Saturday, February 21, 2015

Railroad Corridor: Western Avenue

 I marked a map to summarize the Western Avenue Corridor junctions.

The reason the Chicago and Great Eastern (the Chicago end of the Pennsy's Panhandle Route) built as far west as it did before it turned north in 1865 is that Western Avenue was then the western boundary of Chicago. The C&GE evidently bought enough land for their right-of-way outside the city limits that later the B&OCT and, further north, the NS/NYC/Chicago Junction/Union Stock Yard and Transit Company (USY&T) paralleled the CG&E forming what I'm calling the Western Avenue Corridor. I document the corridor from the south (timecard east) end to the north (timecard west) end. The Panhandle was downgraded in the 1970s and torn up in the 1980s.

79th Street Crossing

Belt Crossing (also known as Forest Hill, 75th Street, and Panhandle Crossing)

RailfanGuide from Interlocking
The B&OCT is west of the CG&E. They first cross the NS/Wabash and then the Belt Railway. Thomas White wrote a fascinating description of what the tower operator had to consider before letting a train through this junction. Of note was that Penn Central had consolidated trains so that they would not "fit" on the track any place north of Dolton. By consolidation, I assume he means that what had been separate passenger trains were now being run as one, longer, passenger train. If these longer trains were held at 75th, they would block the Rock and B&O at Beverly Junction and usually the Rock at Washington Heights, and lots of street crossings, so Panhandle trains were held at West Pullman until this junction could give the Panhandle a green. From the 75 Street entry in Other South Side Junctions, we learn the Wabash route was the main line to St. Louis, but it now terminates at a chemical plant in Manhattan, IL. Metra still runs weekday rush-hour commuters on this line. CSX dispatchers now control this junction, and it sees about 100 trains a day.

59th Street Yard

This was the major Chicago Yard for the Panhandle. It is now used as an intermodal yard by CSX. An 1897 Chicago railroads map shows a connection along 58th street, Englewood Connecting Railway, between Pennsy's two Chicago Properties --- the Panhandle and the 55th Street Yard of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway. This right-of-way is now used by the RTA's Green Line to the Ashland/63rd station.

49th Street

I found enough photos that this tower is now a separate posting.

The jog to the northwest

Before reaching Pershing Road, all three routes (Panhandle, B&OCT, and CR&I) head northwest so that this 1865 corridor remains outside of Chicago's city limits  -- Pershing Road on the south and Western Avenue on the west.

Brighton Park

This junction was famous for using 19th century signalling techniques until 2007, and it already has its own posting. The speed limit is now down to 20 mph.

The Scissors Bridges

When the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal was built, bridges were built for the Western Avenue Corridor railroads. The peak capacity of the bridges were the 8-track "scissor bridges." All 4 spans still stand, but only the 2 eastern spans still carry tracks --- two tracks for NS/NYC/CJ and two for B&OCT. (Update: BNSF has used one of the former-Panhandle bridges+ to connect its former-CB&Q line with its former-Santa Fe line.)

Ash Street

This crossing now has its own posting.

26th Street

The three railroads of the corridor crossed the Illinois Northern Railroad. A BNSF/CB&Q track joins the corridor on the east side to go north from a CB&Q industrial branch to the east. The Illinois Northern is now abandoned and this crossing has been removed. (Update: Facebook discussion    Brandon McShane Remember that what became the IN was intended to be C&EI's, and later was Grand Trunk's, initial entry into Chicago. I'm not sure where the original terminal was, but it was undoubtedly closer to downtown than Rockwell  Street and the Panhandle line.    Bob Lalich I believe that the original terminal of the Chicago & Southern RR was somewhere near this crossing.)

CB&Q Connections

Tim Flickr 1995 Photo from RailfanAtlas.

The BNSF/CB&Q still has 5 tracks passing overhead. There is a southwest quadrant connection with the B&OCT. And there are southeast and flyover connections to the CB&Q industrial branch on the east side of the corridor. And with crossovers further south, the B&OCT and NS/Chicago Junction can also access the CB&Q. (Update: BNSF has restored a couple of tracks on the old Panhandle/C&GE route and changed the southwest quadrant to use its own tracks.)

John DeWit Woodlock II posted
CIRY 1209,1206 @ Cullerton Street-Chicago,IL 09 AUG 10.
[Central Illinois Railway is the shortline that ran BNSF's industrial branch for a few years.]
Dave Daruszka posted a view of the structure that hold the westbound connector.

B&OCT Western Ave. Junction

This junction now has its own posting.

Ogden Junction

The northern terminus NS/NYC/CR&I (nickname Chicago Junction) is the diverging route of a UP/C&NW turnout on the Ogden Avenue overpass.
As expected, the UP has crossovers close by so that trains on any of its tracks can access this turnout. Likewise, there is a crossover south of this turnout so that eastbound (geographically southbound) NS trains can switch over to the correct track.

Pennsy 12th Street = C&NW Taylor Street plus B&OCT Rockwell Street

This junction now has its own posting.

Pennsy's Western Avenue

The common name for this junction is Tower A2 because Western Avenue is the common name for the junction with C&NW mentioned above. This junction now has its own posting. The Panhandle joined the Milwaukee Road to share access to Union Station.


  1. The link to the diagram 12th Street is actually a place called Taylor Street. CNW was on the west side of the alignment from there, connecting to the CNW main line at Kedzie. The PRR was on the east side of the alignment from A2. A CNW switchtender handled Taylor. A B&OCT switchtender handled Rockwell, the B&OCT Altenheim Subdiv crossing and connection to PRR. There is a left hand crossover between the PRR westward and B&OCT wye. That was called the Presidential Connection: constructed specifically fro a special movement (don't remember which President) from Union Station to east on the B&O. Ogden Jct was the north end of the CJ, where it connected to CNW. Ogden Jct was on top of Ogden Ave behind the B&OCT Western Ave tower. The B&OCT tower was at the west end of 14th Street just west of Western Ave.

    1. Thanks for the clarification concerning Taylor and Rockwell. I have rewritten the part between CB&Q Connection and 12th Street because today I learned about the B&OCT Western Ave Junction. I discovered that the PRR track diagram links are now broke! But I was able to find a copy of the 12th Street diagram. I think I now understand this corridor except for the Chicago Junction joining the C&NW at Ogden Junction.

    2. I have fixed the Ogden Junction part. I learned recently that is where UP and NS interchanged run-through coal trains. I'm now comfortable that the corridor information is correct. I have also updated my map:

  2. "I assume he means that what had been separate passenger trains were now being run as one, longer, passenger train"

    Freight trains - that would be one mighty long passenger train.

    Tom White