"Connects with all Chicago railroads"

Welcome to the Indiana Harbor Belt archive. Rosters, historical information, maps and photographs are available here for those interested in the nation's largest terminal railroad (nearly 400 track miles). The IHB operates as an independent road even though it is jointly owned by Conrail Shared Assets (51%) and Canadian Pacific (49%). However, Conrail's seats on IHB's board of directors are occupied on a 50-50 basis by executives of CSX and Norfolk Southern who provide governance and oversee operations. Conrail's IHB holdings trace back to Penn Central and before that, to New York Central who funded the creation of IHB out of several smaller railroads in 1907. Canadian Pacific's stake came from Soo Line, who had inherited it from Milwaukee Road. IHB is officially classified as a Class III railroad.








This is not the official IHB website; to reach it, go to the Links page.

The IHB main line extends 39.4 miles from Ivanhoe on the west side of Gary, Indiana, to Franklin Park, Illinois, near O'Hare Airport. It runs west from Ivanhoe through Gibson (Hammond, Indiana) to Blue Island, Illinois. There, it heads northwest and then north through Chicago's western suburbs. It is mostly double track, and even the single track segment has one or more running tracks alongside. From Blue Island to a point near McCook, Illinois, the track and infrastructure are owned and maintained by CSX subsidiary, Baltimore & Ohio Chicago Terminal. However, IHB dispatches the entire route. In addition, the 7.1 miles of main line from Ivanhoe to Calumet Park, Illinois, is operated on a long-term lease agreement. From Calumet Park to Blue Island, and from McCook to Franklin Park, the track is owned outright by the Harbor.

IHB has another major route known as the Kankakee Line. It extends south from the lakefront at Indiana Harbor (East Chicago, Indiana) to a point near the crossing of the now-abandoned Erie-Lackawanna railroad, a distance of about seven miles. The main and Kankakee lines cross in Hammond, Indiana at Gibson Junction, where the IHB shops are located. The IHB's headquarters building is also at Gibson.

Blue Island Yard, located near Riverdale, Illinois, is the heart and soul of the IHB. It is one of the largest and busiest yards in the Chicago area with 44 classification tracks and a hump for eastbound traffic. It is a major destination and origination point for most of the Class I railroads.

There are several other major yards as well. Gibson Yard in Hammond handles auto rack cars exclusively. IHB's shops, headquarters and servicing facilities are located at the east end of the yard. Michigan Avenue Yard in East Chicago marshals traffic for the steel industries along Lake Michigan, as does Lakefront Yard in the Indiana Harbor area. Lakefront also serves as an interchange point with other area railroads. Argo Yard serves the huge Corn Products plant near McCook, Illinois. Smaller yards like Burnham and Norpaul serve local industries and build transfer movements.

Approximately 40% of the Harbor's revenue is derived from transfer traffic between other railroads together with switching and trackage rights fees. The remaining 60% comes from online industries, and about half of that is related to the steel industry. A large chunk of the rest is derived from grain processing plants throughout the Chicago area.

This website was originally developed by our friend "Lightnin" and many of his fine photographs have been retained. He was a great help in expanding the Archive. Sadly, he passed away in March, 2016, and this site is now dedicated to his memory. Thanks go also to Spence Ziegler, whose collaboration in developing the website was essential. It is hoped that you will enjoy looking through these pages and encourage everyone who has IHB-related photos and data to submit them for posting. More photos will be added in the future and other pages will be updated frequently. Check back with us often.

NOTE: In February, 2017 IHB announced that their SW1500 and GP40-2 units will be converted to dual fuel operation using compressed natural gas and diesel fuel. This is a major step forward since as of this date no other railroad has committed to using CNG on such a large scale.

As of November, 2017 two former SW1500s (now designated RP15BDF) have arrived back at IHB outfitted for diesel/CNG operation. As of this writing, they are undergoing tests. More SW1500s are slated for conversion and are being sent to the builder. Temporary replacements include two leased GP38-2 units and five SW1500s from CIT. For more information and photos of dual fuel units, go to the Photos page and click on Photos of Gensets and Dual Fuel Locomotives.

--Bill Gustason. Last updated November, 2017.

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