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Tuch Santucci's Chicago Subdivision of the Missouri Pacific
Background: Chicago Sub (this page)
Photo Pages:
Part 1 l 2 l 3 l 4
(new material added)


The Chicago Subdivision of the Missouri Pacific
Written and Photographed by JD "Tuch" Santucci, MPRR Engineer '78-'85

Welcome to the Chicago Subdivision page. My intent is to give you a from the rails view of the Missouri Pacific Chicago Subdivision focusing upon the territory over which I operated, Chicago/Yard Center to Villa Grove, IL, and also touch upon a few other spots along the route south of Villa Grove. We will study how the line evolved under MoPac ownership.

I will present this in two sections. Part one will deal with the Mopac proper and part two will deal with Chicago operations over the Chicago & Western Indiana Railroad.

First though, we will give you a brief background of modern era of the line. In May 1967 the Interstate Commerce Commission granted the Missouri Pacific control of the Chicago & Eastern Illinois Railroad. This award was after a protracted fight with the Illinois Central and Louisville & Nashville over control. Southern Pacific's Cotton Belt (St Louis Southwestern was also involved for a period. This fight included some improprieties on the MoPac's part to actually attain enough stock in the C&EI to take over. MoPac began with 40% control. Eventually full control was gained and the C&EI was merged into the MoPac in October 1976. The C&EI became a fallen flag as its name disappeared into the railroad history. For more information about the C&EI prior to the MoPac takeover you can check out the C&EI Historical Society site at

Initially after MoPac gained control, C&EI was maintained as a separate railroad on paper sharing common management with the new parent company. The letters from the C&EI logo were placed over the well-known Missouri Pacific buzz saw emblem and this modified emblem was applied to all C&EI owned locomotives when they were renumbered into the MoPac system. Much of the old rolling stock also received the C&EI buzz saw when it was repainted and all brand new rolling stock received this logo at the factories where it was constructed.

The C&EI was essentially a regional serving Illinois and Indiana with reaches into Missouri at two separate locations using trackage rights in both cases to accomplish this feat. They were a major coal hauler tapping into the numerous mines in both Central and Southern Indiana and Illinois. They were also host to several crack passenger trains between Chicago and Florida in conjunction with the Louisville & Nashville. Passenger trains were also operated on most of their other principal routes as well. 

In the early 1960's the long term outlook in the railroad industry was being forecast with numerous mergers, consolidations and rationalization. This outlook directly affected both the MoPac and the C&EI. It necessitated the Missouri Pacific to seek out a partner to enable them to reach the strategic gateway of Chicago, otherwise become an also ran within the industry. The MoPac senior management team looked towards the Chicago & Eastern Illinois as the means of reaching it.

The C&EI was starting to witness their fortunes beginning to wane. Passenger business had begun to drop off drastically. They could not survive as an independent carrier for much longer as they would eventually become a small potatoes operation surrounded by giants. The giants could easily route any and all bridge traffic away from them leaving them only with interchange and on line originated business. A merger between the C&EI and MoPac was a natural fit in many ways. Aside from this merger being of the end to end variety that is, one with very little overlapping territory, there were also several connections with between the two roads already in existence.

In this map of Illinois, the Chicago Sub is shown in red, the Pana Sub in green and the Evansville Division in blue. Click for larger image.

In looking at the C&EI prior to the MoPac takeover, they did not have a Chicago Subdivision. Their line from Chicago to Evansville, IN was broken down into two separate subdivisions. The Danville Sub was that portion of the line between Chicago and its namesake city of Danville, IL. The remainder of the route between Danville and Evansville was called the Evansville Sub.

At Woodland Jct. (MP82.6 of the Danville Sub) the St. Louis Sub broke off towards Villa Grove to Findlay, IL where the line split again with one segment running to Pana, IL. Trackage rights were used on the New York Central from Pana to Lenox Tower at Mitchell Yard, the joint Gulf, Mobile & Ohio/NYC line from Lenox to Granite City and the Terminal Railroad Association from there into St Louis and were key segments of the St. Louis Sub.

The other route at Findlay went towards and through Salem and Thebes across the Mississippi River into Chaffee, Missouri. This portion was called the Salem Subdivision. The Southern Illinois & Missouri Bridge Company was used to cross the Mississippi River. Trackage rights on the Cotton Belt were used between Illmo and Rockview, MO and on the St Louis-San Francisco (Frisco) between Rockview and the end of the C&EI at Chaffee.  

With the MoPac takeover came numerous changes to the structure of the C&EI's operations and profile. The line from Chicago through Woodland Jct., Villa Grove, Salem and Benton, IL was renamed the Chicago Subdivision. The Evansville Subdivision was extended to include the route between Danville and Woodland Jct and the Danville Sub name was dropped. The Evansville Sub along with all the branch lines breaking from it became the Evansville Division. The line from Findlay to St Louis became the Pana Sub with MoPac purchasing the portion of the Pana Sub between Pana and Lenox from Conrail in 1983.

The segment of the Salem Sub between Benton and Joppa became the Joppa Sub and between Joppa Jct. and Chaffee became the Thebes Sub.

On the MoPac side, the Bush Subdivision of the Missouri Division became part of the newly created Illinois Division and also part of the Chicago Sub. This was the 40.27-mile line between Benton and Gorham, IL. The Chicago Subdivisionís southern terminus connected with the Chester Sub at Gorham.

Significant restructuring was initiated to the division alignment as well. The Chicago Sub was divided into two separate divisions, the Chicago and Illinois. The Chicago Division encompassed the entire double track between Chicago and Woodland Junction, all Chicago Terminal trackage and the Chicago Heights Terminal Transfer Company. The Illinois Division was comprised of the Chicago Subdivision south of Woodland along with the Westville, Pana, Marion, Joppa, Thebes, Chester, Pinkneyville and Cairo Subdivisions. The assimilation of the C&EI into the MoPac had begun.

The first post merger employee timetables were issued on 2 June, 1968. One was the joint Missouri Pacific Railroad and Chicago & Eastern Illinois Railroad Eastern District #1. It encompassed the Chicago, Illinois, Arkansas, Louisiana, Little Rock Terminal, St. Louis Terminal Divisions and the Missouri & Illinois Railroad. Prior to the merger, the Arkansas and Little Rock Terminal Divisions along with the Missouri Division and the M&I were the components of the Southern District and issued in a Southern District timetable.

