Chicago River & Indiana Railroad

Welcome to our “Chicago Switching” WebSite

This WebPage started out as just the Chicago River & Indiana Railroad, but now includes all switching and subsidiary railroads in the Chicago area with a New York Central Railroad connection.

We have a great section on the Indiana Harbor Belt and the The Kankakee Belt Line.



Chicago Union Stock Yard gate at Exchange Avenue. (Courtesy Chicago Historical Society)

The Chicago Junction Railway controls access to the Chicago Union Stock Yards district.


This map shows the railroads in the vicinity of the Chicago stockyards in 1960. It is part of a map of the B&O Chicago Terminal Railroad.



Indiana Harbor Belt
Moody’s Guide for 1954 shows IHB stock ownership as:
NYCRR – 30%
MCRR – 30%
CNW – 20%
MILW – 20%

There was an outstanding bond issue of about $9 million, guaranteed by LS&MS (NYCRR), MCRR, CNW and MILW, that matured on July 1, 1957. That bond maturity might have triggered a change in ownership.

According to George G. Spier in his book, TRACKSIDE around CHICAGO page 97, IHB ownership was NYC 49.5%, Michigan Central 30.3% Milw 20.2%. Book from 1959.


How Indiana Harbor Belt closed an information gap with EDI

Chicago’s terminal railroad, the Indiana Harbor Belt upgraded its ineffective information management systems to an electronic data exchange.

Connecting roads used to call Indiana Harbor Belt “Chicago’s black hole.” They don’t anymore. Here’s why.

The Indiana Harbor Belt is one of Chicago’s key terminal railroads, connecting with 17 trunk line railroads at 960 nodes. An east-west clearing house for Chicago’s complex network of rail lines, it handles over 900,000 freight cars per year on 475 track-miles. Business has been brisk in recent years.

What is a VAN? The EDI experts can create an involved answer but lots of people (like business managers, for instance) are not quite sure what it is. Maybe if I liken it to something not Information Technology, I could better explain it.

It is like the U.S. Freight rail system. Both take your product; pack it in their own container (envelopes/files; box cars); move it to the recipient by a network of rails or phone:data lines (both built by private companies); switch from one to the other (no single VAN or railroad covers the whole country….yet); and finally deliver to the recipient (rail siding or VAN mailbox).

A VAN lets you complete all your transactions in one transmission. A train lets you send all your shipments at once.

The VAN is essentially a giant virtual switchboard where data is shunted from one participating company to another. The rail system is essentially a giant virtual switchboard where freight is shunted from a participating shipper to a customer.

A VAN is a company offering the communications skills, expertise, and equipment needed to communicate electronically. In an EDI context, a VAN acts like an electronic post office by receiving, storing, and forwarding electronic messages. A company and its trading partners have “mailboxes” on the VAN where EDI transactions can be stored. A railroad is a company offering the transportation skills, expertise, and equipment needed to move your products. At one point, railroads moved most of the mail for the post office.

Both VANs and railroads use “Service Messages” to track “shipments”. Ironically, railroads use a series of EDI transmissions to do the tracking.

The term mailbox is used to refer to a unique identified area of information storage within a computer, a point of private user access and data consolidation to which EDI transmissions are sent and held until retrieved by the individual EDI VAN customer. Each VAN participant can retrieve documents from its assigned mailbox whenever convenient to it’s own operations. Well, that is like a railroad siding. The customer can open the door and unload when he is ready.

The file is sent to either a VAN mailbox, FTP site, or directly to AS2 recipients to be picked up. Railroads are in the 21st Century too: ever hear of a UNIT TRAIN?

Yes, sometimes we go outside the system. Internet EDI goes over the “Internet” (who owns or built the Internet?). Non-rail truck traffic goes over the highway system (guess who pays for our highways).


May 16, 1922: ICC authorizes New York Central to purchase Chicago River & Indiana Railroad and lease Chicago Junction Railway controlling access to Chicago Union Stock Yards district.



Gibson Yard on the Indiana Harbor Belt in 1950. Note the steamers at left side of photo: The IHB has just gone all-diesel. The Chicago River & Indiana Railroad and the Chicago Junction Railway will be next.

