Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Griffith, IN: CN/EJ&E vs. CN/GTW Junction Tower vs. Aban/(Erie+C&O) vs. Aban/MC

This is a complete rewrite of my posting on Griffith Junction. Thanks to Wayne Hudak, I recently learned the tower was east of Broad Street. For the first three years that I was studying railroads, I thought it was on the west side. Griffith Junction was a popular railfan site since it had four mainlines and one branch line. Consequently, I have found a lot of pictures. So this posting concentrates on the junction and tower itself. Pictures that show (at least part of) a depot are in a Griffith depots posting. Photos of trains passing through the junction are in the appropriate Erie+C&O, EJ&E and GTW postings. Photos of trains on an interchange track or involving the NYC/Michigan Central Joliet Cutoff are still in this posting. Some photos are in more than one posting because they included multiple buildings. These are the most useful ones in terms of trying to visualize what the junction and depots looked like before the abandonments.

(CRJ, John Haynes Track DiagramSatellite)
NorthAmericanInterlockings1989 tower, model board
Chicago and Northern Indiana Railroad Interlocking Towers (Click the place marker for more information.)

I got a copy of an historical aerial view while it could still be used for non-commercial use. The tower was the white roofed building southeast of the junction along the GTW tracks.
1967 Aerial Photo
I marked the photo with the following convention:
The white rectangle east of Broad Street between GTW and Erie+C&O is the tower.

1967 Aerial Photo plus Paint
The above image does not show some of the details I was researching, so I did another search for the late 1930s photos. I didn't find free copies, but the image below more clearly shows that the town was north of the junction. This would make sense since the crossing gates for Broad Street must have been down most of the time.


Wayne Hudak posted
Bob Lalich At one time, the track that is occupied by the MOW cars crossed the Erie/C&O and connected to the NYC/MC. Anyone know when that connection was removed?
Wayne Hudak No clue, Wished I did
[In another posting of this photo, Wayne identified it as the early 50s.]
Wayne Hudak posting plus Paint
Richard Blunt posted
Old crossing diamonds in Griffith Indiana. Some of it is still there but a lot of it is gone. 180 trains a day when I was a kid.
Ted Gregory posted
The C&O tracks entered the area from the southeast. This 1916 map indicates the C&O crossed the Erie just south of the junction, and it had its own diamonds across the EJ&E, GTW and MC. It finally joined the Erie after its MY Tower Yard for the rest of the way to State Line Junction where it joined the C&WI to access Dearborn Station. (The joint Erie+C&O route shared a bridge with the Nickle Plate to cross the Grand Calumet River.)  Later, the C&O joined Erie south of the junction to reduce the number of diamonds that had to be maintained.
Griffith is a location of major historical interest. Until the early 1980's, the double track Erie Lackawanna route and Chessie System's ex-Chesapeake & Ohio line from Cincinnati entered from the south-southeast. They joined together, crossed both the J and GTW, and then headed in a northwesterly direction toward Hammond, Indiana, using Chicago & Western Indiana tracks from there into Chicago. Some  of the diamonds were actually in Broad Street, making maintenance a difficult chore. In addition, a Conrail branch line to Joliet (ex-NYC, ex-MC) entered the junction from the northeast and paralleled the J to the southwest. It crossed the J about a quarter- mile northeast of the junction, and then crossed CN, Erie and C&O at the junction. If all that weren't enough, the J had a line heading east from Griffith to Porter Junction, about 20 miles. Griffith must have been a sight to see back in the Golden Age.
Matt Lasayko commented on a posting
Stan Stanovich the story goes, I was once told that in the pre-Conrail era, that there was always a headlight visible on the horizon of at least one of the lines at all times!!!

Wayne Hudak I railfanned the Griffith crossing from 1972 to the shutdown of the former Erie line in about 1980. Previous to the EL-Conrail abandonment you could see a train through there every 5 minutes. I have an early RAILFAN mag article about Griffiths always a headlight visible on the horizon of at least one of the lines at all times!!!
Bob  Lalich also commented on a posting
Here is an EJ&E drawing of the crossing.
Phil Vaclavik posted, cropped
As an experiment, I increased the size by 150%. I still have trouble reading some of the street names. I believe the building to the left of the depot is labeled Trainmaster Headquarters.

