Niles Terminal

Information provided by Ben Higdon and from a book called "An American Colossus", by William Taylor, Jr.


In 1919, plans were released for the new Niles Yards on the east side of the city.  The plans included:

  • a 30-stall roundhouse with 100 foot turntable
  • a large locomotive shop
  • a 600-ton link-built coal station serving four tracks
  • a three story office building for dispatchers between the twin hmps
  • twin humps for rail car classification
  • two classification yards
  • 75 miles of rail
  • a repair yard with about ten tracks
  • a balloon track that actually passed under the humps (this was was called "the subway")

The westbound facilities were built first, designed to also temporarily accommodate eastbound traffic.  The westbound yard consisted of an eight track receiving yard, 28 track classification yard, and a four track departure yard.  This was placed in service on December 10, 1919.

A several mile long "Air Line" cutoff was also built, which gave trains on the MCRR's Air Line branch direct access to the yard from the east.  It branched off the Air Line at Barron Lake, coming into the yard at the east end of the eastbound classification yard.  After the west end of the Air Line branch was removed in 1937 (between Three Rivers and Niles), the Air Line lead was used for switching the yard. 

The eastbound yard had an eight track receiving yard, a 24-track classification yard, and a four track departure yard on the cut-off, but no departure yard on the main line due to a grade.  The eastbound portion was put into service on December 1, 1923. 

This terminal replaced operations previously performed at Michigan City for reasons of equalizing the distance crews traveled between Chicago and Jackson.  Back then, crew territory went from Chicago to Niles, Niles to Jackson, and Jackson to Detroit.

In ten years, a third of the yard was out of service because it was inefficient.  The Michigan Central found that it was easier to pull trains directly into the classification yards, build the trains, and have them leave directly from there.

In the 1950's, work at the Niles Terminal was moved to the upgraded Robert Young yard in Elkhart, Indiana and the terminal was in large part pulled out or abandoned.  As late as 1980, a small portion of the westbound classification yard, even a rack still going over the westbound hump, was still in place.  Today, just a small group of stub tracks are left towards the west end and are used by Amtrak for ballast cars and a lumber company.

Before the double track in Niles was moved back about a mile to its current location, the east end of the double track ended near the humps, and the control point was known as CP Hump.

There is a small museum in Niles where, right inside the doorway, is a large aerial shot of the yard whichs hows the diesel shop and part of the yards.  There are many cards in the rip yard.

From Ben Higdon