October is Railroad history month in Chicago. Although we already released Episode 24 – The Railroads in honor of railroads history month there was too much good stuff to stop there.
For 150 years, Chicago has remained the country’s busiest rail hub at the center of the nation’s rail network. In all, 40 railroads provide services from Illinois to every part of the United States and all seven of the major North American freight railways converge in Chicago to make it the largest US rail gateway. Moving anything coast-to-coast by rail is almost guaranteed to pass through Chicago. In 2011, Illinois ranked first in the US for rail freight volume accounting for 490.4 million tons. Today, the state is the world’s third most active rail intermodal hub with 25% of U.S. freight rail traffic and 46% of all intermodal traffic beginning, ending or traveling through Chicago. Each day, nearly 500 freight trains and 760 passenger trains pass through the Chicago region, moving the goods and people that are the life blood of the national economy.
In this episode we talk with retired train engineer and rail historian David Daruszka to discuss Chicago’s rail history from its founding in 1848 to its peak in the 1940s and on into today’s operations. Though the waterways established Chicago the railroads soon became a key connector and transfer link to the continent from east to west and north to south. The development of Chicago from a frontier town into a world-class city could not have happened as it did without the railroads. Chicago became and arguably still is the greatest railroad center in the world. We hope you enjoy this journey into Chicago’s railroad history.
Links to Research and Historic Sources:
- “Transportation that Built Chicago: the importance of the railroads” from the Curbed Chicago website
- Chicago’s Grand Crossing neighborhood and railroad crossing in Wikipedia
- Pullman Porters from the History Channel website
- C-Span Book Talk with Larry Tye author of the book Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class (2004)
- “Why Was Casey Jones an American Folk Hero?” from the History Channel website
- Samuel Insull history and bio on Wikipedia
- Relocating the tracks at Midway Airport from the Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal
- Chicago Railroad Fair narrated 1948 home video on YouTube
- Chicago Railroad Fair Color Home Movies 1948
- Film of “Wheels A Rolling” musical history of trains from the Chicago Railroad Fair of 1948/49 on YouTube
- Operation Lifesaver offers school and community group presentations on RR crossing safety
- “Stand by Me” (1986) movie clip of the Train bridge scene
- Article on Chicago’s last roundhouse “NKP’s Calument Yard, Coaling Tower, Roundhouse, Turntable” on the Industrial History website
- Chicago Railroad Stations from Chicagology.com
- Link to railroad historian Fred Ash’s book Chicago Union Station
- Freight Rail Overview from the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration website