NY Central Lines Joliet Cutoff

The Joliet and Northern Indiana Railroad was built in 1855. It was just over 44 miles in length and it extended from Joliet, Illinois to Lake Junction (East Gary), Indiana.

The new line cut off over 30 miles compared to lines going through Chicago.

The Joliet cutoff railroad never had it’s own engines or rolling stock because it was leased to the Michigan Central and then folded into the New York Central.

Stations, and mileage from Lake Junction
East Gary
New Chicago 1.8
Liverpool 2.9
Glen Park 5.3
Ross 7.8
Griffith 10.3
Hartsdale 12.7
Dyer 15.4
Chicago Heights 21.4
Matteson 21.8
Frankfort 32.5
Spencer 37.1
Joliet 44.5

It lasted until Penn Central, but was never part of Conrail. A lot of the line is now part of the Old Plank Road Trail

The first railroad into Joliet was the Chicago & Rock Island. The second was the Chicago & Mississippi Railroad Company. Its name was changed to the Chicago, Alton & St. Louis. RR Co.

Joliet businessman and politician Joel Matteson successfully promoted the building of the Joliet & Northern Indiana. The charter used was the previous project, the Oswego & Indiana Plank Road. Documents show that Matteson and others had no real interest in plank roads and wanted to build railroads instead.

Matteson and other Jolietans wanted a direct connection with the eastern railroads for rates and speed of service. Congestion in Chicago was deemed a serious problem in getting freight to and from New York and Boston (in the 1850s).

The first railroad proposal and survey was for a line to La Porte Indiana tentatively called the Joliet & La Porte Railroad. A preliminary survey was apparently completed in August 1853. The route would be difficult and expensive so another routing was secured. That was the one that led to an eastern connection with the MCRR at Lake Station Indiana instead of the Northern Indiana Railroad at Laporte.

Matteson’s new line was nicknamed the Joliet Cut-Off Railroad.

In Sept. Of 1854 the MCRR signed a lease to operate the Joliet Cut- off upon completion. The MCRR even helped finance and finish construction of the track and facilities. Service started on the line in July of 1855.

The Alton line had reached Joliet when it completed the line up from Bloomington in August 1854. Alton trains ran between Chicago and Matteson over the Illinois Central, and between Matteson and Joliet over the partially completed MCRR Joliet Cutoff. The Alton had no line into Chicago until July 4, 1856, when the Alton’s own line between Joliet and Chicago opened.

The MCRRs Joliet Cut-off line became the western connection for freight and passengers to and from the Chicago & Rock Island and the Alton line.

Then, in 1886 The Joliet, Aurora & Northern Railroad was chartered. Aurora business men were driving their teams to Joliet and shipping their products to the east on the MCRR thus avoiding the continuing railroad congestion in Chicago.

The JA&N was an immediate success. The line was used for the transfer of dressed beef in refrigerator cars and for other important freight between the CB&Q and the MCRR at Joliet. The MCRR had an icing facility at their Joliet yard. There was also a stock yard at the MCRR for the feeding and resting of livestock. If an interchange transfer was late from the “J” and the MCRR and the cars missed the outbound train local yardmasters and others were called to task and had to explain the failure.

Connections in Joliet were made with the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific and the Chicago & Alton. The MC passenger depot in Joliet was on the south side of their tracks on Washington Street, just east of Jefferson Street. the MC was elevated in 1908-1910 and the Rock Island was relocated along side the Michigan Central at that time. the MC was a tenant in Joliet Union Station from 1912 when JUS opened until 1925 when the MC discontinued passenger service to Joliet. MC became part of the New York Central System in 1930 and the NYC merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1968 to form the Penn Central. The Joliet Cut-Off was embargoed by the Penn Central west of Chicago Heights in about 1973. The former right-of-way of the Joliet Cut-Off between Chicago Heights and Joliet is now occupied by the Old Plank Trail recreational trail. The present Metra-Rock Island yard in Joliet is on the former site of the MC-NYC-PC Joliet yard.