Our journey starts at Grand Avenue just west of the Chicago River. The view south from the UP (ex-CNW) switch here shows the spur leading to Blommer on the right. The track to the left leads over the river onto Carroll Avenue and eastward to the Sun-Times building. Sears Tower looms in the background.
The overpass just ahead is for the multi-track Metra mainline into the downtown terminal. Parked on the street underneath is a boxcar. Note the standing water from recent spring rains. Sometimes the water covers the ties here so that only the rails are visible.
The boxcar sits comfortably in the shade of the overpass, with barely enough room for cars to pass on Jefferson Street. Note the safety sign and wheel lock device. Our destination is just ahead.
Here we are at Blommer Chocolate, 600 W. Kinzie Street. Today, two covered hoppers loaded with cocoa beans wait to be unloaded. Usually the deliveries are made in boxcars with beans unloaded from burlap sacks, which can still be seen stacked in the loading door.
Beneath one of the hoppers, an employee works to get a conveyor positioned for unloading. Note the unusual paint scheme on the car!
What is this guy up to? Answer: he and another UP worker were jacking up one of the hoppers! Apparently there was not enough clearance for it to be unloaded. The wheels seem perilously close to the end of rail, with no wheel stops!
The UP workman checks to see the progress of the jacking operation as his partner operates the controls on their truck. Another jack is positioned on the other side of the car.
In this view, we can see the platform used to unload the boxcars. The bags of cocoa beans are opened and dumped through the metal grates and down the loading doors in the sidewalk below. Some stray beans still lie on the platform.
The Blommer employees are still working on the unloading mechanism beneath the first hopper. You can see the opening in the sidewalk into which the cargo will be delivered.
This shot shows the proximity of the Metra overpass to the scene. Railroad workers can be seen on the tracks above. The crane at the left was moving equipment onto the roof of the factory while everything else was going on...a busy day all around!
Bell clanging, a commuter train rolls by overhead, adding even more to the action. I had always looked down from my Metra train with great interest at the Blommer operation; now I was looking up at the same trains!
This view shows the variety of storage equipment atop the building. Both cocoa and sugar are stored for making the chocolate. When the wind blows right, the chocolatey aroma wafts across the tracks to the Metra terminal and beyond.
The two hoppers on Jefferson Street are not alone. Another green
hopper awaits unloading on the overhead track at the right! This
spur handles sugar deliveries. Blommer's operations definitely are
unique and would be fascinating to model.
As we leave the scene, these unusual tracks crossing Kinzie Street draw our attention. Abandoned yet still visible, the curved track sports TWO guardrails in addition to the regular running rail!