Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Morning at Englewood Union Station, 1965


It was college spring break week. The weather tomorrow,
the Wednesday after Easter, was going to be good for train
pictures. Where to go? I had a car. Englewood Union
Station. I’d never been there. Englewood wasn’t the best of
neighborhoods. (It’s now one of the worst.) I’ll do it in the
morning. I was 20, male, and relatively fearless. So before
dawn April 21, 1965, I left my parents’ warm western suburban
home to head for the mid-south side of Chicago – 63rd
and State. [EDIT, I recently remembered that my good railfan friend Roger Puta was wioth me that morning 5 decades ago.]

Englewood Union Station had much to offer; three major
railroad mainlines – New York Central (NYC), Pennsylvania
Railroad (PRR), and Chicago Rock Island and Pacific
(CRI&P) with the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad
(Nickel Plate or NKP) a tenant on the NYC. Name trains on
all lines. Suburban trains on two. And all passenger trains
stopped except for a few Rock Island suburban train expresses.
Today no passenger trains stop, neither the Amtrak trains on
the ex-PRR tracks nor the Rock Island District Metra trains.
The CRI&P tracks ran basically north/south east of and parallel
to LaSalle St. They are now part of Metra’s Rock Island
District. The PRR’s tracks (now Norfolk Southern) coming up
from Indiana ran northwest past the station, across many diamonds
with the Rock Island, and continued over the Dan
Ryan Expressway about 1000 feet later before heading north to
Chicago Union Station. The NYC tracks came in from
Indiana on the northeast side of and parallel to the PRR
tracks, made a sweeping curve north at the station resulting in
curved station platforms where neither the fireman nor engineer
could see the conductor, and paralleled the Rock Island
north to LaSalle Street Station. The two ex-NYC tracks nearest
the station remain but some of the adjacent yard tracks
have been removed (the remainder serve as a Norfolk
Southern intermodal yard) as has the track that connected the
Pennsylvania and Rock Island in the southeast quadrant.

I do not know how many slides I took that sunny morning.
Forty remain. But in those days I was good at getting rid of the
bad ones when they came back from processing. Maybe I took

The Rock Island presented the most trains that morning because of all
the commuters and the piggyback transfers to their downtown
piggyback yard which was essentially under the Roosevelt
Road Bridge. The Central was next in the number of trains
mainly because its E-units had to run back through Englewood
to its engine terminal from LaSalle Street Station. The Pennsy
was a close third and the Nickle Plate presented only the westbound, The
City of Chicago.

How many of those 40 kept slides will fit into this Blog Post?
We’ll see. And where should I start? That’s easy: The 20th
Century Limited. I was a diehard CB&Q fan so The 20th
Century and The Broadway Limited were not special to me at
20 years old but as a 4-year old my first train, a Lionel, had an
NYC Streamlined Hudson pulling a couple of freight cars and
a caboose. That train made me a lifetime railfan and modeler.
And my Hudson was a model of what pulled The 20th Century
up the Hudson River on “The Water Level Route – You Can
Sleep.” This slogan clearly was aimed at the PRR which went
through the Alleghenies and around Horseshoe Curve.

The Pictures

A near perfect ABA set of E-units lead the 20th Century Limited into
Englewood Union Station that 1965 April 21st Wednesday. At the front was
E7A 4022 followed by an E7B and an E8A. Hard to believe, but the NYC had
no E9s or E8Bs either. The dozen cars ended in a plain stainless steel roundend
observation car. Alas, no streamlined Hudson but an ABA set of Es a few
minutes from ending their overnight run in LaSalle Street Station was just fine
that long-ago morning.

Square-end “Mountain View” summed up the Broadway Limited that
morning in a much more elegant fashion. She’s a 2 Master Bed Room, 1
Double Bed Room, and a Bar Lounge. The train is just pulling out as a couple
walks toward the station. Maybe that’s their porter looking out of
“Mountain View’s” dutch door. The E-units on Train 49 will be at their Union
Station bumper posts in a few minutes. Of course, no coaches, but also no
checked baggage. Compared to the Century, the Broadway never made much
money. PRR's General (coaches and no extra fare) was their money-maker
overnight train between New York City and Chicago.

 Mountain View's and the other train set's Tower View's Floor Plan.

