Saturday, January 16, 2016

Blue Island Junction: CSX/B&OCT vs. CSX/CN/GTW vs. IHB vs. IAIS

(CRJ, Satellite)

The current configuration of these bridges is because the Cal-Sag Canal was widened. The configuration of the railroads before the canal The Cal-Sag was dug between 1911-22 (Wikipedia)

I took a lot of photos of the bridges, and I don't like any of them. So I'll use a "behind the crossing gate" photo. The fifth bridge is out of frame to the left.
20150510 1306, cropped
There are UP trains on both of the CSX/B&OCT routes. The one on the left is a vehicle train going north and we are looking at a DPU (Distributed Power Unit). The one on the right is a southbound mixed freight.

Gene Rebeck shared a Joe Balynas Flickr link

Lake Shore Model Railroad Association posted this as the first of 17 photos taken at this junction
X marks the spot!!!
Jeff Lewis Always an impressive sight. Too bad the old GTW yard lead was ripped out, so it would still be a 2x3 track diamond.

One of nine photos posted by Keith Kaplan
Keith Kaplan shared
Ed Kaplan
Some more details re:the IHB tracks. CSX owns and maintains the IHB tracks from where the Metra line crosses over Blue Island junction to where Joliet Rd crosses over the IHB in McCook. However, IHB dispatches and operates the line.
Originally the ownership of the IHB was the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern 30%, Michigan Central 30%, Chicago & NorthWestern 20% and Milwaukee Road 20%. As I understand it, about 10 years after the IHB was formed the CNW backed out of the joint venture, there was a reorganization and NYC owned 51% and the Milwaukee Road became a 49% owner.
Today, Conrail Shared Assets owns 51% of the IHB and CP owns the other 49%.

One of my frustrations is that everybody takes a shot north of Broadway, but I don't remember seeing any shots south of Broadway. This is one of several I took. They rather recently automated the crossing gates so this watchman's tower is no longer staffed. This shot was taken before the above 1306 shot, and it is the same vehicle train.
This Oct 2022 post also catches the watchman's tower.
1 of 3 photos posted by Steven Kakoczki
April 2003 at Blue Island,IL Good ole days on the IHB.....its easy as 1,2,3!
Dennis DeBruler commented on Steven's post
My brain first went to Blue Island Yard. I fired up Google Earth to find that tower. When I tried to figure out where that street was in the yard, my brain finally went to Blue Island Junction. That was the watchtower for Broadway Street. Since I had Google Earth fired up, I checked it out. This tower lasts appears in Jun 2017. In Apr 2018, just the foundation appears. In May 2018, the cantilevered signal bridge that we see today appears.

Bill Gustason's Chicago Rail Junctions

Rick Hernandez posted
The old Blue Island diamond
A comment by Howie Castellocio indicated that the single-track bridge used to have the GT Blue Island yard lead.

(Update: I've learned that this is a Joe Balynas Flickr photo.)
Mark Hinsdale posted
Mark's comment:
On March 15, 1975, most everything resting in Rock Island's oil soaked locomotive servicing area at Blue Island IL is maroon, except the two brand new EMD SD40-2T's bemg forwarded to Southern Pacific subsidiary Cotton Belt. Photo by Mark Hinsdale.
Jim Merrick One correction: There is not a single SD40T-2 in sight. Both of those brand-new Tunnel Motors are SD45T-2s. The '40T-2s would come a few years later.

Doug Jones I'll bet that was an environmental nightmare to clean up.

George Lamore had to walk thru all that oil on hostling jobs, and love the straight track!

John David Larson posted
Looking south at Blue Island Crossing in 1994, two Grand Trunk freights side by side, just beyond the overpass of the old Rock Island.
David M Laz posted
Situated directly south of Chicago in the the gritty suburb of Blue Island, Illinois, this morass of trackage is a must-see for anyone serious about railroading. From I-57, exit at Burr Oak Street (also called "127th Street"). Go east about a block to Ashland Avenue. Turn right and head south to Broadway.
Michael Buckley Bottle neck of Chicago / CSX going to Barr yd and Ihb going to Blue island . When I worked at bnsf we would bring coal trains from Galesburg via Cicero on to CSX tracks on on to Barr yard if we had time . This was a hard jct to get thru account of traffic.
[This was probably taken from the Metra/Rock Island elevated tracks. The white tower was the crossing gate control tower. It was put out-of-service just a few years ago. The junction tower is across the river in the middle of the background.]
Second picture in David M Laz's posting
Phillip Prior posted
Blue Island Junction
Larry Cooper My brother, Jack Cooper, and I were officials on the CRL when it first began. It was a great little short line and the highest paid for years. UTU had the contract. Took years and a lot of work, but we made it work with a lot of help from our ex-Rock operating crews. Miracles happened often because of those great men! I was the youngest ex Rock guy.

