The Forgotten Railways of Chicago: The Chicago Great Western Railway
|View from Goldmine Rd, west of Pearl City, IL, along the abandoned CGW right-of-way.|
Other than a small Canadian National Railway operation near DuPage Airport, a few industrial customers for Union Pacific between Tyler Rd and Kautz Rd in St. Charles, and a small operation serving the power plant in Byron, the entirety of the 147 mile former Chicago Great Western Railway line between Forest Park and Galena Jct is abandoned, making it the longest abandonment from Chicago by far.
The line extended from Chicago, on trackage which now leads to the Union Pacific Global 1 yard, and then followed a line immediately north of where the current Forest Park CTA station is today, paralleling the Chicago Aurora & Elgin Interurban Railroad, which itself is abandoned.
But before we see what the line looks like today, let's examine Chicago Great Western's history.
|CGW Westbound at Elmhurst, IL. 1962 Image: Roger Puta|
|CGW Map c. 1897 (Wikipedia Commons)|
The line to Chicago began construction in 1886. This right-of-way actually had origins in the 1830's, as the Chicago St. Charles & Mississippi Airline Railroad was chartered, but never built. The rights were transferred to the Minnesota & Northwestern Railroad in the 1850's, who eventually got around to using the rights to build the road in 1884. Wanting to have Chicago in it's name, by 1892, the Minnesota & Northwestern reorganized as the Chicago Great Western Railway, although it was headquartered in Oelwein, IA.
Chicago Great Western would merge with the Chicago & Northwestern Railway in 1968, who would begin the process of abandoning the line piecemeal. The CNW was itself merged into Union Pacific in 1995, who would abandon or put out of service much of the rest of the route.
The Illinois Prairie Path begins west of the parking lot for the Forest Park CTA, using the rights-of-way of the abandoned Chicago Aurora & Elgin and Chicago Great Western lines.
|Looking west at the beginning of the Illinois Prairie Path. Notice cemeteries on either side of the trail.|
|The Illinois Prairie Path winding through Elmhurst, IL|
|Looking east at the former ROW running through Ovaltine Ct on Villa Av in Villa Park|
|You can watch trains all day in Lombard if you want, just like you can on the Prairie Path in Wheaton.|
|The path in an early January thaw, the trail was quite busy that day.|
|Crossing Swift Rd, looking east.|
|I-355 was constructed after the CGW was abandoned, going under the former ROW.|
|Bridge built in 2000 over a creek east of Prince Crossing Rd.|
|Looking west at the CGW/CA&E crossing (December, 2018)|
|There are many abandoned telegraph poles on the south side of the ROW.|
The Great Western Trail then uses surface streets into St. Charles, given that the line is still in servicehere, albeit as an industrial spur instead of the mainline. The Great Western right-of-way ran right through where DuPage Airport currently is today.
Past Tyler Rd, the right-of-way is still owned by Union Pacific, but the rails were torn up in 2011-ish, including the bridge over the Fox River in St. Charles.
|Looking east over the right of way from 2nd Ave in St. Charles|
|The bridge is (currently) not part of the Great Western Trail, and is still owned by Union Pacific. Trail users use a pedestrian bridge right next to the line.|
|It wouldn't be terribly difficult to trespass on the bridge, but I never would do that.|
|Another shot of the pedestrian bridge over the Fox.|
The Great Western Trail uses the right-of-way again starting at Peck Rd west of the Fox, continuing all the way to Sycamore.
|Looking west at Hanson Rd near Lily Lake.|
|Near Lily Lake, old telegraph poles can be found adjacent to the trail.|
|Former bridge piers along the ROW at IL-47.|
|The sun was bright, and the shade was welcome when I walked this trail!|
|Looking east at the Great Western Trail's western beginning in Sycamore at Old State Rd.|
|Looking west at the right-of-way next to an industrial park in Sycamore.|
|The right-of-way looking east from IL-73 in Pearl City.|
|In Stockton, IL, the Great Western Hotel was adjacent to the right-of-way. Today it appears to be simply an apartment complex.|
|What is today's Chicago Great Western Railway museum in Elizabeth, IL. Image: elizabethhistoricalsociey.com|
|Looking east at the museum.|
|A farmer's co-op is located where the right-of-way once was in Elizabeth.|
|The museum has a Milwaukee Road caboose on display.|
|This is a mile-marker using distance from Chicago. It didn't come from Elizabeth, as that's about 135 miles from the City.|
|MILW-2034 sits at the museum.|
|Well, the sign is pretty at the very least.|
The tunnel was abandoned in 1972 after the CNW/CGW merger. Plans had the tunnel becoming a rail trail, but this was before the National Trails System Act was passed, and the land was unfortunately unable to be preserved. The tunnel sits dormant and sealed off from visitors today. A group of high-schoolers from Jo Daviess County filmed a YouTube video on the history of the tunnel and the CGW:
The line's western end is at what once was Chicago Burlington & Quincy right-of-way (today's BNSF Railway). The CGW used the same right of way, crossing the Mississippi River into Dubuque, where the lines diverged.
A 26 mile long rail-trail uses this right-of-way between Dubuque and Dyersville, IA as the Heritage Trail.
|The Heritage Trail at Deere St in Sageville, IA|
|Looking northeast from Burton's Furnace Rd in Durango.|
|Bridge over Little Maquoketa River in Durango.|
As always, I hope you enjoyed today's blog, and thanks for reading!