Todd and Denver Todd's Railfan Guide to
Histories of the Railroad Stations

In General
Getting Here
Station info - No Pictures
(easier to carry)


In General

The following comes from Wikipedia, as such, carries my standard Wikipedia DISCLAIMER: some of the information may be inaccurate, so take it all with a grain of salt, people like you and me can edit and add info to Wikipedia.... why Wikipedia?  I don't have the time to research all this stuff myself :-)

Since the 19th century Chicago has been the hub of the North American rail network.  It has more trackage radiating in more directions than any other city in North America.  Railroads set up their headquarters in the city and Chicago became a center for building freight cars, passenger cars and diesel locomotives.

By the 1930s Chicago had the world's largest public transportation system, but commuter rail services started to decline. By the mid-1970s, the commuter lines faced an uncertain future.  The Burlington Northern, Milwaukee Road, Chicago and North Western, and Illinois Central were losing money and railroads were using passenger cars from as far back as the 1920s.

Formation of the RTA..... To provide stability to the commuter rail system, the Illinois General Assembly formed the Regional Transportation Authority in 1974.  Its purpose was to fund and plan the Chicago region's public transportation.  In the beginning the Regional Transportation Authority commuter train fleet consisted of second-hand equipment, until 1976 when the first order of new EMD F40PH locomotives arrived.  That F40PH fleet is still in service today.

Less than a decade later the Regional Transportation Authority was already suffering from ongoing financial problems.  In 1983 the Illinois Legislature reorganized the agency.  That reorganization left the Regional Transportation Authority in charge of day to day operations of all bus, heavy rail and commuter rail services throughout the Chicago metropolitan area.  It was also responsible for directing fare and service levels, setting up budgets, finding sources for capital investment and planning.

Metra branding..... Due to the broad range of responsibilities entrusted with the Regional Transportation Authority, the Commuter Rail Service Board was created in 1984.  It was renamed Metra in July 1985.  The newly reorganized Metra service helped to bring a single identity to the many infrastructure components serviced by the Regional Transportation Authority's commuter rail system.  Metra's operating arm, the Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation, was created as a separate rail subsidiary which operates seven Metra owned routes.  Contracts were set up with the Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroads to operate four other Metra routes.  While Metra owns all rolling stock and is responsible for most stations on those routes, the freight carriers use their own employees and control the right-of-way for those routes.  In keeping with Metra's purpose to provide a single identity for commuter rail in the region, the freight operators provide service under the Metra name.

More info can be found on the Wiki page here.

Today, Chicago has five main stations, or terminals, in the downtown area.  They are:
     1) Union Station
     2) LaSalle St Station
     3) Ogilvie Transportation Center
     4) Millennium Station
     5) Van Buren Station

In the past, the downtown area of Chicago also hosted several other stations as noted in the inset of my map below:
     1) Grand Central Station
     2) Dearborn Station
     3) Wells Station
     4) Central Station
     5) CNW Western Terminal

Aerial shots were taken from Google Maps or Bing Maps as noted.  The snap-shots from Bing are made with Snagit, a Techsmith product... a great tool if you have never used it! 
Pictures and additional information is always needed if anyone feels inclined to take 'em, send 'em, and share 'em, or if you have something to add or correct.... credit is always given! Contact info is here

Downtown Stations

Union Station

The current Union Station first opened in 1925, which replaced an earlier structure built in 1881.  In 1969, the concourse was demolished to make way for two office building projects.  Today, Union Station serves Amtrak as well as Metra’s North Central Service, Milwaukee District/North Line, Milwaukee District/West Line, BNSF Railway Line, Heritage Corridor and SouthWest Service.



LaSalle Street Station

The LaSalle Street Station was built in 1882.  It replaced earlier structures dating back to 1852.  The LaSalle Street station served by the long distance trains of the Nickel Plate Road, the New York Central, the NYC subsidiary Michigan Central, and the Rock Island.  Beginning in 1968, former NYC trains began running directly to Union Station under the Penn Central flag.  The last remaining tenant was the commuter operation of the Rock Island, which survive today as Metra’s Rock Island District.  The upper floors of the building once housed Rock Island's corporate headquarters.  However, the structure was torn down in the early 1980's and replaced with a high-rise office building making LaSalle Street the smallest of all Metra’s downtown terminals.



