The Forgotten Railways of Chicago: The Chicago Aurora & Elgin Railroad
|Chicago Aurora & Elgin Railroad Map. Map published in the public timetable folder of the Chicago Aurora and Elgin Railroad dated February 2, 1936. (Wikipedia Commons)|
Chicago is a city which owed its tremendous growth to shipping traffic in the 19th Century, first in the form of canals, and later as a result of the development of the railroad network, which led to congestion along the freight railroad networks that continues until this day. The interurban was a response to this congestion, and an attempt to create rapid transit service to the growing suburban region.
Electric railroads gained popularity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as electricity quickly turned from a niche product to a necessity of a rapidly urbanizing world at the time. These lines were similar to urban streetcar networks in their operation - but would run along much longer routes, similar to suburban passenger services of the steam railroads at the time.
On August 25th, 1902, the CA&E railroad began revenue service, between Chicago and Aurora. The Aurora branch had a branch to Batavia which diverged at Batavia Jct., located just west of Eola Rd. The line to Elgin diverged in Wheaton, crossing over the Chicago & Northwestern tracks. That line had a branch to Geneva which diverged at Geneva Jct., located near present-day Grand Ave in Wheaton.
The railroad closely paralleled the Chicago Great Western Railway east of Villa Park, and while initially the railroad's entire purpose was to provide passenger services without freight train interference, it was this redundancy that would eventually lead to the line's misfortunes as the larger railroads would become more efficient.
All lines were in service by the end of 1903. By 1905, they were using "L" tracks to directly connect to the Loop.
"A 1950 photo of the Chicago Aurora & Elgin Railroad on [present day] CTA Tracks." Image: Chuckman Chicago Nostalgia
Chicago Aurora & Elgin Railroad CA&E 20 at State Road [present-day IL-56], 1957. FRRandP photo collection.
A wheel and some rails preserved artistically in Wheaton, IL
|CA&E Villa Park Station and Museum, with my lovely wife in 2018.|
|Illinois Prairie Path Bridge over the Union Pacific West Tracks|
This survey marker is on the bridge over I-355/IL-53
|And indeed, with the small right of way that is also quite straight, its easy to imagine the interurban operations which once occurred on this land.|