The Forgotten Railways of Chicago: The Palatine, Lake Zurich & Wauconda Railroad
The Palatine, Lake Zurich & Wauconda Railroad connected its namesake villages in northern Cook County and Lake County. It first operated in 1911, forming a line from just northwest of Palatine Station, north to Wauconda for a route of just over 12 miles in length, generally paralleling modern-day US-12 and Old Rand Road throughout its trek through the county. (Right of way)
|An image of "Old Maud", its most famous steam engine, which was scrapped along with nearly every item of the railroad. Photo: Palatine Historical Society.|
I've wanted to do a blog on this rail line for some time, but I've been stopped by the fact that a great blog on the topic was already written by Diana Dretske of Lake County History, so I needed some material to discuss on my own if I was to prevent this from being too duplicative of a blog. I've also briefly touched on the line in my blog on the Forgotten Railways of Lake County. But I finally feel like it's time to bring this blog to light.
|LiDAR image of the ROW through Deer Grove. (ILHMP LiDAR Data)|
|Palatine Station, the terminus of the PLZ&W, where riders could connect to CNW trains into Chicago - or points west. Photo is looking west from Slade Street. Ethel Baumann family photo.|
|"This is a capital stock certificate of the Palatine, Lake Zurich & Wauconda Railroad Company. This ill-fated business venture began on May 10, 1913 - Railroad Day in Wauconda." (Wauconda Area Digital History)|
|"Golden Spike" ceremony for the Palatine Lake Zurich & Wauconda Railroad upon its completion on May 10, 1913. (Wauconda Area Digital History)|
|1920 Palm Sunday Tornado Damage at Wauconda. (Wauconda History)|
|Palatine Lake Zurich & Wauconda Timetable, 1914. Alan Follett scan.|
|"Scene From Station at Lake Zurich". (Ela Historical Society) Note the embankment that allowed the PLZ&W to cross the Elgin Joliet & Eastern Railway tracks.|
|"Saturday's Special Train" Lake Zurich, IL. Ela Area Historical Society. Illinois Digital Archives.|
|Wauconda Terminal. (Wauconda Twp. Historical Society)|
|"4-Wheel Drive Model B Railbus". Ela Area Historical Society. Illinois Digital Archives.|
An August 1924 flood would be the nail in the coffin for this line - who hadn't been operating up until that point anyway, but the substandard construction of drainage for the line would mean its rails would be underwater for any attempt to restart service. (Shore Line Interurban Historical Society)
|Wauconda Station. (Wauconda Twp. Historical Society)|
|Palatine Lake Zurich & Wauconda (labeled as the CP&W) on the 1924 Chicago and Cook County Sanborn Map. Note the right of way paralleled the CNW tracks to Bothwell & Wilson in Palatine - allowing a seamless transfer to their service.|
|1938 aerial image near present-day Deer Grove Forest Preserve. Despite being extinct for 14 years in this image, its track is pretty easy to decipher. (Illinois Aerial Imagery Viewer)|
While the line was quite small and very obscure within the context of the rail network of suburban Chicago, finding this line was a bit of a watershed moment for me. I had been tracing abandoned rights of way for about a year at that point, and had figured I had found every railroad in the Chicago area, and was quite shocked to find this 12 mile spur to trace. I concluded there was always going to be more to see, more to discover, even in what essentially is my own backyard on a worldwide scale, and that documenting and preserving that history was something to work towards, which is where I find myself today, nearly four years after the fact.
Further reading: Old Maud: The Story of the Palatine, Lake Zurich & Wauconda Railroad by Richard Whitney.
Thanks as always for reading!