Outlying locations (Illinois)

Outlying locations (Illinois)

A somewhat arbitrary selection of junctions located between 50 and 125 miles of downtown Chicago. Junctions are listed in roughly west-to-east order.

Rochelle, Illinois

The well-known Rochelle Railroad Park is located at the crossing of Union Pacific's busy ex-Chicago & North Western main line to Omaha and BNSF's ex-Burlington route to the Twin Cities. The park features a viewing area under a canopy, a gift shop, restrooms and free parking. The viewing area is usually full of people, not all of whom are knowledgeable about railroads nor interested in the trains, and some purists still prefer the old viewing area in the northeast quadrant along the UP tracks. For full particulars about the park, see Rochelle Railroad Park.

Kankakee, Illinois

Canadian National's ex-Illinois Central main line here crosses Norfolk Southern's ex-Conrail ex-NYC Kankakee Belt Line. In addition, short line Kankakee, Beaverville & Southern's track feeds into CN just south of the crossing. The KBS track is the former Conrail, NYC Big Four route to Lafayette, Indiana, and Indianapolis (the line is now abandoned south of Lafayette). Activity is moderate here; CN runs about 20 or so trains a day, including Amtrak's IlliniSaluki and City of New Orleans. The Belt usually sees around eight trains, and KBS movements are rare--on some days there's no activity at all. However, there's often some action in the CN yard just north of the junction, and a connection in the northwest quadrant allows CN and NS to interchange cars here.

Because three lines meet here, this is an intriguing location, and in the old days it was much busier than it is today. Both IC and the Big Four were heavily trafficked, double track routes, with the latter using trackage rights on IC north of here to reach Chicago. Kankakee is thus a location that rail historians will find worthwhile, and evidence abounds that this was a much more extensive railroad center than it is now, e.g. a large open area along the KBS track just east of the junction indicates the presence of a yard that was torn up in the 1980s.

To reach the junction, exit I-57 at Illinois Rte. 17 (Court Street) and head west about two miles into town. Turn right at Schuyler Avenue and head north about a half mile. Turn left a block after the second rail crossing and proceed another block to the tracks. The junction is just to the south. Park along the street and stay well back from the tracks.

Danville, Illinois

Norfolk Southern's ex-Wabash main line here crosses CSX's ex-Chicago & Eastern Illinois main between Chicago and Evansville, Indiana. This is a busy spot featuring roughly 50 trains a day. In addition, there are connector tracks in the northwest quadrant and a small yard (North Yard) just north of the crossing. NS and CSX interchange here, so the action is not limited to road trains. This junction was formerly known simply as "North Yard" but NS has renamed it "Danville Junction". That sometimes causes confusion since the original Danville Junction was about a half mile south where NS crossed the ex-Conrail, ex-NYC Peoria & Eastern track (the diamonds were removed in 2005). The P&E track was purchased from CSX in 2003 by short line Vermilion Valley to serve some nearby industries. The VV line, however, ends about ten miles east of here. From there to Crawfordsville, Indiana, the P&E was abandoned by CR in the 1980s. On the other side of town, the P&E has also been taken up from a few miles west of Danville to Urbana, Illinois.

There was yet a third crossing, known as "Cory", just southeast of here where the CSX main crossed the former P&E. However, the diamond was removed in January, 2006.

The interlocking plants at North Yard, Danville Jct., and Cory were once controlled from a single-floor structure that occupied the northeast quadrant of the junction. During the early Nineties, control of the interlocking was transferred to CSX dispatchers in Jacksonville, Florida, and the structure demolished. While 
NS is double track through here, CSX has reduced its presence to a single main. However, sidings can be found just a short distance away in both directions, and the north siding can be glimpsed from the junction area. Eastbound NS trains are ascending a one percent grade here, and often must work hard to top the hill.

This location is highly recommended. To get here, exit I-74 at Bowman Avenue and head north about two and a half miles. After the third railroad crossing, turn left immediately at English Street and proceed one block to Martin Street. Turn left on Martin and then right just before the rail crossing. The junction is about a block. You will be in the northeast quadrant of the junction. There are no trespass signs but it is clearly railroad property. However, you can park well back from the tracks just off railroad property but within easy sight of both NS and CSX.

Momence, Illinois

This busy junction features the former Chicago & Eastern Illinois main line now jointly owned by Union Pacific and CSX; UP maintains the track and dispatches the traffic. To get here, take Illinois Rtes. 1 and 117 to Momence. You will be on the main north-south thoroughfare through town (Dixie Highway). At the north end of town, head east on Industrial Drive about a half mile to Railroad Street. Turn right and then left into the northwest quadrant of the junction.

