Sunday, March 13, 2016

BNSF/CB&Q Western Avenue Yard and Coaling Tower

(satellite images below)

Gary Hosek posted
Western Avenue Yard - #9200 Diesel switch engine - Ester Bubley photograph.
Eric Reinert One of two EMC NW-1’s the Q owned- built in 1937. The visored headlights were cool on these early switchers.
Timothy Leppert Doesn't look like Clyde. Looks more like Western Avenue yard about where the current yard office is. That steam locomotive in the distance might be CNW....?
Bob Lalich I believe you are correct Timothy Leppert. The refrigerator cars in the distance are spotted on the team tracks at CNW's Wood St Yard.
Ean Kahn-Treras That background looks a little generous even for the Hawthorne Works plant of years past nearest Clyde.
This must be the far east end of Western Ave because there is no sign of the station platform at Western Ave. I guess the real question is how recent is the current platform configuration at Western Ave?
Timothy Leppert 1915....."the Chicago commuter steam locomotives would cut off their trains and run out to the roundhouse at Western Avenue, about a mile or so further to the west."

Timothy Leppert commented on Gary's post

Dennis DeBruler commented on Timothy's comment on Gary's post
This looks like an excerpt from a 1938 aerial photo:
Now that I know what to look for, near the bottom of this excerpt the arc of the north side of the tower is in the sun.

79., 1941, cropped
CB&Q tracks (left) - CB&Q freight houses -16th and Union sts.) (far left)
[Near the east end of the yard looking West.]

The yard has gone through a few stages of evolution.

The Cicero Yard must have been built by 1915 because by then this yard was a yard to serve local freight trains and for interchange and to service the commuter train locomotives.
1915 Smoke Abatement Report, p342

1938 Aerial Photo from ILHAP
The following aerial photo was obviously taken after the above 1938 aerial because it has been rebuilt as a freight house service.
Billy Duffing commented on a B&OCT Lincoln Yard post
[North is at the bottom. We can see that a long freight house was built at this yard.]

Billy Duffing commented on a B&OCT Lincoln Yard post
[This is looking southeast across the C&NW Wood Street (Potato) Yard.  The photo above, with round coaling tower, verifies that we are seeing the CB&Q Western Avenue Yard in the background of this photo.]
Gary Hosek commented on his post
Lou Gerard All the suburban Pacifics!

Gary Hosek posted
Coal piles - Western Avenue yards - Chicago - May 1948 - Russell Lee photograph.
Dennis DeBruler This photo confirms that CB&Q had a gantry crane west of the coaling tower. The May 1948 date indicates the crane existed after WWII.
George Paruch Remember coal facility neat the railroad viaduct at 49th and Marshfield near the ice house.

Dennis DeBruler commented on George's comment on Gary's post
You must mean a retail coal company that was served by the GTW.,-87.../data=!3m1!1e3
I'm trying to figure out if this coal tower was round, square or octagon. Look at the number of chutes coming from it.
[I'm sticking with round because of the 1938 aerial photo above.]

Steven J. Brown posted
Burlington Northern E9M 9902 (built 1950 as CB&Q 9939A, became MARC 64, now repainted to CB&Q 9939A at the Museum of Transportation in Kirkwood, Missouri) at Western Avenue in Chicago, Illinois - March 29, 1988.
Steven J. Brown shared
Dennis DeBruler
In the background is the J. J. Badenogh Grain Elevator.

Gary Hosek posted
Freight cars - Western Avenue rail yards - Chicago - 1948 - Russell Lee photograph.
[There is more info on this freight house in CB&Q Freight Houses.]

Gary Hosek posted
Westbound passenger train - Halsted Street Station - Chicago - May 1948 - Russell Lee photograph.
Marty Bernard You can see the Union Avenue home signals at the end of the platforms and rectangular Union Avenue Tower just to the right of the signals. The Dan Ryan would be elevated just beyond Union Ave, Tower if it were there. The St. Charles Air Line can be seen taking off across all the tracks from Union Ave. Tower.
Western Avenue had some long tracks. Those tracks are still used today to interchange trains between BNSF and NS.
1929 Englewood quadrangle @ 1:24,000
It also had a locomotive servicing facility that handled the commuter trains.
1929 Englewood quadrangle @ 1:24,000

Now it is just an interchange yard. A 2000 Global Earth image shows the long freight house has been replaced by a trailer storage lot. In 2000, there are still freight cars parked by the short building in the northwest corner of the yard. That shorter building is still present in a 2019 satellite image.
Satellite, the hard goes all the way east to the Jefferson Connector
If you access the above Satellite link, it focuses on the west end of this excerpt to better correspond with  the 1938 view. But the excerpt continues all the way to Racine Avenue to show that the yard has some long tracks to hold entire trains that are running between east and west destinations using NS and BNSF.