The other E-unit ABA set that morning was an E7B sandwiched between the rears of two E8As.  The lead unit of this eastbound, #4095, was the last E-unit the Central bought. The train was probably the “Except Saturday” New York Limited via Detroit. And it should be making money because of all that head end business. The roof line of the depot shows it was a simple building.

Here is the layout today.  The depot is gone and the names of the railroads have changed.  The Norfolk Southern's intermodal yard (the crescent to the right) was a NYC freight yard in 1965.  Today, no passenger trains stop.

The most exotic engine to appear that morning is still difficult for me to choose after all these years. Of course, it would be one of the Rock Island’s commuter train power. Some might argue that AB6 750 had to be the most exotic. An AB6 had an E6B carbody modified with a single 1000 h.p. engine,windows and controls at one end, a baggage compartment, and a steam generator. Only two were built by EMD in June 1940 for the Rock Island (#s 750 and 751) for The Rocky Mountain Rocket. The train would run from Chicago to Limon, CO with an EA-unit on the front and an AB6 second. The train was split at Limon with the AB6 taking a few cars to Colorado Springs and the other unit taking the rest of the cars to Denver. The reverse happened on the trip to Chicago. For an illustration click here.  Of course, over the years there were variations on this theme.  A second diesel was added in the baggage compartment making each a full E-unit which operated as a B-unit on intercity trains and finally living out their days pulling and pushing suburban trains to Blue Island or Joliet. Here the fireman is looking in the mirror for the highball the conductor is giving.

Others would argue this General Motors failed experiment at light-weight and high-speed train was the most exotic. Called an Aerotrain and designated LWT-12 it was 10 years old that morning and downgraded to commuter service – not a good application of a train with few and narrow doors. Rock Island ended up with all three Aerotrains. I never saw #3 but caught #1 in LaSalle Street Station. Note there are actually four additional Rock Island trains in the distance in this picture. This picture is looking north with the CTA Englewood El bridge in the distance and the NYC tracks to the right. Surprisingly two of the three Aerotrains still exist. Number 2 is at the National Railway Museum in Green Bay,Wisconsin while number 3 spends time at the National Museum of Transportation near St. Louis, Missouri.

 And a look in the rear door that morning.
If not on the exotic list, 630 was the most beautiful that morning. An E6A and  cousins of the neighbor CB&Qs stainless steel E5s (same locomotive except for looks). These early E-uints (E1 through E6) shovel noses were, and still are, in my book, the most beautiful diesels ever built. The morning sun makes the 24 year old lady look almost new as she crossed the PRR diamonds southbound commuter train. Pigs are on another RI track. Note the interesting derails on the main PRR tracks. Fortunately 630 exists at the Midland Rwy Historical Association in Kansas.

A BL2 in commuter service! Well any railfan would admit that was exotic. Only one place else could you find a BL2 (BL for branch line, i.e., a light weight
nimble engine) pulling a commuter train, especially one of decades old coaches.  That one other place was on the Boston and Maine.  426 was one of five BL2s the Rock had and is seen here with an inbound express.

While Alco RS3s were not rare in 1965, one pulling a suburban train was. The Rock Island had a couple of hand fulls. Here 487 pulls an inbound.
Not only did the Rock Island have to scrounge for diesels to keep its service going, any coach that could turn a wheel was fair game. This train was
made up of three intercity cars with few doors and several double double-door Pullman-Standard commuter coaches.

Well I could not help adding another picture of 630. Here she is earlier that morning than the previous picture with a northbound. As usual, the conductor is the last on.

The Pennsy presented my 35mm camera two commuter trains from Valparaiso, Indiana both pulled by GP7s.The first seen here facing the diamonds with the Rock Island at about 6:50 a.m. was hauled by GP7 8551 and left Valpo at 5:55 a.m. – 29 nine miles and seven intermediate stops in 55 minutes. 8552 brought in the second about 45 minutes later.

The combined Manhattan Limited and Golden Triangle stirred up the pigeons on arrival about 7:00 a.m. at Englewood Union Station. E8A 5766 was assisted by two E7s.  The roof radio antenna is obvious.  Pittsburgh passengers could board the Golden Triangle's sleepers at 9:30 p.m., two hours before the cars were added to the Manhattan Limited and departed for Chicago. The Pennsy put three big trains through Englewood in an hour and forty five minutes every morning back then.This was the first, then the General, and culminating with the Broadway Limited for a 9:00 a.m. arrival at Chicago Union Station. Quite a show.  Three westbound and two eastbound name trains consisted of NYC’s morning act. While more in number they just didn’t have the class of the tucson-red, E-unit hauled, Pennsy offering.  At least that’s how it feels today over four decades later.

