Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

Moderators: JamesT4, metraRI

  by zmuzak
The little Deval tower was a pile of brick and rubble going downtown this morning. I knew they were not going to refurbish it, but I didnt know they were going to knock it down. I wish I had the chance to see the inside of it before it became history. Any chance anyone has any pictures of the inside of it? Maybe from when it was in operation?
  by zmuzak
I'm still upset about this. Why knock it down? Where's the visionary's out there? The way they are re-habbing dilapidated buidlings in the city...century old lofts...you don't think somone would invest and rehap that structure in between 2 interlocking sections? A rail fans dream. Put a deck on top and spend summer evenings watching the signal turn green, and knowing a Wisconsin Central freight would be turning around the corner with its bright lights on and rumbling through the intersection.

Heck, UP could have made it a time share and let people rent it out and enjoy the action. It's not like the residents would have to do the switching since CY took it over, or whoever.

Oh well, too late to think about it now. Turn of the century tower knocked down...what a shame.

Kind of like that old closed Forest Glen station on the old Milwuakee Road line...with the old phone in the window from the 20's or 30's...torn down to make condos in the 80's. Gone with the wind...
  by doepack
Make no mistake, for some of us local railfans in general, and Chicago rail history in particular, the loss of Deval tower is tough. For those unfamiliar, it was an important location in its CNW heyday, as it funneled over 100 trains a day from three routes through a three-way crossing, with the lion's share of the passenger traffic running on the triple-track Harvard sub, supplemented by plenty of freight traffic on CNW's double track "new line" (known today as UP's Milwaukee sub), and the single track Soo line (known today as CN's Waukesha sub). Ownership of the tower changed in 1995 when CNW was absorbed into UP, then the tower was damaged by fire in 2005, and decommissioned, with operations moving to CY tower located about 100 yards east of Metra's Clybourn station. It has been said that UP had already been planning to close Deval and remote the operation elsewhere (perhaps to Omaha) as had been done with Mayfair several years earlier; when its operations had also been moved to CY tower, but I could never confirm that.

Deval tower, like so many other parts of rail history, is just another victim of progress. I don't know whether that's good or bad, I'll leave that question open for greater minds to ponder. But to me, Deval isn't dead. Not at all. Like the many other departed artifacts of yesteryear, it will live on forever in pictures, from the internet to private, unpublished collections, and in memories for those of us old enough to have them. Whatever your railfanning preference is, please make note items of historical significance that are still with us, and would be of some importance to you for preservation, whether through pictures, paintings, or printed journals. Because the sad, cautionary tale of Deval's unexpected demolition simply reinforces the fact that nothing is forever, and everything can't be preserved...
  by zmuzak
Thanks, Doepack. Always good to hear your knowledge and perspecitve on things!
  by Milwaukee_F40C
I read somewhere else that this has something to do with rehabbing the whole junction, possibly with CREATE subsidy money. So at least that would be a logical reason for tearing it down.

Railroads, not necessarily UP, often won't spend money on things that are not in the way.
  by byte
That's a good point, and then again there's also the fact that this building had a fire some years back, and hasn't been used since. Might have been structurally un-sound and not worth repairing.
  by Tadman
That's probably got a lot to do with it - it's unsafe, unguarded, and in the middle of a junction. What happens when a bunch of kids decide to hole up there and have a few beers, and someone gets hurt? The railroad gets sued.
  by zmuzak
Good points Tadman, and the rest of you. I was letting emotion take over logic. Of course safety is the primary concern, and while being in the middle of all that action would be fun, it would be an accident waiting to happen. Especially if it was a hangout for underage drinking.

Thanks, and have a good holiday you season you folks!
  by Passenger
It's a bit of a shame, but it's not as if the thing were an architectural treasure like some of the things that have been unfortunately demolished.

A time share? Oh well. :wink:
  by EJ&ESDM809
I had heard all the interlocking equipment in the tower had been long gone and it was basically just the shell of the building that was still standing. I know the only reason it stood as long as it did after the fire was because UP was using it for M of W storage.
  by doepack
The following is an excerpt from the April 2005 issue of North Western Lines, published by the CNW historical society, and gives further details about the fire, plus the immediate aftermath...

Another mishap occurred on March 26 at Deval Tower in Des Plaines,
Ill., one of just three manned towers still in service on the former C&NW (Lake
Street Tower at the Chicago Passenger Terminal, CY Tower and JB Tower in West Chicago are
the others.) The 1911 pistol-grip interlocking machine, which has been in service since the tower was built, was
destroyed in an electrical fire about 2:00 a.m. that morning. The fire broke
out as the operator was attempting to line UP's Proviso-North Avenue Yard
freight train from the former coach yard lead through the interlocking. With
smoke billowing out the south side of the building, the operator called the Des
Plaines Fire Department and then evacuated the tower. The Fire Department
responded within minutes, but the fire had already burned out for the most part.
According to one report, the fire began in the contact assemblies behind the
pistol grips. The tower building itself survived the fire with no apparent
exterior damage.

All train service on both UP and CN(WC) was halted for several hours as UP
evaluated the damage. At the time the fire had occurred, CN train 346 was at
the absolute signal north of the UP Milwaukee Sub crossing; it had to back up to
Wheeling because it was blocking road crossings. Eventually, UP allowed Metra
service to resume (March 26 was a Saturday, so there was no rush hour traffic)
with trains flagged through the crossing. According to Metra, passengers on a
few early trains were bused around the site, but the rest proceeded through
without delay. Track circuits through the interlocking were restored
about 5:00 p.m. on that day.

As of early May, UP was installing a new electric interlocker at Deval, but the
associated signal work will take several weeks to complete. At this writing,
all home signals for the interlocking remain red; trains stop and must secure
verbal authority from the operator before proceeding over the diamonds. All
switches at the interlocking are being operated manually except for the
crossovers on the Harvard Sub, which have been spiked in the straight-rail
position. A curfew for freight operations is in force during the morning and
evening rush hours on weekdays. It is not known whether the tower will
continue to be manned after the new interlocker is in service.
  by SlowFreight
I poured out a drink in memory of Deval. This is where I learned railroading, at the feet of some real masters. Back in the North Western days, that old pistol-grip machine--and everything else in the tower--was immaculately maintained, polished, and shined. Nothing quite like having a New Line freight call for clearance between scoots, with the inevitable question from the operator, "Think you can make it?" The road crew was game for anything that didn't involve getting delayed, and then I'd watch the operator perform his black magic, pulling and pushing levers seemingly at random to make that mysterious combination (always memorized) to give 'em 90 on top and clear a path to glory. The best, of course, was when WC would come down the main with a warbonnet FP45 in the lead, right in front of the window, at (slightly better than) track speed of 40 per, and hammer all 3 diamonds at our feet before disappearing out of sight as it sliced in half what once was downtown Riverview but had long since become part of Des Plaines.

We thought it might be one of the last towers, if not the last, and none of us imagined it closing from a fire just 10 years on.
  by doepack
Thanks for the anecdote, slow freight. We could certainly use more of that around here...
  by Tadman
We certainly do need more of that around here. If you know guys in the area, have them start posting a bit. Our Chicago group is a good group. There doesn't seem to be any attitudes like the out-east group has (only a few, but they're here).