Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Chicago & Alton Revisited

An overview of the Chicago & Alton. This posting focuses on the route in the Chicagoland area.

Update: ICG must have sold the track south of 100 feet North of Jackson Street, Joliet, IL, because that is the current boundary between CN and UP ownership.

While researching the Brighton Park Crossing this week, I came across the following history of the C&A:
Crossing all of these tracks is a double track line now owned by Canadian National from here to Joliet. From there to St.Louis it belongs to Union Pacific. This route has a complex history of ownership. The portion to Joliet was owned by Illinois Central until the CN/IC merger, and the Joliet-St.Louis segment by Southern Pacific until the UP/SP merger. Before that, the Joliet-St.Louis part belonged to the shortlived Chicago, Missouri & Western. Before that, the entire Chicago-St.Louis line was the property of Illinois Central Gulf, who was preceded by the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio, whose predecessor in turn was the Alton Road, which for part of its existence was controlled by Baltimore & Ohio. Got it? (There'll be a test in 20 minutes.)
Update: Chicago & Alton was bought by the Baltimore & Ohio in 1931, and it was renamed the Alton Railroad. In 1942, it went bankrupt and B&O relinquished control of it. In 1947 the Alton merged with the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio. [Facebook, B&O Map]

This clears up the confusion I have had because sometimes I'll read "the CN tracks" and other times I'll read "the UP tracks" when referring to tracks along the original C&A route. The GM&O merged with the Illinois Central in 1972 to form the Illinois Central Gulf. We have already seen that ICG was aggressive with dumping (selling or abandoning) most of their trackage other than a north/south mainline from Chicago to New Orleans in the 1980s because that created the Puducah and Louisville Railway and abandoned other branches such as the Peoria, Decatur & Evansville Railway. So I assume they sold the Joliet-St. Louis segment to the Chicago, Missouri & Western in the 1980s. In fact, the sale was in 1987, but it was bankrupt within a year. Because this route is the straightest, flattest, most direct route of the 5 major railroads connecting Chicago with St. Louis, a bankruptcy lawyer kept it alive until buyers were found by 1990. The SP acquired the Joliet-St. Louis portion and the Gateway Western Railway Company acquired the St. Louis-Kansas City portion. Since the UP acquired the SP in 1995, the St. Louis to Joliet route is now owned and operated by UP. The GWR is now under the Kansas City Southern control. By 1990, the ICG was a trimmed and rationalized Chicago-to-Gulf railroad and changed the name back to Illinois Central (icrrhistorical). The CN gained control in 1998.

This route is now being upgraded for high-speed rail travel of 110 mph. An experimental segment has been in place between Dwight and Pontiac since Nov. 2012.

The omen that it was time to post a C&A update was a Facebook posting of a photo by Dan Tracy of a westbound on the Patterson Road curve on Jan 10, 2010 that I read while writing the above. The thing I enjoy about Facebook groups is the amount of information in some of the comments. Unfortunately I have not yet figured out how to get a link to a specific posting. So I copied the comments.
Steve Rippeteau: OK, you are standing on the original 1888 grade that started dropping down to go under the C&A at South Chicago Street. Then the Santa Fe made a sharp left turn and paralleled the C&A north thru Joliet. They elevated the tracks in 1915 and moved the Santa Fe to the west side of the C&A and the grade we are looking at in your excellent photo.
Dan Tracy: I always wondered where they crossed or switched sides here. Thanks for that info. Today this is the access road to South Joliet yard which is hardly used anymore.

It is too cold for a field trip to check out the view in Dan's photo, so I did some map study. The tracks right next to Patterson Road are obviously BNSF/SantaFe. And the track coming from the south is UP/SP/CM&W/ICG/GM&O/C&A/J&C. But what is the yard and the tracks west of Rose Ave? Given the connection at the other end of the yard to UP, it would appear to be UP. But that would mean that UP tracks are between BNSF tracks and its Logistics Park (intermodal yard) a few miles southwestish from here.

The original C&A route is the track from the bottom. It came from Gardner via Wilmington and Elwood. My 1973 Railroad Atlas does indicate a second route that diverted north from the original route at Mazonia, which is 2 miles northeast of Gardner, to Coal City and then paralleled the Sante Fe line to Joliet. I then remembered that there had been a set of comments about joint trackage. I was able to find it as Dan Tracy's Dec. 3, 2014 posting to the "BNSF Chillicothe Sub Trains" group:
Once upon a time the The Santa Fe and GM&O ran a joint trackage operation between Pequot and Plaines. The Eastbound main was owned by the GM&O who's dispatcher controlled the Pequot interlocking whereas the Santa Fe owned the Westbound main and controlled the Plaines interlocking. This kept both railroads honest in handling each others trains. In 1986 the ICG sold the eatward main to the Santa Fe but retained trackage rights. Today CN uses these rights to access Stepan Co. at Millsdale. Here's a shot of a Westbound Canadian Potash train at Arsenal Road in April of 84.
Pequot is in Coal City and Plaines is 3 miles southwest of where the yard connects to the original route in the above map. Google map clearly shows the two crossovers at Plaines. When I looked for the Pequot crossovers northeast of Coal City, I discovered that the UP tracks never connect, they just "die!" So that north/south branch is now a track to no where. The ballast looks new and there is no overgrowth. UP has a better stub than the mainlines of many shortlines!

While studying a satellite image, I did spot a train parked on the stub, scroll down to the long vertical image.

Evie N Bob Bruns posted
Chicago Missouri & Western 2044 at South Joliet yard 11/3/1988.
[An impressive crop of weeds.]
Ken Schmidt They made a go of it...but the condition of the line bleed the life out. The Venago River Boys did not figure in the poor conditions. As I recall, they did not last much longer on the South Shore either.
Mike Robinson We did the best we could. To many promises never came true, left us hanging.
Ken Schmidt  Mike Robinson Oh I am sure you all did. I would watch the daily train come up and it seemed you had enough tonnage, not to mention the National Steel trains. But to see train speeds deteriorate left me wondering.
The idea was a good one....a direct connection of St. Louis to Chicago traffic.
Jeffrey Cwan plus the IC screwed them
Mike Robinson His name was E.Hunter Harrison, and yes he screwed John Darling by backstabbing him.
[It sounds like Precision Scheduled Railroading is not the only robber baron scheme that EHH has invented.

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