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

Share This Post On


  1. To be honest, I don’t think it was anything very interesting. The B&OCT’s approach tracks for Grand Central were entirely on the west side of Wells, and this site was a Wells Fargo & Co. express freight house. I suspect this piece of steel was simply salvaged from someplace in the 50s or 60s and used to erect some kind of sign directing truck drivers.

    It gets a little complicated to say it was “the end of the CGW,” as the B&OCT was the terminal railway into town from the west, and CGW simply had trackage rights on it east of Forest Park.

    Post a Reply
  2. Editor

    Thanks for the clarification. The map I was looking at from the Chicago History Museum’s web site only had the line labeled as CGW, with no mention of B&O.

    Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Human Verification: In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.