Friday, July 31, 2015

BRC's West 12th (22nd) Street Yard and MJ Overpasses

(Update: I have found other maps that called this 22nd Street Yard. Thus the parenthetical expression in the title.)

pdf copy from 1915 Smoke Abatement Report, p. 339
Between 12th and 22nd Streets (between Roosevelt and Cermak Roads on modern maps), Belt Railway of Chicago had a freight yard. This was an expensive yard because it was elevated and 16th street went under it. Today, most of the yard area is inaccessible vacant land.

The underpass is interesting because it shows that the west-most track is owned by a different railroad because it has a separate bridge.

Fortunately, this 1915 map is detailed enough to indicate that track was owned by the Manufacturers Junction Railway (MJ).

20140928 0059rc
A street level view of the west side of the railroad bridges over Cermak Road/22nd Street also indicates the western bridge has a different owner. Not only is it painted blue, it has a more modern single span design. I'm still struggling with how to take pictures to best capture the "urban tunnel" of a long underpass. It seems the sun can catch imperfections in the windshield when the angle is right. The following three photos are of the 16th Street underpass travelling from East to West. The third photo successfully caught the underside edge of the long BRC underpass and the relatively short underpass of the MJ.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

BRC's Hawthorne Yard

pdf copy from 1915 Smoke Abatement Report, p. 352
Between 26th and 31st Streets, Belt Railway of Chicago had a freight yard. As the yard's name implies (Hawthorne), an important customer of this yard was probably the Manufacturers' Junction Railway that serviced the nearby Western Electric Hawthorne Works. The map indicates that there also was an American Brake Shoe Foundry served by this yard. Given that both of these industries are now retail stores or vacant land, it is no surprise that the yard is now gone.

This was a relatively cheap yard because it was not elevated and no roads crossed it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

MJ: Manufacturers' Junction Railway

(Satellite, just the foundation is left)

Photo of roundhouse

Update: (Shortlines, FixedFlickr photo of treated telephone poles leaving the plant in 1925. The MJ locomotive is a 0-4-0 steam engine.
The Manufacturers junction Railway Company was incorporated in Illinois, January, 1903 to provide rail connections linking the Hawthorne Works with all major railroad systems entering Chicago. There are about 13 miles of track in and about Hawthorne and a small but adequate rolling stock. The railway delivers all of Hawthorne’s inbound rail freight (mostly raw materials) to required locations within the Works area and all outbound finished communications equipment shipped as railroad freight. The railroad also serves some of Hawthorne’s industrial neighbors. [TheBellSystem, pdf page 75] 
Manufacturers' Junction Railway (MJ) was originally incorporated in 1903 to serve the Hawthorn Works of Western Electric, which was the manufacturing arm of the Bell System. It began operation in 1906. AT&T closed Hawthorn Works and sold MJ to a subsidiary of OmniTRAX in May, 1986. (UP) According to their web site, MJ interchanges with BRC, which in turn interchanges with BNSF, CN, and CSXT (B&OCT). Even though some of the Hawthorn Works land was redeveloped as retail space, enough land was supposed to be redeveloped as industry to make MJ viable. And in 1998 it sounds like the plan was working:
"Our two locomotives were built in 1947, but they still run like tops," said Turk, a 30-year veteran of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway before taking over the MJ four years ago. Its age aside, the MJ is a busy little railroad that keeps Turk and his colleagues hustling from 6:30 a.m. till whenever quitting time occurs. "We already moved 60 cars this morning and have another 27 coming off the Belt (Belt Railroad of Chicago) later today," Turk said. 
The little railroad, which serves seven industries and connects them with some of the city's major railroads and belt lines, has benefited from Chicago's booming economy as well as the efforts of its parent, OmniTRAX Inc., in redeveloping the sprawling but abandoned Western Electric Co. Hawthorne Works as a logistics center specializing in transferring commodities between trucks and railroads. "OmniTRAX bought Hawthorne and is turning it into a warehouse transloading facility," Turk said. (ChicagoTribune)
During its hayday, it had 200 employees and 600 miles of track. In 1998, it had four employees and 5.5 miles of track with 1.78 route miles. (ChicagoTribune) But we have had two recessions since then, and it seems they have taken a toll. A TrainOrders posting in Nov. 2012 indicates there had been no freight customers for a few years. A Nov. 2012 photo of the remaining two engines indicates they are to be scrapped. I wonder if the Menards replaced the industries they did have.

