An in-depth look at some busy rail crossings in the
Chicago area and northwest Indiana, two of the most
densely packed railroad regions in the United States.
Indiana Harbor Belt GP40-2s haul a train through
busy Dolton Junction. The Geeps were purchased from
Union Pacific and rebuilt by GE Mexico in 2002-2003.
For each crossing, the railroads will be identified and the location described. Information concerning accessibility is included, and historical background is provided as well. Junctions that are not very busy, difficult to access or located in unsafe areas are very briefly covered or else left out entirely. All but four of the junctions described here are crossings at grade.
Maps of the more complex junctions are included. Thanks to DeLorme Street Atlas for providing the basic format. Also deserving of thanks are the many railroaders and railfans who have provided updates over the years. There are too many names to list here, but special thanks go to Ralph Eisenbrandt, Doug Kaniuk, Ed Kaplan, Andre Kristopans and J.D. (Tuch) Santucci.
Railroads and local authorities continue to tighten security throughout the Chicago area. Please note the following comments:
LOCATIONS MARKED WITH AN ASTERISK (*) OFFER LEGAL ACCESS. SEE THE ACCESSIBILITY SECTION OF
THESE PAGES FOR DETAILS. IN A FEW CASES ACCESS IS DIFFICULT.
LOCATIONS WITHOUT AN ASTERISK POSE TRESPASS, SIGHTLINE AND/OR SAFETY PROBLEMS, ALTHOUGH IN SOME CASES A QUICK LOOK OR DRIVE-BY IS POSSIBLE. THESE LOCATIONS ARE INCLUDED HERE FOR YOUR INFORMATION ONLY.
As always, keep these pointers in mind:
1. stand back from the tracks, at least 20 feet,
2. do not cross the tracks unless you are using a public sidewalk or road,
3. be courteous and respectful to all rail personnel, including security officers.
In January, 2009, the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern was acquired by Canadian National. Consequently, several pages on this site have been revised and information about CN's plans at various interlockings has been added. Look especially at the Griffith, Matteson, Other North/Northwest (Leithton) and Class 1 Routes pages. Check back often for updates.
CN did not acquire all of EJ&E. Trackage east of Kirk Yard into US Steel's Gary Works will be continue to be USS property and has been renamed Gary Railway.
Although rail traffic has increased since 2009, it is still below pre-recession numbers. Train frequency figures provided on these pages should be scaled back by about ten percent.
Listed in east-to-west order, the second, fifth and seventh locations are among the premier sites in the Chicago area. Burnham features the South Shore commuter line. Canadian National's former Illinois Central main and the ex-IC electric commuter route are at Homewood. Matteson is the site of a complex connection between CN/IC and CN/EJE.
Junctions are listed in roughly east-to-west order. Porter and Indiana Harbor are among the busiest in the area. Because of an Indiana state law prohibiting the use of portable scanners, frequencies are not listed.
The Belt Railway of Chicago has acquired several heavily
ballasted GP38-2s like this one seen idling in South Chicago
The number of south side junctions approaches infinity. Many locations are given only brief coverage here because of difficult access and/or safety considerations. The third and fourth listings are especially worthwhile, and 21st Street is of historical interest. Junctions are listed in roughly north-to-south order.
Listed in east-to-west sequence, the first location is in the nearby suburb of Berwyn, the third in the outlying town of West Chicago. La Grange is one of the busiest crossings in the Chicago area.
A pair of South Shore GP38-2s haul a transfer through Dolton.
The lead unit is in their older paint scheme (lettered South Shore Line),
but the rear unit wears their current livery (lettered South Shore Freight).
The first three locations are listed in north-to-south order, the fourth is near O'Hare Airport. Franklin Park is of special interest.
There aren't nearly as many junctions on the north side as on the south, and the busiest ones feature mostly passenger trains. The premier locations are:
Click here for selected locations between 50 and 125 miles from downtown Chicago. Of special interest are Wellsboro*, Lafayette*, Danville* and South Bend. Coverage also includes Kankakee*, Rochelle*, Momence*, Woodland*, Iroquois and Michigan City*.Wellsboro: crossing of the CSX main that passes through Blue Island, Dolton, State Line, Pine and Willow Creek, and the CN main that traverses Hayford, Blue Island, Griffith and Wayne / Spriggsboro. The Chesapeake & Indiana shortline terminates here.
Click here for a detailed look at the six Class 1 railroads that operate in and around the Chicago area. Chicago's Metra commuter operations are included as well.
Click here for links to other sites devoted to Chicago railroads. General directories for rail websites are listed too. Some recommended books and tapes about Chicago railroading are featured as well.
ALSO INCLUDED: Current locomotive rosters for the Indiana Harbor Belt and Belt Railway of Chicago.
NOTICE: The texts and photographs on this website are free for the taking as long as it is for your own personal use. If however any material from this site is downloaded for public use, whether in print or verbally or on the internet, the source of the information should be publicly acknowledged. No material taken from this site may be used on a for-profit basis without the author's written approval. This prohibition applies to everyone, including publishers and authors of rail-related books, videotapes and DVDs.
Last updated February 2014.