Monday, August 3, 2015

IC's Burnside Shops and 104th St. Yard

(Satellite, it is now the Chicago State University)

(Update: an index of IC's Chicagoland yards and roundhouses)

Old photos: 1915 transfer table1916, 1917

While looking for IC roundhouses in the Chicago-land area, I discovered a huge IC service facility south of 95th Street. The shops were closed in the early 1970s and the land is now used by the Chicago State University. [ChicagoRailfan] Construction of the shops started in 1892 to replace the Weldon Shops, and they repaired and rebuilt passenger and commuter cars. They also did some locomotive work. (ICscrapbook; RailwayAge)
1938 Aerial Photo

pdf copy from 1915 Smoke Abatement Report, p. 446
In this 1915 map, the street in the middle is 99th and the street at the bottom is 103rd. We learn that Martin Luther King Drive used to be South Park Avenue. This map is being displayed as "Original size," unfortunately the eBook scan makes it hard to read some of the building labels. The building west of the roundhouse is MACHINE SHOP. Further to the west is BOILER HOUSE. The two similar buildings in the northeast are "PASSENGER CAR something something". To the west of them is MILL BLDG(?). This map is the resource that taught me that what I saw on the aerial photo was the BURNSIDE SHOPS. And it indicates that the set of tracks between 95th and 104th was the 104th Street Yard.

In a December 6, 1913 article in The Railway and Engineering Review we learn that the shops cover 120 acres and employ about 2000 men. (Note that in 1913 it is "men," not a gender neutral term such as "workers" or "employees" or a modern term such as "associates" or "team members.") The article is about the installation of an automated (i.e. no operators are necessary) 100-line phone system. It reminds me that the telephone was still a rather recent invention in 1913. It describes what is now called a Private Branch Exchange (PBX). It also mentions other RR installations, the largest of which was a "300-line board." I assume the term "board" is left over from the operator-board days because the term PBX had not yet been invented. That is, I assume they are installing automated switching equipment, and not operator boards, at the other RR locations.

The following photo is from this article. It catches the north part of the 360-degree roundhouse and the two passenger car repair buildings.

December 6, 1913 article in The Railway and Engineering Review

Tim Starr posted
A view of the impressive Burnside (Chicago) machine, boiler, and blacksmith shops of the Illinois Central in 1911. (Lake States Collection)
Tim Starr posted
Layout of the new Illinois Central shops at Burnside (Chicago) in 1892. The locomotive shop had 25 pits and a transfer table. The passenger car shop had its own transfer table, while the freight car shop was longitudinal with four through tracks. (Railway Shop Systems)

Cropped out of the above aerial photo
When I first saw the aerial photo of this complex, I assumed that the rectangular buildings were backshops to overhaul steam locomotives and wondered if the photo would have enough resolution to show a transfer table. Even though the buildings repair passenger cars instead of locomotives, it appears there is a transfer table between the two buildings. You can see the vertical rails on which the table rolls and the table itself is about a third of the way down.

The blacksmith shop was considered one of the exemplary railroad blacksmith shops in the country. (SteelProcessingAndConversion)

On Facebook, Cliff Downey provided the following information:
Great article on the Burnside Shops. Yes indeed there was a transfer table and it was used right up to the end. I believe I have one or two shots of equipment on the table and if I find them I'll post them to my page  (which you credited as a source, thank you!). For decades Burnside had the busiest roundhouses on the IC system. But after the new Markham roundhouse opened in 1926 most of the day-to-day work was shifted there. Heavy repairs were shifted to Paducah after the new Paducah shops opened in 1927. This allowed Burnside to focus on passenger car and suburban cars.
A photo of a streamlined diesel on the transfer table.