Phil Vaclavik posted, cropped, 150%
Wayne Hudak posted

Jason Jordan posted (source)
Walt Fles Prior to july 2000 when they moved it.The GTW/CN is going off the the upper left. Just to the west (right) of this picture is where the EL/C&O used to cross, making this a sea of 12 diamonds.
[The tower has been moved north of the EJ&E tracks to be part of a railroad heritage park.]
Bill Molony posted
Griffith Interlocking Tower - August 12, 1973.
Bill Molony reposted
The Griffith, Indiana interlocking tower on August 12, 1973.
At that time, the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern, the Chesapeake & Ohio, the Grand Trunk Western, the Erie Lackawanna and the Penn Central all intersected in Griffith.
Bill Molony reposted
Michael Steffen The railroads all crossed Broad Street in Griffith. In the early ‘80’s I was told by a long time J Telegrapher (Tower Operator) that When all 5 railroads were running hard, the manually operated crossing gates would be in operation 45 minutes out of the hour. At its’ busiest the Tower was manned by a Telegrapher and a Leverman. There was also a crossing Watchman at grade.

Jim Jamrus A clever haulage agreement between UP and NS allowed NS to finally abandon the MC line (aka PC, CR, NS depending on the decade).....CR still needed the middle segment of the old MC Joliet line to access the Ford stamping plant long after the Chicago Heights to Joliet segment (and the segment east of Hartsdale) was abandoned. CHTT (UP) did the actual switching of the plant once the cars were delivered by CR/NS to Chicago Heights so NS made an arrangement where they'd drop cars off for Ford around 83rd St in Chicago and UP would then pick them up and run them down to Chicago Heights on behalf of NS along with any other Chicago Heights cars that UP had for the CHTT industries that day (UP was going there anyway and they had dibs on performing the actual switching). NS maintained marketing control of their Ford business and they still technically show Chicago Heights as an NS destination but physical movement of the cars is now done by UP by way of a haulage agreement out of Chicago. This arrangement allowed NS to cut a crew and loco and nix the remains of the MC line that still existed between Hartsdale and Chicago Heights.
Steven W Panek The NS didn't cut the crew and loco. The crew was and still is based in Kankakee, Illinois. When the NS still had the Hartsdale job, the crew was cabbed from Kankakee to Hartsdale (Schererville, Indiana) to serve to remaining customer. When NS completely pulled out. NS relocated the crew and loco, typically a 4 axle unit to Kankakee. BTW, CN now uses Hartsdale Yard.
John Del Vecchio posted three photos with the comment: "EJ&E tower in Griffith, IN. The EL, C&O, EJ&E, GTW, PC all crossed at this location. Tower was relocated to oppsite side of crossing."




Scott Griffith posted
Chad Quick GF Tower. Gotta love those "wrong way" TO signals which show trains running with current of traffic but with the eastbound or northbound trains on the left hand track

Wayne Hudak Amtrak's James Whitcomb Riley on the former C&O/Erie. Track in foreground is the former Michigan Central (Joliet Cut Off)
[The GTW depot is the first building on the right and the tower is the second building.]
Bill Molony posted
Elgin, Joliet & Eastern EMD SD38-2 #656 at the Griffith interlocking - 1997.
[The MC is probably gone in 1997. So the foreground track would be the connector from GTW to EJ&E that we can see on today's satellite images. The weeds are hiding the GTW tracks themselves.]
Josh Lemier posted
Here in this super cool photograph we see Erie Lackawanna 3656 leading a manifest through Griffith, Indiana about to cross the diamonds on December 21, 1973.
Photo Credit To John Eagan.
[GTW depot on the right, the tower in the middle, and the MC track in the foreground. That is probably the crossing guard standing in the street.]
Josh Lemier posted
Here we see Erie Lackawanna 1048 on the EJ&E Connection at Griffith, Indiana exchanging cars on June 1, 1974.
Photo Credit To Kim Piersol.
The above view is looking west. The below view is looking east from Broad Street.