Chicago Sub - MP Timetable #11. Click for larger image.

The other timetable issued this date was the C&EI Evansville Division #1. The Evansville Division was also part of the Eastern District. This timetable, which aside from having the C&EI buzz saw on the cover, made no reference to the MoPac. It was a one of a kind issue. About a year later in June 1969, the entire Evansville Division was sold to the L&N.  This was a condition of the merger set forth by the ICC and was also the way to get the L&N to drop their opposition to the MoPac taking over the C&EI. The Chicago-Evansville segment is what the L&N really wanted anyway. They had intentions of selling off the lines associated with the St Louis and Thebes routes had they been able to take control of the C&EI.

Along with the trackage sale, MoPac sold various locomotives, freight and passenger cars, track maintenance equipment, other steel-wheeled equipment and other various items required to operate a railroad to the L&N. Buildings such as offices, towers and the Oak Lawn locomotive shops in Danville were also included as part of this sale.

As a result and condition of the line sale to the L&N, the entire Chicago Sub between Woodland Jct. and Dolton Jct. just north of Yard Center except for the CHTT became joint track with both the MoPac through its C&EI subsidiary and the L&N sharing ownership. C&EI and then MoPac after October 1976 operated and dispatched the line and their forces maintained it as well. The Uniform Code of Operating Rules used by MoPac and all of its subsidiary companies was the prevailing rulebook on the joint track. To the average trackside observer, it appeared to be a MoPac route with the L&N as the trackage right tenant.

The double track segment has established current of traffic with the east track being the northbound main and west track being the southbound main. To operate against the current of traffic outside of yard limits, train orders had to be issued to authorize such moves. Yard limits extended from Yard Center to milepost 31 in Crete, IL.

All buildings featured C&EI buzz saws with L&N's rectangular emblem mounted underneath them. Of course in October 1976, the C&EI signs were replaced with MoPac buzz saws. On the 26th Street Yard office in Chicago Heights, the L&N initials were squeezed in on the bottom half of the buzz saw under those of the C&EI. Oddly enough, the Screaming Eagle emblem was never applied to any buildings or structures along the Chicago Division. None of the MoPac based emblems were applied to bridges spanning roadways either. Interestingly enough, in several locations the C&EI initials are still in place and clearly visible on some of these bridges.

This overpass clings to its C&EI heritage

Every radio base station had to have both MoPac and L&N channels. Being that there was no such thing as the 97-channel radio at this point in time, L&N trains worked on their own channel. Mopac crews used MoPac channel one, 160.410 and L&N trains used 161.370. This would cause problems at first for the L&N as the Soo Line also used this channel in the Chicago area. The first solution was to not allow a large base station radio north of Yard Center to use the L&N channel. The Yardmaster at 37th Street and the C&WI Dispatcher at 47th Street had to use handset radios to communicate with L&N trains. At a later point in time, the Soo switched channels in Chicago making 161.370 a yard channel. In addition to channel one, MoPac used 161.145 as a yard channel. This was the old C&EI channel.   

A very unusual and often controversial method of billing was devised for the L&N to pay for their share of costs to operate and maintain the line. This billing plan led to constant bickering between the two owning roads. Car counts, train starts, zone charges and breakdown of individual ownership of certain specific portions of the line were all factors in determining how much L&N paid the MoPac for upkeep and operating expenses.

Yard Center Diesel

At Yard Center Diesel, L&N locomotives could not be fueled at the same time as those of MoPac. L&N used a different brand of lube oil and separate storage facilities and delivery lines had to be installed and used. While MoPac forces serviced L&N power, no major components for L&N were kept in the inventory at the store room. If a major component needed to be changed out on an L&N unit, L&N would truck the parts up to Chicago or arrange to have the unit shipped out dead in tow. A separate accounting code was used for MoPac forces servicing L&N units including the routine turnaround maintenance such as daily inspections, applying cooling water and lube oil, changing out light bulbs and brake shoes.       

A change in philosophy with regards to timetable structure came about on 30 November 1969. On that date, MoPac issued the first of what would be twenty-five system timetables. Numbers 1 through 22 were issued as MoPac proper. Number 23 was issued as a MoPac but now with the UP shield replacing the Screaming Eagle on the cover. In 1985 the series sequence changed with a new #1 and later a new #2 issued, again both with the UP shield on their covers. Simultaneously on 30 November 1969, a joint C&EI/L&N timetable was issued to regulate the joint track segment between Woodland Jct. and Chicago. It was a tri-fold, six page card made entirely out of the very same plastic used on the covers of the new system timetables. This was also the last timetable to carry schedules for a regular passenger train on the joint track. L&N trains 703 and 704, the Danville Flyers operating between Chicago and Danville, were the last passenger trains to regularly traverse the line. They were discontinued in April 1971 with the start up of Amtrak.

C&EI/L&N Employees Timetable #2,

There were two joint C&EI/L&N timetables issued. The second one was issued on 15 April 1973. A single joint MoPac/L&N timetable #3 was issued on 31 October 1976. This was the last joint timetable to be issued. Unlike its two predecessors, this version was more like the MoPac system version with the plastic coated cover and paper pages contained within. It remained in effect until 15 June 1979 when system timetable #13 went into effect. Then, all of the joint line special instructions contained therein were then presented in the system timetable.

We will do the tour of the line in two segments. The portion from MP 17 at Dolton Jct. to Chicago was actually owned and operated by the Chicago & Western Indiana, of which C&EI and later MoPac was one fifth owner. The CWI will be discussed later. First though, we will start at Dolton Jct. Dolton, often called the Panhandle by MoPac employees was the location where the Indiana Harbor Belt, Baltimore & Ohio Chicago Terminal and Conrail (through their Penn Central and Pennsylvania predecessors) crossed and connected. The former Pennsylvania line was one of their subsidiary companies known as the Panhandle Great Eastern during its construction. That Panhandle name really stuck. There was, and continues to be an open, functioning tower at Dolton.

