Chicago Heights

Location

Sometimes referred to as "Jay Tower," this junction is on the south side of Chicago Heights, a large suburb about 30 miles south of downtown Chicago. From Illinois Rte. 394--the southern extension of the Bishop Ford (or Calumet) Expressway--exit at US Rte. 30. Go west about three miles to East End Avenue (there's a stoplight there and a railroad bridge crosses Rte. 30 just beyond East End). Turn left and head south about a mile to a double track rail crossing.

The Railroads

A Union Pacific/CSX main line from the south (formerly Chicago & Eastern Illinois) crosses Canadian National's east-west Elgin, Joliet & Eastern main. The former line is jointly owned by UP and CSX from Dolton south to Woodland Jct (although UP dispatches and maintains it) where the line splits. From Woodland, the UP line heads southwest to St.Louis while the CSX line runs south to Terre Haute and Evansville, Indiana. A few Indiana Rail Road trains can also be seen here on haulage rights. They operate via CSX to Terre Haute, where they reach their own (ex-Milwaukee Road) rails that were purchased from Canadian Pacific in 2005.

The UP/CSX route is a busy, double track line--around 40 trains a day on average--but has quiet periods with little traffic. The EJ&E (or just "The J") is also double track and before the CN acquisition saw about a dozen trains a day, some of them UP and Canadian National run-throughs. By 2013, however, CN's integration of the J into their system has increased traffic to over 20 trains. The increase is easily explained: east of here, CN trains on the former Grand Trunk Western access the J at Griffith, and at Matteson to the west CN trains can transfer to the ex-Illinois Central main. Moreover, at Leithton to the north, the J connects with CN's ex-Wisconsin Central main. UP trains continue to exercise trackage rights on the J, accessing it both here and at West Chicago. A connection in the southeast quadrant provides access for the UP trackage rights movements and is also used by CN/EJE trains to reach a small UP yard to the south. CN in turn has trackage rights on UP, and their trains from the south can head east from here on the J. The northwest quadrant once contained a connector, but it is now just a stub used by the J to store MOW equipment. The tower, labelled "Jay," was shut down in 1993, but stood here until 2012 when it was demolished. It was in the southwest quadrant and was operated by the J.

Frequencies

UP: 160.410, 160.470
EJ&E: 160.350

Accessibility

There is a large open area in the southwest quadrant but it is railroad property and hence off limits. Your only alternatives are to stand along East End Avenue, just east of the crossing, or along 23rd Street to the south. The neighborhood around the junction is a bit seedy but seems reasonably safe.

For more on UP (ex-C&EI) junctions, see Dolton Junction and Thornton Junction on the Other South Suburban page. See also the Outlying Junctions page for Woodland Junction and Momence.

For more on the CN/EJE main line, see the Griffith, Matteson, Turner (West Chicago) and Rondout pages. See also Van Loon and Pine at the Other Northwest Indiana page, Eola at the Other West/Southwest Suburban page, and Leithton, Barrington, et al. at the Other North/Northwest Suburban page.

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