Canadian National's acquisition of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern has produced major changes in CN's Chicago area plant. The EJ&E route is now CN's main line through the Chicago area, linking its ex-Wisconsin Central with the former Illinois Central and with its Grand Trunk Western subsidiary. The WC connects with the J at Leithton, the IC at Matteson and GTW at Griffith.
This is comprised of the former EJ&E Western Sub stretching from Waukegan to Joliet, passing through Leithton, Munger, West Chicago, and Eola. CN has upgraded the sub with CTC. At Leithton, a connection in the northwest quadrant enables trains coming south from Wisconsin to access the J. CN has double tracked the connection and broadened the curvature to allow faster speeds. Nearly all southbound WC trains transfer to the J, with only two or three continuing south on the Waukesha sub. About 20 trains will use the connection. Further south (tt east) on the Leithton, traffic is expected to increase, with around 25 trains a day at Turner (West Chicago). No commuter or Amtrak trains use the Leithton Sub.
This is the former EJ&E Eastern Sub running east from Joliet through Matteson, Chicago Heights, Dyer and Griffith to Kirk Yard, now CN's major classification yard in the Chicago area. The line has been converted to CTC operation. At Matteson, CN has built an elaborate double track connection between the J and the IC main, with wyes at both ends. Trains on the J can head either north to Markham yard and the Moyers intermodal terminal or south to Memphis and New Orleans. At Griffith, a second connection between the J and GTW was constructed, with the result that WB trains on GTW can either head west on the J to Matteson and Joliet or north on the J to Kirk Yard. Very few trains now continue west on GTW's Elsdon sub. Between Joliet and Matteson, about 25 trains a day use the Matteson sub, with as many as 30 between Matteson and Griffith. No Amtrak or commuter trains use the Matteson Sub.
This is the former Illinois Central main line to Memphis and New Orleans. The Chicago Sub extends from 16th Street Crossing to Champaign, Illinois, passing through Kensington, Homewood, Matteson and Kankakee. With the acquisition of the J, traffic has diminished sharply between 16th and 95th streets and eventually CN will abandon (or possibly sell) most or all of this segment. From Homewood south, however, about 15-20 trains can be seen, with even more south of Matteson. Metra Electric's busy University Park line (also an ex-IC property) runs right alongside but is operated independently. Amtrak trains to Carbondale, Illinois, and New Orleans also use the Chicago Sub.
This ex-Grand Trunk Western main extends from the south side of Chicago to Griffith Junction, and traverses Hayford Junction, Ashburn, Blue Island Crossing, Thornton Junction and Munster, where CSX's Monon Sub joins it. The Elsdon once saw around 30 trains a day, but with the restructuring of the J, only a few CN trains will use it west from Griffith. However, in 2013 CSX was granted an easement on this property by CN from Chicago to Munster, which means that CSX will completely control and operate it (although CN will continue to own it). Hence traffic is still significant on the Elsdon Sub, although less than the 30 trains it once saw. CN will continue to own and operate the Munster-Griffith segment, but CSX has trackage rights on it. No commuter or Amtrak trains travel the route. The South Bend Sub runs from Griffith to South Bend, passing through Wayne Junction and Wellsboro. From there, the GTW route heads northeast to Durand, Michigan where it splits, with one line running southeast to Detroit and the other heading east through Port Huron into Canada.
This is the former Wisconsin Central / Soo Line route between Chicago (roughly the Forest Park area) and Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. North of Fond du Lac the route extends to Superior, Wisconsin, and the Twin Cities. Upon entering the Chicago area, it passes through Leithton Junction, Deval Crossing and the busy Franklin Park interlocking. About 20 CN freights a day can be seen on the Waukesha with nearly all transferring to the J at Leithton. From Franklin Park north to Antioch, Illinois, Metra's North Central commuter trains use the line. There is no Amtrak service.
The Freeport Sub is another ex-IC route, and runs between 16th Street crossing on Chicago's near south side and Freeport, Illinois. Beyond there, the line runs west through Iowa, terminating at Council Bluffs. It enters the area at Munger, passing through LaVergne, Hawthorne, Bridgeport and 21st Street. West of Bridgeport with its connection to the IHB, this line sees considerably less traffic, with no commuter or Amtrak trains.
This former Gulf, Mobile & Ohio (and before that, Chicago & Alton) route connects Chicago and St. Louis, The Joliet Sub extends from a point just north of Joliet station to the near south side of Chicago, passing through Argo, Brighton Park and ending at Bridgeport. South of Joliet, the line is owned and operated by Union Pacific (also called the "Joliet Sub") and extends to St.Louis. This line sees little freight traffic, but has increased somewhat since the J was acquired and UP opened its Global IV intermodal yard. Mostly it is used by Amtrak's St.Louis trains and Metra's weekday-only Heritage Corridor trains which terminate at Joliet.
Kirk YardThe former EJ&E Kirk Yard, located on the lakefront in Gary, Indiana, has replaced Glenn as CN's major Chicago area classification facility. The J's East Joliet Yard has been expanded and reconfigured; it is now second in importance only to Kirk. Glenn Yard has been downgraded to local service, and Hawthorne — on the ex-IC Iowa line — has also been downgraded. The former IC Markham Yard in Homewood has been scaled back as well, in favor of an expanded Moyers intermodal terminal.
All of CN's trackage in the United States is dispatched from Homewood, Illinois. Most of the Elsdon Sub is dispatched by CSX under the terms of the easement granted them by CN in 2013.
For many years, CN trains have used trackage rights on the congested IHB main, accessing it from the Waukesha sub at Franklin Park, the Freeport sub at Broadview and the Joliet sub at Argo. However, because of their infrastructure improvements on the EJ&E, CN has greatly reduced their use of these rights.
South of Franklin Park, the Waukesha sub sees little if any traffic. It's possible this segment of the Waukesha will be sold off. Also, the Freeport between 21st and 16th streets has been single-tracked and will eventually be abandoned.
Ultimately, CN would like to abandon the Chicago sub from 16th to at least Grand Crossing (75th Street), but until new access to the Chicago sub is built for Amtrak trains running on the ex-IC, it will remain in operation.