Steven W Panek posted
The CN decided to yard an empty auto rack train on the American Chemical Service lead at Griffith, Indiana. The east end of Griffith Yard is blocked from what l can see. Photo taken this morning from the S. Broad St grade crossing
[The engines are on the interchange track that goes to the remnants of the C&O mainline that serves the American Chemical Services plant. The track in the foreground is the interchange track between CN/EJ&E and CN/GTW.]

Jack Olenjniczak posted
Working the old C&O spur today in Griffith, EJ&E 703.
For those of us who are learning about EJ&E:
41°30'52.4"N 87°25'02.3"W
41.514555, -87.417317
(Facebook has been deleting most of my comments that contain a Google Maps URL. It declares them a violation of Community Standards. So now you have to copy&paste the GPS coordinates into the search field of Google Maps.)

This is the only photo I have seen of the Michigan Central Joliet Cuttoff being used so I'm not going to create a special railfan posting for it like I did the other railroads through here.
Mark Llanuza posted
Its April 1975 westbound Penn Central crossing the Erie at Griffith Ind heading to Joliet IL on the old Michigan central .Only two trains a day went through here on the Penn central .We waited all day at the Jct
Rich Ribarevski Looks like a lot of auto boxes for Ford - Chicago Heights stamping plant
Mark Llanuza Corey Kinley this line was taken out of service right after Conrail
[Checking my cheat-sheet for mergers, Conrail was formed in 1976. The fact they waited all day for a train is an indication of why it was abandoned. It was redundant with the EJ&E route between here and Joliet. Much of the way, they were just a 1000 feet apart. In some places, they were next to each other.]
The EJ&E forked soon after it crossed the CN/GTW tracks. The tranks that went straight to Hobart are now gone. The tracks that curve north are the mainline that goes to Kirk Yard. The EJ&E track crossed the Michigan Central track that paralleled the Hobart-Griffith branch of the EJ&E. Wayne got off the beaten path and caught the EJ&E banging the MC diamond.

Wayne Hudak commented on a posting
Wayne Hudak Dennis DeBruler, here's a scene of 2 more diamonds away from the center of the Broad Street plant, never much photographed. I caught this EJ&E Baldwin ready to head northbound to Kirk Yard in Gary crossing the Michigan Central's Joliet Cut Off.
Since this photo shows two trains, it doesn't fit in the railroad specific postings so I put it here in the general junction posting.
Steven W Panek posted
I decided to get out and do some train watching Saturday afternoon at Griffith, Indiana. Caught 2 trains simultaneously. The train in the foreground is CN L-503 heading for Kirk Yard and the second train on the south wye is Q-116 heading east for Michigan.
Eric Berg posted
Me lining up a train at Griffith tower in 1999. Tom Figura photo.

Sam Anthony I see the timers to wind out if you try to change the line up. Seems like they take FUREVER to wind down.Eric Berg 8 minutes

Eric Berg posted again
Me working Larry Youngs Vacation on 2nd trick at Griffith tower on August 26, 1999. (Tom Figura photo)
Michael Steffen Don’t forget the gates.

