Outlying Junctions

A somewhat arbitrary selection of junctions located between 50 and 125 miles of downtown Chicago. Junctions are listed in roughly west-to-east order.

Rochelle, Illinois

The well-known Rochelle Railroad Park is located at the crossing of Union Pacific's busy ex-Chicago & Northwestern main line to Omaha and BNSF's ex-Burlingtion route to the Twin Cities. The park features a viewing area under a canopy, a gift shop, restrooms and free parking. The viewing area is usually full of people, not all of whom are knowledgeable about railroads nor interested in the trains, and some purists still prefer the old viewing area in the northeast quadrant along the UP tracks. For full particulars about the park, go to: ROCHELLE RAILROAD PARK.

Kankakee, Illinois

Canadian National's ex-Illinois Central main line here crosses Norfolk Southern's ex-Conrail ex-NYC Kankakee Belt Line. In addition, short line Kankakee, Beaverville & Southern's track feeds into CN just south of the crossing. The KBS track is the former Conrail, NYC Big Four route to Lafayette, Indiana, and Indianapolis (the line is now abandoned south of Lafayette). Activity is moderate here; CN runs about 20 to 25 trains a day, including Amtrak's Illini, Saluki and City of New Orleans. The Belt usually sees fewer than ten trains, and KBS movements are rare--on some days there's no activity at all. However, there's often some action in the CN yard just north of the junction, and a connection in the northwest quadrant allows CN and NS to interchange cars here.

Because three lines meet here, this is an intriguing location, and in the old days it was much busier than it is today. Both IC and the Big Four were heavily trafficked, double track routes, with the latter using trackage rights on IC north of here to reach Chicago. Kankakee is thus a location that rail historians will find worthwhile, and evidence abounds that this was a much more extensive railroad center than it is now, e.g. a large open area along the KBS track just east of the junction indicates the presence of a yard that was torn up in the 1980s.

To reach the junction, exit I-57 at Illinois Rte. 17 (Court Street) and head west about two miles into town. Turn right at Schuyler Avenue and head north about a half mile. Turn left a block after the second rail crossing and proceed another block to the tracks. The junction is just to the south. Park along the street and stay well back from the tracks.

Danville, Illinois

Norfolk Southern's ex-Wabash main line here crosses CSX's ex-Chicago & Eastern Illinois main between Chicago and Evansville, Indiana. This is a busy spot featuring roughly 70 trains a day. In addition, there are connector tracks in the northwest quadrant and a small yard (North Yard) just north of the crossing. NS and CSX interchange here, so the action is not limited to road trains. This junction was formerly known simply as "North Yard" but NS has renamed it "Danville Junction". That sometimes causes confusion since the original Danville Junction was about a half mile south where NS crossed the ex-Conrail, ex-NYC Peoria & Eastern track (the diamonds were removed in 2005). The P&E track was purchased from CSX in 2003 by short line Vermilion Valley to serve some nearby industries. The VV line, however, ends about ten miles east of here. From there to Crawfordsville, Indiana, the P&E was abandoned by CR in the 1980s. On the other side of town, the P&E has also been taken up from a few miles west of Danville to Urbana, Illinois.

There was yet a third crossing, known as "Cory", just southeast of here where the CSX main crossed the former P&E. However, the diamond was removed in January, 2006. Just east of Cory, is the former C&EI passenger station. This once grand structure is now a dilapidated shell awaiting demolition.

A cabin once occupied the northeast quadrant of the junction but was demolished in the early 1990s; the junction is now remotely controlled by CSX dispatchers in Jacksonville, Florida. While NS is double track through here, CSX has reduced its presence to a single main. However, sidings can be found just a short distance away in both directions, and the north siding can be glimpsed from the junction area. Eastbound NS trains are ascending a one per cent grade here, and often must work hard to top the hill. An added feature is the presence of Indiana Railroad freights using trackage rights on CSX to reach their ex-Milwaukee Road rails at Terre Haute, Indiana. INRD bought the line from Canadian Pacific in 2005.

