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From the 1850’s until 1912. the intersection of 75th st. and Woodlawn and South Chicago avs. also was a crossing for the I. C., the Pennsylvania, the Nickel Plate, the Pere Marquette, the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern, the Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and St. Louis, and the Michigan Central railroads. The latter three are now part of the New York Central system.
It was a grand crossing—so that’s what the railroad men began to call it. Gradually others picked up the term and today, altho the “grand crossing” was eliminated in 1912 when the road was elevated and tracks placed on three levels, the area is called Grand Crossing rather than by its original name of Cornell after Paul Cornell, an early settler.
From Andrea’s History of Chicago, Volume I:
1853 April 25: Occurred the first great railroad accident near Chicago. A train on the Michigan Southern collided with a train on the Michigan Central, at their crossing (at Grand Junction). Eighteen persons were killed outright, and forty of the wounded were brought to Chicago. On the 27th resolutions were passed at a meeting of the citizens, condemning the accident as owing to carelessness, and demanding that thereafter every train should come to a full stop before crossing any other railroad. This was the first time that this very essential safeguard, now universally adopted, was ever suggested
75th and Woodlawn Avenue in 1902.
Looking north along the six-track (two suburban, two intercity passenger, two freight) Illinois Central Railroad, with the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway and New York Central Railroad’s Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway crossing.
75th and Woodlawn Avenue in 1912.
Looking north along the Illinois Central Railroad, with the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway and New York Central Railroad’s Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway crossing overhead. At the left is the planned alignment of the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railway.
Chicago Tribune, July 21, 1907
Lives of 50,000 suburbanites and 20,000 other passengers are placed In jeopardy six times every week while the railroads wrangle over the division of the cost of track raising and separation at grades at Grand Crossing. The city authorities and the state are apparently powerless to change existing conditions. The city has the right to compel the elevation of tracks, but It has no power to separate grades.
The Illinois Central was the first railroad at Grand Crossing, then followed in succession the Pennsylvania, the Lake Shore, and the Nickel Plate. The result Is a multiplicity of tracks and crossings where only two tracks formerly proved sufficient for all the business the Illinois Central could carry. The Illinois Central was the first to raise tracks In the city limits back in 1892. After that the track raising ordinances were passed, but they have proved inadequate to adjust the situation at Grand Crossing.
Roads Dispute Over Cost.
With the view of reaching an agreement for separating the grades, representatives of the Illinois Central, the Pennsylvania, the Lake Shore, and the Nickel Plate roads agreed on a plan, but the Pennsylvania objected when its share of the cost was named. To a suggestion to arbitrate, the representatives of the Pennsylvania replied that they had no authority to agree to arbitration.
Under the agreement the Lake Shore and the Pennsylvania were to elevate their tracks passing over the Illinois Central, which in turn would pass over the Nickel Plate tracks. This arrangement would require the Pennsylvania to raise its viaduct thirty-five feet above the grade. The Pennsylvania refused to do so unless the Illinois Central would agree to pay the difference in cost for a viaduct at same grade as the Illinois Central, which the latter refused to do.
Dispute as to Jurisdiction.
The matter was referred to the Illinois railroad and warehouse commission, and after a time the commission returned the papers saying it had no jurisdiction. The Illinois statutes give the commission power to investigate the safety of a track or structure and compel the railroads to put it in a safe condition. But whether the statutes apply with equal force to a crossing is the question at issue.
The Illinois Central contends that the commission has the right because the grade crossing is dangerous and. lives are placed in jeopardy every day. The trains must stop before arriving at the crossing, but there Is no interlocking device and if an engine should become unmanageable there is no way to prevent a collision in case another train is crossing at the same time.
The Illinois Central and other lines using the same tracks have 250 suburban trains. sixty through trains and S,500 freight cars crossing the tracks of the Lake Shore, the Pennsylvania, and the Nickel Plate at Grand Crossing every day, and those roads have also a great number of trains at that crossing.