Outlying locations (Indiana)
Outlying locations (Indiana)
A somewhat arbitrary selection of junctions located between 50 and 125 miles of downtown Chicago. Junctions are listed in roughly west-to-east order.
In 2002, Lafayette completed its ambitious railroad relocation project. Gone are the former Monon street-running trackage and the ex-Wabash main line through the center of town. In their place is a new rail corridor that resulted in the elimination of more than 40 grade crossings. The corridor produced a drastic reshaping of Lafayette Junction. In the old days, the joint Nickel Plate/Big Four line first crossed the Monon, and then climbed to cross the Wabash a half mile further south. In the new alignment, all diamonds have been eliminated. CSX's ex-Monon single track main and Norfolk Southern's ex-Wabash double track main parallel each other through here. The NKP/Big Four route west of here now belongs to short line Kankakee, Beaverville & Southern, whose track enters the junction area from the west and parallels CSX for a short distance before feeding into the CSX main. A pair of crossovers then connects it with the NS tracks. NS still owns and operates the NKP east to Frankfort and Muncie, Indiana, but the Big Four to Indianapolis was abandoned by Conrail in the mid 1980s.
In the top photo, you're looking south. The CSX main is on the right. The two tracks on the left belong to NS. The crossover on the left marks the end of NS's double track main through town. Beyond the crossover, are two single track lines. The track on the right (with the train) is the ex-Wabash to Decatur, Illinois, and beyond. The left-hand track is the Frankfort-Muncie line. The Wabash is by far the busiest, featuring about 25 trains per day. The NKP sees perhaps six or eight trains, while the CSX main handles eight to ten, including Amtrak's Cardinal. During most of the year, a KBS turn comes to Lafayette three or four times a week, but KBS power is rarely seen at the junction. They usually pick up and set out cars west of here.Their track runs past the Purdue Airport at the west end of West Lafayette, and that's the best place to catch them.
In the photo at right, you're looking north. The NS double track main is on the right, the CSX main to its left, and the far left track is the KBS connection. The area just north of here was at one time a yard serving both the Nickel Plate and the Big Four. Westbound trains on NS are climbing a one per cent grade at this point, and some of the heavier trains can be seen (and heard) with throttles in run eight.
Both photos were taken from a new pedestrian bridge that crosses over the junction and offers a great view of train activity. Unfortunately for photographers, a six-foot tall chainlink fence has been installed. However, good shots can be obtained at both sides of the fence. The bridge obviously poses no trespass problems and is highly recommended.
To reach here, exit I-65 at the Indiana Rte. 26 exit and head west about three miles into town. Turn left at 3rd Street and proceed about half a mile to Kossuth/Smith Street (it's Kossuth to the left, Smith to the right). Turn right on Smith and park. The sidewalk leads up to the pedestrian bridge.
Lafayette Transportation Center
A second pedestrian bridge over the rail corridor is located in downtown Lafayette. The bridge also crosses the Wabash River which parallels the rail corridor at this point. The former NKP/Big Four depot was moved two blocks to this site when the corridor was built. The Amtrak boarding platform is across the tracks from the station and accessed via the bridge which offers a wonderful view of the river and rail lines. The boarding platform can also be used if you want to see trains up close and personal.
The transportation center is located at Main and 2nd Streets. To get here, follow the directions given above, but instead of turning left at 3rd, continue one more block and turn right on 2nd. The depot is one block away at Main Street. You can use the parking lot just beyond it or the parking garage at 2nd and Columbia. The cost is quite low for a downtown garage and is free on weekends.
Before the corridor was built, CSX trains used the Monon's track that ran down the middle of 5th Street. At 5th and North streets, the Monon's limestone station still stands and is now a theatre. For the half block in front of the station, the track remains in place as a reminder of the good old days — a nice touch by the relocation planners.
Michigan City, Indiana
South Shore Shops
The Chicago, South Shore & South Bend railroad's shops are located on Michigan City's east side at Carroll Avenue. The Carroll Avenue passenger station and parking lot are also here at the west end of the shops and yard areas. Crossing CSS just west of the station is the former Norfolk Southern ex-NKP line running southeast to La Porte and beyond. The line was purchased from NS by the South Shore freight operator (Anacostia and Pacific) in 2001. Ownership extends to Stillwell, Indiana, where the line crosses Canadian National's ex-GTW main line. The shops can be seen from the station and parking areas, but be careful to observe the trespass signs. Both passenger and freight equipment are on view and can be photographed with a telephoto lens. Since some of the passenger trains originate/terminate at Gary, traffic on the South Shore is moderate except at rush hours. Often, an eastbound passenger train will drop off some of its coaches here before proceeding to South Bend. Similarly, westbounds will often add coaches here. The ex-NKP line sees only occasional traffic.