20140928 0059rc
It appears the rail car is on the blue overpass, which would be the MJ route. (The wider overpass behind the blue overpass is the Belt Railway of Chicago.) So I assume that CSX's B&OCT route has been extended south to include the old MJ route.
Google Earth, Mar 2012
The last image with the "armstrong" turntable

Google Earth, Jul 2016
The last image with the roundhouse

Marc Malnekoff posted
MJ RY 23 at Cicero, IL 3/23/2007
Bryan Howell No. The locomotives were scrapped a few years ago [written in 2020] after copper thieves stripped them.
Dennis DeBruler MJ = Manufacturers' Junction
It was created by Western Electric in 1903 to serve its Hawthorne Works. When the works was closed in 1986, MJ was sold to OmniTRAX.
The turntable still appears in a Google Earth 2012 image and the roundhouse still appears in 2016.

Marc Malnekoff posted
Going through my archives today and found this shot.
Looking back I am glad I asked and was allowed to shoot some photos here.
MJ 23 Cicero, IL. March ,23,2007

Junior Hill commented on Marc's post
This warms my soul seeing this beauty in such nice shape here in your photo, as she should be .. Last time I saw her, she was being ripped apart by scrappers...

Steven Kakoczki commented on Marc's post
June 1980

Brian Krotzman posted to Off the Beaten Track Branchline
Brian Krotzman caught a picture of an MJ locomotive running light around 2005. He took the shot while sitting on the BRC at 31st Street. The lower track is the BNSF connection from the BRC to the Aurora line.

Facebook has a closeup of this color scheme and Marty caught a different color scheme. From the Facebook comments we learn that bums broke into the roundhouse and set both well-maintained SW1s on fire. The fire was bad enough that neither unit could be salvaged.

In addition to several pictures of the locomotives, Paul Rome has pictures of the interior of the roundhouse and a crane. David Parker posted a 1982 picture of an engine on the turntable in a blue livery. And a shot that includes the roundhouse. Larry Meyer posted a sequence of five pictures of the roundhouse and turntable. (Click on the pictures to go through the sequence.)

Scott Griffith posted five photos with the comment:
Any of you OLD HEADS remember delivering or interchanging with this railroad off the Cicero branch? Manufacturers Junction Railway If so could you explain the move or give details.
Earl Wacker I guess I qualify. It was a very short, steep connection near 16th St. Early 70s we only had one car at a time.

Ray Weart commented on a posting
The MJ was a very hard railroad to get photos of as it ran behind fences for the most part. I work for a Class 1 railroad which allowed me to be legally "Inside the fence" so to speak to get some rare MJ photos. This shot was taken May 1, 2009 on what we believe was one of the very last MJ runs

John DeWit Woodlock II posted
UTAH 2959; MJ 7;6 @ MJ shops/Ogden Ave-Cicero,IL 16 DEC 97.
3D Satellite
WE 100th Anniversary
If the smile looks a little strained, it's probably because the wrench was heavy. Irene Kramer of the Hawthorne Works donned an oversized pair of coveralls and engineer's cap and posed in front of a Manufacturer's Junction Railway engine. The year? 1931.

Junior Hill posted
In 2011 I was able to "access" the dormant roundhouse of the Manufacturer's Junction Railway at Cicero, IL. What I found inside wasn't nice, the RY's vintage SW1's were being picked apart by scrappers and bums who were living inside the roundhouse. Sadly, a couple years later the SW1's were pulled outside and scrapped onsite by contractors. Later the 100 year old roundhouse was demolished, ending the MJRR forever.
Charlie Benoit Do you have any other photos of the MJ? I am researching for a book on Chicago industrial railroading
Junior Hill Charlie Benoit I have 100+ photos of the MJ from 2 visits to the roundhouse from around the same time. All photos show the interior in decay such as above. The book sounds very interesting! I'd be happy to let you use any of my photos for the project. 

Rob Olewinski Cmraseye posted three photos with the comment: "revisiting the former MJ before it was all torn down...Cicero, IL. 2/2010"
[There are a lot of informative comments on this post.]



Not many railroads are small enough that the whole thing can be captured by a screen grab of a topo map.
1929 Englewood Quad @ 24,000

John Smith posted several pictures of the roundhouse and turntable from 2006 in a group that is now public.