The double track UP/CSX line crosses Norfolk Southern's single track ex-Conrail ex-NYC Kankakee Belt line. The joint line is by far the busiest featuring about 30 trains a day, about evenly split between the two railroads. Indiana Railroad trains on trackage rights can also be seen here. INRD obtained the rights when they purchased Canadian Pacific's southern Indiana line between Terre Haute and Bedford, Indiana in 2005.

The Kankakee Line sees around eight trains daily, and serves as a Chicago bypass for some BNSF trains that access the line at Streator, Illinois. They then head east through here to Schneider, Indiana, where they make a left turn and head north to the Hammond-East Chicago area. There, they can access CSX's Porter Branch or NS's Chicago Line and head further east to NS's huge classification yard at Elkhart, Indiana.

A little-used connector track occupies the southeast quandrant of the junction, and a tower once stood there as well. It was closed in the mid 1990s and demolished a couple of years later. The northwest quadrant is a spacious, open area and affords a good view of the action. It is railroad property but you can get a good view of the crossing by parking along the street.

Momence has another attraction for those with a special interest in rail photography. On an island in the middle of the Kankakee River is a park affording a great view of two bridges on which the UP/CSX line spans the river. Take Dixie Highway (Rtes. 1-17) to Mill Street and head east to the park and bridges — a distance of about a half mile. 

Momence, Illinois, May 2007.

Woodland Junction, Illinois

Located just south of Watseka, Illinois, this was once an important site on the Chicago & Eastern Illinois railroad. Here their double track main line from Chicago splits into two single track mains. One heads southwest to Findlay, Illinois, the other south to Terre Haute and Evansville, Indiana. The Findlay line also splits, with one line going to St. Louis and the other headed further south, eventually connecting with the former Missouri Pacific main to Texas.

Today, nothing has changed except ownership. The C&EI was jointly purchased by Missouri Pacific and Louisville & Nashville in 1969, with MP acquiring the Findlay routes and sharing ownership with L&N of the double track main north of here to Chicago. L&N purchased the Evansville line which was later merged into the Seaboard System and is now CSX propery. In the 1980s Union Pacific acquired MP and as with its predecessor maintains and dispatches the route north of Woodland.

Crossovers on the double track main are located just north of the junction, enabling trains on either track to access the UP and CSX mains from the south. Over 30 trains a day can be seen here, although traffic often seems to move in bunches with quiet periods throughout the day. A few Indiana Rail Road trains on trackage rights use the CSX line to reach their own tracks in southern Indiana.

The junction is located in a country setting, and access is easy. A county road crosses the tracks at the junction, and hence trespassing is not a problem. To reach here, take Illinois Rte. 1 to county road 1400N, about four miles south of US Rte. 24. Head west a couple of miles to the hamlet of Woodland. Cross the tracks and turn left immediately onto county road 2080E; the junction is about a mile. County road 1300N crosses the tracks and intersects 2080E just south of the junction.

Iroquois, Illinois

In the good old days, it was here that the Milwaukee Road's line to southern Indiana crossed over the New York Central's Big Four line from Kankakee to Indianapolis. Today, both routes are the property of short line Kankakee, Beaverville & Southern, whose headquarters and shops are located here. A connector in the northwest quadrant climbs from the Big Four to the Milwaukee track. The KBS is a thriving railroad whose trackage consists of the former Big Four between Kankakee and Lafayette, Indiana, and the ex-Milwaukee from a point just north of here to Danville, Illinois, (the Milwaukee is gone from Danville south to Terre Haute, Indiana, as is the segment north to the Chicago area). It also operates a segment of the former Nickel Plate Peoria line between Cheneyville, Illinois, and Templeton, Indiana. The NKP track connects the Danville and Lafayette routes. KBS interchanges with Norfolk Southern at Lafayette, with NS and CSX at Danville and with Canadian National's ex-Illinois Central at Kankakee.

This is not the usual junction location. You won't see passing trains, but KBS's six rebuilt GP40 units (now designated GP38-2M) are kept here when not in use. Be sure and ask permission at the office before taking photographs. The office staff is friendly and helpful; they'll tell you where trains are running for the day and what customers are being serviced. The well-known Alco units used by KBS for many years have disappeared. Three were scrapped on site, and the rest have been sold. All but two of them were inoperable and spent their last years on the dead line just south of the shops area. The two remaining operable units were sold in 2005.

Iroquois Junction is located alongside US Rte. 52 between the towns of Donovan and Iroquois, Illinois. It is approximately 75 miles south of Chicago and just a few miles west of the Indiana border.


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