(Photo clipped from an old New York Central Headlight)
Gibson Yard Pictures





Burns Harbor in 1959

(Photo clipped from an old New York Central Headlight)




Indiana Harbor Belt Archives
The Unofficial IHB Site



New York Central 999 goes to Chicago Museum
(Photo clipped from an old New York Central Headlight)


The Extent of the Indiana Harbor Belt

The West pass began at the Reynolds switch, right? When did they remove it between Superior and a rather undefined point North of 47th Street?

When the West Towns diamonds were removed they made a change in the lead at the West end of the La Grange Yard. The Eastbound crossover between the Eastward track and the East Pass was removed when they depressed three of the tracks under the CB&Q bridge.

How much of the CJ did the IHB at one time operate over? I was told long ago that they once delivered to the CB&Q at Western Avenue.

During the late 50’s and through the 60’s did deliveries to the AT&SF from Gibson go via Elsdon or deliver at McCook?

When did they shut down the Eastward hump at Gibson? What is the track ownership pattern between Blue Island Jct. and Rose? Between Blue Island and Superior, the owner is B&OCT (CSX).

Superior is about midway between CP McCook and CP LaGrange. Between Superior and CP Rose, the owner is IHB.

For answers,



This lantern was once owned ny NY Central subsidiary Chicago, Indiana & Southern, which was controlled by the NY Central Railroad. In 1914, NYC absorbed CI&S so they became the official owners. Shortly after the Indiana Harbor Belt was formed, NYC leased to IHB the northernmost seven miles of the Chicago, Indiana & Southern. The CI&S originated at the Indiana Harbor lakefront and ran south through Gibson, where it crossed what is now the IHB main, to the Nickel Plate crossing at Osborn. The segment extending from the lakefront to the Little Calumet River just south of Osborn was leased to the Harbor. The IHB has operated it ever since and is now known as the Kankakee Line. South of Osborn, CI&S extended to Danville, Illinois, and ultimately via connection with another NYC property to Cairo at the southern tip of Illinois.


State Line Interlocking
In its heyday, State Line was one of the most complex interlockings in the United States. It was on the Indiana-Illinois border at the gateway to Chicago.




The Kankakee Belt Route is the nickname for the Illinois Division of the New York Central Railroad, which extended from South Bend, Indiana, through Kankakee, Illinois, and westward to Zearing, Illinois. It was marketed as the “Kankakee Belt” route to connect with western railroads and avoid the congestion of the Chicago area.

This line was sometimes referred to as the “3 I Line”, in reference to the line serving as an Iowa, Illinois and Indiana connector.

Today, the Norfolk Southern operates the Kankakee Belt Route (ex-Conrail, ex-NYC, Kankakee Belt Line). Sections at the east end (to South Bend) and West End (Zearing area) have been removed. The Kankakee Belt Route sees around eight to ten trains daily, from the BNSF (old AT&SF main line) at Streator, Illinois to Norfolk Southern Railway interchanges and facilities in Indiana. It still serves as a Chicago bypass.

It’s gone now although sections remain, but here are some pictures

The Kankakee Belt Line and connections (1964)

Location Railroad
South Bend, Indiana New York Central and Grand Trunk Railway
North Liberty, Indiana Wabash
Walkerton, Indiana B&O and Nickel Plate
Hamlet, Indiana Pennsylvania
Knox, Indiana Nickel Plate
North Judson, Indiana Pennsylvania and Erie
San Pierre, Indiana Monon
Shelby, Indiana Monon
Schneider, Indiana New York Central
Delmar, Illinois Milwaukee
Momence, Illinois Chicago & Eastern Illinois
Kankakee, Illinois Illinois Central and New York Central
Reddick, Illinois Wabash
Dwight, Illinois GM&O (Alton)
Streator, Illinois Santa Fe, Burlington
Lostant, Illinois Illinois Central
Depue, Illinois Rock Island
Ladd, Illinois Northwestern, Milwaukee, LS&BC RR
Zearing, Illinois Burlington


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