Yard Center begins just south of Dolton with the 142nd/144th Street interlocking. Several sets of crossovers between the main tracks and the beginning/end of several leads are located with this plant. Two of these leads connect with the IHB and B&OCT. Yard Center Diesel and the RIP track are located at the north end on the west side of the facility about a third of a mile south of 144th Street proper. Yard Center is divided through the middle by the two main tracks. Sibley Boulevard spans the entire width near the middle of the yard. Yard Center was broken down into five yards, One, Two and Three Yards on the west side between Sibley and 144th Street and Eight and Nine Yards on the east side. Nine Yard and a portion of Eight Yard extended north of Sibley up to 145th Street.

looking south from Sibley Blvd towards 8 and 9 yards at Yard Center

The Yard Center Operator was stationed in the main office building located along side Sibley Boulevard on the west side of the main tracks. The Operator controlled all the interlockings at Yard Center. There were plants located at 144th and 145th Streets, Sibley Boulevard, 159th and 162nd Streets. When Watseka Tower was closed, control of all this territory was transferred to the Yard Center Operator. When the control point at 12th Street in Chicago Heights was placed into service, the Yard Center Operator was given control. In 1983 MoPac took lease of the Dolton Branch of the CWI. The interlocking at Oakdale was also given to the Yard Center Operator.

The Operator also handled train orders and clearances for all MoPac and L&N trains. They dealt with the Chicago Sub Dispatcher, the L&N Dispatcher in charge of their Evansville line, later the L&N Dispatcher in charge of the Monon line and the CWI Dispatcher. They also were in contact with connecting railroads to coordinate movements of MoPac and L&N trains to those lines. With all the train orders to copy and train and yard movements to arrange and coordinate, they were very busy people.

During the period from 1969 to 1984 when Yard Center was still a joint facility with the L&N and later Seaboard System, L&N outbound business was classified first in One Yard. Later the L&N business was moved over into Two Yard. With the expanding levels of business the L&N was experiencing, they needed the larger Two Yard and in 1981, the switch was made. One Yard was then used as the industry support, active car storage and hold cars yard. Three Yard was primarily used for storage, although on occasion, some classification work was performed there when traffic levels warranted. Eight Yard was the receiving yard for all MoPac and L&N trains and the departure yard for most transfer jobs operating north out of Yard Center. Nine Yard was the classification yard for all southbound MoPac trains.

Inbound MoPac transfer runs as well as inbound trains from connections like the B&O Chicago Terminal and IHB did not have the MoPac and L&N business separated, it was all mine run into Yard Center. Mopac crews would break up these trains and southbound L&N business was then transferred over to One or Two Yard for further classification into specific L&N blocks. Loads of finished autos were not transferred across the yard. They instead, were classified into their proper L&N blocks and then spotted onto a track called the West Lead at the south end of Nine Yard. This lead connected to the northbound main at 159th Street and southbound L&N intermodal trains 721 and 723 would stop and pick up these autos from the West Lead.

Just north of Sibley Boulevard and on the west side of the yard were several tracks known as the ramp tracks. For a period of time the transloading of steel was performed here. Steel was off-loaded from rail cars onto trucks for delivery to small plants. Whenever the business train showed up in Chicago, it was also parked on one of the ramp tracks. This made it very accessible to railfans for photography. For a time the Russell Plow was also stored here.

In the early 70's MoPac expanded Yard Center by adding several tracks to Nine Yard and reconfiguring other areas of the facility. New crossover switches were installed in several locations within the yard. A new diesel shop and fueling facilities were also constructed and the old roundhouse torn down (editor's note: the new round house was finished and the old one torn down at least before Oct 1969).

At 159th Street was an interlocking. Power switches for the crossovers between the main tracks and the connection to the south end of the Eight Yard lead made up this plant. The connection to the West Lead is just south of the plant. The West Lead was a hand operated switch with an electric lock controlled by the Yard Center Operator.

In 1981 a new plant was built at 162nd Street. Main line crossovers and a connection to the inbound lead were installed. This improvement was paid for by the L&N. They began operating the trains to and from their Monon Subdivision in and out of Yard Center via trackage rights on the Grand Trunk Western between Munster, IN and Yard Center. The new crossover switches here between the mains and to the inbound runner facilitated these moves.

Just south of 162nd Street at milepost 20 is Thornton Jct. which is the crossing with the Grand Trunk Western. For years and well into MoPac ownership of the C&EI, this was called RN which was its station call sign. There is also a connection in the southwest quadrant to the GTW as well. We used to interchange stone hoppers through this connection. The tower located here was located in the southwest quadrant and staffed by a GTW Operator.

Northbound trains were either lined up one of the main tracks or into the yard via the inbound lead. The inbound lead broke off from the northbound just north of the diamonds of the crossing. Also off the inbound lead was the connection to the GTW and a couple of other tracks including a lumberyard.

Near 159th Street the inbound lead split into two tracks, the middle and the east or switching leads. Yard jobs switching in Nine Yard used the east lead and the inbound lead as required for headroom when switching. Inbound trains normally used the middle lead, normally. On the east side of the inbound lead just south of the divide was a team track. Cars were spotted here for loading or unloading. At times Whiting Corporation in nearby Harvey used to truck straddle cranes, like those used in intermodal yards to the team track and load them onto rail cars for shipment. Apparently they were not satisfied with service they received from the B&OCT and Illinois Central Gulf. MoPac made them a better deal despite the inconvenience.

GP15-1 1582 in the CHTT Roundhouse in Chicago Heights

At milepost 25.7 in Chicago Heights were a set of crossovers between the main tracks known as 12th Street. There was also a connection to the Chicago Heights Terminal Transfer Railroad, a C&EI subsidiary. As mentioned previously, these crossovers were powered up in 1983 and placed under the control of the Yard Center Operator.

A crossing at milepost 26.8 was called MC. This was the former Michigan Central, whose evolution included New York Central, Penn Central and finally Conrail. This line was the Joliet Branch which first built through here in 1854. By early 1979 this portion of the line was removed from service, and then abandoned with the diamonds and all signals associated with the crossing on the MoPac side removed shortly thereafter. Oddly enough, the signals on the Conrail side were kept in place for several years remaining illuminated until one by one they burned out. Prior to its removal, there was an automatic interlocking located here with the approaching trains activating the signals. The tower at MC was closed back in 1961.