Jimmy Fiedler comment
Jimmy's comment:
Accident report chalkboard from the electric department inside Illinois Central Burnside shops on the Southside of Chicago.
James Slattery: That is cool stuff like that is just as important as the trains themselves. Is shows what went on behind the scenes.
Cliff Downey -> Illinois Central Railroad Scrapbook
Cliff's comment:
On April 27, 1945, the IC announced plans for a new, diesel-powered, all-coach streamliner to run between Chicago and New Orleans. This, train, of course, was the "City of New Orleans".
Immediately after announcing the train, IC began ordering new cars and locomotives. Of course, every other railroad was ordering new cars and locomotives for new post-war streamliners.
This put IC in a pinch. The road could get new coaches for the "City of New Orleans" in early 1947, but it would have to wait longer for diners and observation cars.
Rather than delaying the launch of the "City of New Orleans" and other new streamlined trains the road wanted to offer, IC's management turned to the Burnside Shops on the south side of Chicago. Beginning in early 1947 the Burnside shops began transforming old, worn out heavyweight diners and coaches into "new" streamlined cars capable at running 100+ mph.
In this company photograph taken in early 1947 workers are seen inside the shell of roundend observation-bar-lounge 3305, the "Mardi Gras". Thanks to the hard work of the men and women at Burnside the IC was able to launch the "City of New Orleans" on April 27, 1947, - exactly two years to the day after the train was first publicly announced.
David Daruszka posted, 1900
From the book "History of the Illinois Central Railroad Company and Representative Employees" by the Railroad Historical Company, Chicago, IL 1900.

[This is the same as David's image above. You can access all 802 pages with]
Tim Starr posted
The Illinois Central's Burnside Shops in Chicago were the largest on the system. This drawing comes from the book "History of the Illinois Central Company" in 1900. Other large back shops were located in McComb (MS), Paducah (KY), and Water Valley (MS).
Cliff Downey shared
I should have posted this 26 days ago, but didn't run across this negative until this evening [It was posted April 26.]
Did you know that the IC once had E-units equipped with pantographs? Yes, it's true. E6A's 4001-4004, which were bought for the streamlined version of the "Panama Limited", were equipped with small pantographs behind the cab. This allowed them to draw current from the overhead catenary in Chicago, beginning at Central Station and extending south to Mother Goose's unicorn farm at Richton Park. When the pantographs weren't drawing current they collapsed neatly into the carbody right behind the cab.
In reality, 4001-4004 weren't equipped with pantographs, but at first glance you might think so. This photo of 4004 was taken on the transfer table at Burnside Shops in April, 1942. That pantograph actually is there, but it is not on the locomotive. It is on top the operator's shack of the transfer table which is right next to the locomotive. The pantograph is drawing current from two parallel overhead wires to move the transfer table.
Photographer unknown, purchased several years ago off Ebay, Cliff Downey collection.
Cliff reposted the April Fools Joke again in 2017.

Jimmy Fiedler posted
David Daruszka commented on a posting
Here's a picture of it at the Burnside Shops. The shops also serviced the electric MU cars, hence the cantenary.

Paul Jevert commented on a post
I fired for an engineer on the Chicago District, Ronnie Marshall II, who fired the "Green Caterpillar" back before WW II [1938]. He was working with engineer George Johnson and they hit a farmer at the first crossing in town pulling a wagon load of "mule's" southbound out of KanKaKee at Chebanse. The whole wagon load blew through those phony grill slats and wound up in the nose with tons of blood, guts, and dead mule carcasses ! Disgusting mess ! The train had to be towed back to Chicago Burnside and a relief train of equipment with a 1100 steam Pacific had to be built at Central Station and run to Chebanse to relieve the stranded passenger load !
[Note the transfer table.]

John Snyder posted
Shorpy mis-captioned this November 1942 photo the Chicago roundhouse, when it's obviously the shops.
[The comments indicate it is at Burnside.]

This is a correctly flipped photo of the following posted photo.

