Is This a Piece of Chicago’s Railroading History?

Next to a surface parking lot along Wells Street south of Polk is something unusual.  This CrappyCameraPhonetm shot doesn’t do it justice.  It’s a vertical steel I-beam sticking out of the ground.  To my eyes, it looks like it used to be part of a railroad structure.  Maybe an elevated rail line, but more likely some kind of signaling apparatus. 

The amount of rust on it clearly shows that it’s old, but you can still see the green-and-white stripes reminiscent of the ones I remember on my toy trains as a child.

Based on an old map I found that shows that this was the location of a the end of the old Chicago Great Western Railway, I think this may have been part of that.  In addition, the web site of the Paper Place Lofts, which is nearly adjacent to this structure, indicates that the old Chicago Grand Central Station used to be across the street.  It was torn down in 1971.  Grand Central Station was owned by the Baltimore & Ohio railroad, but the CGW railroad also used it.

History buffs and railfans are welcome to offer their own theories about what this object used to be.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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