home > stories > Coast to Coast - part 3: Fort Wayne to Chicago

Coast to Coast - part 3

Fort Wayne to Chicago

 

PREVIOUS STORY:
Rode in boxcars of an Erie Lackawanna freight train from Meadville, Pennsylvania to Delphos, Ohio, then rode a regional bus from Delphos to Fort Wayne, Indiana to by-pass a train derailment. During the bus ride I decided to forsake further travel on the Erie Lackawanna and continue to Chicago on the Norfolk and Western. Time of arrival in Fort Wayne: mid-day on Sunday, June 20.

Fort Wayne was hot and ugly. At the bus station, which occupied most of a city block, I sent postcards to my girlfriend and parents. Then, temporarily insane, I decided to walk out to the N&W yard to check it out. After a couple of miles I talked to someone who told me the yard was still a few miles away. Continuing in this heat would have been nightmarish, even though I was carrying only my small day pack. Disgusted with this turn of events, I returned to the bus station.

There I called a taxi, got my gear out of a storage locker, and rode in style to the freight yard. The driver dropped me off at the west end of the yard. The fare was $4.10. I gave the driver a five-dollar bill and told him to keep the change. Here my timing was good again: a Chicago-bound train was being readied for departure. I had just enough time to find an empty boxcar and settle down. My water bag needed to be topped off (shades of my 1968 passage though here), but that would have to wait. It was 1450.

The ride through Indiana farmland was comfortable but dull. There is only so much fulfillment to be had from gazing at mile after mile of fields of corn, beans, etc. And I missed my girlfriend - so much for commitment phobia. Passing through Hobart, Gary, and Hammond was surprisingly satisfying. Gary was much greener and more attractive than I thought it would be. The N&W route, which ran about five miles from the big steel mills on the lake, went by small residential lots with cozy homes, lots of bushes, and plenty of trees. People were out and about in the evening.

Just before arriving at Calumet Yard the tracks went over the Calumet River on a weird but majestic bridge. It was high and narrow - probably some type of lift bridge. The river looked nice in the evening light in spite of the industrial environment. Beyond the river two big landmarks were obvious: on the right, a big steel mill; on the left, a landfill. Chicago's downtown skyline, miles away, seemed other-worldly by comparison.

The train finally reached Calumet Yard, near Lake Calumet. It stopped on one of the mainline tracks east of the roundhouse. The time was about 2030; it was still light out.

I stashed my gear in the grassy field to the east and sought a water faucet from which to fill my bottle. Rather than slink around the yard, attracting attention, I acted as if I belonged there, walking around purposefully. It helped that no one was about. The deserted roundhouse offered no convenient source of water, but nearby I found a faucet. On the way back to my gear I stopped for a moment to watch with fascination a big forklift moving truck trailers on the far side of a fence. It was an impressive machine.

I retrieved my gear and walked to nearby Torrance Avenue, where I planned to catch a CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) bus for a ride to Santa Fe's Corwith Yard.

Part 4