Thursday, August 27, 2015

Chicago Produce Terminal (CPT)

1938 Aerial Photo from ILHAP
(Update: an index of IC's Chicagoland yards and roundhouses)

The following description is from an Illinois Central Employee Handbook. Unfortunately, I can't find a date on it. From a picture with women employees on Page 24, I'm guessing it was produced in the 1940s.
Built at a cost of $8,000,000, the Chicago Produce Terminal, owned jointly by the Illinois Central and Sante Fe railroads, is capable of handling 2,000 cars of perishable products at one time. It is the only location in metropolitan Chicago where, when required, cars can be diverted to other cities without losing a day in icing. Since more than 40,000 cars are so diverted annually, the time-saving element is all important.

The terminal was put into full operation in August, 1947. It covers ap- proximately 110 acres and is situated between Western and Ashland avenues in the vicinity of Twenty-Seventh Street. This is approximately the geographic center of Chicago.

The terminal came into being when the merchants of old South Water Street were forced by changes in city streets to move to what is now called South Water Market, a 6-block area bounded by Racine Avenue, Morgan Street, Fourteenth Street and Fifteenth Place. This location is less than two miles from the terminal and trucks can travel the intervening distance in a few minutes.

The facilities of the terminal include switching tracks, delivery tracks, storage tracks, icing equipment, an auction house, sales rooms and a joint freight agency office. There are also special yards each for watermelons, potatoes, and grape juice.

The terminal is open to all lines entering Chicago and can be reached with their own power.

"In 1920, IC handled 28,478 carloads of bananas, and by 1947 this traffic reached a volume of 1,000 carloads per week." The Chicago Produce Terminal (CPT) opened in stages between 1925 and 1927, and it had a capacity of 1,825 railcars. It also could provide ice and other maintenance for cars moving to points beyond Chicago. (Illinois Central Railroad by Tom Murray, p. 67) (It is interesting when sources conflict on facts --- a capacity of 2,000 vs. 1,825 railcars.)

1915 Smoke Abatement Report, p. 349
Since this was built in the 1920s, I was curious as to what was there in 1915. On the eastern side, they basically just had to fill in the then obsolete Indiana and Michigan Canal.

1915 Smoke Abatement Report, p. 358
On the west side they had to fill the canal and move IC's and SanteFe's mainlines south were the canal used to be.

The track spacing in the eastern part looked like a modern inter-modal terminal because it had big aprons between the tracks so that trucks could unload the railcars.

Later, IC replaced the CPT with its IMX Intermodal yard.

Bill Molony posted

Google Earth set to 4/30/2015
Now the only thing being used is the warehouse. The Sun-Times printing plant was shut down in 2011 because they made an agreement to have their newspaper printed at the Chicago Tribune printing plant. Trucking produce from California via BNSF/Santa Fe is not too bad because Corwith Yard, now a BNSF intermodal yard, is just another mile or so downstream. But trucking bananas from CN/IC has got to be a pain because the closest remaining intermodal yard I know of is Markham Yard in Harvey, IL. I wonder if bananas are instead flown to Midway. Or are they trucked all the way from New Orleans?

It hasn't shown up on a satellite image yet (2018), but FedEx has built a Shipping Center on the west part of this land.

Bill Molony posted
Illinois Central Railroad 4-8-2 Mountain-type #2605, wasting very little time in moving perishable produce from Gulf ports to Chicago markets - undated.
Willard Baker I remember when we would load banana cars, at our ice plant in Bluford Il.
Bill Case why were they called banana trains?
George Orleans The entire consist of reefers contained bananas loaded at New Orleans and destined for Chicago to be re-consisted to other points ...
Hulen Warren Don’t forget the strawberry trains loaded in Hammond and Ponchatoula, LA for northern and eastern cities.
Richard C. Burnes commented on Bill Case's comment
New Orleans, Louisiana -- Bananas being loaded into Illinois Central refrigerator cars.

Renee Barber Hammond posted
Kay Nelms Mathias My dad, Billy A. Nelms, Sr. put ice on the bananas to keep them cool in the summer and put heaters in the cars in winter. He said it was always fun to find a nice big tarantula crawling around in those bananas.

David R. King shared

Eric Sibul posted
CB&Q Fruit auction team tracks, 27th & Ashland, Chicago, May 1948 - Univ of Illinois Archives
Bob Lalich This is the Chicago Produce Terminal, jointly owned by the IC and ATSF.
Paul Jevert Bob I.C. had the Produce Term. switcher 6 months of the year and then the Santa Fe crews would have the job the other 6 months. I worked that switcher back in 1969, the engine was listed at 3:00 a.m. and we had to have the auction tracks spotted by 5:30 a.m. ! The auction opened the car's at 0600.
Paul Jevert I worked with an "Old head I.C. switchman" on the job, Tony Dischiano who was a regular at the Produce Term. for many years and knew all the auctioneer's by name !
Bob Lalich Paul Jevert - was the switcher suppied by whichever RR had the job at the time?
Paul Jevert Bob Lalich Yes, that was supposed to be the case but sometimes the I.C. unit was not set out for the job on the turnover and we just worked with the Santa Fe GP9 ! Towards the end in 1970 the Santa Fe unit stayed. I.C. built the IMX TOFC yard there in 70 and ran SE 1 and #51/50 in and out and the PT was done !

Dennis DeBruler As a convenience to buyers, the C&NW's Potato Yard and this CPT yard were used by other railroads. I haven't been able to determine if other railroads also used Santa Fe's Grape Yard.
David Daruszka The C&NW used to spot cars of grapes along Chicago Ave. at the 40th Street Yard. Popular spot with Italian home winemakers.
Bob Lalich commented on Eric's post
Here is a photo of an office building - c1960.

Dwayne Weber posted
WW2 in Chicago. Fruit from California being off loaded from a train being shipped to the Auction House. OWI/US Government
[Bob Lalich commented that the grain elevator in the background was the Santa Fe Elevator.]
Dennis DeBruler "Fruit terminal and grain elevator. Crates from each shipment are opened and set up on end; these the commission merchants examine, making notes on what they want to buy, a few hours before the auction. Chicago, Illinois" from

Photo from a search result

Michael Palmiere posted
This is a view was taken from S. Front Street looking along the ladder track of the ICG's Levee Yard towards the Mississippi River. For much of the twentieth century, this 16-track yard was used to park refrigerator cars which were loaded in the adjacent wharves. Several banana unloading conveyor machines can be seen above the transit shed, just to the right of the two cranes. Levee Yard was single ended, as all of the tracks dead-ended at Thalia Street.
By the time this photo was taken, the banana traffic -- and almost all of the IC's other business around here -- was gone. The track we are standing on continued up St. Joseph Street while the track on the right ran up N. Diamond Street for two blocks, to S. Peters Street. This area was redeveloped for the construction of the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition.

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