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
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
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.
Old Plank Road Trail
A 22-mile recreation and nature trail in northeastern Illinois