Two of three photos posted by Scott Griffith:

Steven J. Brown posted
Soo Line transfer with SD40-2's from the IHB heading home at Blue Island, Illinois - November 1987.
[Even into the 1990s, it was no big deal to walk onto railroad property to get a picture as long as you stayed away from the action. The engines are crossing Broadway Street.]
Jerry Jackson posted
GT Northbound at Blue Island 1989.
[Jerry confirms he took this from the IC overpass.]
Micheal Dirlenger Trailers in well cars as early as 1989?
Jeff Lewis Well cars were introduced in the early '80s.
Mark Bilecki Sr. No big deal, technically he is Westbound
Craig Cloud which RR had single track next to GTW? Seem to recall it was obscure RI branch?
Jerry Jackson commented on his posting above
Jeff Lewis Right is North. I got a little confused at first.
Jerry Jackson posted
Blue Island, IL 1987 IIRC. I do recall that it was bitterly cold and gloomy.
[Back when you could stand between active crossing gates to take a picture. Someone a few months ago complained he was hassled by CSX police even though he was at least 15 feet away from the tracks the train was on. Of course the crossing gates here are about 100 feet apart.]
Only the shot at 6:04 in the following video would be allowed today. Even when the videographer was standing on Broadway Street, he was between active crossing gates. Some of the shots are even worse because they are from north or south of the street. Also you can see other railfans standing in what would now be illegal spots. We like to blame 911 for the railroads intolerance of trespassing. But it is also due to a few bad apples among railfans that did dumb things. I've watched a video of a steam excursion and saw a guy run across the track in front of the oncoming train! It made me cringe to watch it. I can't image the crew's reaction to such a dangerous move. Furthermore, there was a crowd of people standing on a track forming a photo line.  It is bad enough to be on railroad property, but to be on a track is mind blowing.

Kevin Piper posted
GTW 5834, Blue Island, IL, 6-4-89
Mark Hinsdale posted
"Luck of the Draw..."
If you're looking for a spot that offers a reasonable chance to obtain an "Over & Under" photograph, Blue Island IL is a good place to start. At the busy Broadway grade crossing, Metra's frequent service on the elevated Rock Island District, coupled with the density of traffic that rolls underneath on both IHB and CSX makes it possible to witness this phenomenon fairly often. In this instance, it is a CN powered train on what was then the Grand Trunk Western's Elsdon Subdivision into Chicago that is below, while an outbound Metra train for Joliet flies across above. May, 1998 photo by Mark Hinsdale
Steven J. Brown posted
Indiana Harbor Belt EMD NW2 8792 leading at Blue Island IL, February 1991.
[This was taken south of Broadway facing north. I wonder what left the oil spill.]
Steven J. Brown posted
Baltimore and Ohio (Chessie System) GP9 and GP7 at Blue Island, Illinois - April 1, 1979.
Peter Zimmerman posted
Blue Island: Old & New, the old Grand Trunk Wester searchlight signal and dwarf signal and new cantilever signal bridge.
The above new signals would be on the south side of Broadway. It looks like the foundation may have "recycled" the foundation of the former watchman tower.

Flickr from John W. Barriger III IHB Album
[Broadway Street in Blue Island looking South at the Rock Island.]

Speaking of the watchman tower:
Joe Usselman posted
Metra passes overhead the B&OCT seen from the abandoned crossing tower in Blue Island in 2015.
Craig Cloud Surprised you didn't get caught by RR police. I climbed the stairs when it was still active in late 90's guy sitting watching for trains and read his paper. I know ABC7 did a feature story on UD tower before it closed, but not on last crossing watchman in Chicago area.
The seventh photo shared by Bruce Blackadar
IHB Transfer, Blue Island, IL, 8/12/80. Blue Island is one of my favorite train-watching spots in the Chicago area, with an attractive track layout and lots of varied action.
[Note the track using the single-track span joined the GTW just on the other side of the river. Jeff Lewis explains: "There's a small interchange yard further along. That track used to be the yard lead until they eliminated the lead and moved the switch further south, 100 yards or so beyond the tower."]
In the above photo you can barely see the tower that is on the north side of the river. The following shot on the north side shows it better.
Nick Hart posted
Iowa Interstate SD38-2 151 and a pair of Norfolk Southern GE's take control of the IAIS transfer to IHB's Blue Island Yard as they shove south through the bridges of Blue Island Junction. The old GTW interlocking tower still stands and while it no longer guides trains through the busy junction, it still serves as a hub for maintenance of way.
Dennis DeBruler commented on Nick's post
Using a drone is probably the only way for John Q Public to get a decent photo of that tower.,-87.../data=!3m1!1e3
Craig Cloud B&OCT manned by GTW until dispatch took over.

