Thursday, October 14, 2010

Route of the "400"s

Railroad Coal Tower-DeKalb, IL, originally uploaded by William 74.
The Chicago and North Western Railroad was one of the largest midwestern roads, having over 12,000 miles of trackage at it's peak. In addition to it's freight activities, the CNW ran a number of well regarded passenger trains, the most famous being the Twin Cities 400, which made the 400 mile trek from Chicago to Minneapolis in 400 minutes (eventually the North Western would append the "400" moniker to many of their passenger runs). CNW also ran several long distance trains with the Union Pacific, including the famed "City of Los Angeles" transcontinental train. This would prove to be ironic, as the North Western eventually merged with UP in 1995, it's distinctive yellow and green livery all but disappearing from the rails within the next decade.

Back when trains were hauled around by steam engines, coal and water towers were a common sight along the rails. Quite a few still stand-coaling towers in particular-mainly because it's pretty expensive to remove such a large concrete structure. This one is a former CNW tower, and sits over what was the former mainline from Chicago to Omaha. It's just outside the city of DeKalb, Illinois, and is just a mile or so from DeKalb's former North Western train depot, which fortunately survives as a local headquarters for Union Pacific employees.

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