Chicago Aurora & Elgin

50th Anniversary of the suspension of Passenger Service

Tuesday, July 3, 2007 marks the 50th anniversary since the suspension of passenger service on the Chicago, Aurora, and Elgin. Although passenger service was only suspended on this date, this was the last time public passenger trains operated on the line. The abandonment is famous, or infamous, since they are one of the few railroads to abandon service at 12:00 noon. At 12:00 noon on July 3, 1957, CA&E trains returned to Wheaton empty, stranding many of their passengers in Chicago. To mark this historic day, both the Illinois Railway Museum and the Fox River Trolley museum will be staging re-enactments of the abandonment. The Fox River trolley museum will be staging re-enactments on June 30th and July 1st. The Illinois Railway Museum event will occur on July 1. For more information on the history of the CA&E, we are including an example article about the abandonment from the Winter 2004-05 issue of First & Fastest.

Remembering the CA&E

Brief History:
Third rail distribution of power to trains was the hallmark of the CA&E, the "Sunset Lines." It had little overhead trolley except in street-running, which was confined to the west terminals and West Chicago.

From the 1930s it experienced heavy commuter traffic along the double-track Chicago-Wheaton main stem. At Wheaton, the multiple unit trains were divided, sending cars to Aurora, to Elgin and to the storage yard. After 1937 motor coach service to St. Charles-Geneva was integrated with the train schedule, replacing other through cars. Batavia was served mainly by a shuttle car.

Though it installed all-steel cars in 1923-45, right until the end of service the rush hours saw trains of wooden equipment, the oldest dating from 1902.

Steeple-cab locomotives and express motors hauled freight cars between connecting railroads and to or from on-line industries.

For photos of the Chicago Aurora & Elgin, check out the railroad's photo archive.

Quick Facts:

When it ran: 1902-57; freight service until 1959

Early abandonments:

  • 1926 - Scheduled service on Mt. Carmel branch
  • 1937 - St. Charles branch
  • 1953 - Chicago-Forest Park (Desplaines Av.)

Miles of line (1930): 68, plus trackage rights: 6 miles on Chicago Rapid Transit Co. and 2 miles on Aurora, Elgin & Fox River Electric Co. CRT operated on 9 miles of the CA&E line.

Frequency of service (1934, midday every day):

  • Chicago-Wheaton - hourly local and hourly express
  • Wheaton-Aurora-Batavia-Elgin - hourly
  • Wheaton-St. Charles - 2 hours

Number of cars (1957):

  • 89 passenger cars
  • 6 freight locomotives
  • 16 other

Revenue passengers (1926): 6,997,793

Number of employees (1943): 512

Principal companies in system:

  • 1901-06: Aurora, Elgin & Chicago Railway Co.
  • 1906-22: Aurora, Elgin & Chicago Railroad Co. (which also owned city lines and a north-south interurban through Elgin and Aurora)
  • 1922-26: Chicago, Aurora & Elgin Railroad Co.
  • 1926-46: Chicago Aurora & Elgin Railroad Co.
  • 1946-59: Chicago Aurora & Elgin Railway Co.
  • 1959-74: Chicago Aurora & Elgin Railway Corp.

Surviving equipment:

  • List?

Major books (those marked * are out of print):

  • The Living Legacy of the Chicago Aurora and Elgin: An illustrated History of the CA&E and Its Transition to the Illinois Prairie Path by Peter Weller and Fred Stark (Forum Press, 1999)
  • Sunset Lines by Larry Plachno (2 volumes. Polo, Ill.: Transportation Trails, 1986-89)
  • The Great Third Rail (Central Electric Railfans' Assn. Bulletin 105. 1961*)
  • Aurora-Elgin Area Street Cars and Interurbans by Hopkins Stolp Peffers (Volume 3. Wheaton, Ill.: American Slide-Chart Corp., 1993)
  • Aurora 'n' Elgin by James D. Johnson (1965*)

More Reading in First & Fastest:
Every issue contains a CA&E feature. Some major articles include:

  • "Speeding to the Sunset," Summer 1995
  • "The 1951 Strike" by David J. Fiore, Spring 1995
  • "Flagmen and Gatemen Crossing Protection" by David J. Fiore, Autumn 1994
  • "Teenagers Playing Conductor on the Batavia Shuttle" by Norman Carlson, Summer 1994
  • "The Last Street-Running" by Roy G. Benedict, Spring 1993
  • "Carload Freight Service" by David J. Fiore, Autumn 1991
  • "Stations at Villa Park" by David J. Fiore, Summer 1990
  • "Those Fabulous 1901 Bonds" and "Obscure Corporations" by Larry Plachno, Autumn 1989
    For back issues of First & Fastest, click here.

More Reading on the internet:

Videos of the CA&E from the Illinois Railway Museum:

Videos are in Windows Media Format


Contributing to this report: Roy G. Benedict and Norm Carlson

This feature was originally published in the Spring 1996 issue of First & Fastest magazine.

  Map of the Chicago Aurora & Elgin in 1930. –Map by Roy G. Benedict Publishers' Services
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  On June 4, 1957, in the last month of service, a train heads west through Wheaton. Car 452 is one of the newest; 431 in the rear was built in 1927. Their brilliant red and blue color scheme is just one of the things that made the CA&E a flashy interurban. –M. D. McCarter collection, negative N14574
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