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
Looking back on historical events, whether it is the Civil War or the Chicago Fire, they are usually presented in isolation, a individual events separated by subject, pinned to a specific date or period of time. Yet, history is not nearly so neat and tidy, and to someone who lived through those times, it becomes part of the greater tapestry of life.
With this in mind our latest and 22nd episode of the Windy City Historians podcast “Eyewitness to History” approaches this historical journey following the experiences of Chicago policeman, John E. Fitzpatrick (1852-1902). As a Patrol Sergeant Fitzpatrick was present at the Haymarket Bombing of 1886, rose rapidly through the ranks to soon attain the position of Inspector and lead the honor guard for President Cleveland for the opening ceremonies of the Columbian Exposition of 1893. A year later, Inspector Fitzpatrick would be embroiled in a chaotic summer due to the Pullman Railroad Strike, and the following year is assigned as lead detective on the H.H. Holmes serial murder cases that shocked a nation.
A century later, these remarkable stories and adventures were unearthed by his great-great-granddaughter and our guest, Kim Fitzpatrick. Based on Kim’s diligent research we uncover the life and times of John E. Fitzpatrick and present this fascinating and personal history of his decorated Chicago Police career. We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed learning the Fitzpatricks’ story.
Note: This episode was updated on May 4, 2021 to correct a missing “great” to Kim Fitzpatrick’s relation and great-great grandfather John E. Fitzpatrick.
Links to Research and Historic Sources:
- John E. Fitzpatrick obituary, Chicago Tribune, Mar. 27, 1902
- Opening Day of the Columbian Exposition: May 1st, 1893, a series of articles on The World’s Fair website posted in April 2018
- The Time They Lifted Chicago Fourteen Feet, on the enjoy Illinois website posted Dec. 3, 2018
- The Lincoln Funeral Train, on the Illinois History & Lincoln Collections blog posted Aug. 30, 2019
- The Johnstown Flood, by David McCullough published Jan. 15, 1987
- Johnstown Flood Memorial, National Park Service website
- H.H. Holmes (1861 – 1896), on Wikipedia on this serial killer also chronicled in the book below
- Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson
- “How a Deadly Railroad Strike Led to the Labor Day Holiday,” by Sarah Pruitt posted Aug. 27, 2019 on the History Channel website
- The Pullman Strike 1894 history on the Kansas Heritage website
- Historic Pullman Foundation website
- Chief O’Neill’s Pub & Restaurant website
- A Harvest Saved: Francis O’Neill and Irish Music in Chicago, by Nicholas Carolan published April 1997
- Francis O’Neill: The Police Chief Who Saved Irish Music, on WTTW’s Chicago Stories website
- Pullman Strike, by Melvin I. Urofsky on Encyclopedia Britannica website
- Pullman National Monument on the Nation Parks Service website
- Adam Selzer astonishing Chicago website by this historian, author and tour guide
- President Obama dedicates the Pullman Site a national monument on YouTube posted on July 21, 2016
- “The Rise and Fall of the Sleeping Car King,” by Jack Kelly, Jan. 11, 2019 on Smithsonian Magazine website