Illinois Central Railroad Scrapbook posted
An aerial view, circa 1915, reveals the incredible size of IC's Burnside Shops at the southwest corner of 95th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue in Chicago, about 12 miles south of Central Station.
Take note of the TWO (!) roundhouses (one a full circle). When first built, Burnside was the primary locomotive backshop (ie, heavy rebuilds and repairs) for the IC system. Several 2-8-0's were rebuilt to 2-8-2's at Burnside in the early 1920's. The locomotive work shifted to Paducah after those shops opened in 1927, and afterwards Burnside focused on passenger and freight car repairs. Eventually, freight car construction shifted to Centralia, IL, or McComb, MS, and Burnside was focused on repairing passenger cars, plus the new electrified suburban cars. The shops closed in the early 1970's after the Woodcrest Shops opened. Afterwards the buildings were demolished and the site became home to Chicago State University.
Burnside was built to replace the cramped and obsolete Weldon Shops near downtown Chicago. The following text is from the Feb. 22, 1901, issue of "Railway Age" and has some brief info about the Burnside Shops, plus the Weldon Shops they replaced.
The original shops at Weldon were frame buildings for repair work and completed in 1853 The shops were enlarged and rebuilt in stone in 1855 These were burned in 1860 and rebuilt with the old walls
They were abandoned in 1893 at the time the present Burnside shops were completed The latter are located about 12 miles from the central station on a plat of of 160 acres
The locomotive shops at Burnside were built in 1892 and 1893 the car shops in 1895 There are employed at these shops 2,248 men exclusive of engineers and firemen
The capacity of the works is 27 engines per month for general repairs in addition to light and running to engines and work for other departments The shops have a capacity of giving general repairs and painting to 60 passenger per month, the construction of 130 new freight cars and repairing of 3,000 freight cars per month. Burnside is considered of the best equipped plants in the United States.
Bob Lalich Excellent photo, thanks for sharing! Note that there is a connection to the old Pullman RR near the factory in the lower left corner. Looking forward to more Chicago photos.
David Wilson from his photoset
20070427 18 former IC shop bldg. @ Chicago State University-2
Illinois Central Railroad Burnside Shop was replaced by Woodcrest Shop. This shop building was repurposed as classrooms of Chicago State University.
[The sign on the building reads Robinson University Center.]

Illinois Central Railroad Scrapbook posted
Look, Ma!  No decals!
An unknown painter is seen at work in early 1942 at IC's Burnside Shops, at 95th Street in Chicago.  He has run chalk lines to mark positions for the letters and the diamond logo, and a stencil was used to outline the letters.  But otherwise the lettering is applied entirely by hand.  There are no decals or decorative wraps here!
Incidentally, car 1901 is a streamlined baggage-dorm, built at Burnside Shops in early 1942 for the streamlined version of the "Panama Limited".  
In 1941 the IC decided to re-equip the "Panama Limited" with streamlined passenger cars.  Pullman was able to supply new sleepers, a dining car, and a round-end observation.  But the IC also needed a pair of baggage-dorm cars (one for each of the two consists).  Pullman wasn't able to order these cars in a timely fashion, and so the IC said "No problem, we'll build them ourselves".
Workers at the Burnside Shops took heavyweight coaches 4073 and 4074 (built in 1916), stripped them down to the frame and them constructed a streamlined carbody.  The three-axle trucks were replaced with two-axle trucks (the truck seen in the photo is a "shop truck", used solely to move a car around the shop).  Cars 4073 and 4074 were renumbered 1901 (Lake Michigan) and 1902 (Lake Pontchartrain)
Art Brokop photo, Cliff Downey coll.

Larry Foht posted two images with the comment:
I need your help on this photo Railfans
See photographers notes
Is it Chicago Short line
C S S & S B #8
Burnside Illinois
Larry Foht collection :
Ma Tyl: The IC had their car shops named "Burnside" at 95st on the South Side of Chicago. The platform in the picture is part of the Illinois Central electric division.
Dwight Smith: Ma Tyl The tracks to the IC shops would have veered off to the right. The IC trains I rode from Flossmoor did not stop at 95th Street, except at night and on Sundays. [That means he was on an express train.]
Jim Mehlenbeck: CSS&SBRR stands for Chicago South Shore and South Bend Rail Road. They had rights to operate over the Illinois Central's electric suburban line from 115th st. (Kensington) to Randolph St. downtown Chicago, passing this station (Burnside) along the way.
Larry Candilas: Burnside shops were closed in the early 1970s when Woodcrest shop opened and the land was sold to Chicago to become Chicago State University.
[To summarize some comments: we are look South at a northbound South Shore train.]


Bill Archer commented on Larry's post
A picture of ICRR Burnside Shops, circa 1915. Copied from a previous Facebook posting. See picture credit in lover right corner. Looking West. Note the IC Comuter traion in the Station at lower right of picture. One track over from the CSS&SB picture in this posting.

Bob Lalich commented on Bill's comment
The photo should be oriented like this. The roundhouses were in the southeast corner of the site.


  1. The aerial photograph shown is reversed. Note the vehicles on Cottage Grove are depicted running left-hand orientation.

    1. Thanks for the correction. I have added a flipped version to the notes and commented on Downey's post.