Never Quite Made it To Kankakee: The Kankakee & Urbana Traction Company

The Kankakee & Urbana Traction Company Railroad was an interurban electric line that was planned to run between its namesake cities, and further was planned to extend all the way to Chicago, and other points beyond the two cities. Most ambitious were plans to use the Illinois Traction Company to connect all the way to St. Louis.

It never made it north of Paxton. Had it connected to Kankakee, it could have used other interurbans to connect all the way to Chicago, namely the Chicago & Southern, later known as the Chicago & Interurban Traction Line to Harvey, and then the Illinois Central Electric Line north into downtown.

Image via George Friedman's wonderfully detailed blog on the line.

After a couple years of planning, the line came into fruition in 1906. Like many interurban lines, financial pressures would force the line to close in 1926. Although right of way was graded north of Paxton, and even some track was laid, it could never make it north. 

Foreman Fritz and his team laying the first track, August 15, 1911.  This is the track that was never used. — Urbana Courier 8/15/1911 and 10/31/1912 (Friedman)

Much of the right-of-way was ceded to construct US Route 45, which today connects the two cities (and runs north-south across the entire US.)

Replica timetable.

I purchased a copy of the 1/1/1925 timetable from the Fox River Trolley Museum, indicating a stop, "Sharp's", which remains a lavender farm to this day. 

Image: Sharp's Crossing Lavendar, "In 1914 an electric, interurban line, known as the Kankakee-Urbana Traction Company, ran just east of the house to Urbana.  Both grain from the elevator and passengers could be transported between the rural towns.  This particular intersection with US Route 45 was called Sharp's Crossing."

Thanks as always for reading!


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