Jay Tower

Several other towers were open and active when I began my career at MoPac. Jay Tower at milepost 27 in Chicago Heights was the crossing and connection with the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway. Like Thornton Jct., there were two wyes located here in the southeast and southwest quadrants. While the east wye used power switches the west wye was equipped with the hand operated type. The tower was located in the southwest quadrant and staffed by an EJ&E Operator.

The EJ&E was commonly referred to as "The J", hence the name Jay Tower. Jay was an open order office meaning train orders could be and were issued to trains here as required. For many years train orders were issued for trains in both directions, but Jay's use as an order station for northbound trains was discontinued in 1980 and the associated train order signal removed.

Just south of Jay was 26th Street Yard. This yard was bisected by the main tracks with yard tracks on either side. This yard provided industry support as well as interchange with the EJ&E. Switch jobs, Clerical and Mechanical employees were assigned here around the clock to handle the constant flow of interchange business. Northbound trains from both MoPac and L&N would set out cars here and southbound trains from both lines would pick up as well. The J would make several deliveries to 26th street daily and MoPac crews would make a delivery to the J's yard just south and west of here each day as well. The switch crews here blocked southbound pick ups as well as work industries in the area.

In 1979 this yard was closed, the switch engine, clerical and car inspector assignments all eliminated. The yard limits, which used to extend from Yard Center to milepost 31 were shortened only coming as far south as Thornton Jct at milepost 20. A daily transfer assignment from Yard Center took over the industry work and all interchange from the J was handled from 26th Street to Yard Center for classification there instead. This transfer job also took over the duties of delivering to the J every evening.

As part of all these changes the northbound block signal at milepost 29.2 and numbered 292 was changed from a block signal to a controlled signal. It was then designated as 292A with the A denoting it as an absolute signal. The Operator at Jay Tower controlled it. To operate against the current of traffic between Thornton Jct. and 292A on the northbound or Jay Tower and Thornton Jct. on the southbound now required a track permit issued by the Yard Center Operator.  

26th Street yard office in South Chicago Heights

At the south end of 26th Street Yard on the west side the switching lead that turned into the Steger Siding. This siding extended south from the yard to Steger and tied back into the southbound main track near milepost 29. At times cars would be stored in a portion of the siding when traffic levels were down. More often than not, the siding was used for travel by one of the switch jobs at 26th Street en route to and from D'Amico Macaroni Company, a large pasta plant which used rail service on a regular basis.

A passenger station was located in Steger, just north of the pasta plant on the west side of the main tracks and siding. This brick building remains as one of the last remnants of passenger service on the Chicago Sub. With the cessation of passenger service on the line in April 1971, this structure was sold to a private party and used as an office and yard for a construction outfit. 

Another siding was located at Balmo. At one time there was a passenger station located about a quarter mile to the east of the main tracks. A horse race track (Balmoral Park and at one time many years ago called Lincoln Fields) is located there and during the days of C&EI passenger service, "race" trains were operated between Chicago and the race track. The station remains standing to this day, but the track to it has long since. Horses were shipped by rail and also brought in and out of the track using this siding.

Balmo, a stub ended siding was called NE in previous years. Both it and the track breaking from it to the station were used in later years for car storage when traffic levels wee depressed. Eventually the station track was removed leaving just the siding. Periodically, we would place cars into, or remove them from Balmo Siding as needed.  

A siding at Grant Park served for occasional block swapping between trains. In slow traffic periods it was also used to store unneeded cars.

Pence Tower in Momence

Pence Tower was located at milepost 49.7 in Momence, IL. The Conrail Kankakee Belt Line crossed and connected here. The Milwaukee Road's line from Delmar, just east of Momence to Joliet, IL joined up with the Conrail line both east and west of the crossing allowing them to use Conrail's former New York Central line across the diamonds. This was an unusual arrangement going back to 1917 when Milwaukee Road predecessor Chicago, Milwaukee & Gary built through here to connect with the Milwaukee Roadís Southeastern line. As part of the trackage rights deal portion of the Milwaukee Road main track parallel to the Central main track east of the crossing was used as a siding for New York Central trains.

Prior to being called Pence, the tower was known as MG, its station call sign on the C&EI. MoPac changed the name in 1972 with Pence being a shortened version of Penn Central. Pence was also an open order office. The original wooden structure was destroyed in derailment in the late 1950's and replaced with a brick structure. A neighbor of mine was an Operator at Pence the night the tower was demolished in the derailment and he spoke of it periodically.

In Momence, coal trains, intermodal traffic and some manifest freight business was interchanged with Conrail. A freight agency was located here although the agent had long since been removed. This building stood into the late 1980's before being razed. Several industries were serviced here with one of them being the large F.A. Orr elevator. Orr also had a lumber yard here that received car loads of lumber by rail.  Until they gave up operations through Momence, the Milwaukee Road also interchanged traffic with the MoPac and L&N. Their interchange was affected west of the crossing with a pair of tracks by the elevator.   

There were also sidings south of the downtown area of Momence known as the northbound and southbound sidings. Cars for the local industries were often stored here. In the early 80's MoPac began receiving intermodal business from Conrail at Momence. Conrail train TV-53 would set out the cars on their siding just east of the east wye at Pence daily except Mondays. The L400 local would grab these cars and bring them over to the southbound siding leaving them there for hotshot intermodal train CFZ to pick up. There were two blocks of cars in this interchange, one for Little Rock and the other for Fort Worth.

At milepost 60.1 was the crossing of the Kankakee, Beaverville & Southern Railroad. This was trackage formerly of the New York Central as part of their Big Four route between Kankakee and Cincinnati. Fay Orr, owner of the elevator and lumber yard in Momence (as well as several others along the KBSR route) obtained this line from Conrail through a program with the Illinois Department of Transportation. The line was acquired in several segments during the latter 70's. Mr. Orr began his own railroad to ensure service to his elevators and lumber yards. Like MC, this crossing was protected by an automatic interlocking. As late as 1985, the names above the buttons in the emergency and time release box located there still read "C&EI" and "NYC."

Watseka was the next open order office, railroad crossing and tower. The Toledo, Peoria & Western crossed and connected here. The tower was actually the old passenger depot located in the southeast quadrant of the crossing. There were two wyes here, in the southeast and southwest quadrants. Both C&EI/MoPac and L&N interchanged traffic with the TP&W here. For many years, it was also the home of the L400/L401 locals that patrolled the Chicago Sub between Woodland Jct. and Balmo, just south of Crete.

