Chicago Dearborn Station - Freight Houses

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Chicago Dearborn Station - Freight Houses
Posted by richhotrain on Wednesday, September 14, 2016 6:26 PM

From the track diagrams that I have of Dearborn Station in Chicago, there were a series of freight houses for the primary tenant (Santa Fe) and the five owner railroads (Monon, Wabash, Erie, GTW, and C&EI).

A few of the railroads had as many as three freight houses. Using the terminology of the track diagrams, these structures were listed as Freight House, Inbound Freight House, and Outbound Freight House.

The Erie and C&EI had all three of these structures. At one time, Santa Fe had all three as well, but in later years, the Outbound Freight House disappeared.

GTW and Wabash had Inbound and Outbound Freight Houses, but not a Freight House. Incidentally, the Wabash Outbound Freight House was destroyed in a 1955 fire. 

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. I can find no evidence of an Inbound or Outbound Freight house.

Can someone explain how these various freight houses were used and why some railroads had all three structures while other railroads had fewer?

Thanks for any insights that you can provide.

Rich

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, September 15, 2016 10:06 AM

Freight houses dated back to an era when LCL was a sizable traffic source.  Downtown freight houses in Chicago were often connected by the freight tunnels and later by truck with various retail establishments.

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Posted by Miningman on Thursday, September 15, 2016 7:44 PM

Just finished reading an article that stated the railroads were losing a lot of money on LCL, athough iit provided no information past that.  I'm not entirely sure why this is. Perhaps someone could expand on that statement. Also, UPS and Fed Ex, along with others, are pretty big and important companies today. Seems to me, from my vantage point, that REA had a lock on this with the only competition being the Postal Service which the railroads handled and serviced in a manner as well. 

Did they prematurely or wrongly exit this buisness? 

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, September 16, 2016 5:26 AM

Thanks for that LCL information.

Part of what I find so interesting though is the combination of Inbound and Outbound Freight Houses, plus another Freight House. And, there were 6 railroads that owned or leased at Dearborn Station, so why not 18 total freight houses?

Rich

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Posted by rcdrye on Friday, September 16, 2016 8:53 AM

Not all railroads had separate in- and outbound freight houses.  Because Chicago's railroad history is pretty tangled, freight houses aren't alway where you would expect them to be (Soo Line's on the west side of the Chicago river is a good example).  Some of the others were relocated during terminal expansions or projects such as the Chicago River straightening in 1928-1930, which claimed some then fairly new facilities.

The "missing" freight house at Dearborn in 1953 is the Monon's, on the corner of Clark and Polk.  It's not listed as such in the 1953 map, but the building was still there - it still shows up in post-abandonment photos.  It appears to have been taken over for mail and express use sometime around the time the map was made. 

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, September 16, 2016 4:54 PM

rcdrye

Not all railroads had separate in- and outbound freight houses.  Because Chicago's railroad history is pretty tangled, freight houses aren't alway where you would expect them to be (Soo Line's on the west side of the Chicago river is a good example).  Some of the others were relocated during terminal expansions or projects such as the Chicago River straightening in 1928-1930, which claimed some then fairly new facilities.

The "missing" freight house at Dearborn in 1953 is the Monon's, on the corner of Clark and Polk.  It's not listed as such in the 1953 map, but the building was still there - it still shows up in post-abandonment photos.  It appears to have been taken over for mail and express use sometime around the time the map was made. 

 

Thanks for that explanation, redrye.

Rich

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Posted by MidlandMike on Friday, September 16, 2016 10:39 PM

Miningman

Just finished reading an article that stated the railroads were losing a lot of money on LCL, athough iit provided no information past that.  I'm not entirely sure why this is. Perhaps someone could expand on that statement. Also, UPS and Fed Ex, along with others, are pretty big and important companies today. Seems to me, from my vantage point, that REA had a lock on this with the only competition being the Postal Service which the railroads handled and serviced in a manner as well. 

Did they prematurely or wrongly exit this buisness? 

 

UPS was already big in REA times.  Greyhound also had a parcel service.  REA disappeared with mail and passenger train-offs.

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Posted by dakotafred on Saturday, September 17, 2016 7:01 AM

Mike basically has it. They attempted the conversion from rail to over-the-road -- instead of just last-mile -- after death of the mail trains in 1967; but, as Mike says, UPS had already been there for a long time. As had numerous LTL truckers. Either REA just wasn't good at it or was one entry too many at the time. 

