Re: Video: Erie Railroad Carfloat Operations in Chicago, 1920

Garth Groff and Sally Sanford <mallardlodge1000@...>


The Sanborn maps would probably tell you what you need. Another possible source is the War Department's "Ports Series" about all the major US ports. These volumes included fairly detailed maps of railroad facilities in the port areas, and certainly would have highlighted any car float bridges. Since my retirement from the UVA Library, I have lost access to both these sources, but maybe you or someone here could check in your area. The Ports Series would most likely be found in a US Government Depository Library (two per state, and usually at a major university or the state library).

By the way, the Ports Series is still being issued, now by the DoD. Usually these volumes are updated every 4-6 years. They are a great source of information on rail traffic, at least as far as trackage around the port areas. My interest was in the volumes covering Sacramento in the 1950s, which had nifty fold-out track maps.

Yours Aye,

Garth Groff  🦆

On Tue, Oct 13, 2020 at 10:35 PM Steve and Barb Hile <shile@...> wrote:

Between 1926 and 1929 the south branch of the Chicago River was straightened in a massive project that was supposed to improve road traffic flow south of the Loop and give the railroads more space on the east side of the river.  There is an aerial photo of the project at


that can be zoomed.


The Erie freight house is in the lower right hand quadrant, south and east from the large Rock Island terminal elevator.



What I can’t figure out is where the Erie car float was in relation to the freight house.  There is one track from the area of the freight house that curves around toward the river, passing under Clark Street (I guess) and numerous RR bridges.  Perhaps it is right there in the lower corner of the photo.


Looking a little further south, I do see what looks like the Erie car float.



Steve Hile


From: [] On Behalf Of Charlie Vlk
Sent: Tuesday, October 13, 2020 8:09 PM
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] Video: Erie Railroad Carfloat Operations in Chicago, 1920


Dave and All-

The Erie had a freight house at 14th & Clark Street on the east bank of the south branch of the Chicago River which was south of the passenger terminals and the main business district of Chicago.

Prior to establishing their car float transfer on the river the railroad had to hand over all their LCL traffic to teamsters or the Chicago Tunnel System.   There is was direct route from the south side on the east side of the Chicago River to the north except via the terminal railroads.

The Erie established a car float connecting to their tracks at 14th & Clark streets near their freight house and on the north branch of the Chicago River at Kingsbury & Erie Streets had a CMSP&P connection and Webster Street which had a connection to the C&NW.     There was also a dock at Market Street & Washington on the south branch adjacent to the downtown area.

It is likely that the Kingsbury Street facility was used primarily to receive and deliver LCL to the nearby catalog centers of Sears and Montgomery Wards.

It and the Webster Street facility further north could accommodate carloads to and from industries served by the CMSP&P & C&NW.  The service was successful and cut days off of the handling of cars to and from the north side for the Erie.

The Erie’s Chicago River car float operation lasted from 1913 to 1938 .

The above information was gleaned from Erie Railroad Historical Society articles which include maps, drawings of the car float depots and the gas mechanical switcher(s).

There was a direct rail link between the IC/MC and C&NW over a swing bridge at the mouth of the Chicago River but little is known about it (at least by this researcher) but the pressure of river traffic caused its removal at some point.

While there was the St. Charles Air Line which served as an important early transfer link between the IC/MC and CB&Q/G&CU (C&NW) its importance as a interchange line dwindled as switching yards moved out of Chicago (Hawthorne and the Q, Proviso on the C&NW, Markham on the IC, Bensenville on the MILW, etc.) and the terminal roads took over the interchange traffic.

Charlie Vlk





From: <> On Behalf Of staplindave via
Sent: Monday, October 12, 2020 3:57 PM
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] Video: Erie Railroad Carfloat Operations in Chicago, 1920


Anybody know where the Erie car float went from and too in Chicago?  Was it meant to sort cut the terminal railroads?


Dave Staplin

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