Eric Berg When I broke in with Larry, I lined up a Grand Trunk train and sat down at the desk. He looked at me and said, "What are you forgetting?" I said, "I don't know". He said, "Okay, but in about 45 seconds, you're going to be standing in a courtroom facing MULTIPLE COUNTS OF INVOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER! GET OVER HERE!" After that, I NEVER forgot those gates. He said, "I don't care if the phones ringing, the radios going, nothing. When you line a train up, you HAVE to stand here until its over the crossing." That afternoon, I would never forget again.....
Mark Llanuza posted
Its 1989 inside EJ&E tower at Griffith Ind
Shad Steve Vargo posted
A ex Santa Fe SD75M leads a random CN local back to Kirk Yard from Griffith.
Gavin Robey There’s a patch for yaDennis DeBruler This must be from the rail park location of the tower. It is nice to see a new perspective on Griffith Junction.,-87.../data=!3m1!1e3
Kevin Piper posted three images with the comment:
This must be the craziest railroad intersection in the world. Griffith, IN. Five railroads converging in one area. EJ&E, GTW, EL, PC (NYC/MC) and C&O. Only two remain, and the junction is under CN control today.
I first visited Griffith as a young boy and it was an absolutely incredible place. I had a friend who's dad was an EJ&E track supervisor. There were derailments and other problems at Griffith almost every week, and my friend and I would go with his dad on weekends when things happened. I remember EL E8's tip-toeing over broken diamonds, and going in the cab of a derailed C&O GP9 at night. At the time, GTW and EJ&E were by far the most active. The only railroad I've never seen in action here is PC.
After I hired out on the EJ&E, I saw pairs of white Erie Western Alco RS-3's frequently pass through the junction.
Ed Benton At one time Streator Illinois had the Wabash, Santa Fe, New York Central, Gulf Mobile and Ohio, and CB&Q ALL crossing at grade within a 2 block area of each other. They all served the various coal and brick and glass plants all over town.
Dennis DeBruler And the CB&Q had two different routes terminating at this town: Ottawa, Oswege & Fox River Valley from the North and Illinois Valley & Northern from the Northwest.

Kevin also posted in Windy City Rails
Stan Stanovich ...I’m told that prior to the creation of Conrail that there was a headlight on the horizon on at least one of these lines 24/7!!!
Michael Riha One source said 180 trains a day in the 1950s.




In addition to a couple of photos that are already on the page, Stuff Thats Gone posted this topo.
This must be the craziest railroad intersection in the world. Griffith IN. Five railroads converging. You can find their names on the map. Nice contract for Union Switch and Signal.
Dennis DeBruler The topo map shows what I noticed on an old aerial map: most of the people lived north of the junction so that they didn't have to wait for a break in the trains to get across the junction to get to downtown or the Chicago metro area.
Eric Berg posted
EJ&E Griffith tower in 1935, looking east on the Erie. John W. Barriger photo.
[The top of the tower is peaking over the EJ&E building. Note the NYC/MC(Joliet Cutoff) tracks in the foreground.]
Seth Lakin commented on Bob Lalich's posting asking for pre-WII drawings
Here's a 7-17-44 but with revisions to 1-1-69. slightly different from what you have.
[Bob is researching the track we can see in the John Barriger photo that is between the watchman shanty and the MC tracks. The current theory is that it is a connection between the GTW and MC tracks.]
Jon Roma posted two photos with the comment:
My token effort at capturing EJ&E history. Here's some interior scenes of Griffith Tower when it was still in service on August 8, 1993.
By this time, of course, the C&O, Erie, Michigan Central, and the J's Porter Branch were already history.

David Dutro Nice pictures and memories John. I spent more than a few hours inside this place when it was up and running, next to State Line and Hohman Street it was the busiest place around, the Erie and C&O ran almost constantly, lots of interchange traffic as well.



Bill Char Lang posted
Griffith IN. board February, 1976

Keith Pokimy posted
IC 1005 leads the L-515 local past the tower at Griffith, IN. 1/27/2019
[The admin turned of commenting just before I was going to comment about how I liked an overview shot of the junction. Also, I wonder where L-515 goes to that it needs six locomotives to pull a train from Kirk Yard. Note that it not only has an IC in front, it has a GTW trailing. It is on Matteson/EJ&E and crossing Elsdon/GTW. The relocated tower building is in the background. Street View]
Joseph Kelly Thompson Flickr 2018 Photo

IC 1015 @ Griffith, Indiana

IC 1015 (SD70) leads CN L536 through Griffith, Indiana past the old equipment and tower.
[Joseph is further east of the junction than any other photo I have seen here. That would be the former EJ&E route.]

