Chicago The Greatest Railway Center in the World
By Robert J. McKay, Vice-President for Fort Dearborn National Bank
From Fort Dearborn Magazine, December, 1921
A map of the railroads centering in Chicago is like a diagram of the sun’s rays, with Chicago like a diagram of the sun’s rays, with Chicago in the position of the sun. Radiating from Chicago are railroads leading east to the Atlantic, railroads south to the Gulf, railroads west to the Pacific coast, and railroads north to the Canadian border and beyond. More than a third of the total railway mileage of the world converges at this point. It is estimated on reliable authority that 100,000 people engaged in the railroad industry are residents of the Chicago district.
Over 2500 Merchandise Cars Leave Chicago Every Day Over the Above Lines
There are 4,500 miles of railroad track within the Chicago District. This notable district contains 400 square miles of which 30,000 and 40,000 acres are in railroad yards, in addition to private and individual tracks owned by some 2,500 business houses. There are 525 receiving stations in the same area-—325 passenger and 201 freight stations. There are 70,500,000 passengers handled in Chicago every year— an average of a train a minute arriving or departing for every minute of the twenty-four hours. There are approximately 7,500,000 freight cars handled annually in this city—more than a thousand an hour for every hour of the twenty-four.
During the month of October, 1920, there was a daily average of 92,387 cars handled in the Chicago District. On December 14th, 1920, 2,724 cars of coal alone were brought into Chicago. On the 28th of last July there were 1,445 cars of grain received in this city. Every day of the year there are on the average 2,500 cars of less-than-carload freight forwarded out of Chicago, these package cars being consolidated in the Chicago District and run through without delay to their destinations in practically the same way as solid car shipments.
Chicago, beginning life as a little frontier post— Fort Dearborn—might well have remained a village of minor importance if she had continued to depend upon river trafiic alone, for there were other towns in Illinois and surrounding states almost as well, if not better situated than Chicago in that respect. The fact that Chicago is the center of population of the United States today, the second city in size on the continent, and the great power commercially which she is among the cities of the world, is due in no small degree to the vast service rendered by her railroads.
By this service fifty millions of people within a radius of 500 miles of Chicago can leave their homes or business houses in the evening of one day and be in Chicago the next morning. By this service the 10,538 establishments engaged in manufacture in Chicago, with an invested capital of over $2,076,000,000, can receive their raw materials and distribute their products more readily than at any other point on the surface of the globe. The buyers of the world and the sellers of the world have been brought to our city gates by the great common carriers.
West Classification Unit of the Clearing Yard Where More Freight is Handled Than by Any Other One Agency in the World
The method of handling the vast railroad traffic of freight and passengers within the Chicago District is one of the world’s wonders. In the working out of this system there have been established by the roads five belt lines encircling the city, and serving to make transfer of freight between trunk lines, as well as to collect and deliver freight at the larger industrial establishments.
One of these belt lines, for example, has a station which serves as a clearing house for the freight of twelve member roads as well as other roads. This clearing yard is the largest of its kind in the world and is operated on the gravity system. Engines push cars up the “hump”—an artificial hill—and they descend to their appropriate tracks, the switches being thrown by an electro-pneumatic device from a tower. From these tracks the various roads can pick up their own cars without confusion and without delay, thus saving a vast deal of switching and side-tracking within the city. Many industries are also served directly by this
line, which is the oldest belt line in the city, having been established forty years ago.
A volume of freight vital to the world at large as well as to Chicago is also handled by another of Chicago’s belt lines serving, among other industries, the Chicago stockyards, the world’s largest livestock market. There are on an average 1,000 cars loaded with livestock received, and outbound empty, over this line every day, with, in addition, some 250 to 400 loaded cars of livestock outbound each day. In the early part of the week the livestock movement frequently reaches the total of from 2,000 to 3,000 cars in a single day. Plainly the world’s meat supply is in great part dependent on this Chicago service, both of the stock
yards and of the railroads.
Another service co—operating with the railroads in the delivery of freight in Chicago is that of the freight subway or underground tunnel. Forty feet below the surface of every important street in the Chicago loop district run little freight cars operated by electric power and representing an investment of $40,000,000—a freight subway which has no counterpart in the world. There are 60 miles of tunnel, 132 electric motors and 3,000 cars. The handling capacity is 2,000 cars a day, of which about 1,200 go in and out at the commercial connections and 800 at the public stations. Still an other service coordinated with the railroads is the lighterage system operated by a local company, making 7 connections between lines and industries lying along the river. If it were not for these various services, Chicago’s streets would be hopelessly congested.
“The Spirit of Transportation”
Chicago’s method of handling “Package” or less-than carload-lot freight is well illustrated by one station which loads an average of 52,000 packages daily or 1,352,000 a month. The method of collection is by track, truck, team, lighter and underground tunnel. Within the station each track and car have a number. Electric motor trains bring the packages to be shipped to the door of the warehouse, and opposite it will be found the train and the car for which it is numbered.
A new freight classification yard—one of the most extensive of its kind in the world, is now under construction by this road immediately south of Chicago, costing when completed $8,000,000. It will have 106 miles of track with a capacity of 13,820 cars, and will be especially notable because of a single classification yard with 62 tracks of a capacity of 2,960 ears served from a single “hump.”
Chicago, as the world’s greatest produce market, receives and transmits a tremendous quantity of butter and eggs, fruit, vegetables and other perishable things every day, totalling between six and seven hundred millions of dollars annually in value. This is handled largely by what is known as the South Water Street stations of the roads. An idea of the volume of this traffic is gained from the fact that one mercantile exchange during one year handled over 2,000,000 tubs of butter or 144,000,000 pounds, and 4,000,000 cases of eggs, or 139,000,000 dozens of eggs.
