Pennsylvania Railroad

by John Hinson

21st Street tower
Photograph 11/6/58, by Dr. J W F Scrimgeour

A general view of the junction at 21st Street in Chicago, also known as Alton Junction, looking towards Chicago's Union and Dearborn stations. The train has just left Union station before passing over the giant lift bridge over a branch of the Chicago River. The Chicago Union Station Company line formed an end-on junction with the PRR outside 21st Street and crossed the entire layout here. The locomotive is passing over the junction points with the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad, which disappears off in the direction of Alton bottom left in this view. Next, it will cross the tracks of the Chicago & Western Indiana, also used by the Erie, the Wabash, the Grand Trunk Western, the Chicago & Eastern Illinois and the Monon railroads. Finally, the train will cross (just out of view to the right) lines owned by the Illinois Central, used by the Santa Fe concern and by freight services of the Gulf Mobile & Ohio (or Chicago & Alton) Railroad.

Although technically owned by the PRR, the tower was maintained and operated by the C&WI.

The tower is very similar in looks to the reinforced utilititarian boxes erected in the UK during World War II but probably predates them by about thirty years.

Interior of 21st Street tower
Photograph 11/6/58, by Dr. J W F Scrimgeour

Inside the tower is a gleaming Union Switch & Signal Co. power frame, controlling the colour light signalling and pneumatically powered points, or switches.

21st Street tower is still operational, although the layout has now been greatly rationalised.

About the photographs

Additional notes by Mike Brotzman and Bill Gustason.

More information about 21st Street Tower can be found on Bill's Chicago Rail Junctions site.

Comments about this article should be addressed to John Hinson