A Hidden Gem: Carroll Avenue

This is one of the most beautiful scenes along the Chicago River: Wolf Point, where the North and South Branches meet in downtown Chicago. Hidden beneath the buildings in the background is a single UP / ex-CNW track that runs east to deliver newsprint to the Chicago Sun-Times. The trains cross over the drawbridge (left), travel under the Apparel Center (middle) and the Merchandise Mart (right), and then re-emerge briefly on street trackage for four blocks.

This is Carroll Avenue, looking east from Wells Street: a fascinating urban scene! Vehicles are everywhere both above and around the tracks, which are visible from overhead for 2 blocks.

At Clark Street, the tracks run under the Quaker Building through a service and delivery area. This view looks back west on the lower level.

Two blocks farther east beneath State Street, Carroll Avenue comes to an end as we reach a switch leading to the Sun-Times spur track on the right. The tracks ahead are in hard packed dirt, and the tunnel ahead is beginning to get very dark (gulp!).

In near total darkness, with only the light of the camera flash and a few security lights, this shot shows one of 5-6 boxcars delivering newsprint rolls to the Sun-Times Building loading docks. Note how the train crew had to break up the cars and spot them at each door. The track at the left would hold the outgoing empties while the incoming cars are spotted.

End of the line! At Kinzie and Wabash, the rails disappear under asphalt paving. The track with the Hayes bumper used to continue to run even farther east, serving a variety of industries into the 1980's including the Chicago Tribune, the Mandel Building, a sugar syrup factory (which unloaded barges in Ogden Slip by crane!), North Pier Warehouse, and Navy Pier. Alas, even this present operation will disappear in the coming months as the new Sun-Times printing plant becomes operational.

All photos, Copyright © 1999 J. Mika. All Rights Reserved.

Return to Lakewood Branch Home Page