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Chicago Westchester and Western Railroad

As seen by a boy on his bike...

My earliest memories of the Chicago Westchester and Western Railroad came in 1956, some 5 years after the railroad ceased to exist. I had no idea of its history or ownership, but each day as I walked to St. Simeon School with my brothers or friends, I had to cross the Chicago Aurora and Elgin and Chicago Great Western railroad tracks at Bellwood Avenue. One thing that arose my curiosity was a double set of rails protruding ever so slightly under the asphalt of Bellwood Avenue just south of the C. A. & E. tracks. At the side walk, these rails were more exposed and cut off and seemed to have been once joined to the C.A. & E. mainline. An adjacent tavern still sits on the east side of the street only feet away from the tracks. This was a common occurrence in those days as most railroad stations and taverns fed off each other for business. If the bricks of the tavern could talk, what would they say? Where did the tracks lead to, I wondered? I could not walk to the east as the still electrified third rail and my parent’s warnings cautioned me. The C. A. & E. Bellwood station existed along with a 2 story tower just to its north. But just south of the station a roadbed of black cinders and gravel led me to believe that a railroad station and right of way once existed here. Over the next several years my journeys on my bike became more frequent and a little longer as I grew older.

At its origin, the roadbed left Bellwood Avenue and then proceeded southwest and then crossed Warren Avenue next to a newly opened newspaper distribution center. Now heading due south, it crossed Madison Street where I found several remnants of old spikes or rotted ties. Homes were built on the right of way soon after abandonment in Bellwood. They stood out as newer in design to the surrounding ones. Several blocks south of Madison Street was Wilcox Avenue, the street we lived on but about 4 blocks to the east of the roadbed. Homes built on the right of way had lots that were too small and little thought was given of how they would fit into the community. Homes were built back-to-back so that the fronts could face each other. These houses had little or no front and back yards with almost no privacy. It runs against everything Westchester’s urban planner William Zelosky believed should be in his plan of Westchester. But this was Bellwood, a blue collar town that prided itself in its factories, rail yards and narrow lots with alleys like its “big brother,” Chicago. At Van Buren Street, something interesting started. I remember a small park where the railroad once existed. Some 50 feet to the east was a series of stores on Bellwood Avenue that I frequented on a regular basis. A drug store, the size of small home that had a soda fountain, comic books near the door and a gum ball machine with prizes. The grand prize of all in this machine was a small cigarette lighter the size of a gum ball. The Cookie Jar bakery was also a favorite of mine. Next to that was an IGA grocery store. At the end of the group of stores stood a Standard Oil gas station at Harrison Street. Behind it once stood the second station of the C.W. & W. railroad, Harrison Street. I never saw any remnants of the Harrison Street station since the creation of the Congress (Eisenhower) Expressway around that time had caused major redevelopment in this area. It was at this point that the railroad would now enter Westchester. In keeping with Zelosky’s plan, transportation was an important ingredient to a successful urban plan. Another nugget of interest was at the Illinois Central Railroad intersection. Many years before, the I.C.R.R. decided to elevate its tracks in this area as it headed westward from Chicago due to numerous intersections between other railroads. This meant that a viaduct was created to allow the C. W. & W. railroad to travel under it. Another viaduct was created just west of here to allow for a spur from the C. A. & E. to run funeral trains to several cemeteries along Roosevelt Road. This viaduct still exists today and is used as a small service road. My knowledge of Westchester is greater north of this viaduct. When I was in the 5th and 6th grades, my brother got me a job at the IGA. My job, along with a friend, was to deliver its Wednesday grocery sales flyer that I was paid a penny each. Our territory was the Congress Expressway (Eisenhower) to the north, Westchester Blvd on the west, Devonshire to the south and the Addison Creek to the east. We usually delivered about 300 papers each including several to the garbage cans of local homeowners if we got too tired or cold. Fatigue was usually the result of walking across wide lots and streets that seemed to go on forever, A Zelosky design concept. How enjoyable it was to see express trains heading to and from Chicago on the elevated Illinois Central Railroad in the distance.