To get here from Chicago, exit I-94 at US Rte. 421 and follow it into town to 11th Street, the street-running location of the South Shore track. Turn right on 11th and follow the track to Michigan Avenue, where the street-running ends. Continue to follow the track on nearby roads to Carroll Street. If you're coming from the east, exit at US Rte. 35 and take it to Carroll Avenue. Turn right and proceed about a half mile to the shops.
Located on the west side of town, Amtrak's ex-NYC ex-Michigan Central main line to Detroit crosses the South Shore. Amtrak owns and operates the line from Porter Junction to Kalamazoo, Michigan, and it is their only major trackage beyond the Northeast Corridor. At one time, the Monon's Michigan City branch fed into the Amtrak line here, but the branch was abandoned back in the 1980s by the Seaboard System. The Amtrak line features the Detroit trains, the Blue Water to Port Huron and an occasional freight local. Except for rush hours, traffic on the South Shore is moderate.
A rural junction, Wellsboro has become a popular train-watching location in recent years. Located at the east end of the hamlet of Union Mills, it is southeast of Michigan City and southwest of La Porte, Indiana. From either I-80/I-90 (the Indiana Toll Road) or I-94 (the Borman or Tri-State Expressway) exit at US Rte. 421 and head south to Westville, Indiana. Just south of Westville, US Rte. 6 splits from 421 and heads east. Follow it 6 miles and you will see a road sign announcing Union Mills with an arrow pointing right. Turn right on the indicated county road (400 West) and go south about a mile to the CSX tracks. Cross the tracks and take the first left. The junction is about a half mile.
Two double track lines intersect here. CSX's busy ex-B&O main line to the east coast crosses Canadian National's ex-GTW main from Port Huron, Michigan. The CSX tracks travel in a roughly east-west direction while CN enters the junction from the northeast and then heads in a westerly direction after crossing CSX. These are busy routes: over 40 trains a day can be seen on CSX, while CN's total often exceeds 20. Traffic across the diamonds is remotely controlled on a first-come-first-served basis. A tower once stood in the southwest quadrant, but was torn down many years ago and replaced with a storage trailer. After suffering severe damage during a thunderstorm in 2001, the trailer was removed.
In addition, an ex-Chesapeake & Ohio, ex-Pere Marquette branch enters from the south and curves east to join the CSX main. At one time, this line ran from La Crosse, Indiana, into Michigan, but it has been abandoned north of Wellsboro. CSX inherited this route, and called it the Wabash Sub. Until 1999, it crossed both the CN and CSX mains and then curved to the west to join CSX at a small yard west of the junction. Four diamonds, however, are expensive to maintain, and they were removed in favor of the present connection.
Until 2004, the Wabash Sub saw perhaps three or four turns a week and had two functions: to serve a large grain elevator northwest of La Crosse on what's left of the C&O main through Indiana, and to connect with the Hoosier Valley Rail Museum in North Judson, Indiana. In July, 2004, CSX sold the Wabash Sub. to North Judson. It is now operated as the Chesapeake & Indiana (still labelled CSX on the map), and runs south from Wellsboro to to its headquarters in LaCrosse. From there it extends southeast to North Judson, and northwest to Malden, Indiana to serve several industries including the elevator at Malden. The C&I is operated by Indiana Box Car Corporation (IBCX) and uses vintage EMD locomotives including several former EJ&E units.
The diamonds are surrounded by railroad property. Some visitors use the south quadrants, apparently without incident. However, to be safe, park away from railroad property and explore the area on foot, staying close to the street. The diamonds are about 30 yards away.
South Bend, Indiana
At Arnold Street, less than a mile west of downtown South Bend, Norfolk Southern's ex-Conrail ex-NYC Chicago Line joins with Canadian National's ex-GTW main line. From here eastward, the two railroads use common trackage on an elevation through downtown, then cross each other before diverging at an inaccessible location east of the downtown area. On a typical day, at least 70 trains pass through here--more than 50 on NS (including Amtrak's east coast trains) and around 20 on CN. Both roads occasionally have quiet periods, but during the busy times a train can be seen every 15 or 20 minutes. At one time, Arnold Street crossed both railroads but the crossing was closed in the late 1990s. The triangle formed by the two rail lines and the former Arnold Street crossing affords a fine view of the action, but unfortunately it is all railroad property. You might take a quick look from the former street crossing, but anything closer would be trespassing.
From the Indiana Toll Road (I-80), exit at US Rte. 33 and head south through town about three and a half miles to Sample Street. Turn right on Sample and proceed about a mile to Arnold. Turn right on Arnold, take it till it ends and park. The junction is just ahead on your right.
From the US Rte. 20 bypass south of town, exit at the US Rte. 31 Business interchange and head north about three and a half miles to Sample. Turn left on Sample and follow the above directions.
From the US Rte. 31 bypass west of town, exit at Indiana Rte. 2 (Western Avenue) and head east about three miles to Olive Street. Turn right on Olive and proceed a half mile to Sample. Turn left on Sample, Arnold Street is about a mile. Turn left on Arnold, and take it till it ends.