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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, September 17, 2016 7:33 AM

In the instance where a railroad had three freight houses, an Inbound Freight House, an Outbound Freight House, and a "Freight House" (the terminology used on the maps of Dearborn Station), what was the purpose of the "Freight House"?

Rich

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Posted by rcdrye on Saturday, September 17, 2016 9:43 AM

From what I understand -

Inbound freight house is where consignees picked up stuff.

Outbound freight house is where consignors dropped stuff off.

The "Freight House" is where stuff going from one carrier to another was exchanged.  Remember that all of this stuff was "Less than Carload" and could be transloaded several times between origin and destination. 

These functions were often combined in one building, with wagon/truck docks and storage/sorting areas, and elevators.  PRR had a five story freight house and Soo Line had a three story freight house that each performed all three functions in Chicago.  The amount of handling and switching required is hard to believe at this remove, but was the main reason railroads were more than happy to give up LCL in favor of TOFC in the 1960s.

Buried in this lovely New York Central video is some footage of LCL freight handling.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrQ3Y5jT89M

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Saturday, September 17, 2016 10:13 AM

As an aside, when C&NW started charging for pick-up and delivery for LCL shipments, the traffic dried up.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by rcdrye on Saturday, September 17, 2016 10:21 AM

Some really good freight house footage at about 10:40 and 20:10

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwAkz60sXWY

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Posted by wanswheel on Saturday, September 17, 2016 10:58 AM

https://archive.org/stream/transportation032265mbp#page/n115/mode/2up

https://archive.org/stream/freightterminal00droegoog#page/n292/mode/2up

 

https://archive.org/stream/cu31924013955426#page/n179/mode/2up

“Photograph by Frank M. Hallenbeck of CB&Q's Harrison St. Freight House in Chicago”

“Trucks unloading at the inbound freight house of the Illinois Central Railroad, South Water Street freight terminal, Chicago, Ill.”

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Posted by richhotrain on Sunday, September 18, 2016 10:46 AM

rcdrye

From what I understand -

Inbound freight house is where consignees picked up stuff.

Outbound freight house is where consignors dropped stuff off.

The "Freight House" is where stuff going from one carrier to another was exchanged.  Remember that all of this stuff was "Less than Carload" and could be transloaded several times between origin and destination. 

These functions were often combined in one building, with wagon/truck docks and storage/sorting areas, and elevators.  

Very interesting and informative. Thanks again, redrye.
 
Rich

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Posted by richhotrain on Sunday, September 18, 2016 10:47 AM

Thanks, wanswheel.  

That is a gold mine of information, and it will take me some time to get through it all. I very much appreciate it.

Rich

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Posted by pullman jct on Tuesday, October 04, 2016 2:09 PM

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.

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Posted by richhotrain on Tuesday, October 04, 2016 3:37 PM

pullman jct

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.

 

Once Monon vacated the freight house at Dearborn Station, did Monon only use Dearborn Station for its passenger trains?  No more freight transfers?

Rich

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Posted by pullman jct on Tuesday, October 04, 2016 3:52 PM

richhotrain
Once Monon vacated the freight house at Dearborn Station, did Monon only use Dearborn Station for its passenger trains?  No more freight transfers? Rich

Freight transfers to Dearborn ended with the opening of the South Hammond freight house. Other freight transfers out of South Hammond continued - BRC/Clearing, Union Stockyards, B&OCT/East Chicago, IHB/Calumet City, possibly a few others.

 

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Posted by wanswheel on Wednesday, October 12, 2016 8:49 PM
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Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, October 13, 2016 6:38 AM

Ahhh, the fabulous Pennsylvania RR Freight House !

Typical Chicago, and I say that as a native Chicagoan. 

Instead of treating the building as a landmark and national treasure, Chicago had the building demolished in the 1970s like so many other architectural keepsakes.

And what was it replaced with?  Nothing more than an electrical sub station gridwork.

Rich

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Posted by rcdrye on Thursday, October 13, 2016 6:56 AM

Love the train consist in the color photo!  That must have been taken in 1972 or 1973, when leased equipment was still common (the two MILW coaches and the IC car on the rear didn't enter the Amtrak fleet).  Odd as it may seem, I think the train is the Texas Chief, since Hi-Levels didn't stray much off the AT&SF until the Sunset got them in 1974 or 1975.  The IC E-units were among the first equipped with the "cab signal from hell" so AT&SF's ATC shouldn't have been a problem.

Still, in the background, the track space leading to the PRR freight house looks overgrown with weeds.  Several other class Is also gave up LCL in the 1968-1975 time frame - often coinciding with the end of passenger service, but not for the same reasons.  TOFC was the preferred replacement.