This location is highly recommended. To get here, exit I-74 at Bowman Avenue and head north about two and a half miles. After the third railroad crossing, turn left immediately at English Street and proceed one block to Martin Street. Turn left on Martin and then right just before the rail crossing. The junction is about a block. You will be in the northeast quadrant of the junction. There are no trespass signs but it is clearly railroad property. However, you can park well back from the tracks just off railroad property but within easy sight of both NS and CSX.

Momence, Illinois

This busy junction features the former Chicago & Eastern Illinois main line now jointly owned by Union Pacific and CSX; UP maintains the track and dispatches the traffic. To get here, take Illinois Rtes. 1 and 117 to Momence. You will be on the main north-south throughfare through town (Dixie Highway). At the north end of town, head east on Industrial Drive about a half mile to Railroad Street. Turn right and then left into the northwest quadrant of the junction.

The double track UP/CSX line crosses Norfolk Southern's single track ex-Conrail ex-NYC Kankakee Belt line. The joint line is by far the busiest featuring 40 to 50 trains a day, about evenly split between the two railroads. Indiana Railroad trains on trackage rights can also be seen here. INRD obtained the rights when they purchased Canadian Pacific's southern Indiana line between Terre Haute and Bedford, Indiana in 2005.

The Kankakee Line sees around eight to ten trains daily, and serves as a Chicago bypass for some BNSF trains that access the line at Streator, Illinois. They then head east through here to Schneider, Indiana, where they make a left turn and head north to the Hammond-East Chicago area. There, they can access CSX's Porter Branch or NS's Chicago Line and head further east to NS's huge classification yard at Elkhart, Indiana.

A little-used connector track occupies the southeast quandrant of the junction, and a tower once stood there as well. It was closed in the mid 1990s and demolished a couple of years later. The northwest quadrant is a spacious, open area and affords a good view of the action. It is railroad property but you can get a good view of the crossing by parking along the street. On some days, the joint line seems to be a feast-or-famine affair, with heavy activity for several hours followed by relative quiet for an hour or more.

Momence has another attraction for those with a special interest in rail photography. On an island in the middle of the Kankakee River is a park affording a great view of two bridges on which the UP/CSX line spans the river. Take Dixie Highway (Rtes. 1-17) to Mill Street and head east to the park and bridges--a distance of about a half mile. For a photo taken from this area, see the bottom of this page.

Woodland Junction, Illinois

Located just south of Woodland, Illinois, this was once an important site on the Chicago & Eastern Illinois railroad. Here their double track main line from Chicago splits into two single track mains. One heads southwest to Findlay, Illinois, the other south to Terre Haute and Evansville, Indiana. The Findlay line also splits, with one line going to St. Louis and the other headed further south, eventually connecting with the former Missouri Pacific main to Texas.

Today, nothing has changed except ownership. The C&EI was jointly purchased by Missouri Pacific and Louisville & Nashville in 1969, with MP acquiring the Findlay routes and sharing ownership with L&N of the double track main north of here to Chicago. L&N purchased the Evansville line which was later merged into the Seaboard System and is now CSX propery. In the 1980s Union Pacific acquired MP and as with its predecessor maintains and dispatches the route north of Woodland.

Crossovers on the double track main are located just north of the junction, enabling trains on either track to access the UP and CSX mains from the south. Over 40 trains a day can be seen here, although traffic often seems to move in bunches with quiet periods spaced throughout the day. A few Indiana Rail Road trains on trackage rights use the CSX line to reach their own tracks in southern Indiana.

The junction is located in a country setting, and access is easy. A county road crosses the tracks at the junction, and hence trespassing is not a problem. To reach here, take Illinois Rte. 1 to county road 1400N, about four miles south of US Rte. 24. Head west a couple of miles to the hamlet of Woodland. Cross the tracks and turn left immediately onto county road 2080E; the junction is about a mile. County road 1300N crosses the tracks and intersects 2080E just south of the junction.

