Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee

The layout setting is Chicago, circa 1950. It will represent a small downtown yard where all the former Insull owned traction lines met for exchanging cars.

So while North Shore will be the predominant line, I will have visiting freight turns from the South Shore, the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin and the Chicago Transit Authority. The latter being very apposite as the North Shore hired the CTAs Baldwins during the day to meet their needs, which was possible as the CTA only ran their freight trains at night.

I'm still pondering what to name this layout. Originally I was thinking of calling it Van Buren Street Yard, but after a bit of research that title would suggest the layout was in the heart of Chicago's downtown district, and it just didn't feel quite right as a location.

Therefore I did a bit more research into plausible names for this imaginary location. However, I found that the North Shore had a freight terminal at Montrose Avenue, just North of downtown Chicago, but this was a single track for their original ferry train piggy back service. So not a close match to the look and feel I wanted. This line connected to the elevated lines at a ramp at Wilson Street. So at the moment I'm thinking more along the lines of Wilson Street Lower Yard.

Here is my new layout plan.

The bright orange block is an intrusion into the room. The orange brown and dark grey shapes represent buildings. The light grey shapes represent roadways and bridges, with the blue being a river.

It is all quite tight, as the space is just shy of twelve feet in overall length. The operational plan is to have trains start on the upper right hand track, proceed into the return loop, and then be broken up in the yard at the front of the layout. I have a couple of team tracks on the right hand side of the layout, with five other spotting points on the left hand side. Three of these spotting points go through the backdrop to hidden industries and can therefore represent anything, and more importantly add car capacity to this otherwise cramped layout.

Once the lower level is built, and only if I think I want to go ahead and expand, will I then add the elevated section you see below. 

This plan just shows an elevated section of line, and the position of the return curve to the left, which will be hidden with a view block.

This will represent the elevated sections of the North Shore Line that use the Chicago Transit Authorities route to reach the famous downtown loop. Here I have shown a fake four track through station, loosely based on the Montrose and Wilson location, with the intention of using the dummy tracks as storage. Meanwhile trains will sneak into the upper return loop and back onto the layout on the supposed storage track at the front.

Looking at this plan I'm not thinking that perhaps I will flip the orientation of the station to be at the front of the layout, and the arrangement of the turnouts needs revisiting (Edit: I went away and revised the plan, and what you now see here is that revision, which simplifies the turnout arrangement. I also tried out bringing the station to the front of the layout, but it didn't look right to me).

Finally here is a picture of both levels of the plan showing how the two fit together. Perhaps a bit over ambitious. What do people think?

Anyway I love it when a plan comes together... (even if I did have to quickly revise the plans)


  1. Actually, The main yard extended from montrose south almost to irving park. The yard was three tracks wide fed on the south from the Miw.branch line,mostly hoppers but some box cars.At Buena , on the west track there were cross overs leaving space to park the to the bzldwins. This track became the ramp track over montrose. the east track had a switch with two tracks extending toward montrose with a truck loading ramp. Your track plan looks good and quite ambitious. good luck

  2. Ambitious it seems, but i don't think you intend to finish it all of in a weeks time do you? Looking forward on how this progresses, I like switching layouts, and also do like an industrial setting, it gives the railroad a sense of purpose!

  3. Hi TJ. You are right, this won't be built in a week, but I do intend to start building stuff over the Xmas holiday period.

  4. A.R.,
    Your design reminds me of the old John Allen Gorre and Daphetid track plan, minus a return loop where the obstruction is. I suspect that maintenance on handbuilt track and points can require clear overhead access.
    As to location, I suggest a fictitious site since the CSS&SB shared no trackage with the CA&E or CNS&M.
    Chicago yards were named after intersecting streets, so any name would do. Cheers, TUL

  5. I never noticed that similarity to the G&D.

    As for a name, I've been thinking about Franklin & W. Chicago, as you suggest. However, I've been getting a lot of feedback from the Yahoo group CNS&M members, and have thought about calling it Burnham Yard, after the architect who came up with a plan to rebuild Chicago in 1909.