The crews and people at Corwith were outstanding to your visitors back then. My kids and I have fond memories from there. Great people.


Chuck Guzik posted
Sorry about poor quality....but this is an old photo taken before I could afford a decent camera. Back in the days when Railroads were approachable and actually helped young railfans learn. Taken from Corwith tower in Chicago around the early 1980s. The "B&O man" as they called it leaving Corwith and headed back east on the "IN". Strange move in that the B&O transfer pulled north of Ash St and backed west to the "wye" over I-55 and backed into the yard. Lots of auto parts flowed on this transfer. When done, caboose hopped back the very same way to the B&OCT and back to Barr yd. Great guys around Corwith at this time!
Jerry Jackson posted
Corwith yard, 1990.
Jerry Jackson posted
Corwith yard, 1988.
Jerry Jackson posted four photos with the comment: "Front End Friday. From Corwith yard, Chicago, IL 1987-1991."




Jerry Jackson posted four photos with the comment: "Over the years, I shot GP7u's 2010 and 2012 quite a few times. Here 2010 is moving the business car, "Santa Fe". My second shot was unashamedly bad and it's only barely passable thanks to Photoshop. Shot from the Tower roof in Sept 87'. Those were the days."




Screenshot, Mark Baker
Sights and sounds at Corwith, 1988
Jerry Jackson posted two photos.
Donny Albertson Haven’t been to the area since 1990 so whose yard won after the merger? Corwith or Clyde?
Andrew Stephenson Both were converted into intermodal terminals and both are still very active.
Donny Albertson wow both humps are gone?
Andrew Stephenson That’s correct. If my memory serves me correct, the hump at Corwith was gone first, maybe in the late 70’s - early 80’s. Clyde’s was gone around 1997.
Brandon McShane Corwith hump was removed ca. 1986.

Jerry Jackson commented on his post, cropped
In this Google maps shot, the Engine facilities are within the red, the tower is in yellow and the sanding towers, green. That ballon track has replaced a wye since I was last there in the mid-90's. I'm sure there have been many more changes since then.
Jerry Jackson commented on his post
Looking N/E from the west side service road.The tower is the red brick building seen behind the sand towers.

Robert Leamont posted
It is the end of 2nd shift at the Corwith Roundhouse, and the outbound tracks are full of locomotive consists, all fueled, sanded, serviced, and ready to pull hotshot early morning Z trains from Chicago towards the west coast. 7-24-2017.
Robert Learmont Speaking strictly westbound intermodal trains originating our of the Chicago Complex,

Out of Corwith and Willow Springs (mostly domestic intermodal, all power serviced at Corwith)

2-3 Z trains and 1-2 Q trains to Stockton
2-3 Z trains to NBY
4 Z trains and 2 Q trains to SBD
3-4 Z trains and 2-3 Q trains to LAC

Then other routes too
1-2 Z trains and sometimes a Q train to Denver
1 - 2 Z trains to Phoenix
2 Z trains and 1 Q train to Alliance, TX
1 Q train to Robstown, TX
1 Q train to Pearland, TX

The quantities of originating train to each place were dependent on day of the week, and how much traffic was in each channel (that is, if two trains could be consolidated into one, or if an extra symbol was needed).

Also, a varying number of baretables, usually on Sunday.

LPC ran a lot of west coast trains too, they are primarily international intermodal and vehicle traffic, and they have a ton of traffic to Long Beach, as well as other ports. LPC runs a good amount of trains that are 15.8k feet long, DP’d 3x2x1. I don’t know for sure how many per day. When we serviced power for LPC at Corwith, we would send bulk strings of 8-12 units with unknown train assignments, and a contractor also fueled units that were turned at LPC.

On the north transcon, Cicero sends multiple trains per day each to Seattle and Portland, plus other points further inland. I don’t know how many to each place, as I worked Corwith.

Of course, this is just BNSF trains out of the Chicago Complex, and there are terminals in several other locations that send trains to the west coast.

Nick Hart posted
An outlawed stack train from NS Ashland Avenue Yard awaits a new crew in Chicago, while a CTA Orange Line train passes by overhead. The stack train features the Norfolk Southern's Reading heritage unit on the point and is right around the corner from its destination of BNSF's Corwith Yard. So close, but yet so far. 1067 was parked in a bit of a tricky spot, so I had to improvise a little. 06-23-2021
["Outlawed" means that a crew has exceeded this 12-hour shift and has to stop. The comments indicate it has not stopped not because it was outlawed but because it has to wait for clearance to enter Corwith.]

Nick Hart posted
A hometown Santa Fe painted GP60 leads a cut of stack cars from the Pulaski "junkyard" into Corwith Yard, passing the former Santa Fe Tower.  Chicago, IL  02-25-22
Fred Van Dorpe: Isn't that yard called Junction yard?
Clayton Johanson: Fred Van Dorpe It is. Nicknamed the "Jct. Yard". I scratched my head at first too. Having worked there for years my first thought was "Since when was there a junk yard?"
[Mike Croy provided several May 1967 photos taken in Corwith as comments.]

Mike Croy posted four 1967 engine photos and a caboose.

J.B. Hunt wants a 3rd-party review of the division of revenues between it and BNSF. )Some Facebook comments.)

The comments on this posting provide insight as to the dwell time of a trailer in the yard.

Ned Carlson: I used to live a half block away from Corwith, it was amazing to see the whole lot full of containers then a few hours later they'd be gone. If I recall correctly I was told it took 10 or 20 trains to fill a container ship.


  1. I do not search the net to often, but pulled up Corwith Yard. Wow, it sure is different now than 1951 when I went there to run a burro crane...I helped demolish the round house lay rails to and into the new freight house...I worked the Illinois Div for 2 years before becoming a ditcher engineer

  2. I grew up near 79th and Harlem, just down the road from Corwith. Where can I watch "Sights and Sounds at Corwith" online?

    1. Click the "Screenshot" hot-link that is in the caption. All of my screenshots should link to the video from which I captured the screenshot.