Friday, April 10, 2020

Aban/C&NW Weber Yard on the Weber (Canal) Branch


Brian Finley posted the question: "Anyone have photos of CNW’s old Weber Yard in Evanston?" That question motivated me to learn about yet another C&NW yard in the Chicagoland area.

The Weber Branch was charted in 1889 so that C&NW could remove freight trains from its commuter line between Evanston and Chicago to improve the speed of the commuter trains. C&NW also offered passenger service on this branch until 1941. [trains] I've also seen it called the Canal Branch because it terminated at the north end at Canal Tower.

1938 Aerial Photo from ILHAP

This yard was on the Weber Branch which ran from River Junction up to Canal (CJ) Tower. Abandonment by UP of this branch was completed in 2004.
Abandoned RR Map
[The new map has switched the color from green to blue.]

Steven J. Brown posted
Aerial view of Skokie and Evanston taken from the window of a flight heading for a landing at O'Hare Airport in July 1989. CTA Skokie Shops and the Water Reclamation Plant are the largest landmarks visible. Note in the righthand corner the Bell & Howell factory where there is now a Jewel and Best Buy. Remnants of the Chicago & Northwestern Weber Subdivision is also visible.
Chris Kite: I'm guessing that's the Rust-Olemm that had just closed just north of Oakton. It's interesting (and sad) to see all the manufacturing buildings that were recently shut down or about to shut down.
That Bell & Howell factory consolidated to the Pratt & McCormick building, where I worked from 1988 to 2005. Then things consolidated again and the east third of the Pratt and McCormick building was hacked off and the property was sold and became a Dominicks and later a Planet Fitness. Then the whole building was sold and the small remaining plant moved to Wheeling. The rest of the property was sold and turned into a retirement home.
Chris Goepel: Refresh my ailing memory: when was the Weber Subdivision abandoned between Canal Tower in north Evanston and the industrial area in Skokie? I dimly recall seeing a train from near Fanny’s Restaurant on Simpson in Evanston in the early 1980s.
Matt McClure: Chris Goepel From just south of Howard to Canal Tower in Evanston was gone by c. 1984. There were customers near Touhy for years after this portion was yanked.

Steven J. Brown posted
Chicago and North Western SW1200's 1222 (built 1960 as CNW 312) and 1213 (built 1960 as CNW 313) at Weber Yard in Evanston, Illinois - March 1975.
Dennis DeBruler shared
Bob Lalich: The line was built by the Chicago & West Ridge Railway. When completed, it was consolidated into the CNW. The line was called the West Ridge track by CNW crews.
(From another post: To be clear, the West Ridge track was a spur that branched off the Weber line at the south end of Weber Yard and ran south along the east side of the North Shore Canal. It served several brickyards and nurseries.)
Dennis DeBruler commented on his share
Weber Yard was south of Main Street and between the C&NW Weber Branch and the canal. I see that Sam's Club has built on the RoW of the branch. This is the first photo I have seen of that yard.

Some comments on Dennis DeBruler's comment

The two images in the above comments:


Craig Homberg commented on Dennis's share
April 9, 1970 view of the yard.

Steven J. Brown posted
A pair of Chicago and North Western Baldwin S12's (rebuilt with EMD prime movers) are putting their train together to head south to 40th Street at Weber Yard in Evanston, Illinois - July 13, 1977.

And here is where the Weber and Skokie Branches diverted at Mayfair Junction.
Steven J. Brown posted
Last night, as I was digging through my drawer of slides 1980s A-C, it slipped and dumped on the floor. I spent several hours putting the 1.5k of them back. Some of them fell into the scanner. here is one of them.
Amtrak Empire Builder #7 is accelerating away from the diamonds at Mayfair. The signal bridge on the right is for the CNW's Skokie and Weber lines. Chicago, Illinois - February 1982.

David Daruszka commented on Brian's post
The Weber Branch derived its name from Barney F. Weber who owned a brickyard. He founded the Chicago & West Ridge Railroad, that consisted of track but no rolling stock. It was operated under agreement by the C&NW, but was not part of the Mayfair Cutoff. It connected with the C&NW at Weber Yard. So Mr. Weber's name somehow become associated with the yard and the branch line. Information from the Rogers Park Historical Society newsletter "The Historian".

