Friday, October 3, 2014

Kankakee Belt Route Overview and Chicago Bypass Revisited

(Update:  the Chicago, Indiana and Southern Railroad (CI&S) was formed in 1906 and included the east/west route of Indiana, Illinois & Iowa and the north/south route of Danville and Indiana Harbor Railroad that was built in 1905. It was more commonly known by its nickname as the Kankakee Belt Route. (Wikipedia) This NYC north/south route became the Big Four Egyptian line at Danville, IL.)

A summary of this posting: 8-10 trains a day bypass Chicago by going from BNSF to NS at Streator, IL, and some trains connect between IAIS to NS at Peoria, IL.

I've done a couple of postings so far about the amount of train traffic through the Chicago area. There are two ways to address the capacity problem of the Chicago gateway -- increase the capacity and bypass Chicago. I had concluded that trains do not bypass Chicago because I read that the high-priority intermodal train from LA to NYC hands off from BNSF to NS through Ashland Yard and because the obvious bypass route had been abandoned. I'm happy to discover that I was too pessimistic about trains avoiding Chicago.

First of all, the abandoned track is the east part of the Kankakee Belt Route, which was the nickname for the Illinois Division of the New York Central Railroad. Since Norfolk Southern seems to have gotten the NYC part in the Chicago area when Conrail was split between NS and CSXT, this track is now owned by NS.

Matt Lasayko posted
Bill Molony posted
Steven Holding: In working the Main Line Desk for BN you would fix the PC up at the Ill. River Bridge to come over the Trackage Rights. When they got to Zearing they would often wye the power by going over the bridge and then come out in the CTC on the north side thru the crossover and then back into the south year to make up their train and head back South. After working the East End Job(Aurora-CUS) I once asked in a company meeting Why we didn't interchange more at Zearing to get away from the claims on going thru "Indian Territory" and the answer was " We wouldn't want to short haul ourselves." Right just pay the claims.
Jeff Heinie: NYC"s Kankakee Belt route was set up so that NYC could bypass Chicago and interchange with quite a number of the western railroads. The best known interchange was with the Santa Fe in Streator. Trains traveled to Argentine Yard.
Larry Candilas: Jeff Heinie Actually the NYC bought it to tap into the central Illinois coal boom, check out old maps of all the trackage north of the Illinois River NE of Depue and north of LaSalle. By the early 1960s the coal buisness was a lost cause and when the Illinois River bridge burned up in 1962 everything north was let go. The Hennepin rolling mill in the late 1960s was all what kept the line going, the Streator trains was something different, especially with PC since there was the Santa Fe TP&W bypass through Logansport in operation also. It's all very interesting and a lot of unique history.
Dale Burkhalter: Larry Candilas - Actually the Illinois River Bridge was still operating after the 1962 fire. I worked this line starting in 1967 and still went all the way to Ladd and then over the C&NW to Zearing. The Steel Mill closed, but now there is an ethanol plant at Hennepin.
Joel Sieracki: Starting in 1966 Rock Island and NYC began Gemini run-through service between Silvis and Elkhart connecting at DePue IL, lasting until the early PC era.
Joseph Tuch Santucci: Jeff Heinie the old Michigan Central Joliet Branch was a vital link before the hump yard opened in Elkhart in 1958. Three westbounds operated daily between Niles and Joliet. One connected to the Santa Fe, one with the Rock Island and one with the GM&O. When Elkhart opened that Rock and Santa Fe business was rerouted to the Kankakee Belt. I’ve never heard positively but I’m presuming GM&O business was probably also routed that way as well. The Joliet Branch then began a very protracted death. In PC days the local still patrolling the line changed from being based out of Joliet to starting at the eastern end of the line and they ceased going to Joliet. At the beginning of Conrail the line was severed east of Griffith and west of Chicago Heights.
Robert Bertram: This is one of the reasons that if NYC had avoided the hopeless mess of PC, they would still be with us today.
Andy Hughes: Robert Bertram I would disagree. The rate divisions never gave the line a chance to really blossom. Same with the EJ&E. Tho the J did have as many as 4 trains per day up to Waukegan, their rates were always too high. Otherwise they’d have double track and or CTC. When you mixed RRs & the ICC, all involved shot themselves in the foot.
Lance Erickson: Robert Bertram In many other countries this would have been maintained as a emergency route around Chicago. But’s it’s anti rail US.

