Chicago, Aurora & DeKalb

Brief History:
During its brief tenure of only 17 years, the Aurora-DeKalb line used "all three"--steam, internal combustion and electric trolley motive power. The first two were stopgap measures while it gathered resources to electrify.

It used a total of eight gasoline cars (not all at once), all four-wheelers, one converted from a secondhand automobile. The later ones flaunted streetcar bodies. In this era its revenues from freight (hauled behind steam locomotives) were twice as great as from passengers. The passenger service was handicapped by reaching only the edge of Aurora, not even directly connecting with streetcars to downtown. Some of the gas cars were so small that they could not handle all the traffic, further discouraging customers from using the railway. The passenger operation was entirely suspended for a while in 1908-09 and then resumed with steam trains between Aurora and Maple Park. Upon electrification, the passenger cars again reached DeKalb and for the first time entered downtown Aurora via streetcar tracks of the Aurora, Elgin & Chicago Railroad.

The DeKalb line owned a gravel pit and distributed stone for road surfacing. It also hauled livestock and grain. After electrification, its express motors pulled the freight trains of cars interchanged with steam railroads. Nonetheless, the electric passenger service was such an improvement that by 1913 it brought in four times as much revenue as freight.

It was no cure-all! The company operated under receiverships from 1913 to 1917 and 1918 to 1923, half of its life. In the last years, riding dwindled so much that a 12-seat makeshift conversion of one of the express cars into a one-car "mixed train" could handle the traffic on some trips.

Long outliving the railroad were some of its characteristic stone substation and station building

When it ran:

  • Gasoline cars, 1906-08
  • steam, 1906-11
  • electricity, 1910-23

Miles of line: 28

Frequency of service (1911): 1 1/2 hours

Number of cars (1911):

  • 3 electric passenger
  • 2 express motors
  • 2 steam locomotives
  • 1 combination coach
  • about 15 freight cars

Revenue passengers (1913): 312,747

Number of employees (1912): 32

Principal companies in system:

  • 1901-09?: Aurora, DeKalb & Rockford Electric Traction Co.
  • 1909-23?: Chicago, Aurora & DeKalb Railroad Co.

Surviving equipment:

  • None

Major books (all are out of print):

  • Aurora-Elgin Street Cars & Interurbans, Volume 4, by Hopkins Stolp Peffers (American Slide-Chart Corp., 1993)

More Reading on the internet:


Contributing to this report: Roy G. Benedict, James J. Buckley

  Map of the Chicago, Aurora & DeKalb system. –Map by Roy G. Benedict Publishers' Services
View Larger


  During most of its life, the DeKalb line operated two passenger cars at a time. On each trip they met in Kaneville on the switch to a long freight spur. Car 24, en route to DeKalb, has headed into the siding. After car 22 departs for Aurora, the 24 will back out and resume its westward journey. Shore Line collection
View Larger


    © 2007-17 Shore Line Interurban Historical Society. All Rights Reserved.