EJ&E Dune Park Branch (long)

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EJ&E Dune Park Branch (long)

Unread postby GaryIndianaRailFan » Tue Oct 25, 2016 9:07 am

Hello all,

A lot of this information isn't exactly readily available for the average Joe to investigate. I've done a little research on this and I'd like to compare what I've read to what you all know to be fact.

According to dhke.com G&W built the high line some time after its incorporation in 1906. They laid out about 12 miles of trackage, with about 3 miles of it being elevated - not counting sidings or yard lines. They connected this line to the CI&S RR, which from my understanding ran from Gary to Bethlehem Steel in Burns Harbor. NYC RR pretty much financed IHB, thus reserving track rights and acquired both G&W and CI&S, thus solely owning the entire thing. At some point, EJ&E leased the CI&S line from NYC, operating as a NYC surrogate... very confusing stuff there.

The only thing clear is that NYC RR made a killing. What's been hard to find - for me - is the year EJ&E actually leased the high line from NYC. Another thing that's been hard to find is when exactly did the branch started being called "Dune Park". Was it G&W who named it, NYC or IHB?

Moving on to the beginning of its abandonment history, which is a pain to cover but I will glide through it quickly. Pennsy RR and NYC RR merged but the Penn Central thing didn't work out so well - the largest bankruptcy in American history at the time happened. Penn Central abandoned passenger service - which caused a chain reaction that created what we know to be Amtrak in 1971. Penn Central failed to meet its bankruptcy requirements as a private enterprise - whatever that means. Penn Central and others were nationalized and consolidated into Conrail April 1st, 1976.

Assuming that it went from EJ&E Dune Park Branch to Penn Central Dune Park Branch to Conrail Dune Park Branch.

According to the 'Hammond Railroad Relocation and Consolidation Project',https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=ien.35556030133979;view=1up;seq=1 a draft report by the US DOT, FHWA & the Indiana State Highway Commission (now known as IDOT), abandonment of the IHB Dune Park Branch was discussed as far back as 1975.

I will narrow the important parts down for you here. The City of Gary under Richard G. Hatcher considered railroad relocation as a way to improve the city and make it more pedestrian friendly. There were four points made:

1. Having Norfolk and Western Railway (Wabash) abandon their track that ran east-west though Gary between 9th & 10th Avenues. Gary could purchase this lane and turn it into a four-lane road running from 5th Avenue on the west to SR 51 (Ripley Street) to the east.

2. Because the Joliet Branch of Penn Central (Conrail) was scheduled for abandonment already (1976) the City of Gary could purchase that lane making it a right-of-way 99 foot wide street running Northeast from 43rd & Grant to 37th & Mississippi. Could be made to create a new connector from Broadway to MLK Drive & from I-65 to Ridge Road.

3. Possible abandonment of the Penn Central (Conrail) Dune Park Branch (Gary & Western) which is operated by the IHB (elevated rails). If Conrail agrees to abandon this line, it could be done at a “reasonable” cost to the City of Gary. The railroad saw it as cost cutting measure; to provide a way to eliminate the need to rebuild or maintain the elevated bridges.

4. No other railroad projects seemed doable at the time. Conrail was scheduled to take over operations from Penn Central in Gary March 31st, 1976. Said to have little to no effect on the City of Gary except for the elimination of commuter trains (Penn Central?) stopping at 5th & Chase.

The only things that happened out of these four points were the stoppage of Amtrak passenger service - which didn't happen for another 18 years - & the abandonment of the Dune Park Branch - which apparently didn't happen for another 17 years or so. Both were done under the leadership of a different mayor, Thomas Barnes.

Getting back to Dune Park... Tuesday, July 7th, 1994 IHB filed a notice of exemption with the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office under '94 CRF 1152 Subpart F - Exempt Abandonments and Discontinuances of Trackage Rights' to discontinue use of exactly 3 miles of the Dune Park Branch that that included the elevated bridges almost exclusively.

According to 'Interstate Commerce Commission Docket No. AB-317 (sub 3x) titled 'Indiana Harbor Belt railroad Co. - Discontinuance of Trackage Rights Exemption - In Gary, IN', IHB indicated that Conrail filed or intended to file a notice of exemption for the Dune Park Branch, but because they filed June 20th, 1994 - more than the 50 day threshold for the discontinuance to be allowed - Conrail could not abandon the Dune Park Branch until August 9th, 1994 - thus IHB could not 'officially' abandon the Dune Park Branch until that date as well. IHB also indicated that no rail traffic had moved over the elevated tracks for two years prior to August 9th, 1994. Technically if this is to be believed - IHB discontinued use of the Dune Park Branch some time before August 9th, 1992. Somehow it's still debated by those supposedly in-the-know that Conrail never officially abandoned the Dune Park Branch.