In one of these South Water Street stations it is not an uncommon thing to receive as many as 55,000 bunches of bananas from Central America in one day. Close connection is also made at this point with the lake boats, bringing peaches and grapes and other produce from Michigan for distribution either in the Chicago market or outside. In like manner all the choicest products of the Mississippi Valley—the Nile of America—find outlet in Chicago and are handled by the railroads co-operating with the waterways for the benefit of the world, and the golden harvest of California’s luscious fruits are poured out by the western roads in Chicago’s capacious lap for general distribution.
As Chicago develops her harbor facilities still further for lake traffic and strengthens her waterway connections with the East and South in co—ordination with her railway facilities, she will become not only the world’s greatest railway center but the world’s greatest inland port as well.
The Mississippi Valley alone, of which Chicago is the gateway, comprises 70 per cent of the area of the United States, holds 80 per cent of its population, includes 90 per cent of its improved agricultural lands, produces 98 per cent of the coal and iron of the country, 95 per cent of the corn, and tobacco, 90 per cent of the cotton, 90 per cent of the oil, and 85 per cent of the wheat and hay crops of the nation.
Airplane View of Union Stockyards and tracks of Chicago Junction Railway
In addition to the fruits and vegetables which the shipping of various kinds, boat and rail, brings down from Northern Michigan—there is also a vast tonnage of iron ore received in the Chicago and Calumet Rivers—7,000,000 tons, exclusive of the more than 3,000,000 tons received at Gary and 1,000,000 tons at Indiana Harbor. Chicago is the greatest manufacturer of farm implements in the world, because of her rail and water connections as much as by reason of the industrial genius concentrated here, and this is simply typical of the many other industries in which she excels. They have been built by the railroads, supplemented by the waterways.
Many thousands of men are employed in the railroad repair shops of the Chicago district, many others in the actual building of new cars.
The first Pullman palace sleeper was run by one of Chicago’s oldest roads from Bloomington to Chicago in 1859, and the first diner put in operation by the same road in 1865. The production of the Chicago plant for the manufacture of these cars and others now made is approximately 18,900 cars annually—an average working basis being 1,500 freight cars a month, 75 passenger cars, 283 coaches and diners. The works, located in the Calumet region, in what is known as the town of Pullman, covers 400 acres and employs a number of people running from 5,000 to 10,000.
What the railroads are doing in actual city building is indicated by the fact that on the west side of the river, near the “Forks”, where once the Indians and fur traders established Chicago’s center of business, one of the railroads has, within recent years, erected a passenger depot of extraordinary magnificence, costing $25,000,000 and handling 66,000 passengers daily. The freight switching yards of this road, which are removed from the congested region westward, contain 100 tracks with a capacity of 10,000 cars a day.
The Railway Yards in Winter
As a part of the Chicago plan, and in relation to the above-mentioned passenger depot so as to constitute a grand sweep of the most imposing buildings, there is under construction a colossal union passenger station for four of the great trunk lines. The investment represented by this station will be in the neighborhood of $60,000,000 when completed. The head house is of a most modern style of architecture intended to afford office room on its upper floors, as well as the general facilities for passengers below. The concourse of this station contains fourteen tracks extending to the north and fourteen extending to the south from the one “stub” and represents achievement in engineering of the most remarkable nature, as does the superstructure
and general plan in architecture.
The largest freight station in the world has recently been added to Chicago’s terminal facilities by one of the eastern lines entering the union passenger depot described above. This massive structure, stretching away along the river bank resembles some ancient castle by its moat in appearance. The tracks are built underneath the street level—eight in number, and connection is made with the warehousing facilities above by elevators, while the underground tunnel system is reached by shafts and elevators. The building is five stories in height, with a tower in addition, contains 52 elevators, 112,226 square feet of block wood pavement, has a roof surface of seven acres, and cost $16,000,000 including the land. In an emergency 475 inbound and outbound freight cars can be unloaded and loaded in this station in a day of eight hours.
New Pennsylvania Freight Terminal, Chicago, Covering Seven Acres and Costing $16,000,00
On the lake shore in the neighborhood of the new Field Museum another great passenger terminal, rep resenting a line extending from the Great Lakes to the Gulf is about to rise, beautiful in classic proportions and huge in capacity. Four fioor levels will be included, and the appointments will be commensurate with the dignity of its site.
Chicago has six great passenger stations in the downtown region. The lines they represent—some 25 in all—are as it were Chicago’s very muscles and sinews. They stretch out to the ends of the land, and connect us with the ends of the earth. Already are the cities of the United States nearer together than the wildest imagination ever pictured them by reason of the limited trains plying between them.
Plans of the New Passenger Terminal of the Illinois Central Railway, Chicago
The railroadscoming into Chicago hgve been lending themselves to the broad movement put on foot by Burnham, the architect of the ‘World’s Fair, and today maintained by the Chicago Plan Commission, headed by Charles H. W’acker. The “Chicago Plan” is a well concerted program for the zoning of the city, opening avenues of communication between boulevards widening of thoroughfares, and most efficient arrange ment of all facilities of transportation. Electrification and elevation of the tracks entering the city are rapidly being put into effect wherever required. Depots have been disposed according to the suggestion of the Plan Commission in concert with the road management. When, through all these agencies this rational plan shall have been worked out, it will make of Chicago not only the commercial capital of the world. but the city most renowned in all the world for order and beauty.
Sectional View of the Chicago and Northwestern Depot, Which Handles 66,000 Passengers Dally
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