Joliet & Southern

Brief History:
The Joliet & Southern operated east and northwest from Joliet--not south. It had that name for a while because the owners intended to link up with their Dwight-Pontiac line southwest of Joliet. They were the Fishers: two brothers and the son of one of them.

Their two routes entering Joliet were separately operated. The line to Aurora served only one intermediate village, Plainfield, but the rural population was considered high. It entered Aurora via two miles of trackage rights over a streetcar line. In Joliet it operated its own city car line over its entry route.

The longer, weaker interurban line, built a few years later, reached New Lenox, Frankfort, Matteson and Chicago Heights, where the local streetcar system used the J&S track. In Joliet, the J&S shared its station facilities with the Chicago, Ottawa & Peoria interurban.

The first interurban cars were architecturally little more than long streetcars. Later the company hooded in their old-fashioned deck roofs, creating peculiarly shaped arch roofs unlike anything seen elsewhere. There were also some newer railroad-roof cars with arched windows, traditional interurban styling.

The company purchased the parlor car "Louisiana," exhibited at the 1904 St. Louis world's fair, for charter service. Another special operation in 1919-22 was the Cook County hospital car, which traveled the whole length of the line on its circuitous trips between Chicago and Elgin. The system enjoyed package express traffic but no interchange of railroad freight cars.

The railroad was broken up into two separate companies in 1914. Joy Morton, the Chicago salt man, became president of the eastern line.

Quick Facts:

When it ran: 1903-24

Last addition to system: 1909: Frankfort-Matteson

Early abandonment: 1922: Joliet-Chicago Heights

Miles of line: 46

Frequency of service (1914):

  • Aurora-Joliet: hourly; Joliet city line: 20 minutes;
  • Joliet-Chicago Heights: 13 trains each way daily

Number of cars (1920):

  • AP&J, 14
  • J&E, 10

Surviving equipment: None

Revenue passengers (1916):

  • AP&J, 491,792
  • J&E, 365,338

Number of employees (1916): AP&J, 69; J&E, 43

Principal companies in system:

  • 1901-07: Joliet, Plainfield & Aurora Railroad Co.
  • 1905-14?: Joliet & Southern Traction Co.
  • 1914-22?: Joliet & Eastern Traction Co.
  • 1914-20?: Aurora, Plainfield & Joliet Railway
  • 1920-25: Aurora, Plainfield & Joliet Railroad Co.

Major books:

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

More Reading in First & Fastest:

  • "Traction Trivia Quiz," page 23, Summer 1990, inadvertently repeated on page 23, Autumn 1990
  • "Down in Matteson," page 26, Spring 1991
  • "Joliet & Eastern Remnant Disappears," page 7, Winter 1995-96.
All of these references refer to the J&S viaduct over railroads at Matteson.
For back issues of First & Fastest, click here.

More Reading on the internet:


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


Map of the Joliet & Southern system. Map by Roy G. Benedict Publishers' Services
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Automobiles and the paving of Lincoln Highway made Aurora-Joliet-Chicago Heights interurban service unnecessary. But at one time, it could attract reasonable crowds as shown in this snowy-day scene. Car 118 is loading at the Joliet station for a trip to Aurora, the busier of the company's two lines. –Shore Line collection
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