Iroquois Junction, Illinois

In the good old days, it was here that the Milwaukee Road's line to southern Indiana crossed over the New York Central's Big Four line from Kankakee to Indianapolis. Today, both routes are the property of short line Kankakee, Beaverville & Southern, whose headquarters and shops are located here. A connector in the northwest quadrant climbs from the Big Four to the Milwaukee track. The KBS is a thriving railroad whose trackage consists of the former Big Four between Kankakee and Lafayette, Indiana, and the ex-Milwaukee from a point just north of here to Danville, Illinois, (the Milwaukee is gone from Danville south to Terre Haute, Indiana, as is the segment north to the Chicago area). It also operates a segment of the former Nickel Plate Peoria line between Cheneyville, Illinois, and Templeton, Indiana. The NKP track connects the Danville and Lafayette routes. KBS interchanges with Norfolk Southern at Lafayette, with NS and CSX at Danville and with Canadian National's ex-Illinois Central at Kankakee.

This is not the usual junction location. You won't see passing trains, but KBS's six rebuilt GP40 units (now designated GP38-2M) are kept here when not in use. Be sure and ask permission at the office before taking photographs. The office staff is friendly and helpful; they'll tell you where trains are running for the day and what customers are being serviced. The well-known Alco units used by KBS for many years have disappeared. Three were scrapped on site, and the rest have been sold. All but two of them were inoperable and spent their last years on the dead line just south of the shops area. The two remaining operable units were sold in 2005.

Iroquois Junction is located alongside US Rte. 52 between the towns of Donovan and Iroquois, Illinois. It is approximately 75 miles south of Chicago and just a few miles west of the Indiana border.

Lafayette, Indiana

Lafayette Junction

In 2002, Lafayette completed its lengthy and expensive railroad relocation project. Gone are the former Monon street-running trackage and the ex-Wabash main line through the center of town. In their place is a brand new rail corridor that resulted in the elimination of more than 40 grade crossings. The new corridor produced a drastic reshaping of Lafayette Junction. In the old days, the joint Nickel Plate/Big Four line first crossed the Monon, and then climbed to cross the Wabash a half mile further south. In the new alignment, all diamonds have been eliminated. CSX's ex-Monon single track main and Norfolk Southern's ex-Wabash double track main parallel each other through here. The NKP/Big Four route west of here now belongs to short line Kankakee, Beaverville & Southern, whose track enters the junction area from the west and parallels CSX for a short distance before feeding into the CSX main. A pair of crossovers then connects it with the NS tracks. NS still owns and operates the NKP east to Frankfort and Muncie, Indiana, but the Big Four to Indianapolis was abandoned by Conrail in the mid 1980s.

In the top photo, you're looking south. The CSX main is on the right. The two tracks on the left belong to NS. The crossover on the left marks the end of NS's double track main through town. Beyond the crossover, are two single track lines. The track on the right (with the train) is the ex-Wabash to Decatur, Illinois, and beyond. The lefthand track is the Frankfort-Muncie line. The Wabash is by far the busiest, featuring about 35 trains per day. The NKP sees perhaps six or eight trains, while the CSX main handles ten to twelve, including Amtrak's Cardinal and Hoosier State. During most of the year, a KBS turn comes to Lafayette three or four times a week, but KBS power is rarely seen at the junction. They usually pick up and set out cars west of here. Their track runs past the Purdue Airport at the west end of West Lafayette, and that's the best place to catch them.

In the photo at right, you're looking north. The NS double track main is on the right, the CSX main to its left, and the far left track is the KBS connection. The area just north of here was at one time a yard serving both the Nickel Plate and the Big Four. Westbound trains on NS are climbing a one per cent grade at this point, and some of the heavier trains can be seen (and heard) with throttles in run eight.