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Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, October 13, 2016 7:34 AM

rcdrye

Love the train consist in the color photo!  That must have been taken in 1972 or 1973, when leased equipment was still common (the two MILW coaches and the IC car on the rear didn't enter the Amtrak fleet).  

 

A caption for that photo shows March 25, 1972 as the date of the photo.

Rich

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, October 28, 2016 8:31 AM

I have been thinking more about the Dearborn Station freight houses, and I have been wondering about the switching operation. Since C&WI did the switching for the five owner roads, where did the owner roads drop off their freight cars.

Take C&EI as an example. A main line steamer would reach the C&WI 4-track mainline with a string of box cars destined for the Dearborn Station Wabash Inbound Freight House.  Would the main line steamer come right into the Dearborn Station yard limits? Would there be a drop off at the C&WI freight yard at 18th Street? Or would the C&EI freight train drop off its cars somewhere south of Alton Junction?

Rich

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Posted by rcdrye on Friday, October 28, 2016 8:42 AM

All of the owner railroads had local yards within a few miles of Dearborn (Monon's Hammond yard has already been mentioned) where the road engines would bring the LCL cars from other cities.  The owner railroads did their own switching at their freight houses, bringing in and taking out only those cars going to the freight houses.  C&WI handled passenger switching (except for Santa Fe), with its main coach yard and engine service facility at 47th St.  C&EI would bring the cut up from Dolton.  As far as I know, C&WI only used its small freight yard to receive cars destined for on line sidings.

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, October 28, 2016 10:42 AM

ahh, now that makes sense.  So, each of the five roads serviced their own freight houses with their own switchers?

As far as the C&WI freight yard at 18th Street, you mentioned that C&WI only used it to receive cars destined for on line sidings.  So, what you are referring to is trackside industries along the C&WI 4-track main line?

Rich

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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, September 16, 2017 4:42 PM

rcdrye

All of the owner railroads had local yards within a few miles of Dearborn (Monon's Hammond yard has already been mentioned) where the road engines would bring the LCL cars from other cities.  The owner railroads did their own switching at their freight houses, bringing in and taking out only those cars going to the freight houses.  C&WI handled passenger switching (except for Santa Fe), with its main coach yard and engine service facility at 47th St.  C&EI would bring the cut up from Dolton.  As far as I know, C&WI only used its small freight yard to receive cars destined for on line sidings.

 

rcdrye, back in October 2016, you mentioned that the C&EI brought its LCL cars up from its Dolton yard. I assume that those trips would be directly to the C&EI freight houses at Dearborn Station. Was the C&EI yard at 35th Street used as a coach yard for passenger cars or was that yard also a C&EI freight yard in addition to Dolton yard? I am curious as to whether the 35th Street yard was used to service the C&EI freight houses at Dearborn Station.

Rich

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Posted by BLS53 on Saturday, September 16, 2017 7:42 PM

I vaguely remember the REA. Didn't they have dark green "baggage" cars with a red herald that resembled MILW's?

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Posted by rcdrye on Monday, September 18, 2017 9:11 AM

Pretty sure the 35th St. yard is ex-Monon and C&EI passenger stuff was serviced with other Dearborn tenants at C&WI's coach yard.  C&EI was an owner of the Belt Railway of Chicago, so their transfer runs would also have gone to Clearing, or direct to other lines if the volume was high enough.

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Posted by richhotrain on Monday, September 18, 2017 9:34 AM

rcdrye

Pretty sure the 35th St. yard is ex-Monon and C&EI passenger stuff was serviced with other Dearborn tenants at C&WI's coach yard.  C&EI was an owner of the Belt Railway of Chicago, so their transfer runs would also have gone to Clearing, or direct to other lines if the volume was high enough.

 

Thanks, rcdrye. So, what was the purpose of the small C&EI freight yard at 35th Street? I have a map that shows the yard as a 12-track C&EI yard.

Rich

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Posted by rcdrye on Monday, September 18, 2017 11:06 AM

If it was a C&EI yard it was primarily for interchange with the Chicago River and Indiana line that crossed the C&WI at around 39th.  CR&I was owned by the New York Central System and was the line that handled just about all of the switching in the Union Stock Yards, which ran west and south of 39th and the C&WI.

It appears to be in use today for storage of empty well flats.  I wasn't positive the yard was Monon's (only "pretty sure") since Monon did run separate transfers from Hammond to interchange with CR&I.

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