TPW became the Santa Fe's Peoria Sub for several years in the 80's, They bought out Conrail's ownership in the line in the 70's and decided to make it part of their system. In the very late 80's they sold off most of the TPW and it became independent (and the TPW) again.

The Operator at Watseka was a MoPac employee and controlled the CTC between Watseka and Woodland Jct. as well as the crossing. They also copied and delivered the train orders and clearances to all MoPac north and southbound trains. They also handled orders for L&N trains as well.

In 1982 Watseka was closed and control of all the CTC territory, the crossing and the open order office were moved to Dolton with the Yard Center Operator handling the chores. With the closing, all northbound MoPac trains received all their orders at Villa Grove. L&N northbound trains received all their orders at Danville.

Between Watseka and Woodland Jct. was Coaler, once the sight of a coaling tower. There were two sidings here, the east and west pass. Cars for the local were frequently set out here as were blocks of cars for other trains. The local would leave cars for through trains to pick up as well. For many years Coaler was also a five hundred mile inspection point for all northward trains and all southward trains except intermodal trains. When the rules extended the inspections from five-hundred to one thousand miles, the train inspections were ceased except for loaded chemical trains. Eventually, the requirement for these trains to inspect here was also dropped.

Coaler is also the location where an entire train got stuck in the snow during the hellacious winter of 1978-79 and took several days to free after the snows had ceased. Despite the protests of the crew onboard the train about the likelihood of this occurring, they were instructed to stop and make the inspection anyway. They complied and now you know the rest of the story.

At Woodland Jct. the line split. The MoPac and Chicago Sub went south and west. The Evansville Sub of the L&N west south and east. The Junction was controlled by the Watseka Operator and later the Yard Center Operator. There were several sets of crossover switches here to allow for the optimum flexibility of movements through the junction to expedite train movements with minimal delay. At Woodland Jct. both the MoPac and L&N became single-track railroads.

MoPac added centralized traffic control to the single-track portion of the line over a period of several years in the early 70's. Most, but not all of the sidings were equipped with dual control power switches with the installation of the CTC.

South of Woodland Jct. just north of the north end of Goodwine Siding were the Alonzo and Cissna Park Industrial Leads. The Alonzo Lead went east from the main track and the Cissna Park Lead went west. It was also longer, about 5.9 miles in length. The Alonzo Lead was out of service and removed by 1980. The Cissna Park Lead remained though, being served by the L402 local out of Villa Grove as required. 

There was a 10,800-foot long passing siding at Goodwine.

A 10,400-foot long siding was located at Ellis.

The next crossing at grade was at Glover, milepost 125.9. The Peoria & Eastern crossed here. Long a subsidiary of the New York Central, the P&E was passed in ownership to Penn Central and eventually Conrail becoming their Peoria Secondary. A tower was located here to protect the crossing as well as control the switch into the north end of the siding at Glover (just south of the crossing). This tower was closed after a major derailment brought it down around 1971 and the plant was converted into an automatic interlocking.

When CTC was installed on this portion of the line, the Chicago Subdivision Dispatcher handled the switch for the siding, but the crossing remained an automatic interlocking. Should a train encounter a stop signal here, the crew had to contact the Chicago Subdivision Dispatcher for instructions about the dual control power switch before operating the time release. A spring switch was located at the south end of this siding, which was 8547 feet long.

The Norfolk & Western crossed the Chicago Sub at two different grade separated locations. Hustle Hill begins at milepost 98 to climb over the former Nickel Plate Road Frankfort District. The pass over occurred at Hustle at about milepost 100. Today the N&W is long removed. The grade begins to descend after the pass over and ends about milepost 102. The N&W's former Wabash crosses overhead at Sidney near milepost 133. Today, a connection between the UP and Norfolk Southern is used several times daily as the two railroads interchange entire trains to and from each other.

Villa Grove is located at milepost 145.1. There was an 8698-foot siding here (which was extended to over 13,000 feet by the MoPac) and a seven- track yard that broke from it. It was six tracks for many years until 1984 when the seventh track was added, using panels of track removed from 1,2 and 3 Yards at Yard Center. At one time there was also a roundhouse and coaling facilities here. Several old railroad buildings remain standing though no longer used by todayís UP. MoPac built a new depot here in the 70's replacing an old C&EI facility. The office is located next to the main track on the west side at the north end of the yard. Villa Grove was the division point where crews changed out. Crews operating to and from Chicago were based out of here. Crews running to and from St. Louis were also based out of here, but were part of the Salem seniority district. Crews that operated between Salem and Villa Grove used the Grove as their turn around point laying over here.

There was an open order office here with an Operator, but all switches and signals were controlled by the Chicago Subdivision Dispatcher. The Operator was also the crew caller for all north and south crews here as well.

Also at Villa Grove, the Westville Sub broke off near the north end of the siding. This line ran from Villa Grove northward to Danville, with the last 3.9 miles of operation via Conrail. There was no through business left on this line by the time my career began in 78. Locals worked this line as required. There was a coal mine known as Ziegler #5 at milepost 161 that provided us with a fair amount of business. Mine runs were operated out of Villa Grove as needed to load coal and bring it back into town for a pool freight crew to handle to Chicago. 

While I never had the opportunity to work the line south of Villa Grove, I did get to visit several spots further south.

At milepost 153.4 is Tuscola. This was the crossing of the Illinois Central Gulf's Chicago to New Orleans main line. The Baltimore & Ohio also crossed here with their line to Decatur and Springfield, IL. The tower also known as TY was staffed by an ICG employee and was also an open order office. Until the early 90's, the B&O and IC had their own separate crossings. The B&O was reconfigured and now uses todayís UP through the interlocking. With this project, Tuscola Tower (also known as TY) was closed and this plant was made a semi-automatic plant.

Salem fuel tracks

Further south I visited Salem. There was a yard here as well as an Operator and open order office. Like Villa Grove, the Operator did not control the switches and signals. In addition to the yard and long siding, there was a fuel and sanding station in the yard and a main line fuel station. There was a small locomotive servicing facility here at as well. Baltimore & Ohio interchanged traffic at Salem with C&EI and MoPac. In the 80's this became entire trains delivered as opposed to just some traffic set off passing trains. 

