Argonne National Laboratory's Abandoned Railroad Tracks
If you ever find yourself for a walk at the Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve in southern DuPage County and listen closely, you can often hear the sounds of trains rumbling by. The very busy BNSF Chillicothe Subdivision lies just to the south. Additionally, a spur line from the Chillicothe goes through the western park of the Preserve, serving the industrial area to the west.
|Oftentimes, with a caboose in tow. (My photo, 2014)|
No need to worry, however, about a train barreling down these tracks. These tracks, which spurred from the Chillicothe Subdivision (at the time owned by the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railway), were constructed in the 1950's, when Argonne National Laboratory was moved to its current campus, after having been formerly located within the University of Chicago.
|A 1962 photo of one of the buildings, showing railway tracks that lead to it. Forgotten Railways, Roads & Places Photo Collection|
I first discovered these tracks in 2012. As I very much love hiking around Waterfall Glen, I kept running into them, and eventually my curiosity piqued, such that I contacted Argonne and the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County to see if they knew why railroad tracks were running into Argonne, and what, if anything, they transported.
|My guess is they never transported Weed Whackers.|
According to an email from Argonne Historian Dan O'Rourke, "The tracks which entered the site along Railroad Drive were installed in the late 1940s and were used to bring in the construction material needed to build the lab." There actually existed two spurs, which I was unaware of, as I was unable to follow the tracks inside the fences at Argonne.
|The railroad tracks in red. The East-West spur jettisoning out from the rest of the line was the first line to be abandoned. This is shown as Quarry Rd and Bluff Rd on Google Maps. (Source: Argonne National Laboratory)|
|In this Chicago Tribune photo, you can see railcars on the right of way if you look closely enough inside the oval.|
So now you're probably all thinking, how does one find these tracks?
|Take the road (seemingly) less traveled, of course.|
You can enter the Forest Preserve from Cass Ave and Bluff Road. Bluff Rd west of Cass is fenced off for cars, but is accessible on foot, leaving an otherwise abandoned road as your walking path. Before the creek, there is a path which connects to the actual Waterfall Glen Trail, as well as the Rocky Glen Trail, which will allow you to view the waterfall and explore the rest of the preserve.
Beyond the creek, the road forks, take the southern fork. This will become obvious as the fence barring entry into Argonne is quickly seen to those taking the northern fork.
|The road is in rough shape, but more than suitable for a hike.|
|Bluff Road looking west from Railroad Dr|
|The tracks become much clearer at the southern end of Railroad Dr by the active Argonne Switcher line.|
|Here, the track leaves the brush and enters the trail surface, right before the Argonne Switcher. This is just south of the Waterfall Glen's Main Stem, but accessible on foot.|
|The tracks end here. But the line crossed the Argonne Switcher and connected with the Chillicothe Subdivision, a little ways west from here.|
|Looking north from Bluff Rd on Railroad Dr toward Argonne's entrance.|
|Railroad spikes in the ground.|
|Hey buddy! While there are spiders and snakes on the trail, they aren't numerous, and you shouldn't worry too much about crossing them. Do bring bug spray, as the mosquitoes are numerous.|
|One can't go too far north without reaching Argonne's fence, and two "No Trespassing signs".|