Sunday, March 6, 2016

US Mail/REA/Monon and Wabash Freight Houses

There was a freight house south of Polk Street just west of the Dearborn Headhouse. In these photos we see the south side of that building, typically in the upper-right corner of the photo. Maps indicate it was the Monon freight house. Some people think this freight house was for Wabash because there was a big Wabash sign on the Polk Street side. But the Wabash freight houses were southeast of Dearborn's headhouse. I think the sign was simply an advertisement where there was a lot of passenger activity since their own freight houses were far from the passenger pedestrian traffic.

Wabash had an outbound freight house further west of the Monon freight house.
1941 Map

In a comment below, Bob Lalich explains: "The freight house in the upper right corner of this shot was the Monon freight house. It was sold to REA after the Monon built a new house at South Hammond Yard in 1954 or so." The REA built a covered platform south of the building. Later the US Mail service started using this facility. The facility was abandoned in 1967 when the US Mail canceled its contracts with all of the passenger railroads. (The loss of the US Mail traffic was the nail in the coffin of passenger trains, and Amtrak was formed just four years later.)
Bill Molony posted
Grand Trunk Western class U-3-c 4-8-4 Northern-type #6332 is shown here departing from Dearborn Station in Chicago on a sunny morning in the early 1950's with train #20, the Maple Leaf, bound for Port Huron, Michigan and Toronto, Canada.
Eric Reinert Couple other interesting things in this photo as well: the two Monon F-3's at left parked out beyond their freight house, and the Atlas Prager painted sign on the wall in the distance. A Chicago-brewed beer from that era.
[The building in the right background is the freight house of interest.]
Bob Lalich commented on Bill's posting
Another interesting detail is that station track #1 is still in use for mail and express loading. A much larger shed for that purpose was built directly south of the Monon freight house in the late 40s. Here is a photo of the shed under construction. The auto might help narrow down the date. Photo from the Dan Murray collection.
Eric Reinert 1946 Packard Clipper? The grill looks like Packard anyway.
Stuart Pearson I'm not positive as to the year, but your RIGHT ON as to it being a _Packard Eric. Whatever the Car is in the Background it looks to me to be newer than 1946 however. No matter, I LUV THIS IMAGE.
Bob Lalich 1949 Packard.

Bill Molony posted
Grand Trunk Western class U-3-c 4-8-4 Northern-type #6332 getting ready to depart from Dearborn Station in Chicago on a sunny morning in the 1950's with train #20, The Maple Leaf, bound for Port Huron, Michigan and Toronto, Canada.
Dennis DeBruler I still have to research the owner of the freight house in the upper-right corner that I keep seeing in these "Dearborn activity" shots.
Bob Lalich The freight house in the upper right corner of this shot was the Monon freight house. It was sold to REA after the Monon built a new house at South Hammond Yard in 1954 or so.
David Daruszka's photo processing of a Bill Molony posting
A Grand Trunk Western steam locomotive and a Santa Fe diesel switch engine at Dearborn Station - undated.
Dennis DeBrulerGroup Admin This shows the platform that Bob mentioned that was built south of the Monon freight house. There are some trucks actively using it.

Tom Bedwell posted
I have many 35 mm slides (now converted to digital) that I took in the 1950's.  This is one of my favorites.  Dearborn Station - Chicago.
[Some comments discuss the switcher to the left of the Santa Fe train.]
David A Prasse: Matt Sawa F-M H12-44TS.. One of 3, special made for ATSF Dearborn Station switching ... [And one of them is preserved at the IRM.]

David Daruszka shared
Classic Streamliners posted
[A good view of the REA building with the mail platform and the C&EI Outbound Freight House on the left.]

2018 Update: I have to continue to disagree with the comment. I have come across information that places the Monon freight house west of Dearborn Station: "Monon seemed to be an oddity when it came to these structures. At one time, it had a large Freight house at the corner of Polk Street between Clark Street and Federal Street, but by 1953 it was gone." [Trains]

Furthermore: "Monon's freight house next to Dearborn was vacated when a new freight house at South Hammond Yard was built. As mentioned, the old freight house was leased or sold to REA and a long platform for mail handling was erected along Federal St." [Trains, search for "04, 2016 2:09"]

The Outbound Wabash Freight House burned down in 1955. It was at 27 West Roosevelt Road, which is east and south of the Dearborn Station.