Salem was the home base for crews in all directions here except the Missouri & Illinois Railroad. Crews operating south could run 199 miles to Poplar Bluff or 254 miles to Paragould, AR via the Cotton Belt. Being that Southern Illinois was big coal country, numerous coal trains and mine runs were operated with some of those crews coming out of Salem.

The final segment I visited was Mt. Vernon at milepost 275.7. There was a small yard here and it was the base for several locals and mine runs. A depot stood at the northwest quadrant of the crossing located at milepost 276.2 with the Southern Railway. The L&N's line between Evansville and St. Louis also crossed here a little south of the Southern. A fair amount of traffic was interchanged with Southern including entire run-through trains. These were the CJZ/JCZ trains. (Chicago/Jacksonville Expedited). These trains were MoPac and Southernís attempt to compete with the L&N and Seaboard Coast Line between these two cities.

There was an open order office at Mt. Vernon staffed by a MoPac employee. The operator here also controlled the crossing as well. Like Villa Grove, the depot was a single story affair as opposed to a tower and was known as VN for many years.

Sidings were frequent and fairly long. Salem had the longest one, extended in 1978 and Grimsby at milepost 335.5 had the shortest at 6112 feet. Most of the sidings used dual control power switches protected by signals as part of the CTC system controlled by the Chicago Sub Dispatcher. The south end of Glover, Tuscola, St. Peter and Kell were exceptions. The switches at the south end of these sidings were a spring switches. The normal operating plan for meets at these locations called for southbounds to enter the sidings at these locations. They could just run through and spring the switches when departing at the south end when the meets were affected. They didnít have to stop and line the switches back as the spring mechanisms handled that chore automatically.

When MoPac took control in 1967, the double track between Chicago and Woodland Jct. was protected by automatic block signals. From the south end of the interlocking at Watseka to Woodland Jct. also had Centralized Traffic Control. Most of the route south of Woodland Jct. to Gorham was dark territory with a few small pockets of ABS at Villa Grove and between Sullivan and Findlay Jct. During the period between 1969 and 1971, CTC was extended south from Woodland Jct. all the way to Findlay Jct. By the end of 1972, the CTC reached all the way to Gorham making the entire single-track portion CTC.

Aside from the addition of CTC, other changes were constant, always present and very visible.

The mile posts on the south end of the Sub between Benton Jct. and Gorham were changed to now reflect mileage from Chicago beginning in 1972. Prior to that, this portion was still using mileage calculated from Valley Jct. Benton Jct became milepost 298.2 from Chicago. Prior to that it was milepost 125 from Valley Jct. This simplified operations and made the entire subdivision uniform.

About 1971, a derailment at Glover brought down the tower there. Glover was the crossing of the Chicago Sub and the Penn Central's Peoria & Eastern. The crossing was made an automatic interlocking and the open order station closed as a result of the derailment. Soon other open train order offices and towers began to close as well.

In 1973, open order offices at Benton and Bush were closed. By early 1974, the tower and order office at Gorham was closed. By mid 1975, the tower and order office at St Elmo, the crossing and connection between the Chicago Sub and Penn Centralís former Pennsylvania route between Indianapolis and St. Louis was closed. By October 1976 the tower and order office at Findlay Jct. was closed.

A gate protected the crossing at Altamont with the B&O. This gate was normally to left lined against the Chicago Sub. By 1972 traffic levels on the Chicago Sub were now greater than that on the B&O and the requirement was changed. Now, it was required that the gate be left lined for the Chicago Sub and against the B&O.

A hot box detector was added at milepost 211 pole 5 in 1972. It was moved south about half a mile or so to 211 pole 32 the following year. Additional detectors were added at milepost 97 pole 38, 160 pole 31, 237 pole 39, 293 pole 20 and 321 pole 0 by August of 74. Also in 74, these detectors were being equipped to detect dragging equipment. By the end of 1975, the detectors at milepost 46 and 73 were equipped with on site display readouts. The readouts were large number boards with various colored lights placed around them to assist in determining the type of defect and on which side of the train it was located. With this addition, the responsibility checking the detectors was moved from the tower operators looking at graph paper readouts to the tail end crew of the train observing the display board and lights at the detector site.

New detectors were placed into service in 1975 at milepost 139 pole 39 and 267 pole 5 with this one having on site readout. The detector at 237 was given on site readout in 1978. Another detector was located at 122 pole 24.

Welded rail was applied to the line over a period of years. It was 115 and 119-lb. rail but much of it was replaced in the 80's with much heavier 132-lb. rail.

For years telephone poles paralleled the route. These poles carried voice, data and signal communication lines that served the railroad. There were between forty and fifty poles per mile. In some cases a few more than fifty. On every tenth pole was one or stripes. At the tenth pole of the mile was a single stripe. The twentieth pole had two stripes; the thirtieth had three, the fortieth four and the fiftieth five. This eliminated the crews from having to count each pole when they were being used in location designations.

Train orders that used other than exact milepost locations would indicate these locations in milepost and pole locations. If the order stated "Do not exceed twenty-five, 25 MPH between MP 101 pole 2 and MP 102 pole 14", the poles were part of the exact location. Today, the pole line is all but gone with microwave and in tack communications systems used. Now, there are quarter mile markers to assist crews and any orders read in mileposts and tenths of miles today.

In December 1982, MoPac along with the Western Pacific were merged with the Union Pacific. Numerous changes would be forthcoming with this merger. The changes would be swift and powerful. Not necessarily good for the employees, but certainly high in impact.

During 1983 in anticipation of operating cabooseless trains, all the detectors were equipped for radio talker capability. Instead of on site readouts, the detectors talked to the trains over the radio. Being this was joint track, the detectors transmitted on both MoPac channel one as well as the L&N channel.   

Also in 1983, new power crossovers were installed at 12th Street (milepost 25.7) between the main tracks and also the connection to the CHTT Railroad. The crossovers between the mains were designated for 30 MPH. 