Marty Bernard posted a nice shot of engine #6 taken in 1991.

Gary Talsky posted three interior shots.

Edward Kwiatkowski posted a 2007 photo of #23 pulling a train through Hawthorn Junction. The comments provide the history that the last train ran in 2009, the switchers have been scrapped because the copper was stolen out of them, and the roundhouse was torn down in 2016.

Gary Talsky posted a couple of pictures he took March 1, 2015.
Gary Talsky posted 12 photos he took Feb. 25, 2012.
Gary Talsky posted 3 photos of the interior that he took March 1, 2015.

John Smith collected 30 of Gary's photos into one "Part 1" posting.
John Smith collected 38 of Gary's photos into one "Part 2"  posting, some of them are different.

Bob Lalich Flickr 1986 Photo, MJ #6 passing a neat looking steel storage yard.
Now a intermodal container storage yard for JB Hunt. How sad indeed.

Additional photos, including a steam locomotive, are available in this Facebook posting.

Photo of orange caboose #101  (posting)
Jon Roma Western Electric's Hawthorne Works there in the background ... my grandmother and many of her siblings worked there.
Jeff Delhaye That caboose sits in a yard in Crystal Lake, Il, these days.
Bob Lalich I've never seen an MJ caboose before! It is striking! There are interesting details in the background as well - the Hawthorn Works tower, the rise of the MJ tracks to the Cermak Road bridge, the light tower of the BRC yard, and the smoke. It is coming from a stack; possibly on a caboose, but that is a lot of smoke to be coming from a stove.
Arturo Gross I noticed the smoke too, it appears to be coming from a smokestack beyond the BRC tracks, but can't tell for sure.
Earl Camembert Water Tower is still standing, but the MJ RR roundhouse was demolished just last year.

William Foamer posted eight photos of the interior from 2003 and 2016. Some comments add two interior shots from 2015.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Old Tractors on Parade

Much of this years July 4th Parade was similar to last year's parade, and I won't repeat those pictures. But the old tractor part of the parade was bigger this year. In addition to the usual IH and John Deere tractors, the parade included an Oliver tractor. This is the first Oliver I have seen personally. I also caught a Minneapolis and Case at a family reunion.

20150704 2460
Before doing the tractors, the out-of-town band stopped to put on a show in our block so I switched to video. After I was done with the recording, people were trying to get my attention to look behind me on my right. It was the tuba player that you hear rather distinctly at the end of the video.

Below are pictures I took of the tractors in the parade. Of particular interest is the Oliver Super 77 Diesel near the end.


When Downers Grove does a parade, we get a handful of tractors. When Dyersville, IA does a tractor parade, they get 153! I picked this tractor because it is the first time I've seen a Massey Harris.

Screenshot from video
In fact, it had two Massey Harris tractors. And there were a couple of Massey Fergusons.

Screen shot from video
Then a couple of days later a came across a a video of a 1952 Massey Harris 55 that had been hopped with a 390 V-8 for tractor pulling. The commentator describes how over designed the drive train was because you can replace the original 45hp engine with a 400hp engine and not bust the transmission or rear-end.

A video of a parade of tractors plowing

Monday, July 27, 2015

Silk and Horse Trains

I learned the following from a posting in the "Abandoned Rails" Facebook group.

Christopher Escott started my education by posting this picture with the comment "48 ft 16 stall horse car. One of 2 in 1964." He added the information:
These cars were utilized for exclusive transport of race horses. As trucking was not an option back then. The horse cars were lashed into high speed silk trains as they were a very time sensitive cargo. Never on passenger consists.
And Ron Pearson commented:
CN also used modified baggage cars for the movement of show stock to the different fairs like the one in Toronto. Can remember them coming through Symington complete with stock men to look after them. Prize cattle, horses and other stock. Now they move by road or air.
In response to a question of why would silk have a speed priority, Ron explained:
Because the raw silk could deteriorate quickly. This article gives an insight .. deals with CP but the same held for CN Silk Train, the term used to describe CPR cargo trains carrying expensive shipments of Oriental raw silk. The trains sped from Vancouver to merchants in eastern Canada and the US, from 1900 to the 1930s. The valuable cargo deteriorates rapidly and the market fluctuated daily, so speed, security and safety were essential. Silk arriving by CP ship in Vancouver was loaded into airtight train cars specially lined with varnished wood, sheathed in paper and sealed so that no damaging moisture or thieves could intrude. Armed guards were the only passengers. Trains of up to 15 cars rushed from Vancouver to Ft William [Thunder Bay] in 15 hours less than the fastest passenger train. The silk trains had preference over any others on the tracks: once a train carrying Prince Albert, later King George VI, was held on a siding while a silk train went through. The trains were discontinued in the 1930s with the advent of air transportation and man-made fibres.