The segment from the middle of the cross, Schneider, IN, to the North is still intact. BarrysBest reports that this route sees around eight to ten trains daily from BNSF transcon (old Santa Fe mainline) at Streator, IL, to NS interchanges and facilities in Indiana.  Note that trains using the old CB&Q mainline to Colorado can also use this bypass because they can switch to the Sante Fe in Galesburg, IL. But I still can't reconcile this information with the statement about Z-LACNYS using Ashland Yard. I can explain the NS locomotive run throughs that I see on the CB&Q in Downers Grove by assuming that those trains use the Great Northern/Northern Pacific route rather than the Colorado route. The routes split in Aurora. Update: I learned that some of the GN/NP trains go south to use the Streator connection.

I include Barry's list of connections to help me later research the railroads in Indiana.  The connections of interest for NS would be the Nickel Plate. Unfortunately, Walkerton and Knox are both on the abandoned leg. In fact, South Bend to San Pierre are on the abandoned leg.

Location   Railroad
South Bend, Indiana   New York Central and Grand Trunk Railway
North Liberty, Indiana   Wabash
Walkerton, Indiana   B&O and Nickel Plate
Hamlet, Indiana   Pennsylvania
Knox, Indiana   Nickel Plate
North Judson, Indiana   Pennsylvania and Erie
San Pierre, Indiana   Monon
Shelby, Indiana   Monon
Schneider, Indiana   New York Central
Delmar, Illinois   Milwaukee
Momence, Illinois   Chicago & Eastern Illinois
Kankakee, Illinois   Illinois Central and New York Central
Reddick, Illinois   Wabash
Dwight, Illinois   GM&O (Alton)
Streator, Illinois   Santa Fe, Burlington
Lostant, Illinois   Illinois Central
Depue, Illinois   Rock Island
Ladd, Illinois   Northwestern, Milwaukee, LS&BC RR
Zearing, Illinois   Burlington

I studied the northbound route on Google Map. It intersects with the Monon (now CSXT) in St. John, Erie (just an industrial stub in town is left) and EJ&E in Schererville, GTW (now CN) in Highland, NKP (now NS) and IHB in Hammond. From IHB north the line is leased and operated by IHB. But the junction with NKP does not have a connection in the southeast quadrant. So I still don't understand how those 8-10 trains a day bypass Chicago. Update: They connect with the former NYC instead of the former NKP.

Another scenario of a train bypassing Chicago is documented on Flickr. It looks like a unit grain train that went east on the former Rock Island (now Iowa Interstate, IAIS) to Bureau Junction, IL, and then south on their branch to Peoria. Their system map shows that in Peoria the IAIS interconnects with TZPR, CN, NS, TPW, KJRY, UP, and BNSF. Below is the Chicago area of NS. (Update: NS wants IAIS trans to move from Peoria to Chicago to reduce the number of crews it needs to go to, if I remember correctly, Fort Wayne from three to two. But IAIS doesn't want to move. Probably because it would then have to go over track controlled by CSX and Metra.)

NS System
It looks like NS uses a former NKP track to get from Peoria to Bloomington. Then I assumed it uses a former  Big Four track to get to Mansfield. But when I looked at the Google Map to confirm the town names, I could not find any rail line for that segment! So I found another map from their site that is more detailed and accurate. It removes the guess work.

NS .pdf file

The train must have taken a former NKP route to Gibson City. Then it could use track-rights on the CN/IC to get back up to Kankakee where it can use the Kankaee Belt Route bypass. It is too bad the track for the Kankakee and Seneca was torn up, it would have provided a much less circuitous route between IAIS and NS.

Now that I have discovered that NS .pdf map, I can better analyze the northern leg of the Kankakee Belt Route. Below are excerpts from their system map and their Chicago inset.

NS .pdf file

NS .pdf file
 

A nice collection of historic and 2004 pictures for the Kankakee Belt Route.

Update:
Adam Elias posted the comment "BNSF 5450; NS 8101 (COG Heritage); On NS 31K clear of Chesterton at 11:33." The comments indicate that at Porter Junction the train leaves the NS Chicago line and takes the CSX Porter Branch (formerly the Michigan Central). Matthew Ginkel provided a link to a map showing current (2016) ownership and commented: "It takes the Green, to the Purple, to the Blue typically, or Green to orange to blue."

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