Saturday, May 14, 2016

IHB's 55th Street Tower: IHB vs. BRC

NorthAmericanInterlockings:   1928    1983   Obviously, the tower changed between 1928 and 1983.
Chicago and Northern Indiana Railroad Interlocking Towers (click the marker for more information)

D.W. Davidson Flickr Photo

CRJ labels the east/west route as BRC. It is confusing because both IHB and BRC had routes through here to the stockyards. But they removed one track and shared the other after the stockyard business dried up.

Andrew Urbanski comment in his posting
I was donated the old control cabinet back in 2009.Got it through a friend, after the operator of it who worked
 on it for 30plus years passed away. His wife no longer
wanted it in her home.

Stan Stanovich ...if my memory serves me correct it still stood in 1988! When I moved here in '95 some of the Belt (BRC) dispatchers still referred to the location as the "harbor plant"! I'd say It's demise coincided with removal of the stockyards line from Narragansett avenue east, where they tie into the BRC. Somewhat related to the CTA Orange Line project! I wish I could tell you more!!!

Andrew Urbanski also commented on another posting

1938 Aerial Photo from ILHAP

Towns and roads do not cause railroads to be moved, but airports can. Note that in this 1916 map IHB has a branch that curves west from Argo, then turns north and heads west again north of 55th. 55th Street tower was where IHB crossed BRC's north/south mainline and where BRC's branch to the stockyards left the mainline.


Bob Lalich Flickr, 1934
55th St interlocking 1934
This diagram shows the crossing of the IHB Stockyards line with the BRC prior to the relocation of the BRC tracks in 1940 which allowed the expansion of Municipal airport, renamed Midway after WWII. Diagram courtesy of Jon Roma.

If we look at an aerial photo, it becomes obvious why IHB jogged to the north --- Midway Airport had almost finished its expansion. To finish the expansion, BRC had to reroute its track from the middle of the airport to parallel the IHB route north of 55th Street to a new BRC junction.

With the closure of the stockyards, the IHB joined the BRC at Neenah Avenue. This freed up the IHB right-of-way for use by the Orange Line that was built to Midway around 1990.

Concerning Wisconsinsouthern's questions in the comments below concerning the abandoned IHB route along 54th Street: the route shows up on a 1953 topo map, but it does not show up on a 1963 topo map. Furthermore, the following aerial photo shows that area was an island of housing development. And of course, not a lot of houses were built during the depression and WWII. Also note that the original IHB route appears to be abandoned by 1938 because the diagonal route has already been built. In fact, Bob's 1934 track diagram above shows that IHB was no longer using the original route by 1934. So my current assumption is that a developer bought the IHB RoW along with a bunch of lots and that the bungalows north of 54th Street were built after 1953.

1938 Aerial Photo from ILHAP


  1. What year do you believe the ihb trackage running across w. 54th in todays west lawn neighborhood was removed? No google birds eye view or satelite evidence exists.

  2. Awesome history, were the houses along the ihb route across w. 54th street built after the line was removed?

    1. Good questions. I have added an update to my notes to address this.