General Motors opened the Chicago Heights Auto Ramp north of Chicago Heights and the 12th Street Interlocking in 1983. This was business MoPac snatched away from the Illinois Central Gulf. A transfer job would deliver and spot cars in the ramp and pull the empties. One or two daily northbound trains also set out cars here for the transfer job to spot up. 

Another major change in 83 was MoPac's leasing of the Chicago & Western Indiana trackage between Dolton Jct. and 80th Street in Chicago for ninety-nine years. MoPac rules and timetable were placed into effect on the line. The interlocking at Oakdale just north of 95th Street in Chicago was given to the Yard Center Operator to control. This was the one time crossing with the Rock Island's South Chicago Sub. In 1980 it had become part of the LaSalle & Bureau County Railroad when the Rock Island shut down. Eventually the LS&BC became the Chicago Rail Link.

In 1984 after years of feuding and fighting, the Seaboard System (successor to L&N) gave up on the joint agency at Yard Center. They pulled all of their business out and moved it to the Belt Railway of Chicago's Clearing Yard in Bedford Park, IL, near Chicago's Midway Airport. Seaboard also built a new intermodal yard right next to the Clearing and pulled their intermodal business out of 37th Street Yard as well.

37th Street Intermodal Yard looking almost north

These two moves by Seaboard opened up all kinds of space at both Yard Center and 37th Street. The lack of a joint agency at 37th Street along with the problems of high crime around the facility had the MoPac management scurrying. It was decided to relocate the intermodal facility to the suburbs. So 1,2 and 3 Yards at Yard Center were closed and all the trackage was removed. This was all to be replaced with a brand new intermodal terminal. Work began in earnest. Some of the track removed was cut into panels, loaded into gondolas and shipped to Villa Grove were it was installed there to make track seven in the yard.

Also in 84, most of the switching performed at Yard Center was transferred to the BRC's Clearing Yard as well. Only industry support was being handled at Yard Center. Then, they moved the operations out to 26th Street Yard and essentially closed Yard Center for several years as a freight classification yard. Only industry and transfer jobs along with through freight crews were going on and off duty at Yard Center.
In 1984 a new set of 30 mph power crossover switches were installed north of Watseka at milepost 73.7. This interlocking was named Ben. With this addition came more changes. The CTC was extended from Watseka to Ben and the power crossovers at Watseka were removed. The extended CTC and Ben were given to the Yard Center Operator to handle, as if he didn't already have enough to do.

A major change came in 1985. The project was undertaken in 84 and completed the following year. The Yard Center Intermodal Ramp opened for business. All the intermodal business at 37th Street was shifted to the new Yard Center facility and UP then made 37th Street, now called Canal Street, a Chicago & Northwestern yard. CNW intermodal trains (which were primarily all UP business anyway) originated and terminated at Canal Street. Instead of MoPac crews switching the yard, UP hired Chicago Rail Link to switch the facility under contract.    

In the late 80's, General Motors and Grand Trunk Western had their day in court against MoPac and their successor UP. It was determined that the decision to close Yard Center and force the GTW to interchange trains to and from MoPac via the BRC and Clearing Yard thus forcing GM to endure greatly reduced levels of service was not in the public interest. It certainly was not in the interest of GM as they had protested this move from the start. Yard Center was reopened shortly thereafter and the gateway between the GTW and MoPac was reestablished. 

We will look at the portion between Dolton Jct. (just north of Yard Center) and Chicago in part two.

The following maps are from Tuch's collection

Maps drawn from the 1972 Industrial Track Numbers and Spotting Codes book.

ZONE LAYOUT - This is the area that encompasses the Chicago Terminal. Zone 3 is 37th Street Yard, Zone 1 is Yard Center and Zone 2 is all of Chicago Heights, including the CHTT, although there is no map of the CHTT lines shown.

DOLTON JUNCTION - This shows the layout around Dolton Jct. Just south of Dolton was 142nd Street and milepost 17 where the MoPac ended and C&WI trackage began. Not shown on the map is where the then Penn Central (Columbus to Chicago Main Line) crossed the B&OCT and IHB west of the diamonds with the C&WI/MoPac. It is not very legible on this map, but the middle set of tracks crossing the CWI/MoPac is the IHB. Also not shonw on this map is wye from the northbound to the IHB eastbound (#2) track. This wye was built in the late 70's after the former PC, now Conrail tracks were severed and the diamonds removed. One of the Conrail tracks was removed completely single tracking this line and use of the other required a zig-zag move using the IHB for trains to get from one side of the former Panhandle line to the other. Only locals were using this route as it was no longer a through route for Conrail by the late 70's.

The removal of these two tracks at the diamonds allowed enough room for the wye in the southeast quadrant to built to allow another connection between the IHB and MoPac and L&N. This facilitated the handling of loaded coal trains to be handled east on the IHB allowing for MoPac and L&N crews to deliver these trains to the IHB at Calumet City Yard for their further handling of these trains to the Chicago, South Shore & South Bend RR or steel mills in Northwest Indiana.

YARD CENTER NORTH - This is Yard Center from Sibley Blvd north before it was rebuilt with more tracks, capacity added and some of the tracks renumbered. Sibley is also known as IL Rt. 83 and 147th Street.

Tracks 50-58 were 1 Yard, 61-74 were 2 Yard and 81-87 3 Yard. Track 61 was shared by both 1 & 2 Yard as it was accessible from both.

501-505 and 516 were the RIP track, 515 was the caboose track. 506-513, 520-522 were roundhouse tracks and the wye to turn power.

523-525 and 823-825 were the ramp tracks.

135 was 9 Yard lead, 136 was 8 Yard lead. Not shown on this map is the interlocking placed at 145th Street which connected the mains to 8 Yard lead. The connection between 8 and 9 Yard leads was removed with the addition of 145th Street.

Tracks 138-148 were renumbered and several more tracks added here with the expansion. And with this expansion, tracks 15, 16 and 17 became trhough tracks connecting to the north end of the 8 Yard lead as well as track 305 which also had access from the 9 Yard lead side. 305-307 and 308 lead which further south broke into tracks 308 and 18 through 25 at the north end of the 9 Yard classification tracks and 39 lead were accessed from the north end of 9 Yard as well.

8 Yard lead extended south under Sibley Blvd and into the north end of 8 Yard, which was known as B Yard. On this map there is a connection between track 15 and B yard south of Sibley, but after a yard job shoved into the side of my train one evening in 1981, this connection was removed.

