Located in Des Plaines, Deval's triangle of diamonds surely makes it the most unusual location in the northwest suburbs. It is also one of the busier locations in that part of the Chicago metropolitan area.


Three lines intersect here, forming a triangle of diamonds — each a couple hundred yards apart.

Union Pacific Harvard Subdivision

This triple-track line serves as Metra's UP Northwest Line. The name is accurate; the line runs consistently in a northwesterly direction from Chicago to Harvard, near the Illinois/Wisconsin state line. Metra service ends at Harvard. 

Traffic on the Harvard Sub is almost entirely made up of commuter trains (referred to as "scoots" by railroaders). Service is generally hourly during midday and weekends, and additional service at rush hours. Most  commuter trains terminate at Crystal Lake, though some continue onward to Harvard near the Wisconsin state line. Freight service is infrequent, and consists primarily of freight trains connecting UP's Proviso Yard with the Wisconsin cities of Janesville and Madison. These trains bypass Deval using a connection between Norma (on the Milwaukee Sub) and Seeger (on the Harvard Sub).

Union Pacific Milwaukee Subdivision

This double-track line is also a former C&NW line. Known as the "New Line" during C&NW years, the line was built during the early 20th century as a route for C&NW freight traffic between Proviso Yard and Milwaukee and other more northerly points.

The so-called "Old Line" is what's known as the UP Kenosha Subdivision, which is the Metra UP North Line. The North Western sought a bypass to avoid interference with passenger service along the "Old Line," and to facilitate Proviso replacing older, less-efficient yards on Chicago's West Side, and C&NW built the New Line in several steps that ultimately created a freight-only route between the outskirts of Chicago and the outskirts of Milwaukee. At the time the New Line was being built, it was owned by a paper subsidiary known as the Des Plaines Valley Railway, which gave its name to the Deval interlocking tower.

Around the same time, Milwaukee Road predecessor Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul (CM&StP) also built a massive suburban yard on what was then vacant land east of Bensenville. The railroad sought a bypass away from its own congested trackage via Tower A-5 in Chicago. See North Side (various) for information on that location.

The "St. Paul" and C&NW negotiated a trackage rights agreement using the New Line. Over time, the "St. Paul" became the Milwaukee Road, officially Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific. After bankruptcy and merger, this became the Soo Line, and subsequently long-time corporate parent Canadian Pacific retired the Soo Line name. Over a century after the trackage rights agreement began, CP trains are still plentiful on the "New Line", now officially the Union Pacific Milwaukee Subdivision.

The south end of the trackage rights is found at Bryn Mawr interlocking at the west end of O'Hare Airport, a point near where the line curves to the northeast.  After passing through Deval, the Milwaukee Sub reaches a point known as Shermer, where CP trains diverge, connecting to that railroad's  C&M Subdivision at Techny (Tower A-20) – see North and Northwest suburbs (various) for a description of that location. UP trains continue northeasterly toward Valley Jct., which is described on the same page as Techny.

The Milwaukee Subdivision hosts both UP and CP freights, mostly the latter. There has never been scheduled passenger service on this line.

Canadian National Waukesha Subdivision

This former Soo Line route connects Chicago with Fond du Lac, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Duluth-Superior, and runs virtually north/south through Deval.

After Soo acquired the estate of the bankrupt Milwaukee Road during the Eighties, it deemed this route redundant, and it was spun off to a startup. Fittingly, the new company adopted the line's historical name of Wisconsin Central. This line became part of CN after that railroad acquired WC assets in 2001. The significance of this acquisition is that it closed the "missing link" that CN needed in order to complete a T-shaped network with the Pacific and Atlantic ports forming the top of the "T", and the Gulf of Mexico ports (served by former Illinois Central trackage) at the bottom.

Not surprisingly, Chicago found itself in a position of importance once the "T" was completed, but Chicago's legendary congestion led to CN's acquisition of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern in 2009. New connections at Griffith, Matteson, and Leithton allow CN trains to bypass Chicago via former EJ&E rails and connect to its former GTW, IC, and WC lines (respectively) at the above-named points.

As a result, most CN traffic on the ex-WC is diverted onto the "J" at Leithton (about 15 miles north of Deval), leading to a decline in CN traffic through Deval.

In 1996, Metra established its "North Central Line" using the then-Wisconsin Central. This service is the only new route added to the Metra network since the agency's formation. No North Central service runs on weekends and holidays, and there is no station on the North Central line reasonably close to Deval.

Track plan that hung inside Deval Tower. From Jon R. Roma collection.
Deval Tower was a handsome structure located along the UP and CN crossing near the southeast corner of the Deval triangle. The former C&NW tower was staffed by C&NW (and later UP) employees. In May 2005, a fire led to the retirement of the interlocking machine, and the plant later became remote control. The tower was demolished in November 2012.


Metra/UP Northwest: 161.040
CN/WC 161.295, 160.215
UP New Line: 160.485, 161.040


In addition to driving to Deval, the junctions can also be reached by taking a Metra/UP Northwest Line commuter train from the Ogilvie Transportation Center in downtown Chicago (Madison and Canal Streets). Disembark at the Des Plaines station. Deval is about a half mile to the northwest.

Please note that there are no public crossings of the railroad between downtown Des Plaines and the three crossings: Plan accordingly to choose a safe and legal walking route.

If you follow the above directions for getting here by auto, you will be near the southwest quadrant of the CN/WC and UP/Northwest diamonds. This location is not ideal, but is the best available for that crossing.

For the UP/NW and UP/New Line crossing, some visitors park on North Avenue and walk north along the west side of the industrial building to the UP/NW tracks.

For more on CN/WC, see Franklin Park. See also Leithton at North and northwest suburbs (various).

For more on the Metra/UP Northwest Line, see Mayfair and Clybourn at North Side (various). See also Barrington at North and northwest suburbs (various).

For more on UP's Milwaukee Subdivision (formerly the C&NW New Line), see Bensenville and Bryn Mawr. See also Techny and Valley Junction at North and northwest suburbs (various).


Popular posts from this blog

A tribute to Bill Gustason and the Chicago Rail Junctions website

A hint for mobile users