Both photos were taken from a new pedestrian bridge that crosses over the junction and offers a great view of train activity. Unfortunately for photographers, a six-foot tall chainlink fence has been installed, so for best results either a short stepladder or a small diameter lens is needed. However, reasonably good shots can be obtained at both sides of the fence. The bridge obviously poses no trespass problems and is highly recommended.

To reach here, exit I-65 at the Indiana Rte. 26 exit and head west about three miles into town. Turn left at 3rd Street and proceed about half a mile to Kossuth/Smith Street (it's Kossuth to the left, Smith to the right). Turn right on Smith and park. The sidewalk leads up to the pedestrian bridge.

Lafayette Transportation Center

A second pedestrian bridge over the rail corridor is located in downtown Lafayette. The bridge also crosses the Wabash River which parallels the rail corridor at this point. The former NKP/Big Four depot was moved two blocks to this site when the corridor was built. The Amtrak boarding platform is across the tracks from the station and accessed via the bridge which offers a wonderful view of the river and rail lines. The boarding platform can also be used if you want to see trains up close and personal.

The transportation center is located at Main and 2nd Streets. To get here, follow the directions given above, but instead of turning left at 3rd, continue one more block and turn right on 2nd. Do not use the parking lot there; it is private and requires a permit. Park on a nearby street or else use the parking garage at 2nd and Columbia. The cost is quite low for a downtown garage and is free on weekends.

Before the corridor was built, CSX trains used the Monon's track that ran down the middle of 5th Street. At 5th and North streets, the Monon's limestone station still stands and is now a theatre. For the half block in front of the station, the track remains in place as a reminder of the good old days--a nice touch by the relocation planners.

Michigan City, Indiana

South Shore Shops

The Chicago, South Shore & South Bend railroad's shops are located on Michigan City's east side at Carroll Avenue. The Carroll Avenue passenger station and parking lot is also here at the west end of the shops and yard areas. Crossing CSS just west of the station is the former Norfolk Southern ex-NKP line running southeast to La Porte and beyond. The line was purchased from NS by the South Shore freight operator (Anacostia and Pacific) in 2001. Ownership extends to Stillwell, Indiana, where the line crosses Canadian National's ex-GTW main line. The shops can be seen from the station and parking areas, but be careful to observe the trespass signs. Both passenger and freight equipment are on view and can be photographed with a telephoto lens. Since some of the passenger trains originate/terminate at Gary, traffic on the South Shore is moderate except at rush hours. Often, an eastbound passenger train will drop off some of its coaches here before proceeding to South Bend. Similarly, westbounds will often add coaches here. The ex-NKP line sees only occasional traffic.

To get here from Chicago, exit I-94 at US Rte. 421 and follow it into town to 11th Street, the street-running location of the South Shore track. Turn right on 11th and follow the track to Michigan Avenue, where the street-running ends. Continue to follow the track on nearby roads to Carroll Street. If you're coming from the east, exit at US Rte. 35 and take it to Carroll Avenue. Turn right and proceed about a half mile to the shops.

10th Street

Located on the west side of town, Amtrak's ex-NYC ex-Michigan Central main line to Detroit crosses the South Shore. Amtrak owns and operates the line from Porter Junction to Kalamazoo, Michigan, and it is their only major trackage beyond the Northeast Corridor. At one time, the Monon's Michigan City branch fed into the Amtrak line here, but the branch was abandoned back in the 1980s by the Seaboard System. The Amtrak line features the Detroit trains, the Blue Water to Port Huron and an occasional freight local. Except for rush hours, traffic on the South Shore is moderate.

Wellsboro, Indiana

A rural junction, Wellsboro has become a popular trainwatching location in recent years. Located at the east end of the hamlet of Union Mills, it is southeast of Michigan City and southwest of La Porte, Indiana. From either I-80/I-90 (the Indiana Tollroad) or I-94 (the Borman or Tri-State Expressway) exit at US Rte. 421 and head south to Westville, Indiana. Just south of Westville, US Rte. 6 splits from 421 and heads east. Follow it 6 miles and you will see a road sign announcing Union Mills with an arrow pointing right. Turn right on the indicated county road (400 West) and go south about a mile to the CSX tracks. Cross the tracks and take the first left. The junction is about a half mile.

