Known also as "CP Canal" in the Indiana Harbor Belt timetable, Argo is located directly west of Midway Airport and about a mile from the west entrance to Clearing Yard. The junction can be reached by exiting the Stevenson Expressway at Central Avenue and heading south to Archer Road. Turn right on Archer. A short ways past Harlem Avenue, Archer curves left (do not go straight). Turn right at 59th Street and take it till it ends at a railroad. The crossing is about a quarter of a mile to your left but is not legally accessible. If you come here, remain at the foot of 59th Street.
The joint Indiana Harbor Belt/CSX line that runs northwest from Blue Island crosses Canadian National's ex-Illinois Central, ex-GM&O line to Joliet (the line is owned by Union Pacific from there to St.Louis). Both lines are double track and the joint line is one of the busier lines in the area. It's the same line that passes through LaGrange, Chicago Ridge and McCook--which is just across the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to the west--and terminates at the northern suburb of Franklin Park. Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific trains can also be seen on this route. The CN line sees a fair amount of traffic too, including Amtrak's Chicago-St.Louis trains and UP freights. An IHB branch from the east curves around and feeds into the joint line about a half mile east of here. There are connectors in the northeast and southeast quadrants. In 2002, a third connection was built in the northwest quadrant to enable CN trains coming south on the joint line to access CN's Glenn Yard a few miles east of here. However, with CN's purchase of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern in 2009, CN traffic on IHB/CSX will dwindle to near zero when CN's revamping of the EJ&E is finished.
Argo Tower (also known as C&A Tower) was closed in 1993 and torn down soon after. The joint line is the major player here, but both it and CN can be better viewed elsewhere--CN at Brighton Park where traffic is heavier, and the joint line at Blue Island and LaGrange.
The southwest suburb of Chicago Ridge is not easily reached from downtown Chicago. Take the Dan Ryan Expressway (I-90/94), then I-57 to 111th Street. Turn right to Vincennes Avenue, then left to Monterey Avenue. Turn right and you'll be back on 111th in a few blocks. Head west about five miles to Ridgeland Avenue. Turn right, the junction is about a mile. Not only is it hard to reach, but the diamonds are on railroad property and hence off limits. Still, you can get a fairly good view of the action from Ridgeland.
A less hectic way of getting here is to take an Orland Park commuter train from Union Station, but unfortunately they run mostly during rush hours on weekdays and only occasionally on weekends. The Chicago Ridge station is just two blocks west of the junction.
Two double track lines cross here. The Indiana Harbor Belt/CSX joint line crosses Norfolk Southern's ex-Wabash main line that formerly ran to St.Louis. Now, it terminates at Manhattan, Illinois, about 25 miles south of here. The joint line is by far the busiest, and is the same line that runs from Blue Island through Argo, McCook and LaGrange. Some NS freights use a connector track in the northeast quadrant to access the joint line. There is another connector in the southwest quadrant, but it appears to be out of service. A tower once stood in the northwest quadrant, but it was closed in 1994 and later demolished.
Traffic overall is probably in the range of 60 to 65 trains a day, including the commuter trains on NS. Most of it is on the joint line, and there are more accomodating places to see it, such as LaGrange and Blue Island. The NS line sees a greater amount of traffic at Ashburn on Chicago's south side.
BNSF's ex-Burlington Northern "racetrack" passes underneath Canadian National's former Elgin, Joliet & Eastern main line. A viewing area is located just south of the BNSF tracks (from Eola Road, head west briefly on Waterstone Drive and then take Old Eola Road north till it ends). "The J" was acquired by CN in January, 2009, and when upgrading is finished in 2011, will become their main line through the Chicago area. BNSF connects with the J here using wye tracks in the northwest and southwest quadrants. The J uses them to interchange with BNSF at Eola Yard just to the west, and BNSF trains with trackage rights on the J also use them. The J's bridge over BNSF is unfortunately nearly a half mile east of the viewing area described above. It is difficult to get closer to the bridge without trespassing. BNSF has by far the most trains, with freights, Metra commuter trains and Amtrak trains running through here often. However, by 2011 traffic will increase sharply on CN/EJE from about ten to nearly 30 trains daily. In addition to its own trains, the J occasionally features Union Pacific movements on trackage rights. The CN/EJE main line is better viewed at Turner to the north and at Griffith to the east.
Although not a junction, this is a popular trainwatching spot for Union Pacific's ex-Chicago & North Western triple track West Line to West Chicago and beyond. UP's massive Proviso Yard begins less than a mile east of here, and heavy freight traffic as well as the Metra/UP West Line commuter trains can be seen here. As the photo at right indicates, UP continues the C&NW practice of running their trains left-handed.
To reach here, take the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) from downtown Chicago and exit at St. Charles Road. Head west to York Street--about a half mile or so. Turn right, the tracks are another half mile. If you're coming from the south on the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), you can transfer to the Eisenhower and continue another mile to the St. Charles exit.
The station and platform areas provide a pleasant setting. The platforms have benches and the area is nicely landscaped. Since the station is in downtown Elmhurst, food and drink are available nearby. You can also walk or drive further east and approach the point where the passenger bypass tracks and the lead tracks to Proviso part company. Unless you have a penchant for commuter trains, avoid coming here during rush hours. The heaviest freight action usually occurs just before--or after--the evening rush.
McCook is just across the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal from Argo Crossing--the two junctions are only a half mile apart. The IHB/CSX joint line that runs through Argo is here crossed at grade by BNSF's ex-Santa Fe main line. Both lines are quite busy, and there are connector tracks in two of the four quadrants. So McCook should be one of the best places in the Chicago area, right? Unfortunately, access is very difficult and the surrounding area is restricted to rail employees. In any case, the joint line can be easily accessed at places like Blue Island and LaGrange, and the former Santa Fe line at Joliet Station.
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