In fact, there were two westbound trains setting in the yard the day I accessed the satellite images. At the bottom left are two engines for an empty coal train. Note the two white tank cars on the right. Then follow that train to the left and you can see the red buffer car and the two engines for that oil or ethanol train. As you can see from Mark's photo, they don't waste time changing locomotives. The NS engines will "run through" and pull the train on BNSF tracks with BNSF crews. Since BNSF engines will also run through onto NS tracks, engine usage is kept track of and one railroad reimburses the other if there is an imbalance.

I don't take the BNSF commuter too often, but most of the time when I take it I will pass a long train setting on these tracks waiting for a crew from the other railroad. 

20150502 0386
While I was taking pictures of the Canal Street RR Bridge, I caught a Norfolk Southern eastbound oil train with BNSF engines that would have been coming from Western Ave. Yard. This is one of several pictures I took. It shows the three engines, the buffer car, and the first tank car. If you want more pictures and details such as the engine numbers and models, see Train Watching.

Mark Hinsdale posted
Mark's comment:
"St. Paddy's Extra..."
As is normal, Metra provides extra train services on several of its routes to accommodate the large crowds to and from Chicago's annual St. Patrick's Parade in the Loop. Here, something not usually seen on a Saturday, a 1:35 pm outbound express to Downers Grove (and all stops beyond to Aurora) races through Western Avenue, passing two westbound empty oil trains waiting for crews to forward them toward North Dakota's Bakken Oil Field. With St. Patricks Day imminent, can spring be far behind?

Mark Hinsdale posted four photos with the comment: Sunday at Western Avenue...
A BNSF westbound empty oil tank train and an eastbound Detroit Edison loaded unit coal train meet at BNSF's Western Avenue Yard in Chicago on this overcast, but warm spring afternoon. Both trains will receive new crews here.



Jerry Jackson posted
[In the comments Dan Kalkman identified it as one of his photos. Dna's comments indicate it is a NS empty-oil train waiting for a BNSF crew.]
Mark Hinsdale posted three photos with a comment that confirms this yard is used to interchange run-through trains between BNSF and NS.
"Like Old Times..."
... with "old times" being around 2013 and 2014! During the crude oil boom on BNSF, the long tracks stretching between Halsted Street and Western Avenue in Chicago that BNSF and Norfolk Southern use to interchange trains filled up quickly and often. Not so much, today, but this afternoon, both an empty coal train off Canadian National and NS to BNSF Train 33G pulled up to a crew change stop at Western Avenue's Metra Station, with Amtrak #5, the "California Zephyr," making an on time appearance as well.


While riding a BNSF commuter train to Union Station, I noticed a coal train waiting for interchange with the NS. Fortunately, it was long enough that I was able to get my camera out of its case before we got to the engines. I grabbed some shots because coal and oil trains have become rather rare on the Racetrack. (They were rather common when I started railfanning in 2014.) The green tinge is because of the commuter car window and the blur is because the commuter train had not yet slowed down for the curve to the north. I was setting high enough that I could see enough of the load to verify that it was hauling coal and not petcoke.     #5996: ES44AC built in 2006    #9346: SD70ACe built in 2006
20180615 2093

Terrence Danahue posted two photos with the comment:
In a scene set 40 or more years apart, Burlington E Units get their occasional washing on the near west side of Chicago near 16th and Morgan. I do not know the date of the E5 photo or to whom to credit. In October 1985 I took the color photos of BN 9904 E9A (formerly CB&Q 9977 built as an E8 in September, 1953). The man washing the nose of 9904 was Paul Dinovo, who graciously let me hang out during the mid-morning as the most of the entire fleet of BN commuter trains were going through the washer that day. 10 years later, 9904 would become IC 100.
Doug Plummer The old Halsted St train wash.
Joe Novak That warehouse building is still there as condos/apartments.

Terrence Danahue commented on his post
Here is another photo of 9904 going through the same wash rack that was in place 45+ years earlier.

William Shapotkin posted
Although the Burlington (as many of us knew it) technically disappeared March 2, 1970, its spirit (and rolling stock) has lived on -- witness E-unit #9925 pulling an outbound Dinky near Damen Ave in Chicago. Note the DOUGLAS PARK 'L' [now the Pink Line] bridge (since replaced) in background. View looks east in this John Kamacher photo of May 8, 1977. Wm Shapotkin Collection.
Dennis DeBruler The freight cars remind me that there were still rail-served industries in Chicago in 1970.

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