David Wilson from his photoset
19700740 26 GM&O Griffith, IN
[You can use the arrows to see an EJ&E centercab photo to the right and several more Griffith photos to the left.]
Description and comments from the previous photo in David's photostream:
Gulf Mobile and Ohio was a railroad created in the 1940's out of the Gulf Mobile and Northern, Mobile and Ohio, and Chicago and Alton railroads. It would merged with Illinois Central two years later to form the Illinois Central Gulf. GM&O did not go to Griffith, Indiana, where these photos were taken. This was a unit coal train coming from somewhere in the East.
Bob Lalich 8y 
David, this was a regular move to and from Commonwealth Edison's State Line Generating Station on the IL-IN border on the lakefront. Thanks for sharing!
golfn10 6y 
May have been out of the Captain mine at Percy IL. The GM&O had a daily run out of there.
So this train must have been empty cars returning from State Line to the Captain Mine.

Brian Skrabutenas posted 28 photos of the Griffith Junction scene from the 1970s.

Flickr 1974 photo of an eastbound GT from the tower.

1995 Flickr of brand new BN SD70MACs pulling a westbound GTW freight. The Erie+C&O tracks have been removed.

Video tour of the tower. If I understand the comments correctly, a video of a CN/EJ&E local using the former C&O tracks as an industrial lead and a CN/GTW road train  running through the junction. Since CN now owns IC as well, the engine on the local is an old IC GP38.

Another video of the junction.

Marty's Flickr photos: 12.

Lake Shore Model Railroad Association posted 16 photos with the comment:
6/8/20 Monday!!!
White still closed due to the 'Rona, we are able to get out about for some railfanning. Griffith, IN was busy today 6/8/20 as we caught all this from 3-5pm! CN, IC, KCS and QNS&L.

Jer Centa shared
6/8/20 Monday 3-5pm Griffith, IN, it was a busy period of the day for sure!
Dennis DeBruler commented on Jer's share with this photo from near the top of these notes
The photos are a reminder that the remaining two routes, EJ&E and GTW, are now owned by CN.,-87.../data=!3m1!1e3
[The comment includes the color key.]

Wayne Hudak posted four of his Griffith photos in a public group. I recommend clicking the link because the comments clarify that the tower operator controlled the crossing gates and the crossing guard was just a first-trick job. Wayne also mentions that the tower was run by EJ&E.

Jim Klamo posted
Saw this in Griffith, IN. About 11:00 today [Sep 4, 2020]. Don't see these very often anymore.
The caboose/shoving platform is based in Griffith. Used on CN local L-514
That's my ride. Right about that time I was thinking the mexican restaurant across the street just opened. Do I have time to run over and grab some tacos before I get the signal?
Backing out of the remnant of the C&O?
Pulled out of Griffith onto the South Bend Subdivision to wait for one prior to shoving west on Matteson Sunday Main 2 and ended up waiting for 3 before getting the signal.

Ted Gregory posted
[Some comments indicate that we are looking northwest along the Erie+C&O. The GTW depot is on the left side of the photo.]

Gregg Wolfersheim The opening shot had one of the center cabs still running with it's Baldwin powerplants. The C&O with three SD7's riding on trade-in ALCo Trimount trucks. Some of those locos are still running on some shortlines!
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At 3:00 is a NYC train. So that would be on the Joliet Cutoff of the Michigan Central that paralleled the EJ&E to Porter and through the junction.
At 5:16 is the weed spraying. One did not ask if stuff was toxic and what it would do to the environment until the 1970s.
At 7:00, Erie was pulling piggybacks. That would be bleeding edge in the 60s.
At 7:06 is another NYC train.
At 8:03, grabbing train orders from the caboose from an ironman.

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Videos of e/b coil cars and a long w/b mixed freight.

"Five rail lines formed the junction and more than 180 trains passed through daily, in what was one of the largest railroad interlockings in the world." [NWI Times Article]


  1. is there any photographs of the griffith tower being moved to it's new location?

    1. A reply suggests: "Check with the Griffith Historical Society. I know some exist."

    2. For the current position, you can use Google Maps street view. I verified the camera car went down E Avenue:,-87.4265232,3a,50.4y,207.54h,95.86t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sOeRADcwFR3U3PQsUsYjmgQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656