Chicago Rail Fair




In a recent National Railway Historical Society Bulletin I read that at the time of the Chicago Rail Fair of 1948, Chicago had 22 Class 1 railroads, 9 switching/terminal roads; 6 industrial railroads and 3 suburban (interurban) roads.

A lot of the information I had was from 1964 plus a few other items so I tried to reconstruct what 1948 must have included:

Railroad Type Note Comments
Alton Railroad Class 1   Merged into GM&O in 1947
B&O Chicago Terminal Terminal -a) -b) -c) -d) In 1964: 81 route miles; 356 track miles; 38 diesels
Baltimore & Ohio Class 1 -b) -c) Now CSX
Belt Railway of Chicago   -a) -b) -c) -d) In 1964: 440 track miles; 48 diesels; multiple railroads own this line
Burlington (Chicago, Burlington & Quincy) Class 1 -b) -c) Connections to transcontinental Northern Pacific and Great Northern; now BNSF; passenger station was Union. In the 1960’s: had over 30 commuter trains to Aurora
Chesapeake & Ohio Class 1 -b) -c) Now CSX; passenger station was Grand Central
Chicago & Eastern Illinois Not Class 1 -b) In 1964: 863 miles; 1490 track miles; 109 diesels; 101 passenger cars (still serving Chicago?) Later portions went to Missouri Pacific; passenger station was Dearborn
Chicago & Illinois Midland   -b) -c) -d) In 1964: 121route miles; 216 track miles; 15 diesels
Chicago & Illinois Western   -a) -b) -c) In 1964: 12 route miles; 33 track miles; 4 diesels; passenger station was Dearborn; but showed no passenger cars in use
Chicago & Western Indiana   -a) -b) -c) In 1964: 27 route miles; 195 route miles; 12 diesels
Chicago, Aurora & Elgin Suburban -a) Closed 1961
Chicago Great Western Not Class 1 -b) Merged into C&NW; now UP
Chicago Heights Terminal Transfer   -a) -b) -c) In 1964: 7 route miles; 32 track miles; 4 diesels
Chicago Junction Railway (under Chicago River & Indiana)   -a) -c)  
Chicago Produce Terminal Co Industrial -a) -c)  
Chicago River & Indiana (NY Central)   -a) -b) -c) In 1964: 158 track miles; 27 diesels
Chicago Short Line & Railway Co   -a) -b) -c) In 1964: 29 track miles
Chicago Union Station Co Terminal -a) -c) -d) In 1964: 31 track miles; 10 diesels. Now owned by Amtrak
Chicago, West Pullman & Southern   -a) -b)  
Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Class 1 -a) -b) -c) In 1964: 205 route miles; 1013 track miles; 138 diesels
Erie ( Erie-Lackawanna) Class 1 -b) -c) passenger station was Dearborn
Grand Trunk Western Class 1 -b) -c) -d) passenger station was Dearborn
Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Class 1 -b) -c) passenger station was Union. In the 1960’s: only one suburban train remained.
Illinois Central Class 1 -b) -c) -d) passenger station was Central for long distance service and Randolph Street for commuters. Operated electric MU’s. Operated the most suburban trains
Illinois Northern Rwy   -a) -b) -c) In 1964: 2 route miles; 19 track miles; 6 diesels
Indiana Harbor Belt (NY Central and Milwaukee)   -a) -b) -c) In 1964: 126 route miles; 648 track miles; 125 diesels
Manufacturers Junction Ry Co Industrial -a) -b) -c) -d) In 1964: 2 route miles; 11 track miles; 2 diesels
Milwaukee (Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific) Class 1 -b) -c) passenger station was Union. In the 1960’s: carried 22,000 daily commuters on 16 trains
Monon (New York, Chicago & St. Louis) Class 1 -b) -c) passenger station was Dearborn. In 1964: owned 27 passenger cars
New York Central Class 1 -b) -c) Now Conrail; passenger station was Central. In the 1960’s: operated long distance passenger service but last suburban train left in the 1950’s (to Elkhart, IN)
Nickel Plate (New York, Chicago & St. Louis) Class 1 -b) -c) Now Norfolk Southern
North Shore (Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee) Suburban -a) Closed 1963
Northwestern (Chicago & Northwestern) Class 1 -b) -c) -d) At one time, connections to transcontinental Union Pacific; but later this connection over Milwaukee. In the 1960’s: carried 90,000 daily commuters on 3 routes with 200 trains
Pennsylvania Class 1 -b) -c) Now Conrail; passenger station was Union. In the 1960’s: operated a commuter run to Valparaiso, IN as well as long distance service.
Pullman Railroad Co.   -b) Located in Pullman, IL. In 1964: 5 route miles; 19 track miles; and 4 diesels
Rock Island (Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific) Class 1 -b) -c) passenger station was LaSalle. In the 1960’s: operated commuter branches to Joliet and Blue Island
Santa Fe (Atcheson, Topeka & Sante Fe) Class 1 -b) -c) Now BNSF; passenger station was Dearborn
Soo Line RR Class 1 -b) -c) -d) passenger station was Central; In 1964: owned 53 passenger cars
South Shore (Chicago, South Shore & South Bend Suburban -a) -b) -c) -d) Still going strong! passenger station was/is Randolph Street
Wabash Class 1 -c) Now Norfolk Southern; passenger station was Dearborn. In the 1960’s: operated commuter run to Orland Park

