RAILFAN GUIDES of the U.S.
Todd and Denver Todd's mini-Railfan Guide to
A Railfanning Hotspot
Griffith, for railfanning purposes, could be considered a distant suburb of Chicago, located in the upper northwest corner of Indiana, just "over the line". It is south of Gary. Only two railroads come thru here today, the Grand Trunk, and the EJ&E, Elgin, Joliet & Eastern, but traffic is still sufficient to offer the railfan a good reason to come here.
The following description of Griffith comes from Mark Egebrecht, from his page linked below:Griffith IN, located near the Chicago suburbs, was once one of the largest railroad interlockings in the world. At one time, FIVE railroads lines intersected here. The Grand Trunk Western came in from the west and crossed the Elgin Joliet & Eastern, and NYC Joliet Branch. The EJ&E had a branch line heading east from here to Porter, Indiana. The Erie Lackawanna and C&O formed a joint line south of the junction, and crossed the other three. Some of the diamonds were actually IN Broad Street!
The NYC was abandoned in 1976, the C&O in 1983 and the EL in 1984. The EJ&E Porter Branch followed in 1985. The tower was closed in December, 1999, and efforts were being made to preserve it, (note the banner). They were successful, and the tower was moved to the north side of the tracks where the small railway museum is located. A piece of the EL remains to the north, and a piece of the C&O remains to the south to serve a chemical plant. Now the GTW and EJ&E are the only two main lines that cross. Griffith is still a busy place, but is not the amazing gaggle of tracks it once was.
When I last visited this location in September, 2011, Broad Street became a quiet zone, and CN had a new connecting track on the northwest quadrant. Now, westbound trains on the GTW can swing north onto the EJ&E to head to Kirk Yard in Gary. The spur track that is a piece of the former EL mainline has been severed from the mainline, and may be removed soon. Average train frequency is around 40 per day, although the pace is moderate, and there are extended periods of time with no activity, usually in the late afternoon. Predecessor power still predominates, but CN is repainting diesels fast.
The small museum includes the tower, watchman’s shanties, an EL concrete phone booth, and three EJ&E cabooses. The cars and tower are open for inspection on Sunday’s, when the museum is open. Shirley Welch is the curator of the property, and she is a very nice person to converse with.
If you are near the Illinois-Indiana state line, Griffith is still worth a stop.
A short history comes from the Historical Society's page:
Griffith has been called "The Town that Came to the Tracks," and with good reason. The town was once an interchange point for five railroads - the Michigan Central, Erie, Grand Trunk, Elgin Joliet & Eastern, and the Chesapeake & Ohio.
In 1891, real estate speculators Jay and Elmer Dwiggins bought up farm land surrounding the interchange Point to found what they called "a factory town." Because of its proximity to the railroads, the Griffith they envisioned was a manufacturing metropolis to rival Chicago. Their vision never materialized. When a depression hit in 1893, the Dwiggins Brothers borrowed heavily against the land. Overextended and badly in debt, they eventually left the town behind and headed for greener pastures.
The railroads, however, remained and provided a stabilizing force for the fledgling town. Few long-time families in town were not connected to the railroads in some way - either by having had a family member directly employed on one of the railroads or by having owned or worked in a business that catered to the railroads.
At one time, more than 180 trains came through Griffith each day, but the pace has slowed dramatically since the 1970's. Today, only two railroads still operate through Griffith - the EJ&E and the Grand Trunk.
Some controversy surrounds the origin of the town of Griffith's name, but the one most generally accepted is railroad related. A surveyor by the name of Griffith set the grade for the Grand Trunk Railroad in this area in the 1870`s and, in the course of his activity, prepared and signed maps. Afterward, railroaders began to refer to this area as "Griffith's Section" and since so many people worked in railroading, the name stuck. The town founders, Jay and Elmer Dwiggins, toyed with the idea of changing the name to "Dwiggins Junction," but thankfully chose to name streets after themselves instead.
For some additional information and links to YouTube videos by the page author, visit: http://www.railroad.net/griffith-indiana.html
Getting here is fairly easy:
If you are travelling the Indiana Tollway, I-90, get off at exit 10 for state road 912 and head south.
Ditto goes for the parallelling US20, there is an interchange between it and 912.
Same for I-80/I-94, but the exit number is 5... again, head south on 912.
