Steel and iron mills have ranked among the largest economic enterprises in the greater Chicago region since long before the Civil War. The second half the nineteenth century saw this area become one of the world's leading centers for steel production. Tens of thousands of local residents put in long, tireless hours working to turn raw iron ore into steel and shaping that same steel in a variety of products well into the late twentieth century. Come the 1970s, the US steel industry suffered a sudden collapse that threw many employees out of a job. Throughout the next 10-15 years, older and more inefficient plants failed to withstand the combination of demand decline and a rise of international competition causing many to shutdown such as Wisconsin Steel closing abruptly in 1980, the closure of South Works in 1992 and the bankruptcy of LTV Steel and Republic Steel. All this loss left many steelworkers without jobs and healthcare which decimated the surrounding communities. Chicago still however managed to remain a leader of production in the American steel industry, albeit much smaller and weak than it has ever been before, still spitting out a quarter of all steel produced in the country. With many of its sister plants no longer in operation, Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal's Indiana Harbor facility in East Chicago remains alive and well today employing nearly 4,000 and serving as a reminder to the area, that although weakened, just how mighty the steel industry really is and was. Located 20 miles southeast of downtown along the banks of Lake Michigan, this is the largest integrated steelmaking facility in all of North America. It sits on nearly 3100 acres of land and its three blast furnaces keep busy churning out products such as hot and cold rolls, hot-dipped galvanized, and aluminized sheet steel.
Here, IHB job 115 and its matched pair of GP40-2s swing south off the Norfolk Southern and onto their Kankakee Line at CP 502, slowly cutting past the industrial grit of ArcellorMittal's massive plant, with 13 loads of steel from Burns Harbor to Michigan Ave Yard. The setting sun beautifully soaks the scene in an orange glow as viewed from the permanently closed Clive Avenue overpass.