I caught NYC E7A 4002 and E7B 4102 in the simplified paint scheme backing to LaSalle Street station from the NYC engine  terminal. An hour or so later they were back with an eastbound.

Of course there were F-units. Here CRI&P F7A 677 shoves four gallery cars full of commuters toward LaSalle Street Station.  It was right on the diamonds with the PRR.

The Rock also presented inbound morning name trains – The Rocky Mountain Rocket and The Peoria Rocket. The Peoria Rocket required a lone E7 for its five cars that morning. However The Rocky Mountain Rocket arrived up with three elephant style Es lead by E7 641, followed by two E8s and cars from Los Angeles (off the Southern Pacific at Tucumcari, NM and via Kansas City), Denver, and Colorado Springs.

I can’t forget the Nickel Plate Road’s solo entry, Train #5, The City of Chicago with Alco RS36 #875 up front. This overnight Buffalo train had sleeper, a Cleveland to Chicago Club Diner Lounge and connected to New York City via through coach on the Erie Lackawanna. This shot was actually taken six months after the Nickel Plate/Wabash/Norfolk and Western merger. You could not tell by the train consist. It was pure NKP.

In the midst of that April morning’s commuter train rush the Rock Island shuttled piggy-back loads up to their piggy-back yard at the Roosevelt Road Viaduct and the LaSalle Street Station leads. Four were caught by my camera. On this one Baldwin’s 1952 S8 did the duty.

 And another pulled north by a SW900.

About the same time an NYC crew was preparing for local switching
duty with a transfer caboose and a rare reengined Lima-Hamilton LS-
1200 #6210 built in September 1950.  Founded in 1879, Goes Lithographing Co. occupied the same 75,000-sq.-ft. building the founder built inEnglewood in 1904 until they moved in 2010 to Delavan Wisconsin.

The Outtakes

Well, I've told the story but there are more pictures to show you of the trains I saw that morning.

There were more BL2s with inbound trains.  Here are two more.

And another Rock Island FP7.

And  750 with an inbound and then an outbound train.

 And a Rock Island Galley Cab Car.  That's an outbuilding to the depot at the right.

Here are two more photos of the 20th Century Limited.

I have to show you E-units.  This is NYC E7 4002.

NYC E7 4007.

NYC E8s  4079 and 4061.

NYC E8s 4081 and 4960.

And the Pennsy sent some through that long-ago morning too.  Here's PRR E8A 5766 taking the combined  Manhatten Limited and Golden Triangle to the Loop.

PRR 5853 E7 with the Broadway Limited.

And PRR E7 5880 with the General.

And finally a couple pictures of  the Valparaiso trains.  Here is another shot of the first with PRR GP7 8551 up front.

And sister 8552 with the second Valpo train.  Both GP7s had dual control so the engine did not need to be turned for the engineer to face forward and steam generators in the short hood.

The End


  1. Wow! What an amazing site! I have always been interested in Englewood as a passenger stop. Thank you for capturing a moment lost in time. Great work!

  2. Watching North by Northwest yesterday (the century and chicago appeared in thaht film)and now reading this I almost cryed . It's a shame that Chicago has lost all the passenger stations (I mean the old wonderful buildings) and most of the trackage. I can imagine perfectly the Broadway and Century Stopping there. I went to Google Maps and I felt very sad. Chicago has already lost its glamour and it doesn't mind for people. Simply, I can't understand why people is passive and let demolished all that historic places. In google Maps i also saw that not only the station has benn demolished.(sorry for my english i'm not from USA) Practically the whole place has been turned down (factories, houses, warehouses, bridges). It's really very very very sad how Chicago has lost this wonderful scene. In Union Station not only the concourse building was demolished. The PRR Freight Terminal (the largest freight terminal in the world) was also demolished and replaced by a electrical transformers. I can't explain with words my feelings at the moment i am writing this. But imagine that one time ago a PRR T1 or a Dreyfuss Hudson stopped there and now we can't wathc that scenes It's very frustrating.

  3. >>A near perfect ABA set of E-units lead the 20th Century Limited into Englewood...
    With two out of three in the "Simplified" scheme, I would call this near IMperfect!

