7. Abandonment Passenger traffic for all railroads fell off after World War I because of the competition of trolley lines and the rise of automobile ownership. Freight traffic fell after World War II and many railroads faced financial problems in the late 1950s. The Joliet and Northern Indiana Railroad's parent company, the New York Central Lines, fell on hard times and was forced to merge with it's old rival the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1968. Even that didn't help because the new company, the Penn Central Railroad, declared bankruptcy only two years later. The United States Congress stepped in to save the railroads with a sweeping reorganization plan which created the Conrail system. In 1976, Conrail combined six railroads; the Central Railroad of New Jersey, Erie Lackawanna, Lehigh & Hudson River, Lehigh Valley, Penn Central, and the Reading to form one large new railroad. Federal funds were provided to upgrade the roads and Conrail was freed from restrictive regulations that hampered profitability. Parts of the Joliet branch, the Joliet cutoff from Chicago Heights to Joliet, was not included in the Conrail takeover. When Conrail was formed, the government bought the rail assets of the Penn Central but left everything else. Non- railroad business; gas pipelines, real estate holdings and insurance were retained by a holding company called Penn Central. Since the Joliet cutoff line was real estate and not a railroad it went to the holding company. Conrail continues to operate the line between Hartsdale, Indiana and Chicago Heights where the Ford Motor Company has an assembly plant. In 1995, Penn Central Corporation changed its name to American Premier underwriters.
Library of Congress American Memory photo
Old Plank Road Trail
A 22-mile recreation and nature trail in northeastern Illinois
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