Thursday, December 17, 2015

Illinois Central Roundhouse and Freight Yard



Illinois Central Roundhouse, Freight Yard, Green Houses, and Alexander Lumber Yard

Illinois Central Roundhouse
Constructed: circa 1855
Owner: Illinois Central Railroad
Razed: Between 1909 and 1914

Original West Urbana (Champaign) Plat Map 1855

1856 Bowman Map

1869 Birdseye Map

1887 Sandborn Fire Insurance Map of Downtown Champaign. (Red indicates
brick while yellow indicates wood construction)
1892 Sandborn Fire Insurance Map of Downtown Champaign. (Red indicates 
brick while yellow indicates wood construction)  

By 1897, the exterior of the roundhouse had been re clad in wood.

A view of the roundhouse looking west from Oak Street across the railroad tracks.


Illinois Central Rail yard workers seen sitting on the turntable inside the roundhouse.

1902 Sandborn shows a fully developed Main Street.
The dashed lines indicate the piles of material from Alexander Lumber as seen below.

View of the Alexander Lumber yard looking north along Walnut Street.
Note the density of commercial buildings on the west side of Walnut Street.


An early automobile on Walnut Street looking north from Main Street.
Note the Alexander Lumberyard to the right.




News came on April 24, 1911 that Champaign was to receive a new Roundhouse.  The Urbana Courier reported that "Champaign is to have a new Illinois Central round house, machine shop and turntable.  A letter was received by General Foreman Donley of the round house from the master mechanic in Chicago, the letter stating that the appropriation of $65,685 which has been pending for a long time has been passed upon and O.K.'d by the proper authorities."

The roundhouse turntable with Illinois Central locomotive.

It appears the round house became quite a nuisance for a growing Downtown.  In an November 21, 1911 Urbana Courier article, "It is reported that Isaac Kuhn is contemplating the erection of a modern hotel at the Market and Main Streets in Champaign, opposite the Kuhn store, and that his recent trips to Chicago had this in view.  Formally the smoke nuisance from the round house provided an intolerable nuisance to Main street stores in that vicinity, but the early removal to the new round house will render the site more desirable for hotel purposes than at any time since the city was originally laid out."

1915 Sandborn Fire Insurance Map shows the removal of the Roundhouse.
After the roundhouse was razed in Downtown a new, larger,
roundhouse was constructed 2.5 miles north of
Downtown just across the tracks fromWilber Heighs.
1936 Aerial courtesy of City of Champaign 

Illinois Central Roundhouse.
Photo courtesy of the Champaign County Historical Museum
Illinois Central Roundhouse.
Photo courtesy of the Champaign County Historical Museum


Illinois Central Roundhouse.
Photo courtesy of the Champaign County Historical Museum

Illinois Central Roundhouse.
 Photo courtesy of the Champaign County Historical Museum
 
The turntable of  the northern roundhouse seen here in the 1940s.


Illinois Central green houses located on the south side of Washington Street
between the railroad tracks and Walnut Street.
Aerial photo circa 1915-16 shows the rail yard area without the Roundhouse
Illinois Central Rail Yard prior to 1924 looking west across Downtown Champaign.

By 1924 the track system redesigned to accommodate
 Illinois Central freight operations.  Alexander Lumber had 
constructed a lumber yard at the southeast corner of 
Washington and Walnut.
Source: Sandborn Fire Insurance Co.
Publication from 1924 showing the new track configuration.

This aerial view circa 1924 shows ongoing construction of the Illinois
 Central Station along with the configuration of the freight yard.  Note by this
time the original passenger depot had been moved north to its current location.


Illinois Central Freight Station and Water Tower circa 1930.


The Illinois Central greenhouses, seen here circa 1923-24, provided
fresh produce for dining cars.
Photo provided by Ben Halpen

Aerial image looking north encompassing the entire Illinois Central Railroad yard.

Fire destroyed the Alexander Lumber Building at the southeast
corner of Washington and Walnut Street.




Illinois Freight Building seen here in 1971.
Photo Provided by the City of Champaign


The Illinois Central Freight Depot as it stands in 2015.

The Illinois Central Freight Depot as it stands in 2015.  Note the tracks
have been removed from both the north and south sides of the building

The Illinois Central Freight Depot as it stands in 2015.

The north side of the Illinois Central Freight Depot as it stands in 2015.



Small outbuildings have recently been repainted by the owner,
Dr. William Youngerman, in traditional Illinois Central colors.

Small outbuildings remain scattered throughout the rail yard.

Small outbuildings remain scattered throughout the rail yard.

Small outbuildings remain scattered throughout the rail yard.


The support structure for the old water tower still remains on the site. 


Aerial view of the entire rail yard as of 2015.