The Forgotten Railways of Chicago: The Riverside & Harlem Railroad
Perhaps having grown up in an area where trains ran seemingly everywhere made me curious to spot trains that were in less common places. With that thought in mind, there are two railroad spurs that I was aware of growing up that would have a profound impact of my love of uncovering rare mileage and abandoned railroads. The first is the Santa Fe Argonne Industrial District, and the other is from a time when I was even younger, the Illinois Central Railroad's Forest Park Branch.
|The latter days of the CN (former IC) Forest Park Branch were captured in this picture, taken 1/29/2007 by Kevin Vahey. By 2012, the rails were torn out and the crossings removed. I took the bottom photo in 2018, after Dominick's had become Tony's Finer Foods.|
The Forest Park Branch is much older, and has a lot more history associated with it, and a lot more of it was documented, thankfully, than the Argonne Branch, which is why I've held off on doing a blog on it until now. Here's the right of way on our abandoned and out-of-service railroad lines map.
|I still say this was an awesome right of way, and fairly unique in the Chicago area. Looking north from Tony's. (FRRandP photo, 2018)|
It was incorporated in 1901 as the Riverside & Harlem Railroad, and in its earliest iteration, connected North Riverside and the Illinois Central Railroad with the Wisconsin Central Railroad and Chicago Great Western Railway at Forest Park.
|Early blueprints of the line, before any spur tracks were added. This map is south-to-north, meaning Harlem Jct. is the north end of the line, while "Parkway" was the junction with the IC mainline.|
The R&H "mainline" was just two miles in length. By 1905, it was part of the Illinois Central. Both the IC and Wisconsin Central used the line, the latter of which to reach Chicago's lakefront via the IC tracks.
Officially abandoned in 2012 by CN, the Forest Park Branch was built by Illinois Central and operated from just south of here near the mall entrance north to Forest Park, about three miles with spurs included. While it was never a particularly important or historic branch, it holds a place in my heart as a line I loved to see as a kid. Bottom photo: Illinois Commerce Commission
|CN's R953 thumps down the "famous" Forest Park Branch which splits a mall in half. This at one time was a connection from the IC to the CGW, and is now an undermaintained spur. Very tight clearances, indeed! (Kevin Vahey, 2007)|
|From within Woodlawn Cemetery, outside of a raised easement, it's quite hard to tell there was any railroad activity here, as even just a few years after the fact, nature has taken course along the old right of way. (December 2019)|
|Looking south along the abandoned right of way and north and south parts of the mall development. Note the Toys R Us going out of business in 2018. (FRRandP Photo)|
|1950's USGS Topo Map of Hines VA Hospital. Note IL-55, Cermak Rd's old number, and ALT-US-30, Roosevelt Rd's old number.|
"Mrs. Lenore Radway, left, and Miss Sherley Becker polish a torpedo flask in 1943 at the Amertorp Torpedo Ordnance Corporation in Forest Park, Illinois. As many as 6,500 workers churned out hundreds of torpedoes per month, a long-forgotten but crucial part of the war effort." — Chicago Tribune historical photo
Despite that, however, tracks remain in the pavement of an alleyway between Hannah and Circle Ave to this day.
|14th St in Forest Park, IL. 2018 Google Street View Image.|