My knowledge of the roadbed is very poor south of Roosevelt Road, its third station. Situated just north of Roosevelt road a station was built below grade. Today, you would never know that the railroad existed here or that it went under Roosevelt Road. Roosevelt Road does have a slight incline at this point as a result of the railroad. I do remember riding my bike years later to Canterbury Street where I rested in front of the Westchester Masonic Temple. I also noticed the #17 CTA buses that went down Madison Street, Bellwood Avenue then Westchester Blvd. ended here. Why would the CTA be out here? This was the territory of the West Towns and Blue Bird bus companies after all. Only many years later did I learn that here was the quaint Tudor style train station at Canterbury Street where the lodge exists today. A small yet impressive structure that had a platform on its north end only long enough to service one car. Thanks to historical photos that can be seen on the Internet today the inside of the Canterbury Station is clearly seen. Photos also reveal the vast emptiness of the surrounding area in stark contrast to today's neighborhood.

Continuing south, the greenway still existed but it seemed to gradually turn to the west before it reached close to 22nd street (Cermak Road). The final station once stood here at 22nd street just east of Mannheim Road. A little more than 2 and one half miles had been discovered, yet to a small boy it seemed like twenty. One can easily see the remnants of this right of way today by looking at Google Earth. Interesting how the right of way is mostly built up with homes through Bellwood yet remains mostly open and free in Westchester. William Zelosky would be proud.

I read once that big plans had been thought of with the railroad traveling further west to perhaps near Oak Brook. Perhaps it could have served an area of Westchester that had built streets and sidewalks in 1929 before homes just west of Wolf road. The great Depression changed all of that. This area remains today as a protected prairie area containing native plants pretty much untouched by man.

Interesting enough is the fact that only about 4 blocks or so separated each station. This is the same distance that Chicago used between major streets. Each mile separated by 8 blocks and every 4 blocks served by a street car or bus line. No matter where you lived in Westchester, one could easily walk to one of these stations and travel to downtown Chicago on this railroad. For that matter, the same distance separated families from parks, churches, stores and other cultural necessities of urban life according to Zelosky’s plan. Most streets ran north and south so that homes could bask in the warm glow of sunshine in the morning and evening when its residents were home. Unfortunately the railroad ceased to exist in 1951 after only 25 years of existence. The stations were razed and all that is left is memories for a few. In only a few years urban sprawl hit Bellwood and Westchester and other western suburbs of Chicago. My parents like most of my relatives left the city for the suburbs around this time. They moved here to escape the crowded city life for the open suburbs. Unfortunately, they lacked clean and reliable transportation that the likes of the Chicago Westchester and Western and the Chicago Aurora and Elgin provided. In 1957, the C.A & E. was abandoned as well. But this only opened up another chapter of exploration for me that still exists today some 50 years later thanks to the Illinois Prairie Path. My journey never ends as I look for glimpses of the past in each abandoned railroad right of way in order to understand the present.

I wish to thank the Westchester Tribune, and the photos from the Louis F. Gerard collection. Also, special thanks go out to the Web site www.FranzosenbuschHeritageProject.org.

Shortly after the end of World War II when I was 2 1/2 years old I was given a tricycle. My first solo outing on the trike was interesting. I grew up just south of 12th Street (Roosevelt Road) near 58th Avenue (Menard Ave. in Chicago). Having seen the Rapid Transit cars stop at Austin Blvd. and the express CA&E express trains race by the station when my father drove past the station I decided where I would go with my new "wheels." I left home after lunch and petalled over to 12th St & Menard, crossed 12th St. and headed north. Two and a half blocks later I was at the tracks. The station was four streets west and I petalled over to Austin Blvd. and parked myself under the billboard on the southeast corner to watch the gates go down and the "Roaring Elgins" race by. Several hours later my father and brother showed up in the family car. Many years later my older brother told me that the family was in panic mode for several hours concerned that I was lost or abducted. Only after much searching did they find me, oblivious to the situation, enjoying the train show. I have remained fascinated by the Chicago, Aurora, and Elgin ever since.

