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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Bloomington Yards: 1900

Bloomington Yards: 1900

Bloomington, Illinois, circa 1900. "Track to be straightened in the Bloomington yards." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Little Railroad with the fringe on top

What are the bungee cord looking things hanging down from the two overhead wires.

[They are there to warn any brakemen on top of the cars to duck before they smack their heads on the bridge. - Dave]

Carbon Arc Lamps

I see at least two carbon arc lamps in this yard. Although, I lived there 60 years later, all of these interesting artefacts were long gone by then.

Lots of discussion on this photo

A bunch of us who do model railroads set in the 1890s recorded a podcast discussing many interesting (to us) details in this photo and some related pictures from the Library of Congress. It'll be on ModelRailCast show #131, available soon on iTunes and here Nothing commercial in this, just a bunch of RR geeks going over the details.

Bloomington's largest employer

At one point the Bloomington railyards employed more people than anyone else in the area (3,000 or so, I believe). The top two spots are now held by State Farm (16,000) and Illinois State University. The old Chicago & Alton runs for a great distance along side old Route 66 -- a history buff's paradise!


I may be in the minority here, but due to past jobs I find the tracks themselves more interesting than the dismantled locomotive. I especially like the old style switch stands, and I'm surprised there are guardrails opposite the frog ("common crossing," or the "x") in the crossover, as I've almost never seen them before 1910 or so. This yard also looks like it suffered a flood; notice all the mud.

I'd like to think that bent spike is the result of a rookie employee, or just some showboating (and a bet) gone wrong.

End of the line

Here's my take: The cab and stack are missing, as is the running gear. The sand dome and bell are gone too, as are all the expensive brass valves and steam gauges in the cab area. I don't think it's been there as long as all that, for only the front driver seems to have depressed the track, and it's sitting on a join area. Other join areas in the yard are also a bit depressed. It's worn track I think.

The main reason I think this loco is headed for the steel mill, is that it's coupled to a gondola filled with scrap metal. It seems logical that the two would be headed to the same destination, one to be unloaded the other to be melted down.


I'd be interested in knowing the story behind the half-dismantled American type loco at far left. Was it being scrapped? Cannibalized for parts? Presumably it was a Chicago & Alton engine, as Bloomington was one of their big transfer points, and the square steam chests point to manufacture in the 1800s (rounded steam chests were coming in by 1900).

No Stack Either

No cab, no stack, the pushrods from the cylinder to the drive wheels are missing, and it's been sitting there long enough to depress the rails under the drivers.

The photo isn't detailed enough to show possible missing valves, but none of the gauges that ought to be on the boiler face are there, and the control pipes ought to be neatly laid against the back part of the boiler, not spread out like that. Looks to me like a derelict being cannibalized for parts.


More than likely, it is in the process of being scrapped, as it has no rods. It is probably on what is called the rip track, and railroads being frugal, the cab and rods were probably swapped out to other locomotives. And it's a 4-4-0 American Type locomotive. About the time of this photo they were being swapped out for more modern type steam engines.

Engine on left

OK, I'm waiting for some rail buffs to explain the engine on the left (a 4-4?) that does not appear to have a cab.

Is it a derelict or a yard mule? Did it ever have a cab?

I like the pics with the old RR names. Here we have the Erie (eventually Erie Lackawanna) and the Chicago and Alton RRs.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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