Dearborn Station: A Lost Hot Spot

Text and captions by Art Peterson. All photos from the Krambles-Peterson Archives

Replacing a temporary station at State and 12th Street, Dearborn Street Station (on the south side of Polk Street at the foot of Dearborn) was opened by the Chicago & Western Indiana (C&WI) in May of 1885. Initial tenants of the C&WI included the Chicago, Danville & Vincennes (later the Chicago & Eastern Illinois [C&EI]), the Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville (later the Monon), the Erie, the Grand Trunk Junction Railroad (later the Grand Trunk Western [GTW]), and the Wabash, St. Louis & Pacific (later the Wabash). From 1887 the Santa Fe also became a tenant at Dearborn Street. The Chesapeake & Ohio was briefly a tenant at Dearborn, but moved to Grand Central in 1925.
Bert Misek took this general view of the trainshed and platforms looking north-northeast in October 1959. From left, a Wabash E, one of the unique Santa Fe H1244TSs and a C&WI RS1 are at work in the station. Based on sun angle, the Wabash train is probably No. 11, the Banner Blue, due out at 1130 am.

The other photos in this feature (presented in chronological order) focus on the last 15 years of passenger train operation from Dearborn Street and vicinity. There was a variety to the carriers, the trains and the equipment using Dearborn that could not be found at the other stations in Chicago.

(Right photo) Circa July 1961, Monon F3 84A is leading Train 5 The Thoroughbred under the Roosevelt Road viaduct on its 8-hour trip to Louisville. In the background are REA and USPS trailers and further to the west is the C&EI freight house. The 84A, a May 1947 EMD product, would be renumbered to 207 in 1964. It was laid up at South Louisville by the L&N in 1970 for trade-in to EMD. -- Photographer unknown

(Left photo) The view from Roosevelt Road at Dearborn was superb, as can be attested to by the photos included in this feature. In October 1964 the N&W had merged with the Nickel Plate and the Wabash and by October 1966, was already well in the process of integrating the locomotives and cars of the two carriers into its roster/image. N&W E8 3815 wears the Pelver Blue image and the hamburger logo. The 3815 had been built as Wabash 1015, a two-unit order for E8s dating to January 1953. N&W retired the 3815 on April 5, 1970 and it was sold for scrap to PNC in June of that year. -- Photographer unknown

(Right photo) The Monon was the first of the Dearborn Station tenants to exit the passenger train business, doing this on September 30, 1967. Johnnie Williams caught Train 6 approaching Dearborn (from the south side of the Roosevelt Road viaduct) that morning in the care of C420 No. 510. The 510 was not one of the steam generator-equipped C420s, those were the 501 and 5 02. The Thoroughbred first ran on February 15, 1948, replacing the Day Express. The 510 became L&N 1327 and was retired in May 1982. -- J. R. Willaims photo

(Left photo) On a stunning May 31, 1969 Owen Leander captured EL E8 826 leading Train 6 the Lake Cities out of Dearborn Street. The final run of the Lake Cities would take place on January 4, 1970. The 826 was built in February 1951 as Erie 826. Chicago in the background include (from left): the Grand Central clock tower (over the Santa Fe sleeper), the Civic Opera Building (at the left edge of the trainshed supporting structure), the Board of Trade Building (over the nose of the E-unit), the LaSalle National Bank Building over the back end of the E-unit) and the First National Bank Building (towering over the station clock tower). -- Owen Leander photo

(Right photo) C&WI used a fleet of RS1s to handle switching duties in and around Dearborn, as well as along its trackage extending to Dolton, IL. The 259 was part of a two-unit order built in February 1949. C&WI at one time rostered two NW2s, but these were quickly disposed of. Prior to 1964, the C&WI had run a RS1-powered commuter train to/from Dolton, using ex-Erie Stillwell-type coaches. In earlier times, the C&WI had rostered ex-PRR P54 coaches. -- Owen Leander photo

(Left photo) A brace of L&N geeps (in place of the more-typical E-units) had brought Train 4, the Chicago-Danville Flyer into Dearborn on February 15, 1971 and are in the process of backing out of the station. Normally, this train was entrusted to a single E-unit hauling a couple of coaches, so this was probably a power-balancing move. Lead GP7 451 had been built in April 1951 as L&N 501. The unit would go on to become Seaboard 2340. -- Art Peterson photo

(Right photo) GTW GP9 4907 has Train 164 The Mohawk in tow on the afternoon of April 9, 1971. The Mohawk (a 4 PM CT departure from Dearborn Street, with its opposite number leaving Detroit at 4:30 PM ET) was added to the fleet of passenger trains from 1967 and survived until the coming of Amtrak. On inauguration, the one-way Chicago-Detroit fare was just $11. A club-diner-lounge and a coach-café were in the consist. -- Art Peterson photo

(Left photo) Santa Fe F7 38L prepares to lead Train 1 the San Francisco Chief on April 13, 1971. Operation of the San Francisco Chief began on June 6, 1954. The 38L would later be renumbered to 304 and then in February 1974 rebuilt to CF7 2535. Santa Fe retired this unit on January 16, 1987. The following month, it was sold to Rescar. -- Art Peterson photo

(Right photo) After Dearborn closed at the start of Amtrak, the N&W Orland Park commuter train was run out of the Polk Street Annex facility to the west of Dearborn. Train 113 is shown waiting on its departure time on June 11. -- Art Peterson photo

  • X2200 South,
  • Various on-line sources were used to research the locomotives and trains appearing in this feature.
  • Official Guides from 1961 and 1971

  • New: 1 October 2023