In July 1925, the first silk train special left the Port of Vancouver containing eight sealed baggage cars lined with a special paper to protect the shipment from dampness and dust. It was guarded by two armed C.N. Police. The cargo was worth approximately two million dollars.

In October 1927, the biggest C.N. silk train left the Port of Vancouver enroute to the National Silk Exchange in New York. The train consisted of some 21 express cars in two sections and contained 7,200 bales of silk worth seven million dollars.The "Silker", as it was known, was not operated by any special crew, but by the crew that happened to be "next up" on the board. The locomotives used were fast locomotives that had been designed for high speeds in passenger service. Despite speeds of up to 90 miles an hour, there were few recorded accidents.

Silk trains in the west left Vancouver, and locomotives were changed at Boston Bar, British Columbia (BC); Kamloops, BC; Jasper, Alberta; and then Edmonton. This procedure was repeated at each terminal on the Canadian National system until the train reached its destination. It took approximately four to seven minutes to service these trains and put on another locomotive at each divisional point.
(info from the Alberta Railway Museum page)

Update:  The Oscar Heineman Silk Factory in Chicago is soon going to be demolished for apartments.

3D Satellite
Easton, PA, had Simon Silk Mill.
1920sThe silk industry is the largest in Pennsylvania. There are 300 mills statewide and 75 in the Lehigh Valley.... One in three silk workers in the United States is from Pennsylvania. [LehighValleyLive]

Considering how big steel and coal was in Pennsylvania, I'm surprised that silk was even bigger.
William Shapotkin posted
No horseplay here -- an IC "Special Horse Car" was seen at Chicago's Burnside Shops on April 24,1966. (As I recall, other roads (the Pennsy especially comes to mind) had such special-duty cars as well). Photo taken during a Central Electric Railfans' Association charter on the IC Electric that day. Wm Shapotkin Collection.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Allied Metal Company

While researching some abandoned track near Canal Street Bridge, I discovered a building with an
Allied Metal Co. sign. That building has been torn down. The question is why. Was it relocated and the jobs were moved or did it go out of business and the jobs were lost? It appears that it has moved to a more industry friendly neighborhood along the Belt Railway Co. of Chicago.

To the right is an image of their old building at the same scale. Even if they don't own all of the above buildings, their new location is definitely bigger.

Their web site indicates they have been in business since 1953. But the core of their original building was built long before that. While researching the track servicing that building, I found it in a 1938 aerial photo and in a 1915 map. Unfortunately the resolution of the 1915 eBook is not good enough to read the label on the building.
pdf copy from 1915 Smoke Abatement Report, p. 344
Since the new location is close to the BRC, I had assumed it had rail service. But when I inspected a satellite image for tracks, I could not find any. But one of the bullet items for their Chicago facility is "Indoor rail siding."
Bird's Eye View
But even if I go back to the Bird's Eye View time frame, I can't find tracks connecting the building to the BRC. I can find where the rail siding was. But it looks like it now uses trucks.

The curve along the north side of the building in the middle indicates that there used to be a rail siding all along the north side of the eastern buildings.

Bird's Eye View

Bing Streetview
Zaky Joseph posted
With all the renewed interest of the Illinois Central and the IC sd70s making a comeback to our area, I thought it would be nice to go back in time when the IC used to switch by Allied Metal with gp38s and street running across Canal street. Chicago, Illinois. October 1997.
Dennis DeBruler The marina that now owns that land left some of the rail exposed near the sidewalk. I assume it was a deliberate recognition of the history of the area rather than a paving mistake. It caused me to do some research as to whose track that was and where did it run from? Seeing a photo of that branch being used is really informative.

Aruto Gross Flickr 2000 Photo of LLPS 2217 and 2216 pulling boxcars from Allied Metal. (source)
Two more Flickr photos of that movement: 1 2

1995 Flickr of two BN boxcars spotted at Allied Metal. Both have high-mounted brakewheels.