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Proviso Yard: 1943

Chicago, April 1943. Proviso freight classification yard of the Chicago & North Western R.R. View full size. 4x5 Kodachrome transparency by Jack Delano.

Chicago, April 1943. Proviso freight classification yard of the Chicago & North Western R.R. View full size. 4x5 Kodachrome transparency by Jack Delano.


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I'm still thinking those yellow rails and the interior of some ore cars are sulfur, in an era when it was not all sealed up in tank cars. Maybe it was not considered as dangerous then.

[And it would be on top of the rails and nowhere else? We had an oldtimer write in a while back to say it was paint to mark the rails for a track-replacement program that took over a year to complete. - Dave]

Wolf Road Bridge

In reply to Russ: My parents moved to Northlake in 1948 and I grew up surrounded by the C&NW and the Milwaukee RR to the north. As far as the Wolf Road Bridge is concerned it was long gone before we got there. The wooden bridge over the east end Mannheim RD was rebuilt in the mid 50's.

The Yellow Rails

Dave: I have never seen yellow on rails at Proviso in all my years working there. I can only guess. Maybe reflection of light through oily residue on rails left by equipment rolling over them (Cars and steam engines). It could be that other than on prints made from film out of a stationary camera, the yellow cast would not be noticeable. I have walked most of if not all of the tracks at Proviso at one time or another. I do remember, frequently used rail to reflect light but never paid much attention to what color light appeared to be reflected. I would guess the reflection would have a particular hue but it was not obvious to the naked eye. Oil, having a yellow cast to it, on a rail may expose as bright yellow on film but may not register the same in the eyes of a person looking at it first hand. I have never seen the wheel surface of any rail painted or marked in any way with yellow or any other color.

Muncie & Western

In the background slightly right of center, the yellow boxcar appears to be a Muncie & Western "Ball Jar Line" car. Popular with model railroaders, but the real thing must have been quite a rare sight -- the M & W was only about five miles long and only owned in the ballpark of 100 cars!

The Yellow Rails

Dave: I not sure where you are looking at in the picture. A general answer to yellow looking rail would be is that the rail surface the wheel rides on shines as long as it is used a lot. If not used frequently that shiny rail surface will start to rust and I suppose it would look yellow before it got to a rust color. If you are talking about yellow alongside or between rails that would be corn leaked from grain cars. There was a lot of grain leakage when grain was loaded in boxcars. It was seen along and between tracks everywhere at Proviso.

[Maybe half the rails in this and the other Proviso photos are bright yellow on top. Enlarged below. - Dave]

Proviso Yard 1943

You are right Uncle Larry. It is the rip track at Proviso. The picture was taken from the north side of what they called the North Rip. Track 1 through 8 Rip with Rip buildings between 5 and 6 Rip. You are also right about the wheel bed at the west end to the last building. The east end of tracks you can see beyond 8 Rip up to the fence posts are I think 45 through maybe 50 or 51, something like that. The part of the picture that confuses you is the tracks beyond the fence posts. They were long gone when you worked there. Those 50 or more tracks made up yards 1, 6 and 7 (and the South Rip not visible in picture). South Rip was located at west end of yard and extending east of the Wolf Road Bridge on south side of yard. Wolf Road Bridge is barely visible and burned down (wooden bridge) sometime before 1958. Appears to me the picture was taken by someone that climbed the light tower between Yard 5 Office and 1-Rip.

-- Russ (Retired C&NW/UP)

[Fascinating. Thanks! Why are some of the rails yellow? - Dave]

Proviso yard

I worked on the "hump" mostly from around 1972 till 1979. The bottom of the photo looks like the rip just outside of Yard 5. You can see the wheels being stored to the right.

Proviso Yard Photo

I worked at Proviso for 3 years back in the early Seventies. When you're on the Extra Board, you can and do get called to work jobs all over the Yards, any time they need you. I've switched cars in East Five, Yard Nine and The Middle, pulled pins at the Top Of The Hump and caught cars coming down off the Hump into the 69 classification tracks, me and 2 other Skatemen, each of us covering 33 tracks in the North, Middle & South Skate Shacks. I've made up the head ends of outbound trains in the only switch-on-the-fly yard in Proviso--Yard One. There were dozens of ways to get killed or maimed and I made $34.61 a day; not really bad money in '71...The picture is visually stunning (as it was intended to be) but looking at it, I just plain can't get a handle on where exactly in the yards the photo was taken. My memories are 30 years old and the yard as it was photographed was 30 years before that.

Yard shot

Wow! What a terrific photo, I love trains and this is a really great yd shot, for all the railfans like myself, check out the different road names on the cars, especially the Boston & Albany car next to the NYC car, plus all the other cars. This one's going to be on my screen saver, love it.

Hobo Handstyles

Not exactly up on my rail history, but I know tramps/hobos usually mark up the outsides of cars. How far back this dates is beyond me.

No spray paint = much less graffiti

Spray paint wasn't invented until 1949.

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