912 eventually turns into N Cline St. This will take you to Main St where you will want to take a left. Go one block and take a right, and you will hit the diamonds in another block.
If you're using GPS, the museum's coordinates are 41.520977,-87.427644
This is what the crossings looked like back in the heyday.....
Griffith Historical Society
Their website is here.
The Griffith Historical Society. founded in 1983, was empowered by a Griffith Town Council resolution to preserve the history of the town of Griffith. At that time, ownership and operation of the Depot Museum was given to the Society by joint action of the Council and the Community Spirit Organization.
In 1994. the Society purchased the land adjacent to the Depot to create an Historical Park in tribute to Griffith's railroading past. The Griffith Historical Park was formally dedicated in May, 1995. The Park and Museum are open on the first Sunday in June till the last Sunday in August from 2-4pm and throughout the year for special tours.
Two major events are sponsored by the Society:
-- The annual Railroad Fair held at the Park the last full weekend in September, featuring railroad-related merchandise, entertainment and Hobo Stew cooked over an open fire.
-- "Santa in the Caboose" on two Saturdays and one Sunday before Christmas.
Pictures from the Diamond and the Museum
Many thanks to Denver Todd for the photos. He took these in 2005.
Pictures at the Front St Crossing and Diamonds
I dunno about you, but I betcha busy times on the railroad really test the patience of the locals! :-) These come from Google's Street View.
No Pictures - Yet.... The diamond and interchange tracks seem to be well signaled. They all look like new color light signals.
G&G's Hobby Store
I love trains, and I love signals. I am not an expert. My webpages reflect what I find on the topic of the page. This is something I have fun with while trying to help others. My webpages are an attempt at putting everything I can find of the subject in one convenient place. There are plenty of other good websites to help me in this effort, and they are listed in the links section on my indexa page, or as needed on individual pages. Please do not write to me about something that may be incorrect, and then hound the heck out of me if I do not respond to you in the manner you would like. I operate on the "Golden Rule Principle", and if you are not familiar with it, please acquaint yourself with how to treat people by reading Mathew 7:12 (among others, the principle exists in almost every religion). If you contact me (like some do, hi Paul) and try to make it a "non-fun" thing and start with the name calling, your name will go into my spambox list! :-)
Please Note: Since the main focus of my two websites is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them. For those of you into the modeling aspect of our hobby, my indexa page has a list of almost everything railroad oriented I can think of to provide you with at least a few pictures to help you detail your pike.
If this is a railfan page, every effort has been made to make sure that the information contained on this map and in this railfan guide is correct. Once in a while, an error may creep in, especially if restaurants or gas stations open, close, or change names. Most of my maps are a result of personal observation after visiting these locations. I have always felt that a picture is worth a thousand words", and I feel annotated maps such as the ones I work up do the same justice for the railfan over a simple text description of the area. Since the main focus of my website is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them. Since most of us railheads don't have just trains as a hobby, I have also tried to point out where other interesting sites of the area are.... things like fire stations, neat bridges, or other significant historical or geographical feature. While some may feel they shouldn't be included, these other things tend to make MY trips a lot more interesting.... stuff like where the C&O Canal has a bridge going over a river (the Monocacy Aqueduct) between Point of Rocks and Gaithersburg MD, it's way cool to realize this bridge to support a water "road" over a river was built in the 1830's!!!
My philosophy: Pictures and maps are worth a
thousand words, especially for railfanning. Text descriptions only
get you so far, especially if you get lost or disoriented. Take
along good maps.... a GPS is OK to get somewhere, but maps are still
better if you get lost! I belong to AAA, which allows you to get
local maps for free when you visit the local branches. ADC puts
out a nice series of county maps for the Washington DC area, but their
state maps do not have the railroads on them. If you can find em,
I like the National Geographic map book of the U.S..... good, clear, and
concise graphics, and they do a really good job of showing you where
tourist type attractions are, although they too lack the railroads.
Other notes about specific areas will show up on that page if known.
Pictures and additional information is always needed if anyone feels inclined to take 'em, send 'em, and share 'em, or if you have something to add or correct.... credit is always given! BE NICE!!! Contact info is here
Beware: If used as a source, ANYTHING from Wikipedia must be treated as being possibly being inaccurate, wrong, or not true.
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Last Modified 04-Sep-2016