Notes: (a- on “Shortlines of Chicago Historical Society” web page

(b- per 1964 Janes

(c- per 1964 Official Guide

 (d- per 1997 Moody’s

There are several good sources for more information on the Rail Fair:
Yesteryear Depot has some great pictures.
For those of you not familiar with railroading in Chicago, most track inside the City limits and some near in suburbs are elevated. The bridges (viaducts) over the streets are about 12 feet in Height. Current federal standard calls for 16 feet. So the viaducts, which are almost 100 years old are being replaced and raised at the same time.
Some viaducts are not being done because they are poured concrete. At Mayfair, where Montrose Ave ducks under the line, the solution was to lower the street about 2 feet.


Railroads and Rail Yards of Chicago

Chicago’s three major terminal roads are featured prominently at many of the junctions covered on this website.
Chicago rail news
South Chicago & Indiana Harbor Railway Company


Railroads from the Encyclopedia of Chicago

Encyclopedia of Chicago has a big section on the railroads of Chicago.

Although barely visible in the Middle West, by the 1840s the Railway Age had already dawned. Public support contributed to making Chicago a railroad hub. Backing took the form of franchises, subscriptions to railroad securities, and grants of real estate for rights-of-way and facilities.

Chicagoans saw their first iron horse in 1848. On October 10, 1848, a 2-4-0 type steam locomotive, appropriately named The Pioneer, began to pull cars laden with construction supplies and workers over the advancing line of the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad. Spearheaded by several Chicago businessmen , the company formed the core of that future corporate giant, the Chicago & North Western Railway System.

Although the Galena & Chicago Union won the distinction of being the first railroad to turn a wheel in Chicago and Cook County, it soon lost its monopoly status. The Illinois Central (IC), the first recipient of a federal land grant, rapidly took shape in the early 1850s.

In 1894, six major depots served Chicago. A process of replacement terminals continued throughout the era of heavy train travel. In 1924 the last major terminal to open was Union Station, located on Adams and Canal Streets.



New York City World’s Fair Railroad Building


No, they didn’t have a rail fair, but the 1939 World’s Fair had a Railroad Building



Union Pacific Big Boy at the Rail Fair



Narrow Gauge Deadwood Central at Rail Fair

This card is from my collection which I found in St Joseph, Michigan.


Milwaukee Railroad Magazine
The railroads that exhibited at the Rail Fair promoted it too! Here’s what the Milwaukee did.





Chicago Northwestern Railroad Magazine
The Chicago Northwestern Railroad exhibited at the Rail Fair. Here’s how they promoted it.








Missouri Pacific Magazine at the time of the Rail Fair

********** has provided a 1942 Quiz Book on Railroads and Railroading.

Here’s some interesting questions and answers:

What is meant by Class One, Class Two and Class Three railroads

and switching and terminal companies?

For statistical purposes, railroads are divided into three classes, as follows: Class One railroads, each having operating revenues above $1,000,000 a year; Class Two railroads, each having operating revenues above $100,000 and not exceeding $1,000,000 a year; and Class Three railroads, each having operating revenues up to $100,000 a year. (Roman numerals-1, II and III-are usually used in designating them.) Switching and terminal companies include local switching railroads, industrial railroads, port railroads, stockyard railroads, bridge and ferry companies, union station companies and various other local railway companies not engaged in line-haul operations.

How many railway companies are in operation in the United States?

On January 1, 1941, there were 137 Class 1; 182 Class II; 215 Class III line-haul railroads and 208 switching and terminal companies in operation in the United States – a total of 742 operating companies in the four groups.



Souvenir from the Continental Illinois Bank made for the Chicago Rail Fair


The Chicago Tunnel Company

60-mile, two-foot gauge electric railroad that operated 149 locomotives and over 3000 freight cars in small tunnels forty feet below the streets of downtown Chicago.



World’s Fastest Locomotive at Rail Fair

This card is from my collection which I found in St Joseph, Michigan.



