Chicago Tunnel Company

The Chicago Tunnel Company went out in 1912 from the Illinois Tunnel Company, which built a freight tunnel network under downtown Chicago. This was the model for the construction of the London Post Office Railway.


Construction of the tunnel began in 1899, the full system -. Almost any street in the city center was tunneled - was completed in 1906. The 1.8 meter wide and 2.3 meter high tunnels were actually released officially only for laying telephone cables, but the Illinois Tunnel Company began secretly with the construction of a rail system.

Experimental phase

The first trials began a few years after its completion with current rail trains. Initially the live conductor rails were in the track bed, and later overhead lines were used. The cargo was spent on freight stations or directly from the department stores, offices and shops on lifts in the tunnel and out of the tunnels.


In 1912, the Illinois Tunnel Company, a subsidiary of Illinois Telephone and Telegraph Company, restructured and renamed Chicago Tunnel Company, all telephone cables were removed from the tunnels. Over the years, the network was expanded to a rail distance of about 100 kilometers, 149 four-wheeled electric locomotives with more than 3,000 freight cars sided underground their service.

Main business was transporting coal for heating the inner city. But in the late 1940s truck began to make the tunnel system of this business dispute. In addition, increased more and more customers from coal to natural gas, so that the very elaborate underground transport system of the Chicago Tunnel Company was less profitable over time. As almost the only market remained the carrying away the ashes from the city center.


1956 had to declare their bankruptcy the Chicago Tunnel Company. The tunnel system was abandoned in the summer of 1959, additions were closed. All elevators, overhead lines, trains and cargo carts were removed and scrapped. Only two locomotives were preserved. One of them and some wagons are preserved in museums in the Illinois Railway Museum; the other is still in the tunnel.


1991 new posts were attached to the banks of the Chicago River to prevent collisions by barge to the bridge near the bridge at the Kinzie Street. Due to a calculation error, the tunnel under the river were damaged during the work.

1992 fell to an employee of a cable company that the bottom of the tunnel near the Chicago River was unusually wet and muddy. He found the place where the infiltrated water along the jamb into the tunnel, and filmed the damage. The official response was, however, very slow: There shall be no immediate emergency response, and the money for the repairs should be laboriously obtained on the official channels. In April 1992, caused renewed work on the riverbed an even bigger hole in the tunnel ceiling and the river flowed into the tunnel. The entire tunnel network, many basement of the building of the banking and Loop business district and an underground shopping center were flooded. Also installed at a later date electricity and telecommunications cables were badly damaged and there was a short circuit or disconnection for safety reasons. The accident led to a day-long electricity and telecommunications failure in Chicago. The Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange had to suspend its operation, as the technology in the basements of the buildings turned out by the advancing water. Since the freight tunnels were once connected to the subway system and were later bricked up makeshift, the water began to flow into the U- Bahn network after some time.

The city was relatively quickly able to close the holes. For this purpose, 65 truckloads were unloaded at boulders and concrete over the leak for three days. In addition, for the duration of the emergency measures the upstream locks of the Chicago River were closed and the downstream so as to lower the water level of the river. The water was pumped out of tunnels and basements and all tunnel below the river bed provided with their own seals. The damage amounted to about 1.95 billion U.S. dollars.

Even today, the tunnel for the power supply and telecommunications are used.