Vibrant color photographs of Chicago's Rail Yards taken by Jack Delano, 1940s

In 1942 and 1943, Farm Security Administration photographer Jack Delano documented the busy freight hubs and everyday lives of workers at Chicago's rail yard. The photographs were created on Kodachrome color transparency to create vibrant and extra-color shots.

More lines of track run in more directions from Chicago than any other city in the United States. Chicago made its first rail connection in 1848 to connect the Windy City with the major mines of Galena, Illinois. Later lines connected the city to Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, New Orleans, St. Louis, Kansas City, Omaha and St. Paul.

Chicago has long been the most important interchange point for freight between the nation's major railroads and is the center of the intercity rail passenger system Amtrak.

By the early 20th century, no less than 30 interstate routes passed through the city, and the resulting ease of access to both raw materials and markets contributed to the city's rapid commercial and industrial development.

Most importantly, Chicago was the terminus of each railroad; Passengers, raw materials and finished goods all had to be transferred between lines in the city, thus contributing to the extraordinary growth of hotels, restaurants, taxicabs, warehouses, rail yards and trucking companies.

Railroads were particularly important as carriers of grain and livestock, which helped Chicago gain a primary role in the grain marketing and meatpacking industries.

The trade encouraged ancillary industries such as steel rail and railroad equipment, shipbuilding, packaging and printing, as well as the development of hotel and restaurant facilities.

The largest of these yards include Proviso and Bensonville on the west side of the city, Clearing Yard in Bedford Park, Burr and Blue Island Yard on the far south side, and Corwith Yard near the Stevenson Expressway.

By the 1960s the Chicago Loop consisted of six major railroads for intercity rail passenger traffic. Travelers traveling between the East and West Coast often had half a day to spend in Chicago between trains and took advantage of the time by sightseeing.

The decline in intercity rail passenger travel due to the advent of Jet Airlines led to a decline in passenger train fare and the final consolidation of the remaining services under Amtrak in 1971.

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