I grew up in Villa Park, less than a block from the Villa Avenue station, so the CA&E was a major part of my early years. The whistle and the clack of the wheels as the express trains sped through is indelibly in my memory. When you were waiting at the gates, and a cannonball sped through in the winter, snow was flying in all directions, and the sparks as the shoes met the third rail after crossing the road was spectacular.

I had many opportunities to ride the “Roarin’ Elgin.” My grandfather took me to Berkeley as a very young boy to pick wildflowers, and we crossed the third rail without a walkway to get across the tracks. I was extremely nervous, but made it without touching the rail. In those days, there was no fence, barrier or other means to keep one from crossing the right of way (at least in Berkeley).

When I was a little older, I used to take the train to Maywood (5th Ave) and walk to the Lido to see a movie. My uncle had a store a few blocks from the station, so I was able to visit on the way. With friends, as a young teen, we took the train to Chicago, and an El to Wrigley field to see a ball game. Seems the tickets for the bleachers were about $1.50… times have really changed. One time, with a friend, we took a school holiday to travel to Elgin for the day. We were a few minutes late in getting back to the train, but the trainmen had waited! We were the only two passengers, so it was probably not a big deal for them, but it was a thrill for us.

I walked around Wheaton yards and explored the cars many times after abandonment. Most of my pictures have been lost over the years, but there are tons on the internet that show that sad site. It was so painful to see the cars burned and cut up. Early on, the salvage people were pretty good about having us climb around the old rolling stock, but it got a lot harder near the end, and eventually it was too much trouble to chance the yards.

I have had the opportunity this year to experience a ride on a three-car wood train, followed by a three-car steel train on Showcase weekend at IRM. What a thrill. The experience was a kick, and brought back so many memories of how it used to be a fast, clean ride to downtown Chicago. In fact, with the six cars parked at the depot in Union, you could almost imagine rush hour in Wheaton, with the trains from Aurora and Elgin being put together for the trip to Wells Street Terminal.


I really don’t remember the first time I saw the Chicago Aurora n’ Elgin it seems like it was always there. I grew up in my parents’ house one block west of Spring Road in Elmhurst, just west of the CA&E station. I remember sitting on the front porch watching the trains arrive and depart from the eastern platform since it was closest to the house but also recall the ones on their westward journey as they rambled on past. From my bedroom window on the second floor I had a perfect view of the inbound platform and at night could see it all lit up and watched the movement of trains. I remember the brightly colored blue and red coaches and as a kid didn't understand why some of them had a different color scheme, sort of a dirty blue and off color gray.

I was fortunate to have several opportunities to ride the line. As a child I had a history of bad teeth requiring many visits to the dentist so my mother, as a bribe to get me there which was off York Road, would bring my sister and I down to the station and we would ride the short distance from Spring Road to York Road; the ride I enjoyed, the dentist I didn’t. Since my family was on a very tight budget in those days we would walk back from the dentist. The walk must have been good therapy for me as it allowed me to work off my frustrations of not being able to ride the Aurora back.

I had cousins who lived in Villa Park so on occasion we would ride the line to Ardmore Avenue and walk to their house or they would come into Elmhurst. When they left they would take the line back however when we were ready to depart from Villa Park my father would pick us up in the car and drive us home (probably due to that budget thing). Regardless I was once again upset I couldn't ride the line back home.

In my earlier years my brother and I would get up early the morning, try to meet what we called the paper train and load the newspapers on to our wagon and take them to the local candy store where, for our hard efforts, we would receive a couple of pieces of penny candy. This didn’t happen too often as we were usually beaten to the punch by some of the older boys, the ones who were around eight or nine. On rare occasions we would sneak over to the east bound platform and watch the trains much to the horror of my poor mother. I can’t be 100% sure but I feel very confident that is our picture in The Living Legacy of the Chicago Aurora and Elgin page 49 (I was the one closest to the station).

