Sunday, September 29, 2013

Abandoned Branches

If it's a nice day for a walk, what could be more interesting to explore than an abandoned railroad?

When Argonne National Laboratory was started back in the 1950's, a branch line of about 1 1/2 miles was built off the Santa Fe, north up the hill to the site, for transporting building materials and equipment. It was abandoned many years ago, but substantial traces remain, including much of the track.

Most of the line was removed and made into an access road, but most of the ties and many spikes and tie plates are buried under the gravel.  The stick is pointing to a tie plate with spikes still in place.

And for whatever reason, most of the first half-mile of track remains in place, although it's buried under dirt and/or brush and hard to see.

But it's easy to get to, and not far from the walking paths.

After the Argonne branch was abandoned, a new branch line was built in the 70s westwards at this point to serve some new industrial parks, and this line is still in service.  The new line crosses over the old grade.

You can see the original line straight ahead at this point.  From here westwards, the old branch was double track.  There was a long siding for storing cars and switching, and one switch is probably still there, although it's buried.

Looking east at the "junction".  Notice the two tracks.  The east switch was probably just beyond the newer track.

And farther downstream, across from Lockport, the grade of the old Material Service branch line has been turned into a nature walk, on the south edge of the Lewis University campus.  The track was completely removed, apart from a few piles of old ties, but it's very nicely kept up and rather scenic.  The line went down into the valley through some hairpin curves on a steep grade.  Loads would be going down and empties coming back up, though.  

The main point of interest, however, is that IRM considered locating here back in 1964.  It's amusing to imagine what our operations would have been like.  On the east, we'd have a grade crossing with the old Route 66, now a busy four-lane highway.  West of here, the line would be passing through a university campus, then through modern subdivisions, under a major interstate, then into the quarries, now owned by hunting clubs.  Trying to buy buffer properties would be hopeless.  So I would think we're better off where we are. 

1 comment:

Art said...

Next time you feel like taking a road trip, why not let the rest of the class know, rent a bus, and make a field trip out of it?

I'd like to listen to your stories as we rode along.