David Daruszka uploaded, p14

David Daruszka uploaded, p15

The map below shows why the Mayfair Cutoff was important to C&NW freight operations before they built the 1911 New Line to Proviso Yard.
David Daruszka uploaded, p4
I can't find a C&NW map that shows why the Mayfair Cutoff for freight became obsolete. So I made my own from a couple of topo maps. Red highlights the 1891 Weber Subdivision that removed freight traffic from the lakeshore commuter line south of Evanston. Yellow highlights the 1904 Skokie Subdivision that removed freight traffic from the lakeshore commuter line south of Lake Bluff. [ChicagoRailfan-aban, source: OperatingInformation] Green highlights the 1911 New Line that took freight traffic more efficiently to Proviso Yard. [ChicagoRailfan-Milwaukee] CP/Milwaukee Road also uses this New Line to move its freight trains to the Bensenville Yard.
1953 Chicago and 1958 Racine Quadrangles @ 1:250,000

MWRD posted
A northward view of two police officers on McCormick Blvd. between Howard St. and Oakton St. in Skokie on May 4, 1928. This location is directly east of the MWRD's O'Brien Water Reclamation Plant (formerly North Side), which was nearly completed at the time of the photo. The viaduct in the background, which is no longer there, was a part of the Mayfair Branch of the Chicago & North Western Railway which passed through what is now the Skokie North Shore Channel Park. The viaduct above the officers was a part of the North Shore Electric Line Skokie Valley Branch and is now used by the CTA Yellow Line. The large building in the background was a manufactured gas plant for the Public Service Company of Northern Illinois.
Trent Blasco to the right of the viaduct there is a bridge that is still in place over the river. the tracks went thru current day paulmbo yard
Dennis DeBruler,-87.../data=!3m1!1e3

Scott Greig I remember that C&NW viaduct being demolished, around 1987.
Aaron Weeds Wiedman A pair of Harley Davidson Springers.

Steven J. Brown posted
Here is an image a few people may find interesting. I took this when I was 12 from onboard a SOAC demonstration run on the Skokie Swift. This looks north from the high bridge over McCormick Blvd and the North Shore Channel (we knew it as the Sewage Canal). The rail line is the now abandoned Chicago and North Western Weber Subdivision. McCormick is off to the left and the overpass past the railroad is Oakton Street. The CNW bridge across McCormick has been removed but the bridge over the channel is still there. Union Pacific abandoned this line in 2010. Photo taken in January 1975.

Steven J. Brown shared

Dennis DeBruler commented on Steven's share
Steven would have been on the bridge near the bottom of this view. I put a pin on the Weber Branch bridge over the North Shore Channel.
42°01'29.2"N 87°42'36.4"W
Steven J. Brown: Yup!

Dennis DeBruler commented on Steven's share
I zoomed out to show where the Weber Branch was. And the red "triangle" shows where the Weber Yard used to be.

Dennis DeBruler commented on Steven's share
A comparable area in 1938.

Steven J. Brown posted
Baldwin schnoz! Chicago and North Western S12M 1127 (built 1954/Baldwin repowered with EMD 1964) rests at Weber Yard in Evanston, Illinois - July 1977.

4 photos in the yard
Paul Musselman commented on his post of 4 photos:
Somewhere I have an old plot of the line from Weber running S along the east side of the San Canal, to service the areas along Kedzie, down to near Peterson Ave......You can also see same on '' and plots...
Dennis DeBruler commented on Paul's comment
I see the branch stopping north of Devon Ave. in the 1920s. There some quarries along that branch as well as industry along Kedzie.
1929 Chicago Loop and 1928 Evanston Quads @ 1:24,000

Dennis DeBruler commented on Paul's comment
By 1953, that branch ended north of Touhy Ave.
1953 Evanston Quadrangle @ 1:24,000

Paul Musselman commented on his post of 4 photos in Weber Yard: "There is a small industrial area just south of Howard St. along can still find numerous rails here and there in this area....." Then he posted a couple of photos showing the rails.


Dennis DeBruler commented on Paul's comment
I've noticed that most railfans are actually locomotive fans. It is nice to meet a fellow RAILfan. This is one of my favorites. This turnout was part of GM&O Grove Street running into Allied Metals, which is now Canal Street Marina. Looking at a satellite image, it appears that this turnout is no longer visible.
20150705 2511

Paul Musselman posted two photos with the comment: "When the CNW connection to Weber Yard was cut back, it ended at Touhy Ave. in Skokie, serving one industry with tank cars.....  Top pic looks south..track came from CNW NW line at Mayfair...tracks to Weber and beyond went thru where photog stands...bottom pic shows tank car receiver just N oF Touhy Ave......... "
Tim Sasse: National Wax Co


After a dialog with Paul, I learned that just the curving industrial spur was left north of Touhy and that the buildings in the second photo are in the yellow rectangle of this topo excerpt.
1978 Evanston Quad @ 1:24,000
The Weber Branch was C&NW's first freight bypass. See YouTube @ 5:01 for a brief history of C&NW's bypasses. Note that the "New Line" is over 100 years old.