As I mentioned earlier I always thought the CA&E would be around forever but it was not to be. On one July day just before the 4th one of the neighborhood kids announced the CA&E just quit running. I thought of course he was pulling my leg especially since just after he made the announcement a fleet of coaches went roaring past on a west bound trip. He thought they were just returning to the yards; he, of course, was correct. After that I kept looking in the paper for a sign of the return of the Aurora & Elgin and remember watching from our front porch the few times a special train would pass. The last one I recall was on a cold day in December when I saw a couple of wooden coaches as the passed the house on a westward journey.

After the suspension of the passenger service we would watch the noon run of a freight train as it passed everyday at almost the same time. Most days locomotives 2001 and 2002 led the way however I do recall seeing 3003 and 3004 and remember when 4005 and 4006 went by they shook the house. I don't remember when but eventually I realized that this service too had stopped and there were no more trains. I do recall looking down the tracks one day and noticing the block signals had gone dark.

I along with some of my boyhood buddies kept waiting to see if the line would ever be revitalized but no such luck. I guess I finally started to give up hope when after hearing the IC rumble through Elmhurst over the double tracks of the Aurora and the single track of the GGW just east of Spring Road as I had for years, it was reduced to just one set of tracks (the Aurora crossover had been eliminated). Shortly after that I watched the tearing up of the tracks and demolition of the station. It may be gone now but it will always live on in my memory as one of my earliest and fondest childhood memories.

Chicago Aurora and Elgin Railroad; my mile long walk through memory lane

My earliest memories of the Chicago Aurora and Elgin Railroad came in 1956, the year my parents moved from Franklin Park to Bellwood, Illinois. Each day as I walked to school with my brother or friends, I had to cross the Chicago Aurora and Elgin and Chicago Great Western railroad tracks at Bellwood Avenue. Here was a railroad lover's dream come true. Soon to be extinct electric interurban trains joined long freight trains to and from Chicago several times each hour. Also visible at this street location (under the asphalt roadway) were rails that once belonged to the Chicago Westchester and Western Railroad. These rails once headed slightly west and then turned due south through Bellwood and ended up near 22nd and Mannheim Road in Westchester.

I would like to reflect on the C.A. & E. from the perspective of someone who never road the C.A.&E., but who stood by and watched in awe as the cars traveled by and one who later walked its abandoned roadbed almost daily in my youth. Bellwood was my home and I knew every square foot of the C.A. & E. in that short 1 mile or so from 25th Avenue as it headed west until it reached Mannheim Road. From east to west, the line ran paralled the Chicago Great Western railroad during this stretch. At 25th Avenue we begin with a 2 story switch tower on the eastern side of the road. The Tower Inn tavern sat on the south side of the tracks just off Madison Street. Of special interest was the overpass used by the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad. This was interesting to a small boy as it had several large portals to allow both the C.A. & E and the C.G.W. to pass underneath. At this location also sat a two story control tower. It must have kept track of trains traveling in all four directions as well as the spur track that left the elevated IHB and traveled a short distance westward to join the CA&E freight trains that also were in use at this time. Also in these portals were several arched door cavities that penetrated the concrete structure. These “mystery caves” were strewn with an odd assortment of junk, perhaps left behind by hobos that frequented the area back then. Traveling further west, the Sun Electric Company, with its antique silver painted water tower, used a short spur track supplied by the C.A. & E. This track, including its third rail remained for many years after the CA&E rails were removed. I hoped the C.G.W. might somehow connect to it, but it never happened. At Eastern Ave. another interesting thing happened. The track coming down the elevated IHB was built on a wooden trestle until it reached the ground. For some reason its height was several feet above the other tracks. As a result, Eastern Avenue could not proceed northward from Madison Street. In later years, a hole in the fence allowed us to use it as a short cut for us to travel to and from the Memorial Park pool and baseball fields north on Washington Blvd. Obviously, this did not happen until after the CA&E was abandoned. Nobody would be so foolish to try and jump over the 3rd rail. As a result of this dead end street, a fire station was built just to the west to serve the south end of Bellwood. The C.A. & E. had three tracks at Eastern Ave. The two mainline tracks and a side track on the north side that housed a lone car every evening for rush hour service. Weeds over took this spur the farther east you traveled. As you approached Bellwood Avenue, the CA&E station sat on the western side of the intersection. Immediately north sat a two story tower that was used by the C.A. & E. and the C.G.W. On the southeast corner of this intersection sat a bar originally owned by Tom Pods. This bar was built in 1910 and sat only feet away from where the C.A. & E. and C.W. & W. would converge. If this building could talk, what would its bricks say? At Bellwood Avenue, 7 tracks ran parallel to each other. Six tracks crossed the road. The CA&E would own 2 mainline tracks and a siding that ended at the tower. Another track existed here that I believe was used jointly with the I.H.B. These tracks would venture west and then south and travel south along Mannheim road to serve the Vulcan Quarry. Once the tracks crossed Mannheim road just north of Madison Street, they entered into Hillside. They would then continue south to serve the cemeteries along Roosevelt road. And finally the two mainline tracks owned by the C.G.W that continued west to Iowa.

