Friday, November 9, 2018

Stockyards "L" Branch

(Satellite links are embedded throughout these notes)
Bruce Moffat commented on a posting by William Shapotkin of the C&WI 40th Street Tower to help date William's photo:
Apparently the black & white views supplied by William Shapotkin date from after 1958 because prior to that time this location was a rather rare triple level crossing! The top level was the elevated structure for the Stock Yards "L" which ran directly above the CJ tracks in this area. The elevated structure was actually owned by a sister company of the Chicago Junction/Union Stock Yards & Transit Company but operated by the Chicago Rapid Transit Company and successor CTA until October 7, 1957 when CTA discontinued operations. The USY&T demolished it the following year. Attached is a photo that was credited to the C&WI that was printed in some magazine (Maybe Railroad?) in the early to mid-1950's.

Histgoric Chicago posted
CTA train (1946)
[The are some comments about CTA changing signs from "El" to "L".]

Dennis DeBruler shared
One of the corners of the loop at the end of the Stock yards branch.
Albert Carello I remember the Stock Yards and Kenwood El s using exclusively wooden cars.
Dennis DeBruler shared

Patrick McNamara commented on Dennis' share
Here's Rascher's Bird's Eye View of the Stock Yards from 1890. You can easily find the location of the photo above.....
Dennis DeBruler Facebook seems to be squeezing the resolution even more than it used to. One can download a 3999 x 1934 image from this page:
Dennis DeBruler commented on his post
The photo was of the southeast corner of the loop looking northeast. The building on the right was the new (post 1934 fire) Exchange Building. I used a yellow rectangle to highlight the Exchange Building in this 1938 aerial photo.
[The image at the top of these notes should have a higher resolution.]
Dennis DeBruler commented on his post
 From the right side of the above aerial, the L continued eastward over the Chicago Junction right-of-way until it got to State Street. There the L jogged down and ran along the south side of today's Green Line until it got to the Indiana Transfer Station. Bruce Moffat has posted this photo of the 40th Street Tower that shows the triple level crossing of the L over the C&WI+Pennsy over the Chicago Junction. (This photo "was credited to the C&WI that was printed in some magazine (Maybe Railroad?) in the early to mid-1950's.") The first two levels still exist:,-87.../data=!3m1!1e3
Dennis DeBruler commented on his post
On Michigan Avenue the Chicago Junction overpass still exists so we can still see the "double elevated" L and the elevated CJ.!3m6!1e1!3m4...
I noticed that CJ overpasses still exist over Prairie and Calumet Avenues as well.

The NS/NYC/Chicago Junction/ Union Stock Yard & Transit railroad was built as part of the 1865 Union Stock Yard project to connect all of the trunk railroads that entered Chicago to the stock yard. It was intended to be a freight railroad, but it did run passenger service to help get the workers needed by not just the stock yards and the packing houses that were west of the stock yards, but also to the plants that made products from animal byproducts. At its peak, 50,000 workers needed to commute to this area. When the city forced the Chicago Junction, along with the other railroads, to elevate their tracks, they decided to build two routes along the elevation, one for freight and another for passengers. The South Side Elevated, which later became part of the CTA, signed a 50-year lease with the Chicago Junction to operate the passenger route and opened it on April 8, 1908. It was a shuttle service between the Indiana Transfer Station and the seven stations on its route. [Chicago-L]

The branch went west from the Indiana Transfer Station (buildings near the right side of this image along the tracks).
1938 Aerial East Photo from ILHAP (Satellite  It is no longer a transfer station because the branches have been removed)

It headed west over the NYC and Rock Island. Note the shadow of the truss bridge that took the passenger line over the trunk railroads. This would be a triple level crossing because the Chicago Junction went under the trunk railroads.
1938 Aerial East Photo from ILHAP (Satellite  Not only is the "L" long gone, Metra now owns the remaining trunk line tracks)
Then we come to the crossing of the Pennsy and C&WI captured in the photo at the top. Again, we can see the shadow of the truss bridge.
1938 Aerial East Photo from ILHAP (Satellite   When they split up Conrail, NS got both the Pennsy trunk line and the NYC Chicago Junction. 
Between Union and Emerald Avenues, it turned south and then worked its way back west.
1938 Aerial West Photo from ILHAP  Nothing left in a satellite image.
It terminated in a counterclockwise loop around Packingtown. "The loop generally followed Exchange Avenue, Packers Avenue, 44th Street, and Racine Avenue." [Chicago-L]
1938 Aerial West Photo 
Satellite  The edges of this image is where the loop ran.
David M Laz posted a couple of pictures with the comment:
DID YOU KNOW THAT there were actually two loops in Chicago, the other being the loop around the old stockyards where it made stops at all four meet packing companies? ? It was just a single track loop, not two way. Imagine the smell working on the "L"'s that made that route!


I speculated on William's posting:
Dennis DeBrulerYou and 3 others manage the membership, moderators, settings, and posts for Chicago Railroad Historians. I just looked it up. The bonds for the Dan Ryan Expressway were issued in 1955 and it opened in 1961. I wonder if that is why the "L" quit in 1957 and it was soon torn down. Because of the decline of the stock yards, the expense of bridging over the Dan Ryan was too much.

Bruce Moffat explained: "The abandonment had nothing to do with the express way. Ridership had dwindled to almost nothing and the line was a money looser that CTA had been trying to dump for years." The reason for the shutdown was the expiration of the 50-year lease.

This posting provides the context for the branch.
Jim Arvites posted
On this Day in History on June 6, 1892 the first L, the Chicago South Side Rapid Transit, began revenue service in Chicago.
Dyadya Abdul The original motive power in 1893 -
Patrick McNamara commented on Jim's post

Mike Tuggle posted
CTA 4000-series cars headed for the Stock Yards on September 30, 1957.
[Since it is just a single track, this would be somewhere on the loop portion. And this branch would be shut down by the end of 1957.]
Bruce Moffat: Those are 2800 series wood cars which would finish out the service in 1957. On the single track loop through the yards.

Edward Kwiatkowski shared

Bob Lalich commented on a post
The CJ fascinates me. Here is a view of the same spot from an earlier era - John Barriger photo.
Dennis DeBruler And that is a terrific view of the Stock Yard "L" Branch that used to go over the CJ between here and the Indiana Station.

Some comments on a post:
Dave Gudewicz 'L' station story here:
Dave Gudewicz For those interested, here's a nice article on the Stock Yard "L" branch which includes a history of the yards.

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