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The view north at Altgeld Street (where the track runs through the Lakeshore Athletic Club parking lot) shows just how active this former industrial area was in the past, as three tracks cross the street. The still active center track curves to the right here and the switch in the street leads into a block-long runaround track from Altgeld north to Wrightwood Avenue.
While the parked vehicles ahead are moved out of the way, our brakeman checks the switch buried in the pavement at Altgeld to be sure it is thrown for the main. Note the two hinged steel plates covering the throwbar, and the exposed throw in the hole at the right (which looks freshly greased).
Heading beyond the switch at the runaround siding, we are in the clear with no parked cars ahead to contend with (although the van on the siding may be a problem on the return trip). Note the switch frog and guard rails in the street.
We are smack in the center of Lakewood Avenue, looking north from Wrightwood. Although there are plenty of parked cars, they are well clear of the right-of-way. This area is an interesting mixture of industries and homes, popular in 1998 because of its proximity to Lake Michigan and the Near North/Downtown area. Our destination looms ahead on the right.
This is Peerless Confection Co. at the corner of Lakewood and Schubert. The white painted brick building gleams in the midday sunlight. Note the bumper at the end of the spur, and the crossing signal (no longer operating) next to the stop sign.
Looking north again as we carefully cross Schubert, the rails seem to stretch endlessly down the street. In reality, there is only one more block of track still in operation to serve Peerless. The timber guardrails can be seen next to the flangeways.
Before spotting our hopper, we'll pick up the empty tank car which had been loaded with corn syrup. Just below the car, hatches can be seen in the side of the building. These are used to unload the car's cargo into the factory.
As the train runs ahead to the switch for the Peerless siding, we again see the access hatches in the building well as a small puddle on the street beneath the center drain of the tanker.
The brakeman has to use the recessed throwbar set into the street for the trailing switch. Note the throw in the pocket at the lower left, and the metal plate covering part of the linkage. Most of the works are neatly hidden, but drivers would best avoid running over this area. The cracked asphalt badly needs repairs.
Moving slowly into the spur past a parked car, we prepare to couple onto the waiting empty car. The right rail of the siding seems more like a series of short straight rails than a smooth curve! After pulling clear of the switch, we will drop the empty on the main and then push the hopper into position.
We have reached the northernmost point of the Lakewood Branch in 1998 at Diversey Avenue (2800 N). Looking south, the street trackage runs down the center of Lakewood Avenue two blocks to Wrightwood. Note the two switches in the street. The abandoned one to the right used to serve a baking company at the corner of Diversey and Lakewood, now the site of a Wonder Bread outlet store!
Our delivery is complete as we see the Milwaukee Road covered hopper just spotted on the Peerless siding. We'll push the empty tanker that was picked up south to the runaround track and then get in front of it for the long return trip to the Bensenville Yard.
Uh-oh...that van is still blocking the runaround track! Well, it's time for a short break as one of the crew goes out to look for the owner, probably one of the construction workers delivering material for a new condo. Lakeshore Athletic Club is ahead.
It's late in the afternoon as we pull our empty tanker south toward this narrow drive with vehicles parked behind recently built townhouses. Looking south from Fullerton Avenue, the track makes an arrow straight run to the C&E junction near Goose Island. From there our train will head west down the Bloomingdale Line back to the yard in Bensenville. If you look closely past Fullerton (near the van at the left), you can make out portions of an old switch to the right. Just across Diversey to the north, another 2-3 blocks of abandoned street trackage is still visible on Lakewood, but the Diversey crossing has been paved over and the warning signals removed. Soon, those unused northernmost tracks will be paved over as well. We can only hope that the surviving four-block portion of the Lakewood branch shown here will remain in operation for a little longer for us to enjoy before it lives only in Chicago railfans' memories.
In December of 2000, Tom Burke photographed this MP-15 on a slow trip to Peerless. This location is just south of Fullerton. On this day, the snow and parked cars appear to be slowing progress a little.