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Chicago interurban railroad

Ask Trains from the January 2012 issue

Published: October 15, 2012
Q What can you tell me about an interurban railroad that ran from Chicago to Elgin, Ill.?
— Jim Studnicka, Chicago

A The Chicago Aurora & Elgin, originally incorporated as the Aurora Elgin & Chicago in 1902, ran west from Wells Street in Chicago to Wheaton, Ill., where the main line split into two branches: one to Elgin and one to Aurora with a sub branch to Batavia. In 1953, the state began constructing what is now the Eisenhower Expressway, and demolished Chicago Transit Authority’s Garfield Park elevated line, which CA&E used to access downtown. With that route cut off, commuters leaving Chicago for the western suburbs would have to ride CTA’s rapid transit trains to Forest Park, then transfer to the CA&E to get home.

The loss of that route, plus competition from the new expressway, caused CA&E’s passenger traffic to drop almost 70 percent. The meager freight traffic the line handled could not support the operation indefinitely. After a favorable court ruling July 3, 1957, the CA&E cut off passenger service at 12:13 p.m., stranding all their morning commuters at Forest Park that evening. The CA&E was the only railroad of any size running a full passenger service to abruptly kill it off without providing the riding public with advance notice.

Freight service continued until June 17, 1959. The CA&E was formally abandoned in 1961 and scrapped shortly thereafter.

Ray Weart, volunteer, Illinois Railway Museum, Union, Ill.

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