I know all of the C.A. & E. tracks well as I walked them numerous times after they were abandoned in 1961. I recall when the rails were removed. What a sad sight to see spikes literally pulled out of the ties and left there for scrap. Ballast would be scooped up and taken away. Every so often existed a large concrete box submerged into the ground that had a metal cover. When opened, it led about 6 feet into the ground where electrical cable was present. I also remember the notice stapled to the door of the Bellwood station announcing the railroad would no longer run. A semaphore signal existed at the Bellwood station that was activated by a rope to request that the next train stop for a pick up. One day I would raise it, the next I would lower it. It didn't matter; no passenger trains would come again and stop at Bellwood. The west side of the station had bars on its windows and doors. Could it be a jail? Actually it once was used to deliver and receive mail. Once, I was allowed to turn a switch at one of sidings near the Bellwood Avenue tower. It must have been a slow day for the control operator.

One has to understand the times were different then as walking along rails was considered child's play back then. Today it's called trespassing. Without the use a camera, I was able to capture these images in my mind as if it were yesterday. Thanks to all who did photograph the CA&E and write about it in books and on this wonderful web site. It has allowed us to relive these memories once again.

I grew up on the south side of Chicago but at the age of 14 my folks moved to Elmhurst and I became a big fan of the CA&E. the home that my dad was building on Hale street, in south Elmhurst, was running behind schedule for a variety of reasons causing me to have to commute to York High for a couple of month before we would move. As a result I had an opportunity to ride the CA&E on a daily basis Monday through Friday from Forest Park to Spring Road, which was within walking distance of York High. To my chagrin, the CA&E had stopped running from Wells and I had to take the Garfield Park “L” out to Forest Park from the Loop. A ride to Elmhurst began with a bus ride to the Jackson Park “L,” a trip to the Loop subway and then a climb to the “L” structure for a very slow ride out to Forest Park and then a quick ride out to Spring Road on the CA&E. To a kid there was nothing like the CA&E. It was brightly colored, it was clean and fast. A ride of the CA&E took the place of my 8:00 a.m. study hall, a great trade.

Later after we had moved to Elmhurst the CA&E was my ticket into the city to see my beloved White Sox. I would go to a twi-night double header leaving Elmhurst about 4:00 p.m. and arriving at the park about 5:30 p.m. I would watch the first game and then get into the second before I would leave the park exactly at 12:00 a.m. I would walk/run down 35th street, catch the Jackson Park “L” into the Loop, and jump on the Garfield park line just in time to catch the last Roaring Elgin heading west to Elmhurst at 1:00 a.m. Twenty minutes later I would be at York road and a short walk home. No car, no bike, just me and the CA&E.