Ogilvie Transportation Center

The Ogilvie Transportation Center was built as the Chicago & North Western Terminal (or simply “North Western Station”) in 1911, replacing Wells Street Station across the Chicago River.  Some B&O and Pere Marquette (later C&O) trains also used the station.  Upon the formation of Amtrak in 1971, only C&NW’s commuter operations remained.  In 1984 the head house was razed and replaced with the 42-story Citicorp Center, which was completed in 1987.  Two years after the C&NW was merged into Union Pacific in 1995, the station was re-named for Richard B. Ogilvie, former governor of Illinois, and former board member of the Milwaukee Road.  The Union Pacific/North Line, Union Pacific/Northwest Line and Union Pacific/West Line currently operate out of the station.



Millennium Station / Randolph Street Station

The original Randolph Street Station served all Illinois Central trains.  The City Council required the IC to electrify its operations in 1926, making this Metra’s only electric operation to date.  All of Metra’s electric lines terminate here, as do all Chicago SouthShore & South Bend trains (operated by NICTD).  The grungy old station was in a state of constant construction from the late 1980s until recent completion of Millennium Park in 2005.  The facility was thoroughly rehabbed and renamed Millennium Station, but is still referred to locally as Randolph Street Station.



LaSalle Street Station




Van Buren Station




Former Chicago Railroad Stations

This section  contains stations that are still with us, but not being used for railroad use, or stations that have been demolished.

Dearborn Station

Dearborn Station (also referred to as Polk Street Station) was the oldest of the six intercity train stations serving downtown Chicago during the heyday of rail in the twentieth century and has since been converted into office and retail space.  Located at Dearborn and Polk Streets, the station was owned by the Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad, which itself was owned by the companies operating over its line.

The Romanesque Revival structure, designed by Cyrus L. W. Eidlitz, opened on May 8, 1885.  The three-story building's exterior walls and twelve-story clock tower were composed of pink granite and red pressed brick topped by a number of steeply-pitched roofs.  Modifications to the structure following a fire in 1922 included eliminating the original pitched roof profile.  Behind the head house were the train platforms, shielded by a large train shed. Inside the station were ticket counters, waiting rooms, and one of the legendary Fred Harvey Company restaurants.

The station was closed on May 2, 1971, as the first step of Amtrak's consolidation of Chicago's remaining intercity train operations at Union Station.  By 1976, Dearborn Station's train shed was demolished and tracks were removed.  However, the headhouse building escaped the fate of several other Chicago stations like Central Station and Grand Central Station, which were both demolished.  The train station stood abandoned into the mid-1980s when it was converted to retail and office space.  The former rail yards provided the land that is now known as Dearborn Park.

Dearborn Station served as terminal for the following railroads, here are some of the more well-known name trains:

--- Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway:
     - the Chief, Super Chief, El Capitan, and Grand Canyon Limited (to name but a few) to Los Angeles.
     - the Texas Chief to Galveston and Houston.
     - the Antelope to Oklahoma City.
     - the Kansas Cityan (and its eastbound counterpart, the Chicagoan) to Kansas City.
     - the San Francisco Chief to San Francisco.
Note: Although the Santa Fe by far operated the greatest number of trains from the station, it was only a tenant.

--- Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (moved to Grand Central Station February 28, 1925).

--- Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad:
     - Cardinal, Zipper and Silent Knight to St. Louis.
     - Dixie Flyer to Evansville.
From July 31, 1904 to August 1, 1913, C&EI trains used LaSalle Street Station.

--- Chicago, Indianapolis and Louisville Railway (Monon) — Hoosier and Tippecanoe to Indianapolis.

--- Erie Railroad (became the Erie Lackawanna Railway in 1960) — Erie Limited and Atlantic Express to New York City.

--- Grand Trunk Western Railroad:
     - Maple Leaf, Inter-city Limited, and International Limited to Toronto and Montreal.
     - Mohawk to Detroit.

--- Wabash Railroad (became the Norfolk and Western Railway in 1964) — Blue Bird and Banner Blue to St. Louis.


The following commuter rail services also operated from Dearborn:

--- Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad (until 1935) - operated from Dearborn Station to Crete, Illinois.

--- Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad (until 1964) - operated between Dearborn Station and Dolton IL, serving mostly local stops within Chicago's far south side.

--- Erie Railroad - operated from Dearborn Station to Rochester IN.

--- Grand Trunk Western Railroad (until 1935) - operated from Dearborn Station to Valparaiso IN (later service was cut back to Harvey IL).

--- Wabash Railroad (Norfolk and Western Railway from 1964) - used a track west of the station until 1976, when moved to Union Station); now Metra's SouthWest Service.


Most of this info came from the Wikipedia page here.

  From Wikipedia, photo from 10/14/11 by Beyond My Ken ?????

