Chicago, however, was not the only important location in Illinois.
While the northern part of the state saw lines fanning out from Chicago
southern areas were home to through main lines stretching farther west
to reach locations like St. Louis (the third busiest gateway behind
and Kansas City). Also, Illinois itself has retained a large number of
manufacturing and warehousing/distribution industries, which provide
railroads with a substantial amount of traffic, particularly around the
Decatur area. The state also continues to be a major source of
agriculture traffic, although the traffic itself has fallen off in the
last 30 years due to the competition of trucks. Today, Illinois includes all major Class Is. These include CSX,
Norfolk Southern, Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, BNSF Railway,
Kansas City Southern, and Union Pacific.
The state is also home to numerous regionals, shortlines, and switching railroads some of which include the Indiana Rail Road; Elgin Joliet and Eastern Railway (currently in the process of being purchased by Canadian National); Iowa Interstate; Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad subsidiary Iowa, Chicago & Eastern (currently both are in the process of being purchased by Canadian National); Alton & Southern Railway; Belt Railway of Chicago; Central Midland Railway; Chicago Rail Link; Crab Orchard & Egyptian Railroad; Effingham Railroad; Illinois RailNet; Illinois & Midland Railroad; Kankakee, Beaverville & Southern Railroad; Manufacturers Junction Railway; South Chicago & Indiana Harbor Railway; Tazewell & Peoria Railroad; Vandalia Railroad. While at one time Illinois railroads topped out at an astounding 12,000+ miles of trackage today about half of that is still in operation (being part of granger country, most of this loss was agricultural branch lines).
It’s not surprising that with the number of railroads still serving Illinois the state is home
to several large facilities and rail yards. Some of these include
Clearing Yard in southwest Chicago, which is a double-hump facility
(Meaning a yard with a large rise at its entrance, or “hump,” which then
is graded downhill until several corresponding yard tracks. The
freight car enters the hump and then proceeds downhill via gravity and
enters whatever track it is assigned, which is a way to build and
organize cars and trains.).
While the Golden Age of passenger trains has been gone for a
half-century now Illinois railroading still features plenty of passenger
trains. Amtrak dispatches 28 trains a day from Chicago with names like
the Empire Builder and Capitol Limited. The state is
to one of the largest, and longest running, commuter train operations,
Metra. The commuter agency operates 11 routes over roughly 455 miles,
dispatching some 94 trains each weekday! Illinois is also features the
historic South Shore Line, an interurban serving South Bend and Chicago.
And, to top it all, the historic Chicago Union Station still serves
both Amtrak and Metra.
and passenger operations aside, Illinois is home to numerous railroad
museums and tourist railroads such as the Illinois Railway Museum, which
over the past 40 years has been able to amass a very impressive
collection of rolling stock including several historic steam
locomotives, classic diesel locomotives and even interurban
Not only does the museum own this equipment, many pieces are restored
to operation and used many times throughout the year hauling excursions
or in some other capacity.
Others museums include the Amboy Depot Museum, Chatham Railroad
Museum, Depot Railroad Museum, Elizabeth Historical Society Depot
Museum, Fox River Trolley Museum, Galesburg Railroad Museum, Historic
Greenup Depot, the renowned Historic Pullman Foundation, Monticello
Railway Museum, Silver Creek & Stephenson Railroad, and Union Depot
Railroad Museum. All in all, Illinois railroads offer a dizzying array of
operations! Whether you are a big time railroad enthusiast, vacationer
after something a little different to do, or simply a commuter looking
for a better alternative than the highway congestion the state definitely features a little of everything!
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