Dennis DeBruler shared
The building in the middle background that looks like a steel mill building was the train shed of the Dearborn Station. The brick building in front of it was the Monon freight house until 1954, and then the Railroad Express Agency.
Brandon McShane The Wabash freight house, at the corner of Clark and Polk, is visible too.
Dennis DeBrulerYou and 1 other manage the membership, moderators, settings, and posts for Chicago Railroad Historians. Clark and Polk is what I'm calling the REA/Monon facility. Others have also called that Clark & Polk building a Wabash freight house. But my research indicates the Wabash freight facilities were south of Roosevelt between the Dearborn approach tracks and State Street.
Brandon McShane The building had a big Wabash sign on it at one point, but I don't know whether it was subsequently sold to REA or Monon. Railroads often operated separate inbound and outbound freight houses, so that may account for the one south of Roosevelt Road.
Dennis DeBrulerYou and 1 other manage the membership, moderators, settings, and posts for Chicago Railroad Historians. Brandon McShane The building that burned was outbound. They had a separate inbound building south and east of their outbound building. I wonder if the Wabash sign was just advertising their presence at Dearborn. There would be a lot more train passenger eyeballs on Polk than south of Roosevelt. But a big Wabash sign would introduce some confusion. For rail freight customers as well as railroad historians.
Mitch Markovitz Speaking of Railway Express Agency an aspect of railroading that I dearly miss are all baggage-mail-express trains. All head end all the way to the hind end.

Bill Kalkman posted
Photographer unknown, Rodney Peterson collection. A trio of GP9s (GTW 4136, GT 4910 & GTW 4921) are taking a pause in Dearborn Station, Chicago, IL, on what looks to be a very cold day in January, 1963.
Edward Kwiatkowski shared
Dennis DeBruler: And a Monon freight house after the US Postal Service started using it.

Marty Bernard posted
Chicago & Eastern Illinois Humming Bird - Georgian unloading at Dearborn Station, Chicago, IL on June 18, 1966. Bill took the photo from the Roosevelt Road Viaduct.
[Note the postal platform is pretty full of trucks. And the sacks of mail piled at this end.]
Bill Molony posted
Santa Fe train #123, the Grand Canyon, departing from Dearborn Station for Los Angeles - undated.
Thomas Nall The Hancock construction at right says about ‘67 or ‘68.
Bob Lalich I'm guessing the photo was taken after the USPS cancelled the mail contracts with the railroads in September of 1967. The long platform on the left was normally full of mail sacks, with trailers and trucks parked on the side.

David Daruszka brightened a photo posted by the C&NWHS
[The bulk of the comments on this photo are in the LaSalle Street Station notes. I include the photo here because it shows the WABASH sign on the freight house.]

Original Chicago posted
What television show is this line from and who said it? Why was Dearborn Station referenced?
"I’ve eaten a river of liver and an ocean of fish. I’ve eaten so much fish, I’m ready to grow gills. I’ve eaten so much liver, I can only make love if I’m smothered in bacon & onions."
Dearborn Station as it appeared before the fire in 1922. Glass plate negative. They decided against rebuilding the tower during it's reconstruction.
Dennis DeBruler shared
The answer to the question according to some comments is Hawkeye Pierce on M.A.S.H. The episode was about the bureaucratic difficulty of ordering ribs from a fictional Adam's Rib that was close to Dearborn Station.
But my reason for sharing is that this is another view of the station roofs before the 1922 fire. And it is a reminder that the freight house west of the station was owned by the Wabash Railroad. It also shows that horses were still used for some freight but cars were making a significant impact on passenger travel. And streetcars were still running.


  1. The first picture has the Wabash outbound freight house which was leased to the Post Office dept.All mail to and from dearborn station went through that facility. It never belonged to the Monon. The Monon had a facility east of dearborn station.

  2. Have a look at this John Barriger photo from his 1942 General Inspection of the CI&L (Monon). It's marked clearly that the freight house in question, west of Dearborn, was owned by the C&WI and leased to the Monon. You can see the train shed roof in the background. There is a "Monon RR" sign visible on top of the building too, if you save the photo and enlarge it.