The Chicago And Western Indiana Railroad

The Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad was initially an independent system, created in the 1870s, as a belt line to serve the greater Chicago area connecting to both other belt railroads as well as the numerous major roads reaching the Windy City. Through the 1880s and the rest of the 19th century the C&WI continued to grow through the purchase of other nearby belt lines until it was purchased itself by a consortium of Class Is as a means of reaching the newly constructed Dearborn Station without the need of those lines having to build their own lines to the terminal. The railroad continued to expand its operations through the endless sea of trackage that entangled Chicago during the first part of the 20th century. During peak operations it owned more than 150 miles of lines, including all through tracks, spurs, yards, sidings, and other trackage. It retained its independence for many years until the closing of Dearborn dealt it heavy blow. It finally ceased as a separate entity in 1994.  

The Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad's history begins on June 6, 1879 when it was chartered by John B. Brown and a few friends as they quickly understood the important of having a terminal line serving the Windy City due to the increasing number of systems reaching there (Brown also went on to found the Belt Railway of Chicago). By May, 1880 the C&WI connected Dolton, and an interchange with the Chicago & Eastern Illinois, north to where the future Deaborn Station was located, a distance of about 22 miles. This routing gave the C&WI connections to other lines along its route including the Illinois Central, Michigan Central Railroad, Santa Fe, Wabash, Pittsburgh Fort Wayne & Chicago Railway (a Pennsylvania Railroad subsidiary), St. Charles Air Line Railroad, and the Chicago Rock Island & Pacific (Rock Island).

In January, 1882 the C&WI continued to expand by acquiring the Chicago & Western Indiana Belt Railway and South Chicago & Western Indiana Railroad, which pushed its system to Hammond, Indiana just across the state line. Including Hammond this gave the C&WI connections to the Chicago Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway (early Milwaukee Road predecessor), Nickel Plate Road, Monon Railroad, Erie and another interchange point with the Santa Fe and Wabash. Prior to the construction of Dearborn Station the C&WI was acquired by a consortium of railroads as both a means of reaching the station and help to secure needed funding for the new passenger station. These lines included the Santa Fe, Chesapeake & Ohio, Chicago & Eastern Illinois, Erie Railroad, Grand Trunk Western (as a subsidiary of the Canadian National the GTW ferried several of its well known trains to Dearborn), Wabash Railroad (later the Norfolk & Western), and the Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville Railway (the Monon).

The C&WI was also placed as actual owner of Dearborn Station even though it was the Santa Fe which hosted the most trains at the terminal. During the streamliner era one could find the most prestigious trains calling at Dearborn such as the Santa Fe's Super Chief, El Capitan as well as the as well as the C&O's Pere Marquette (it later moved to Grand Central Station), the C&EI's Zipper, Monon's Hoosier and Tippecanoe, Erie's Erie Limited and Pacific Express (among others), GTW's Maple Leaf and International Limited (both CN trains), and the Wabash Banner Blue and Bluebird. Between 1912 and 1933 the railroad also picked up two other small additions, the Chicago Union Transfer Railway and Burlington, South Chicago Terminal Railroad.

During the peak of the company's operation it maintained 14 different interlocking towers and owned a total of nearly 152 miles of track which included all through routes, yards, sidings, spurs, etc. During the railroad's steam era it operated nearly 100 locomotives with the largest power being 2-10-2 Santa Fes (it owned just five of these, however). It began replacing its steamers in 1947 with diesel switchers and light road switchers, mostly from the American Locomotive Company (Alco) products, which predominantly were RS1s. Interestingly, the line also even sported its own livery of black and yellow. While the C&WI did host some freight services most of this was handled through its Belt Railway of Chicago affiliate, which utilized trackage rights over much of its property for this purpose. 

Diesel Locomotive Roster

Builder Model Type Road Number Built Quantity
EMDNW2250-25111/19472
AlcoHH60014/19341
AlcoRS1252-2637/1949-2/195012


The railroad's primary role was almost to switch passenger trains and keeping rail operations flowing smoothly in and out of Dearborn Station. During its final days, around 1970, the C&WI was owned by only the Santa Fe, Erie Lackwanna, Grand Trunk, Louisville & Nashville, and Norfolk & Western as all other carriers had either ended passenger operations, switched terminals, or were merged out of existence. With the terminal's closing as major hub in 1971 following the creation of Amtrak in May of that year the C&WI's role shrunk significantly.   After that point the company mostly functioned on paper only as its entire property was taken over by the Belt Railway and its remaining owners for freight use. It remained as a corporate entity until 1994 when it disappeared forever. To learn more about the Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad please click here.

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