    1. It's comments like this that make people ask themselves, "Why did I bother?"

      Ignore him Marty!

    2. Still a great capture. Very enjoyable and so well digitized.
      It would be a death wish to hang out at 63rd and State for the last 40 years.

    3. Still a great capture. Very enjoyable and so well digitized.
      It would be a death wish to hang out at 63rd and State for the last 40 years.

  4. As on of your younger brothers I used to watch you leave the house early in the morning with your camera to go 'train chasing'. Until reading this, I never had a sense of what you were doing. Now I get it. Awesome post!

  5. Beautiful shots of the way it once was. Thanks!

  6. Thanks for sharing.

    My NYC ride to and from Chicago was the old "New "England States" out of Boston. I still remember looking out the bedroom window at about age 8 at one train racing us out of Englwood. Probably a PRR -- but I did not know that back then.

    That was another era in time -- probably never to be repeated except for some short haul HSR and the continuing commuters.

    Unless you like to watch intermodals in and out of 63rd Street area!

    This is Jim Blaze (CR -1975 to 1996)

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  8. My grandfather worked for the Pennsy and my family drove into and out of this station many times. As a child, I was awed by the entrance and how automobiles had to curve around, going up into the narrow, bricked space to reach the station.

  9. By 1965, Boston and Maine had traded in its BL-2s that also worked suburban trains. But nobody other than the Rock would put an Alco road-switcher, the remnants of a Rocket articulated train, and a string of quarter-point-door suburban coaches on a commuter train!

  10. Fantastic pictures. I have some I took as a kid on flikr. I lived just two blocks away and spent many hours at Englewood with my box camera using my allowance money for film. I was able to catch the final year of steam on the NYC and Nickel Plate. It was a sad day when a new GP9 was on the NKP local train, ending steam at Englewood forever. My family moved away in 1957 when the expressway took our house. Robert Leffingwell

  11. I have fond memories of Englewood. We lived near 47th and Damen and my uncle worked MOW on the NYC. Every summer between the ages of 7 and 12, my uncle would take me on summer trip on the NYC. I have been to every station on the NYC between Chicago and New York with my uncle. Some times we would leave from LaSalle downtown but I loved going to Englewood (it was closer to 47th street then going downtown).
    I never took pictures, they are still all in my head. Standing on the platform, watching Nickel Plate steamers heading toward downtown. The one I remember most was a trip to New York early winter 1952. I watched that NYC Hudson pull into Englewood with our east bound to NYC. Sitting in the seat as a porter came by with a basket of treats. My uncle would always buy me something. He got the conductor to allow the seat in front of us to be reversed so I had a place to lay my head. My uncle knew ever White Castles within walking distance of major stations (Toledo, Cleveland, etc...) on the NYC eastbound. Gosh your article put tears in my eyes as I remembered those wonderful week end mornings standing on the platform with my uncle at Englewood, waiting on those beautiful trains pulled by both steam and diesel. I was lucky enough to see the transition but still luckier to still see the big steam the NYC and PRR had to offer at Englewood...

    1. What a wonderful comment. You make me glad I did this blog.

  12. I lived at 227 W. 61st Place ubtil 1957 as a kid and spent many hours at Englewood with my box camera. My main interest was steam. Being a kid living on an allowance, I could not take as many pictures as I wanted to. The last steam at Englewood was the NKP with Hudsons and Mikes. Your pictures are the first time I saw the Rock Island "B" unit running as a single unit. My pictures are on Flickr, Robert Leffingwell

  13. I checked out your flickr albums. Some great photos. Some deserve scanning with a good scanner and some photo editing then publishing on a couple of railfan sites and Facebook's Forgotten Chicago group.

  14. Great pics! I can't believe I've not run across your blog before. Thanks for sharing these pieces of time that we sadly can no longer experience.

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  16. Thank you for your generosity in sharing these vintage shots. My father was a college student in Chicago from 1953 -56 and I sentimentally enjoy the texture of life he may have experienced around the time of that era and place. Although your Englewood visit was a decade later, you captured it well for me. Your outstanding knowledge of your camera and film are apparent and I appreciate the great sense of wonder you certainly had as well as your sense of adventure. I admire that. I am also grateful for your historical review by outlining what railroads now occupy those right of ways. I even smiled, knowing now, that Goes Commercial Lithography lives on (albeit in Wisconsin). I toast you, sir, and the great memory of the Burlington. High ball, my friend!