The Forgotten Railways of Chicago: The Chicago Milwaukee and Gary Line

The Chicago Milwaukee & Gary line got its start as the Illinois, Iowa & Minnesota Railway in 1904. In 1905, the line was extended northwesterly from Aurora to Rockford, IL. 

A Gary Line Caboose Photo. Meghan Bannon Langan photo collection.

The Chicago Milwaukee & Gary name as a railroad was a misnomer, as the line never actually traveled to any of its namesake cities, although it did provide a line to bypass the heavy freight traffic around the Chicago area. The railroad was leased to the Milwaukee Road in 1922 and eventually sold to them outright in 1930, who would then abandon the Rockford to Kirkland segment. The Milwaukee used the line for transporting coal from its interests in southern Indiana to the rest of its operations, which were generally located north and west from Chicago. 

South of Aurora, the line used trackage rights on the Elgin Joliet and Eastern Railway Aurora Branch via Normantown to connect to points south and east of Chicago. 

Map of the II&M, the predecessor route of the CM&G.
Upon reaching Joliet, the line used its own independent tracks again to connect to Momence and the rest of its lines. 

The abandoned Gary Line corridor between Rockford and Aurora as portrayed on my Abandoned And Out-of-Service Railroad Lines Map.

I had always been curious as to how the Milwaukee Road had connected its trackage, which was mostly north and west of Illinois, to Indiana, where it owned numerous coal mines and other property, and the Gary Line was one of two ways in which this connection existed, as the Milwaukee had trackage rights over the Aurora Branch of the Elgin Joliet & Eastern and the present-day Belt Railway of Chicago.

Milwaukee Road company map in 1944, showing trackage rights along the present-day CN and Belt Railway of Chicago tracks to connect their north and south operations.

The DeKalb to Aurora segment was abandoned in 1947, splitting the line into two disconnected short lines. 

Milwaukee Road 944 over Lincoln Hwy in DeKalb. Image via Flickr.

By 1980, the line was abandoned as all traffic had ceased on the line. Today, right-of-way is now occupied between Aurora and Sugar Grove, IL by the Virgil Gilman Nature Trail

The trail from the Galena Blvd Parking Lot

Virgil Gilman was an important figure for the Fox Valley Park District in its early days. Much of the infrastructure of the trail was built after the days of the railroad; as such, the bridges have a modern look to them, and most are built with trail users in mind, as such, they are mostly just outside the original right-of-way, as can be seen in some of the pictures here.

Bridge over Galena Blvd 

Between Aurora and Sugar Grove, where these photos were taken, the right-of-way was adjacent to an interurban line to Dekalb, namely the Chicago Aurora & DeKalb Railroad. I visited this trail in March of 2018, and the modern photos in this blog are all from the trail between Galena Blvd and IL-56.

Approaching the IL-56 bridge. The trail ends slightly west of here, and no longer goes near the old right-of-way.

The bridge itself is not entirely on the right-of-way, but actually about 50' north of it where the interurban ran. The actual line can be seen going under IL-56 here. 

Looking on the right of way to IL-56.

A topo map from 1964 showing the East-West Tollway original alignment. Note the "Old Railroad Grade" that is now the trail. (Source: USGS)

While Sugar Grove is a developing village outside Aurora, it doesn't need a 4 lane freeway to access it. Why then is IL-56 a freeway? This was originally the East-West Tollway, which started at IL-47 in Sugar Grove about a mile south of here and continued as Toll US-30, or present day I-88. 

When IL-5 which became I-88 was constructed west of here towards DeKalb, this little freeway was essentially a 4 lane spur to Sugar Grove. It actually used to be Interstate Standard until Golf View Rd was built to connect with a subdivision to the west.

Looking south on IL-56 towards IL-47 at the Galena Blvd interchange.

At the bridge over IL-56.

Looking east now toward the bridge.

Fire department address sign.

Map of the trail.

Looking toward Prairie St

First bridge west of Prairie St

On Orchard Rd under the bridge for the trail. The trail continues into downtown Aurora, and the Virgil Gilman Nature Trail also uses part of the old Elgin Joliet & Eastern Line that ran to Normantown, IL as well.

Chicago Milwaukee & Gary Railroad Depot at Kirkland, IL. Thanks to Anita Yumping for donating this postcard to us!

A newspaper clipping of the Milwaukee 901, erroneously credited as along the CGW Line. Dekalb Weekly, via BridgeHunter.
Thanks as always for reading!


  1. Hi Forgotten Railways, I have an old postcard with a picture of "Chicago Milwaukee and Gary Railroad Depot, Kirkland, IL" I will send it to you free of charge if you'd like to put it in your blog. I have no use for it, really, but HATE throwing it away if you can use it for historical purposes. Email me if you'd like it at : Thanks, Anita =)


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Underwater Water Slide: Fly Over at Durinrell TikiBad

Choum Tunnel: The Monument to European Stupidity in Africa

We asked ChatGPT to write an article on Abandoned Railroads - Here's the Result