HalstEd Pazdzior posted
Bridges everywhere. The Iowa Interstate transfer from Burr Oak to IHB's Blue Island Yard had the "Rock Island" heritage unit leading. Seen here shoving across Blue Island.

William Wareham posted
Visited Blue Island Jct last Wednesday 5-16-18. CSX is installing new signals on the Elsdon Sub. In my last two visits there mid week in the afternoon the train traffic which normally is busy was dead. Just a few trains. Does anyone know the train traffic patterns through Blue Island Jct?
Gabe Argenta Did they finally get rid of that sad looking guard shack?Jeff LewisJeff and 1 other manage the membership, moderators, settings, and posts for Chicagoland Railfan. Yes. It sat right where the signal bridge mast is anchored.

Jerry Jackson commented on William's posting
Steven J. Brown posted
Grand Trunk Western SD40 5922 @ Blue Island, Illinois - June 13, 1978.
Dennis DeBruler The first time I have seen track on the single-track bridge.
William L. Brushaber The track to the left is trk #1 leading up the hill to the Rock Island.
William's comment above called the connector Track #1, but Ken's comment below is calling it Track #9. But there is a 20 year difference between the photos and the track in Steven's photo has been removed. So I wonder how things changed at this junction.
Ken Schmidt posted
Starting up track 9 in Blue Island, IHB 9005 is delivering a ballast train to Metra in July of 1993. We thought by this point, the crew would be notching it out for a run up the hill.
Dennis DeBruler I assume the satellite image is "Track 9." And once they got on the Metra/Rock Island they had to do a shoving move to get to Metra's yard?,-87.../data=!3m1!1e3
Ken Schmidt Yes, pull up the hill, shove back to the Yard.

Steven J. Brown posted
Grand Trunk Western GP38-2 5700 (built 1972 as MP 2046) @ Blue Island, Illinois - October 1989.
Jeff LewisJeff and 1 other manage the membership, moderators, settings, and posts for Chicagoland Railfan. Unusual vantage point. Were you up on the Metra ROW?
Steven J. Brown Yup
Mark Hinsdale posted
"On Broadway"

The multiple track grade crossing on Broadway in Blue Island IL has been a favorite place to watch and photograph trains for generations. It was living up to that reputation nearly 20 years ago, in April, 1999, as CSX eastbound and Chicago Rail Link westbound trains met within the busy junction. Photo by Mark Hinsdale
Dennis Biegel Sr. Looks like that’s the BOR train heading into Barr.
Harold J. Krewer This CSX guy is facing the wrong way to be coming from the New Rock. An inbound BORE would be pointed north when it came off the Track 9 connection
New Rock trains have always had to back in and out of Barr to be pointed the right direction to go Track 9 connection to Metra.
The CRL guy IS headed the right way to shove up Track 9 and head east on Metra back to their yard.
Eric Hendrickson Harold J. Krewer Back then the BORE had to run around their train. Note the caboose before cars.
Dennis Biegel Sr. Thanks Eric!

One of a dozen photos posted by Halsted Pazdzior
I took my first "real" trip to Blue Island Junction yesterday. I've been there once before but without a camera. Nothing too crazy, but thought I'd share some of the action from yesterday.
6/23/19Dan Larabee Interesting way to keep cars charged.

Halsted also posted
Through the Woods. IAIS 514 sits patiently at Blue Island.
Ken Schmidt Is that the lead from the Evans plant?
Halsted Pazdzior Ken Schmidt track 9. Connection from the Rock Island to the IHB.
Ken Schmidt Halsted Pazdzior The only reason I asked is that from the photo, it looks a lot more overgrown than I recall.

Steven J. Brown posted
Santa Fe GP30 3213 (built 1962 as ATSF 1213 became ATSF GP30u 2713 then BNSF 2413 then Reading Blue Mountain and Northern 2534) and GP20 3164 (built 1961 as ATSF as 1164 became GP20u 3064 then BNSF 2045 then PREX 2045) on the B&OCT at Blue Island, Illinois - June 29, 1977.
Kan Kahn-Treras Neato. No direct connection from the ATSF to the BOCT, right? I’m assuming this would be some silliness from Chi Produce Terminal headed to Barr?
Ean Kahn-Treras Actually...nevermind. There always has been a connection swinging around the sw corner or Ash st.
Bob Lalich Ean Kahn-Treras - the SW quadrant connection at Ash St originally went to the PRR yard next to Campbell's Soup. EB transfers out of Corwith backed east of Ash St on the mainline and used the SE quadrant connection to the B&OCT, which was manned by switchtenders. There was a crossover from the B&OCT to the Panhandle at Brighton Park. A direct connection in the SW quadrant at Ash St was established relatively recently, in the 1990s I think. Not sure about the date.