The 147th Street Interlocking connected 1,2 and 3 yards to the main tracks and to B Yard and the back way, the tracks just south of Sibley and west of the main tracks. 2 Yard lead (which also had another name that I just cannot recall)was west of the back way. The back way was also used a lead for 1 Yard.

Tracks 50 through 87 were removed when this portion of the yard was rebuilt into an intermodal facility in 1985.

YARD CENTER SOUTH - This is Yard Center from Sibley Blvd south. Most of this view is on the east side of the main tracks (301 and 302).  Tracks 305-308 and 18-39 were 9 Yard. With the expansion, tracks 40 and 41 were added to 9 Yard.  Tracks 303, 304, 1-17 were 8 Yard. 15-17 were accessible from both 8 and 9 Yard. 517 was the caboose track. The tower was located in between the south end of 8 and 9 Yards just north of the Little Calumet River about even with track 5. Tracks 721, 723 and 724 were already removed by 1978 and 722 was a team track.

Where the main track crossover are located north of 162nd Street and the connection to the south end of 8 Yard are 159th Street interlocking. 162nd Street was south of the actual street and added in 1981.  

THORNTON-CHICAGO HEIGHTS - At milepost 20 it Thornton Jct, the crossing and connection between the MoPac and GTW.  The southwest quadrant was removed in the latter 80’s. The tower was in the southwest quadrant west of the southbound and south of the eastbound track. A GTW Operator staffed this tower. A connection from track 734 (inbound lead) to the northbound main was added as part of the installation of 162nd Street interlocking.

The tracks on the west side of the mains at milepost 22 are Thornton Yard and Material Service’s Thornton Quarry tracks. The tracks on the east side of the main tracks near milepost 25 are part of the CHTT.  Track 730 (Steen Lead) connected this portion of the MoPac to the CHTT. CHAR (Chicago Heights Auto Ramp was built in 1983 between milepost 23 and 24. A switch facing north connected to the northbound main.

The B&OCT passed underneath and was a joint line used by both the BOCT and Milwaukee Road. It was a single track line but the map makes it appear to be double track. An interchange yard for use between the CHTT and BOCT/MILW was located just north of Joe Orr Road.

26th STREET YARD - This is the 26th Street Yard area. The MCRR evolved to New York Central, Penn Central and finally, Conrail. The crossing and connection was gone in 1979. Track 702 (Platform) was the sight of the C&EI Freight House which burned down in a spectacular 1962 fire but the platform remained and was used as a team track for years. It was gone by 1980.

The wye from the northbound to the EJ&E was part of the interlocking with the crossing and controlled by Jay Tower. The tower was in the southwest quadrant between the southbound and the EJ&E eastbound. The west leg of the wye used hand operated switches and was where I turned that load of lumber on its side in 1981.

26th Street Yard begins just south of 23rd Street although the connection to the northbound main right there was removed by 1978 using the one closer to 26th itself. The yard office was just south of the street and north of track 704.

The CHTT connected with the track (with the arrow) just north of track 7. The other track indicated with an arrow went into Gaby’s Iron & Metal.

Tracks 720, 722-725 were actually two industries (Sun Steel and Alco Spring Industries) on the EJ&E and served by the MoPac.

MoPac delivered to the J between Chicago Road and just west (about a third of a mile) of Euclid Ave and the J delievered to 26th Street.

Northbound trains set out to tracks 1-7 and southbounds picked up on 21-25. The lead on the west side became the Steger Siding. The depot near 35th Street in Steger was the old passenger depot which was sold to a construction company in the early 80’s and still stands.

Track 714 served D’Amico Macaroni Company, an industry I actually worked at before coming to the railroad. On more than one occasion I loaded boxcars there.

More maps drawn from the 1979 Industrial Track Numbers and Spotting Codes book.


MOMENCE AREA - The tower was located in between track 602 and the NYC main track, just east of the MoPac mains. All crossovers at Pence were controlled by the Pence Operator. Tracks 104 and 105 were once part of the Chicago, Attica & Southern and this portion became known as the Brazil Main. The depot was the freight agency.

WATSEKA - track 501 was where L400's locmotive and caboose were normally parked. Track 601 (west wye) was used to interchange coal trains between the L&N and TPW. The depot as been moved back from the rails, renovated and still exists as the home of the C&EI Historical Society. IL Rts. 1/24 is just north of the TPW crossing. The southward home signals here began the CTC that extended to the end of Double track at Woodland Jct. The CTC was extneded north to CP Ben (south of Pittwood and north of Watseka) when the new crossovers were installed and placed into service. A hotbox and dragging equipment detector was placed a little north of CP Ben.

WOODLAND JUNCTION - This plant was controlled by the Watseka Operator until the closing of the tower. Then the Yard Center Operator controlled this plant and all the CTC. Both of the single track routes that began/ended at the Junction were CTC and controlled by their respective Dispatchers. While this map does not reflect such, the route was all double track rihgt up to the lines actually dividing. At least it was while I operated through there. It is possible the line had been reconfigured between 1979 and when I began operating through here in 1984.


Bob Currie

About the Author

JD "Tuch" Santucci is a former MoPac Engineer, having worked in Dolton and Villa Grove, IL from 1978 to 1985. Today Tuch is still associated with railroading, as an engineer on the CNIC and publishing his own online newsletter Hot Times on the High Iron (highly recommended). Its free and you can sign-up for the emailed version by contacting Tuch
. You can also read a webpage version of Hot Times now listed at

It's impossible to overstate state how much Tuch's writings have filled the webpages on "Screaming Eagles." His insite can be felt just about everywhere here. He is a gifted writer and brings life to the historic facts of railroading.

There is a library of Hot Times on the High Iron columns dating back to July 2002 located on the web site at  If you missed some since then, stop in and catch up.

Also, you may want to visit the BLE Division 10 Web site at

The Author Interviewed in the NW Indiana Times

Visit the C&EI Historical Society site at

Tuch Santucci's Chicago Subdivision of the Missouri Pacific
Background: Chicago Sub (this page)
Photo Pages:
Part 1 l 2 l 3 l 4


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 l Last Update to this page: 18 April, 2008
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