Chessie Train at Rail Fair


Historical Shortline Railroads of Chicagoland

Shortlines of Chicago Historical Society

Historical Shortline Railroads of Chicagoland

Aurora Elgin & Fox River – Became part of RELIC (Fox Valley trolley museum)

Baltimore & Ohio Chicago Terminal – Merged into CSX

Bridgeport & South Chicago – absorbed by Chicago Terminal Transfer

Burlington South Chicago Terminal – Purchased by Chicago & Western Indiana

Calumet Hammond & Southeastern – Absorbed by Chicago Short Line

Calumet Western – Purchased by Chicago Rail Link

Central Wisconsin – Operations taken over by Wisconsin & Calumet

Chicago & Calumet River – industrial line – abandoned

Chicago & Calumet Terminal – Merged into Chicago Terminal Transfer

Chicago & Illinois Eastern – Proposed

Chicago & Illinois Western – Merged into Illinois Central

Chicago & Indiana – Went out of business

Chicago & Waldheim – operated before 1880

Chicago & West Ridge – track taken over by C&NW

Chicago & Western – (1880-1885)

Chicago Attica & Southern – Abandoned

Chicago Aurora & Elgin electric line – Abandoned

Chicago Central & Pacific – Regional Line – Purchased by Illinois Central

Chicago Central – Purchased by Chicago Terminal Transfer

Chicago Freeport & St Paul – Proposed

Chicago Hammond & Western – Merged into Chicago Junction

Chicago Heights Terminal Transfer – Purchased by Missouri Pacific

Chicago Junction – Purchased by Chicago River & Indiana

Chicago Lake Geneva & Pacific – never built

Chicago Lake Shore & Eastern – absorbed by Elgin, Joliet & Eastern

Chicago Madison & Northern – Merged into Illinois Central

Chicago Madison & Northern – Operations taken over by Wisconsin & Southern

Chicago Millington & Western (1870-1879) Narrow gauge (3 foot)

Chicago Missouri & Western – Regional Line – Bankrupt – sold to Southern Pacific and Gateway Western

Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee – electric line – abandoned

Chicago Palatine & Wauconda – abandoned

Chicago Produce Terminal

Chicago River & Indiana –  Merged into Conrail

Chicago Short Line – Purchased by South Chicago & Indiana Harbor

Chicago Terminal Transfer – Purchased by Baltimore & Ohio Chicago Terminal

Chicago Terminal Co – Proposed

Chicago Tunnel – Narrow gauge (2 foot) – abandoned

Chicago Union Station – Purchased by Amtrak

Chicago West Pullman & Southern – Merged into Chicago Rail Link

Comrail International Industrial Line

East Chicago Belt – became Indiana Harbor Belt

Elgin Joliet & Western – Owned by Elgin Joliet & Eastern

Elkhorn & Walworth – Operations taken over by Wisconsin & Calumet

Erie Western – Operations taken over by Chicago & Indiana

Freeport & El Paso – Proposed – Outlying

Gateway Western – Regional Line – Purchased by Kansas City Southern

Hammond Belt Line – (1910-1929) abandoned

Hanover – Abandon – Outlying

I & M Rail Link – Regional Line – Purchased by Iowa Chicago & Eastern

Illinois & Rock River – Proposed – Outlying

Illinois Midland – abandoned

Illinois Northern – absorbed by AT&SF (BNSF)

Illinois Railnet – sold to Illinois Railways

Illinois Terminal – This was a proposed line that would have done the local switching on the lines of UP (ex-C&NW) and CPrail (ex-soo, ex-CMST&P) in Chicago. Not to be confused with the Illinois Terminal that was absorbed by the N&W
Indian Hill & Iron Range – industrial line – abandoned

Indiana Interstate

Joliet & Valparaiso – Proposed

Joliet Junction Operations discontinued 1997 – becoming bike trail

Joliet Union Depot

La Salle & Bureau County – Name changed to Chicago Rail Link

Lyons Belt Line

Midlothian & Blue Island – abandoned

Morris Terminal Rwy – Owned / absorbed by CRI&P

New Jersery Indiana & Illinois – Merged into Norfolk & Western – Outlying

North Shore & Western – electric line – abandoned

Palatine Lake Zurich & Wauconda – Reorganize as Chicago Palatine & Wauconda

Plymouth Short Line

Pullman – Purchased by Chicago Rock Island & Pacific

SPCSL Corporation – Paper Road – owned by Southern Pacific- Merged into Union Pacific


Union Stock Yards & Transit – Part of Chicago Junction

Wisconsin & Calumet – Purchased by Wisconsin & Southern

Wisconsin Chicago Link Wholley owned subsidary of Wisconsin Central RR

Wisconsin Central – Regional Line – Purchase by Canadian National


Attractions at the Rail Fair

There were lots of attractions to see and souvenirs to buy!

You could get a replica to the 1869 Golden Spike.

C&O Railroad exhibited “Train X” ( Robert Young’s dream) while Electro-Motive Division of General Motors displayed the “Train of Tomorrow”. New York Central displayed a 6000-class Niagara plus several modern cars.

Historical equipment included the Stourbridge Lion, the Dewitt Clinton, Locomotive 999.


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