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The Railyard: 1942

The Railyard: 1942

November 1942. "Chicago. Looking toward the north classification yard and retarder operator's tower at an Illinois Central railroad yard." Medium-format negative by Jack Delano for the Office of War Information. View full size.


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Working at The Hump.

I had a summer job back as a yard clerk in college working at the Burlington's Clyde humpyard (near Cicero) back in the 1960's. My job was to stand at the top of the hump and staple a routing card on every card that went over the hill. I can still remember the screech of the retarders on hot, quiet nights and the slamming of the couplers when the cars connected at the bottom. Never did figure out quite how the retarders calculated how much pressure to apply to the wheels to get just the right speed, regardless of car weight or whether it was rolling to the end of an empty track or one that was nearly full. One of life's little mysteries.

Boy, does this bring back memories. Mindless job, but a cool experience.

watch your step!

Those rungs on that steel later seem awfully far apart; maybe to keep kids from climbing them when no one is around. I believe that "horseshoe" is a handle for the turnbuckle to tighten the band around the pole.

Classification yard

also known as a "hump yard" a fairly complicated system of people, machines, and know-how to make up freight trains.

It's a long way to the outhouse!

Just my luck! I climb all those steps and—wham, gotta go visit the outhouse!(centrally located, at least) Must have been quite a challenge during those Chicago winters!

How about that "Good Luck" horseshoe hanging over the horizontal ladder brace? Just waiting to fall off and konk somebody on the head! Good luck, indeed...

It's very likely

we’re looking at the Illinois Central Markham yard located in Homewood, Illinois (south Chicago). The yard is still there, about a mile west of Halsted Street underneath the Chicago bypass (I 294). Today it’s used primarily as an intermodal facility, the two humps having passed into history a long time ago.

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