David Boone posted
Blue Island Chicago
Kent Helbel Rats as big as dogs.
Bill Foster I count 16 routes for the annual crossing test!
Earnest Jones CSX is far right Then the GTW, the next is the IHB. The far left is a connection up to the old Rock Island now Metra there is one industry to the left that can't b seen then across the bridge goes in to the long track and industry track . From the bridge to Superior the IHB has a long term lease on CSX track . CSX maintains it IHB Dispatches.
Matthew Scott Earnest Jones if I'm not mistaken. Csx is, or at least was, a majority shareholder in the IHB with the NS being the other major shareholder.
Earnest Jones CSX and The NS own 52 percent CP owns the other 48 . That was the way it was before I retired.
John DeRoze Matthew Scott Conrail still owns the IHB

Jason Zeiger commented on David's post

I'm saving this post because of the comments about how SOO ran through here and because Jacob caught three trains. (The IAIS train is the white hoppers hiding behind the intermodal and going off into the trees.)
Jacob Diorio posted
IHB BA6 heads west through Blue island as CSX Q026 and IAIS BIRDSW1 wait their turns to get on the IHB. 6/20/21
Jeremy Harris: Been through here many times!! Both on the Soo Line and CSX.
Anthony Schandon: Jeremy Harris which one was the Soo Line?
Seth Lakin: Before 1980, would take the B&OCT to Chicago Heights, then onto the CTH& SE (Milwaukee Rd). When the CTH&SE was abandoned/sold off north of Danville, trains moved to Conrail’s Kankakee Line/Danville Secondary which was accessed by taking the IHB to Gibson then south. When that line was down graded the Milwaukee trains (now Soo) were moved to the CSX/UP ex C&EI which was accessed by taking the B&OCT to Dolton.
Jeremy Harris: yes we turned south at Dolton and went UP to Woodland Jct, then the CSX CE&D to Terre Haute Spring Hill. Now I run the former Monon to Munster, former GTW to BRC, or to Thornton, then North on the UP to Riverdale/Dolton to Barr Yard!

Roger Riblett shared a post by Dave Blaze Rail Photography
Blue Island Variety Show
In this post I told the story of my first visit to Blue Island and the crazy variety show of trains.
Here is the third one I listed. CSXT Q01602 (intermodal Bedford Park, IL to Chambersburg, PA) hammers the CN diamonds after crossing the bridge across the Calumet Sag Channel on Indiana Harbor Belt Main 1 at MP 15.2.
This image shows the full impressive sweep of the five bridges spanning the canal, IAIS, IHB, abandoned yard lead, CN, and CSXT from L to R.
Blue Island, Illinois
Friday July 2, 2021

Paul Musselman posted three photos with the comment: "Blue Island pics, area just S of Little Calumet river crossing..."
Dennis DeBruler
An empty Schnabel car. It can shift the load vertically 44" and offset the load 40" to either side. The caboose carries the crew that operates the car. Here is a video of a long load going around the tight curve of a connector between IHB and BNSF/CB&Q.



HalstEd Pazdzior posted
Grey ghost in grey skies. An empty ethanol train bound for the UP at Proviso heads through Blue Island Junction. 
David Green: When did the remove the track from the single bridge?
Gary Sprandel: David Green checking Historic Aerials is showing the track there in the 88 view but clearly gone in the 99 view. I wish HA had some more views to work with but at least it's narrowed to an 11 year period now. 99 does show a very clean ballasted area north of the bridge like the ROW had been repurposed as an access road for MOW trucks so it had apparently been gone a while in 99.
Dan Tracy: It's usefulness was pretty much done after The Rock shutdown in 1980. They and the Grand Trunk did a healthy amount of interchange there.
Bill LePinske: Dan Tracy I was the tower signal operator at that tower (Blue Island Tower) as it was referred to, owned by the B&O, manned by the Grand Trunk employees ! Yes, it was a really boring place to work an 8 hour shift after the demise of the CRI&P ?


  1. Now I know who used the single bridge, Thank-You everyone!

  2. please explain the bridge with no track on seems to be a GTW track but where did it go south og the bridges?

    1. If I am not mistaken that single line bridge was the junction between the IHB and GTW and at one-time led to an industrial spur to the old Alsip Brick works. GTW brought the clay from the clay pits near 65th and Lawndale. There was a loading spur at 66th and Central Park. Alsip Clay and Brick Company owned both the pits and kilns. That single track bridge led to a connection with the IHB and the Alsip Kilns and warehouse. Hense that is how the City of Alsip obtained its name. Today Alsip Brick is now located in Alberta, Canada.

    2. Previous comment was by Brian A Morgan