I found something called an "Annual report" regarding trackage rights for NYC RR from 1945-1949. It clearly states with regard to the Dune Park Branch - "Does not include that portion of the Dune Park Branch, Ivanhoe to Dune Park, Indiana — 15.00 miles, operated by the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad." There isn't a 'Dune Park, Indiana' today. This report defines the area between Ogden Dunes and Dune Acres - which became The Port of Indiana (Burns Harbor) in the 1960's. https://archive.org/stream/ldpd_6285099_000/ldpd_6285099_000_djvu.txt Maybe this is a basis for that argument? I'm just the asker of questions here.

I've discovered many plans for reuse of the Dune Park Branch, including a 2002 ‘Four City Consortium’ between CSX & Hammond, Gary, East Chicago and Whiting that were ready to award a $650,000 contract to relocate freight traffic BACK onto the Dune Park Branch and include it in what I understand to be a new, longer multi-city elevated line to eliminate through-city grade crossings. From my calculations the evil empire of Norfolk Southern were the ones who killed that idea because it included messing with their line by Indiana Sugars. They let it hang in legal limbo until the plan died out finally in 2009.

In fact I've found at least 8 or 9 proposals for reuse of the Dune Park Branch that could have happened - and as of now the only one that's gotten any action was destruction for Norfolk Southern's seemingly unimportant purposes - other than to have access to Kirk Yard of course. The Dune Park Branch served a major purpose for 86 years. I find it hard to believe that it can not serve us for another 86 years. Really the only road block for Dune Park I've ever found was Norfolk Southern - for some reason they are the common denominator.

The last point I want to hit on is this http://www.garychicagoairport.com/develop_OverNS.asp. The 'EJ&E (CN) Over NS Bridge' project. I would love to know what happened to it and why - I'm assuming CN now owns the Dune Park Branch - why CN killed this project. I'm assuming they killed it because they let NS tear down a bridge without it being replaced and rip out portions of the embankment on the east side of Broadway to build their new connector to the CSX mainline.

It clearly stated:

"Closed Contract Awarded
Bridge shop drawings are currently under review by CN
Bridge Coffer Dam for Foundation work is scheduled to begin in March
Projected Completion October 30, 2012"

So what happened? The rest of the plan seemed to be executed without a hitch as far as the airport expansion and the relocation of the tracks - which seems to be a more mighty undertaking than rebuilding a few bridges. I'm no engineer but the dynamics don't seem to be nearly the same.

Tell me what the deal is with the Dune Park Branch. How does everything else they want done get done except for this? What's the truth here?
“...what thrills me about trains is not their size or their equipment but the fact that they are moving, that they embody a connection between unseen places.”
― Marianne Wiggins
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GaryIndianaRailFan
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Re: EJ&E Dune Park Branch (long)

Unread postby GaryIndianaRailFan » Tue Oct 25, 2016 9:24 am

Oh, one more thing. From aerial photos and my own personal exploration of portions of the Dune Park Branch in Gary, it seems to have been double tracked at some point. I've never seen it double tracked. I was born in '86 (youngin I know) so as far back as I can remember I've never seen the 'high lines' with two sets of tracks... yet the way some of the bridges are laid out and from evidence though aerial photographs of the line it shows there could have been double trackage up there - at least on some portions. If any one knows if the Gary portion of the Dune Park Branch was ever double tracked please let me know. If you know when they were removed - if they were ever there - that'll be a big help as well.

Cheers!
“...what thrills me about trains is not their size or their equipment but the fact that they are moving, that they embody a connection between unseen places.”
― Marianne Wiggins
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Re: EJ&E Dune Park Branch (long)

Unread postby justalurker66 » Sun Oct 30, 2016 11:21 am

The CN over NS bridge was built. It is on the relocated CN line around the airport and is just north of the old CN over NS bridge on the old alignment. I believe NS no longer owns the track/ROW under the bridge ... that was sold to CSX as part of the airport relocations. (NS moved off of the Wabash west of Clark Rd and now connects to the EJ&E/CN City Line near Clark Rd. CSX is in the process of moving off of the Penn Central and using the Wabash alignment west of Clark Rd - which will extend under the "CN over NS bridge" and connect to the CSX line at or near Clarke Junction.)

Do not forget that the elevated Dune Park Branch lost their bridges over the Toll Rd and CSX long before they lost their bridge over NS (and the bridge near Tolleston) last year. I am looking forward to the day when the bridge over US12/20 is removed ... which will probably wait until the need is urgent (until some structural engineer says take it down before it falls down).
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