  From Wikipedia, cropped by Beyond My Ken


Central Station

Central Station was an intercity passenger terminal in downtown Chicago, Illinois, at the southern end of Grant Park at Roosevelt Road and Michigan Avenue. Owned by the Illinois Central Railroad, it also served other companies via trackage rights.  It opened in 1893, replacing the Illinois Central Depot (on the site of the current Millennium Station), and closed in 1972 when Amtrak rerouted services to Union Station.

Adjoining platforms served the suburban trains of the Illinois Central, electrified in 1926 (now called the Metra Electric Line), and the South Shore Line interurban railroad.  Both lines continued north to Randolph Street.

The Romanesque structure, designed by Bradford L. Gilbert and built by the Illinois Central Railroad, opened April 17, 1893 to meet the traffic demands of the World's Columbian Exposition. The nine-story building featured a 13-story clock tower and housed the general offices of the railroad. It boasted the largest train shed in the world at the time, which measured 140 by 610 feet.

The station was built, owned and used by the Illinois Central Railroad for intercity trains only; commuter trains continued to the old Illinois Central Depot. It was also used by the Illinois Central's Chicago, Madison and Northern Railroad, merged into the IC in 1902, which reached the station via the St. Charles Air Line Railroad, meeting the IC main line just south of the station.

Also sharing the station was the Michigan Central Railroad, part of the New York Central Railroad system, which had shared the IC's terminal from its opening in 1852. The Michigan Central connected with the Illinois Central at Kensington. The Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway (Big Four), also a New York Central line, joined the IC at Kankakee and also used Central Station. Using the station from the beginning was the Chicago and West Michigan Railway, consolidated into the Pere Marquette Railroad in 1900. At the time it used the Michigan Central west from New Buffalo MI.

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which had used the Illinois Central Depot, moved into Grand Central Station rather than relocate to the new Central Station further from downtown.

The Wisconsin Central Railway (part of the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie Railway (Soo Line) after 1909) switched from Grand Central Station to Central in 1899 due to disagreements with the Chicago Terminal Transfer Railroad, which owned Grand Central. To get to Central it used a portion of the recently-opened Chicago, Hammond and Western Railroad (later the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad) from Franklin Park to Broadview, and the Illinois Central's Chicago, Madison and Northern Railroad from Broadview to the terminal. On December 15, 1903, the Pere Marquette Railroad's line to Porter, Indiana opened, and its trains were rerouted from Central to Grand Central.

The Soo Line switched back to Grand Central Station in 1912. On March 1, 1925 the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway began using Central, switching from Dearborn Station. Its new alignment used the allied New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad (Nickel Plate Road) from Hammond, Indiana north to Grand Crossing, Illinois, where it joined the Illinois Central to its terminal. In 1965 the Soo Line once again switched stations, moving back into Central for its final years of passenger service.

The New York Central Railroad moved its Michigan Central Railroad trains from Central to the NYC's LaSalle Street Station on January 18, 1957. The Illinois Central Railroad sued the Michigan Central, which had used the Illinois Central's Chicago terminal since 1852, for breach of contract, settling out of court for $5 million.

By May 1, 1971, the startup date of Amtrak, Central was used only by trains of the Illinois Central Railroad (including the City of Miami, City of New Orleans and Panama Limited on the line south from Chicago, and the Hawkeye on the line to the west) and the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway (Big Four) (including the James Whitcomb Riley and South Wind). Amtrak continued only the City of New Orleans, James Whitcomb Riley and South Wind, as well as the IC's local Shawnee.

On January 23, 1972 Amtrak moved the Floridian (renamed from the South Wind in November 1971) to Union Station due to poor track conditions on its route in Indiana. The rest of the trains - the George Washington/James Whitcomb Riley, Panama Limited (renamed from the City of New Orleans, also in November 1971), and the Shawnee - last served Central Station March 5, 1972, after which they were rerouted to Union Station. The Panama Limited and Shawnee continued to use the IC to just south of Central Station, where they turned west onto the St. Charles Air Line as a realigned junction and ran west to Union Station, including at least one reversal to reach the station. That route is now used by the City of New Orleans and Illini, though there are plans to eliminate it (and the St. Charles Air Line) with a new connection at Grand Crossing.

In late 1973, the Illinois Central relocated its general offices to the new Illinois Center. Central Station and its train shed were demolished in 1974. The commuter platforms remained until Spring 2009, serving the Metra Electric Line and NICTD's South Shore Line, when they were replaced with more modern structures and renamed Museum Campus/11th Street. The railyards south of the station are the site of ongoing redevelopment as the Central Station project.

From Wikipedia, by Jack E. Boucher, collection of Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, IL-1106-2




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NEW 11/22/2013
Last Modified 23-Nov-2013