Steven J. Brown posted
Chicago & NorthWestern transfer caboose 12513 at Weber Yard in Evanston, Illinois - April 1975.
Steven J. Brown shared
Aarron Van Buren: Where was Weber yard located exactly in Evanston?
Steven J. Brown shared
Dennis DeBruler shared
Sandy Patrick: Fascinating photos. Question, I assume with so many manufacturing plants shutting down in the Chicago area over the last 40+ years the number of railroad companies has been reduced. There also seems to have been a lot of consolidation.
Jon Roma: Sandy Patrick, it is true that Chicago has lost industry in the last 50 years (the South Chicago steel mills and Union Stock Yards, just to name two). This has resulted in the loss of a lot of trackage serving the lost industries. However, the shrinkage in the number of railroads is more a result of merger of large railroads than any other factor.
One large terminal railroad lost in the last half-century was the Chicago & Western Indiana, which became redundant as a result of the end of privately-owned passenger service as well as the Conrail merger in 1976. With that exception, the major terminal railroads that served Chicago in the Seventies, the Belt, IHB, and EJ&E (now CN) are still going concerned. Some smaller industrial railroads have changed hands.
Chicago hasn't lost a lot of main line rail mileage since the Eighties.

Dennis DeBruler commented on Aarron's comment and his share
Weber Yard was in the triangle south of Main Street between the canal and C&NW's branch line.
William Shapotkin posted
Can't take that picture anymore! There was a time when the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) took delivery of rail cars by rail. Here we see cars 3185-86, destined to the CTA as they sit atop flat cars at Proviso (IL) Yard of the Chicago & NorthWestern (C&NW). These cars will make their way up the C&NW's Weber Branch for delivery to CTA at Skokie (IL) Shops.
The abandonment of C&NW's Weber Branch effectively isolated CTA from the North American rail network (although there is a physical connection thru Lower 63rd Yard to the NS (NYC) -- located on Chicago's South Side, used almost exclusively for delivery of ballast and crossties). As a result, delivery/disposition of rail cars has been done exclusively by highway for over thirty years now. Photo (taken March 2, 1987) by the late Joseph Pierson/William Shapotkin Collection. (image 485)

Matt McClure commented on William's post, rotated
According to a North Shore Line report, including a map the exchange was at Oakton Street where the C&NW Lake Bluff cutoff ran immediately west of the North Shore's Skokie Valley Route. The Weber Line and the SVR did not cross at grade, albeit way closer to the shops as you note. Having grown up block away the idea that they interchanged there--over the river and McCormick Blvd--seems impossible.
Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railway Company: General Report on Analysis of Business and Operations
Tyson Park: Matt McClure When the North Shore Line was close to abandonment just prior to January of 1963 an arrangement was made for the C&NW via the Weber Line to take over service to the CTA Skokie Shops as well as remaining NSL freight customers on and just north of Oakton and along both sides of St. Louis Avenue. You can still trace from the curved building where the NSL spurs ran. The C&NW used the spur tracks inside a People's Gas facility located adjacent to the Weber Line, south of Oakton, and east of the CTA Skokie Shops to reach the former NSL tracks as the NSL and C&NW both had access to the same tracks within the People's Gas site but from opposite sides. Joe Piersen detailed it with maps and other documents in his Lines North of Mayfair book series published by the C&NWHS. NSL freight tracks later used by the C&NW are still visible behind Raja Foods at 8110 St. Louis Avenue.

Dennis DeBrueler commented on William's post
This shows the connection through the People's Gas site that Tyson Park mentioned. I included the rail-served industry in the area.
1972 Evanston Quad @ 24,000

25:15 video @ 4:57

Bonus: Gas-O-Meters (Gasometers)

I was going to skip a rather generic bridge repair photo until I spotted the gas-o-meter on the left side of the photo. I had noticed the gas-o-meter on the right side of the historic aerial photo above.
MWRD posted
A westward view of workers removing an old deck from the Oakton Street bridge over the North Shore Channel in Skokie, Illinois, on October 14, 1921.

So I dug deeper. In addition to the gas holder east of the Weber Yard and the one south of Oakton, there is an even taller one near the bottom of the excerpt. (Because of the shadows, you can compare the heights.)
1938 Aerial Photo from ILHAP

The arrow on the bottom one is pointing to "Chicago Curtiss Airport 9 Miles." I have never heard of it. And neither has Google Maps.
Digitally Zoomed


  1. I believe this photo from 1966 was taken along the C&NW Weber Subdivision in Skokie:

  2. Curtiss Airport was the original name of Glenview Naval Air Station.