Two double track lines intersect here. CSX's busy ex-B&O main line to the east coast crosses Canadian National's ex-GTW main from Port Huron, Michigan. The CSX tracks travel in a roughly east-west direction while CN enters the junction from the northeast and then heads in a westerly direction after crossing CSX. These are busy routes: over 50 trains a day can be seen on CSX, while CN's total often exceeds 30. Traffic across the diamonds is remotely controlled on a first-come-first-served basis. A tower once stood in the southwest quadrant, but was torn down many years ago and replaced with a storage trailer. After suffering severe damage during a thunderstorm in 2001, the trailer was removed.

In addition, an ex-Chesapeake & Ohio, ex-Pere Marquette branch enters from the south and curves east to join the CSX main. At one time, this line ran from La Crosse, Indiana, into Michigan, but it has been abandoned north of Wellsboro. CSX inherited this route, and called it the Wabash Sub. Until 1999, it crossed both the CN and CSX mains and then curved to the west to join CSX at a small yard west of the junction. Four diamonds, however, are expensive to maintain, and they were removed in favor of the present connection.

Until 2004, the Wabash Sub saw perhaps three or four turns a week and had two functions: to serve a large grain elevator northwest of La Crosse on what's left of the C&O main through Indiana, and to interchange with a short line at North Judson, Indiana, that operated east to an elevator at Monterrey on the only remaining segment of Erie-Lackawanna trackage in Indiana. However, the E-L trackage was abandoned in 2006, and in July, 2004, CSX sold the Wabash Sub. to the town of North Judson. It is now operated as the Chesapeake & Indiana (still labelled CSX on the map), and runs south from Wellsboro to to its headquarters in LaCrosse. From there it extends southeast to North Judson, Indiana (home of the Hoosier Valley Rail Museum) and northwest to Malden, Indiana to serve several industries including the elevator at Malden. The C&I is operated by Indiana Box Car Corporation (IBCX) and uses vintage EMD locomotives including several former EJ&E units.

The diamonds are surrounded by railroad property. Some visitors use the south quadrants, apparently without incident. However, to be safe, park away from railroad property and explore the area on foot, staying close to the street. The diamonds are about 30 yards away.

South Bend, Indiana

At Arnold Street, less than a mile west of downtown South Bend, Norfolk Southern's ex-Conrail ex-NYC Chicago Line joins with Canadian National's ex-GTW main line. From here eastward, the two railroads use common trackage on an elevation through downtown, then cross each other before diverging at an inaccessible location east of the downtown area. On a typical day, at least 90 trains pass through here--more than 60 on NS (including Amtrak's east coast trains) and around 30 on CN. Both roads occasionally have quiet periods, but during the busy times a train can be seen every 15 or 20 minutes. At one time, Arnold Street crossed both railroads but the crossing was closed in the late 1990s. The triangle formed by the two rail lines and the former Arnold Street crossing affords a fine view of the action, but unfortunately it is all railroad property. You might take a quick look from the former street crossing, but anything more would be trespassing.

From the Indiana Toll Road (I-80), exit at US Rte. 33 and head south through town about three and a half miles to Sample Street. Turn right on Sample and proceed about a mile to Arnold. Turn right on Arnold, take it till it ends and park. The junction is just ahead on your right.

From the US Rte. 20 bypass south of town, exit at the US Rte. 31 Business interchange and head north about three and a half miles to Sample. Turn left on Sample and follow the above directions.

From the US Rte. 31 bypass west of town, exit at Indiana Rte. 2 (Western Avenue) and head east about three miles to Olive Street. Turn right on Olive and proceed a half mile to Sample. Turn left on Sample, Arnold Street is about a mile. Turn left on Arnold, and take it till it ends.

Momence, Illinois, May, 2007.

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