The junction is located in the heart of Griffith, Indiana, a town of about 17,000 southwest of Gary and about 6 miles east of the Illinois state line. To get to the junction, take I-80/94 to Cline Avenue (Rte. 912) and proceed south to 45th Avenue. Turn left and then turn right at the next stoplight (Broad St.). The junction is about a mile. Turn left just before the rail crossing and park in front of some old railcars on display.
Canadian National's ex-Grand Trunk Western main line crosses the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern. CN acquired EJ&E (known simply as "The J") in January, 2009, so Griffith is now an all-CN location. Both lines are double track here. The GTW line enters the junction from the southeast and heads northwest toward Chicago. The J enters from the southwest, crosses GTW, and makes a 45 degree turn just past the diamonds. It then heads due north toward the lakefront and Kirk Yard, now CN's major Chicago area classification yard. Before the CN acquisition, the J saw about a dozen trains a day. It now sees more like 20 and that number will increase as CN upgrades other interlockings along the J's main line.
Griffith has become one of CN's most important interlockings in the Chicago area. The GTW line east of here sees around 25 trains a day, with most of them transferring to/from the J here in one of two ways. First, many WB trains on GTW will access the J main using a connection south of the two mains and continue west to Matteson or Joliet. At Matteson, trains can access CN's ex-Illinois Central and head north or south. At Joliet, trains can transfer to CN's ex-GM&O or else head north on the J main to Leithton where they access CN's ex-Wisconsin Central.
Other WB trains on GTW will use a connection constructed at the east end of the interlocking in 2011 and head north to to Kirk Yard (see map below). Located in Gary along the lakeshore, Kirk not only performs classification work formerly done at other area yards but also serves US Steel's Gary Works just to the east.
West of Griffith, only a few CN trains will continue on GTW. However, in 2013 CSX acquired operational control of GTW via an easement granted by CN from Chicago to Munster, about five miles west of here. They also acquired trackage rights on GTW from Munster the rest of the way to Griffith. Another new connection built in 2013 at the west end of the interlocking will enable both CSX and CN trains coming west from Barr and Clearing yards--as well as other points in the Chicago area--to easily access Kirk Yard.
CSX trackage rights actually extend east of Griffith on GTW all the way to Wellsboro Junction where a connection will be constructed permitting access to CSX's ex-B&O main line.
A small passenger station remains at the junction and has been converted into a museum which unfortunately is closed most of the time. In addition, an EJ&E caboose, tool car and transfer caboose are parked near the station. The tower, a nice looking brick structure, was closed in December, 1999, its functions taken over by CN and EJ&E dispatchers. Fortunately, it has been preserved and in July 2000 was moved across the tracks to the museum area. For more on the junction site and tower, see the Griffith Historical Society website.
Griffith is a location of major historical interest. Until the early 1980's, the double track Erie Lackawanna route and Chessie System's ex-Chesapeake & Ohio line from Cincinnati entered from the south-southeast. They joined together, crossed both the J and GTW, and then headed in a northwesterly direction toward Hammond, Indiana, using Chicago & Western Indiana tracks from there into Chicago. Some of the diamonds were actually in Broad Street, making maintenance a difficult chore. In addition, a Conrail branch line to Joliet (ex-NYC, ex-MC) entered the junction from the northeast and paralleled the J to the southwest. It crossed the J about a quarter- mile northeast of the junction, and then crossed CN, Erie and C&O at the junction. If all that weren't enough, the J had a line heading east from Griffith to Porter Junction, about 20 miles. Griffith must have been a sight to see back in the Golden Age.
All of these lines are gone now. Two shortline operators tried to revive the Erie, but both failed and the tracks were removed in 1984. A brief segment of the Erie remained north of the junction to serve a local industry but in 2011 it ceased rail deliveries and the track has been removed. A short stretch of the C&O is still intact to the south and serves a chemical plant about a mile away.
The junction is at Broad Street and adjacent to the museum in downtown Griffith, so access is not a problem. Parking is provided by the museum. Broad Street is a very busy thoroughfare, so caution is needed if you plan to spend any time on the sidewalks. There are trespass signs along the tracks, and the CN police can be tough on trespassers. So within the museum area it's a good idea to stand well back from the tracks. The curve from north-south to northeast-southwest on the J main makes for some nice photography in late afternoon.
For other CN (ex-GTW) junctions, see the Blue Island, Hayford and Spriggsboro pages. See also Thornton and Harvey at the Other South Suburban page.
For other CN (ex-EJ&E) junctions, see the Matteson, Chicago Heights, 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 and Leithton et al. at the Other North/Northwest Suburban page..
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