Monday, February 23, 2015

MC: Joliet Cutoff: NYC's Joliet and Northern Indiana Railroad

I was surprised when I was studying a 1960 map of Chicago railroads because I spotted a NYC line going across the south just north of the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern.

Newberry, 1888
This 1888 map shows that it has already been absorbed by Michigan Central. From a photo album, I learned it was built by Joliet and Northern Indiana Railroad. So the linage of this route would be J&NI > MC > NYC > Penn Central > Conrail > Abandoned.

The photo album claims it was abandoned in 2012. That would be the final segment between Chicago Heights and west of Griffith. From a Facebook comment, I learned it was OOS (Out of Service), not abandoned. I think that means that no part of the right-of-way will be used for another purpose. But I assume NS doesn't have to pay property taxes after they tear up the rails. I wonder if there are coax and/or fiber cables plowed along the tracks. The segment between Joliet and Chicago Heights has been developed as a 22-mile paved trail --- Old Plank Road Trail. To complicate matters, the remaining MC track in Indiana is now owned by CSX.

Joliet & Northern Indiana Railroad was incorporated in Indiana and Illinois on Aug. 23, 1854. This consolidated incorporation across state lines was made possible by recent laws passed in both state legislators (PlankRoad4). So the games played by the Michigan Central and Michigan Southern & Northern Indiana to gain access to Chicago were no longer needed (CrossingWar). The incorporation included the assets of the Joliet and Northern Indiana Rail Road, which was incorporated on Jan. 9, 1854. Actually, most of the millage (43.849 of 45.179) was built by the "Rail Road" rather than the "Railroad," but since the abbreviation J&NI works for both, I'm going with the popular name. (Wikipeda) The line was leased to Michigan Central before it was completed and service commenced July, 1855. It was built by Joliet businessmen so that they could get a connection to the east without having to deal with the Rock Island or the I&M Canal. (TrainOrders) The J&NI was known as the Joliet Cutoff because it removed 30 miles from the trip between Michigan and Joliet and points West (Rock Island) and Southwest (e.g. Chicago and Alton). The railroad created the towns of Spencer and Frankfort. (PlankRoad5) (But I can't find Spencer in Google Map.)

This line branched from the Michigan Central mainline in Lake Station, IN, (between 1906 and 1977 the town was named East Gary) and the route went in a rather straight line to Griffith. This segment was abandoned in 1976 (AbandonedRails).
Bill Molony posted, note that North is to the right
The J&NI was acquired by the Michigan Central Railroad in 1855, before it was even completed. In 1930, the New York Central leased the Michigan Central and began operating it as a part of the New York Central System. This particular line was known as The Joliet Cut-Off.
Bill Molony posted again
This 1956 map of the Joliet Cutoff shows all of their connections with other railroad companies.
Bill Molony posted
The 45-mile long Joliet & Indiana Railway was completed in 1855, under the ownership of the Michigan Central Railroad. The MC came under the control of the Yew York Central & Hudson River Railroad in 1890, but continued to operate as a separate railroad. In February, 1930, the New York Central leased the Michigan Central, and began operating it as part of the New York Central System. The lease of the J&NI was transferred from the MC to the NYC at that time. The NYC merged with the PRR in 1968, forming the ill-fated Penn Central Railroad. Business and traffic on the J&NI declined under PC management, and by the end of 1972, it was embargoed from Chicago Heights to Joliet. When Conrail took over in 1976, the Chicago Heights to Joliet right-of-way was retained by the Penn Central Corporation and was never owned or operated by Conrail. Today, that portion of the R-O-W is the recreational trail known as the Old Plank Trail.
Denis Johnston: Parallel the EJ&E.
Bill Molony: The J&NI was completed between Joliet and East Gary in 1855. The EJ&E was not completed between Joliet and Hobart until 1899.

Bill Molony posted
This map of Joliet from the 1876 Atlas of Illinois shows the locations of the tracks of the Chicago & Rock Island, the Joliet &Northern Indiana, and the Chicago & Alton.
Keep in mind that all of these railroads in downtown Joliet were still at grade, and that the AT&SF and the EJ&E had not arrived yet. 
The track elevation in Joliet was done in 1908-1010, and Joliet Union Station opened in 1912. Prior to that time, each of the railroads serving Joliet had its own stations.
[More info]

1959 Gary and 1960 Portage Quadrangles @ 1:24,000
Mike Kasrich commented on a post
Having lived in Lake Station/East Gary from 1963 until 1995 this is what I recall. The branch left the main line just west of IN. Rt. 51. There were about 4 tracks in the yard of lighter rail. One of the yard tracks I believe abutted a couple of coal/fuel oil places. Square Deal was one can't remember the other name. There was a spur that went across Ripley to what eventually was a small chemical plant. That might have been a lumber yard before that came into existence. The track behind/near the library was the Joliet branch. The switch to access the yard would have been close to what was the Central Center shopping center or a bit east of the shopping center. The yard was stub ended at that time. I don't recall any tracks being in Pike St. except for the branch and the twp MC mainlines. There was a short stretch of the track pans in place on the MC mainline around/west of Pike St and they ended long before Grand Blvd.


  1. Spencer is at the intersection of Illinois Highway and Spencer Road in New Lenox township. When I was a kid businesses there were Spencer Auto body, the grain elevator and a junkyard. Where the tennis court is used to be USDA round Butler buildings.

  2. The large house on the NW quadrant of that intersection was also a restaurant/ hotel. My Dad grew up on Illinois Highway, the first house on the North side of the road past the Wabash/NW/NS. Windermere West was my Grandmother's asparagus field (YUK !!!). If I've followed things correctly, there was a station at Spencer at one time. BTW, that was NOT a junkyard, it was an auto salvage yard. They sponsored my stock car in the '80s. The term "junkyard" could provoke wrath from the Roby family !!! Ha,ha,ha !!!

  3. I lived in Ross , an early community in Lake County , Indiana that had aA train station. The station was destroyed in late 1950s or early 1960s. The railroad was dissolved and the rail line property was sold off to adjacent landowners. No right of way was used for trails, utilities or roadways.

    1. The Ross train station for the Joliet and Northern Indiana Railroad or better known as the Joliet Cut Off was built in 1857. Per The Calumet Region: Indiana’s Last Frontier by Powell Moore.