I moved away a long time ago and now live in Saratoga, California which is just outside of San Jose. I still miss the CA&E and get out to Chicago at least once a year to see and ride the 431 at Union as well as see my White Sox. I can't wait to see the 450s return to Illinois when they reach Union. It will be like meeting a long lost friend again after years of absence. About 20 years ago I saw something here in California that I never thought I would see again. San Jose was installing a light rail system and was in the process of digging maintenance pits. People asked what those were and I of course knew because I had the undying privileged have ridden and known the CA&E.

In response to the memory from Dale H.

I grew up during the ‘50s in Elmhurst on Stratford Ave, one block south of the CA&E tracks. Our street was about halfway between the Poplar Ave and Berkeley stations, One of my earliest memories is thrilling to the sight of the trains racing past, especially on a rainy night, when the sparks would really fly! I also attended nearby Jefferson grade school, which was located 2 blocks south of the station, where Poplar dead-ended at Crescent St. We’d go home for lunch each day before the afternoon session of class began. However, instead of heading directly back to the playground, we’d always allow an extra fifteen minutes to visit the Poplar Ave station. As Dale H. mentioned, the proprietor and ticket agent at this stop was a very grandfatherly gentleman who always had time for his young customers. Normally, there would be a group of grade schoolers lined up at his counter. The wait was excruciatingly long as each child pondered their 10 cent selection of penny candy. The old man would then patiently place each item in a funnel he had formed from a sheet of wax paper. Get the picture? “Gimme one o’ those... and one o’ those... and two o’ those...” etc. Everthing from licorice sticks to bull’s-eyes to those colored candy dots on a strip of paper. No one ever thought of wasting a whole nickel for a candy bar when there was such a vast assortment from which to choose.

Eventually I saw the store close and the building transformed into a sort of amateur art gallery for the park district. Finally it was razed shortly before the Prairie Path was constructed. Great memories as a kid tho'.

I grew up in Elmhurst, and was lucky enough to ride the CA&E from York Road to both the Wells Street Terminal and Forest Park. I can remember waiting at the York Street station, boarding the train, and riding. For me, this was exciting as these trains had no locomotive to pull them.

My earliest memory was riding on the L tracks around Rush Hospital. It was a rainy day, and I remember the section dug out for the Congress Expressway held some water. All of my other trips ended at Des Plaines Avenue in Forest Park. One day, in the summer, we were going downtown. But, instead of riding the CA&E, my mother told me that we were driving to Forest Park. I was upset and could not understand why we were doing this. When we returned from the city, we found people waiting on the platforms, listing to a man explaining that the railroad had stopped passenger operations. Now, I understood what my mother's issue was earlier in the day.

During the years after that, I remember the boarding up of the York Street station. Before it was torn down, somebody ripped some of the boards from the windows. One day, while my father got gasoline from the Texaco station a block north, I took a walk to the station and got in through one of these openings. The inside was the way I remembered it, except for the mess that was on the floor. The pot belly stove was still there as well as the small ticket office. To this day, I am glad that I got one more peek at history.

The Poplar Street station had a store in it that stayed open a few more years after the shut down. I remember buying baseball cards there. The man in the store was always nice to kids, and I am sure that there is a spot in Heaven that he now occupies. The interior of that station is very similar to the interior of the Villa Avenue station, and very different from the York Street station. Years later, we rode the Leyden Motor Coach to Oak Park to catch the L to go to Wrigley Field. We caught it at the Poplar Avenue station. During all of those trips, my friends and I dreamed of how nice it would have been to ride the CA&E rather than those buses.

During my high school and college years, I worked at Soukup Hardware in Elmhurst with a man who was a conductor on the CA&E. He had some funny stories about the railroad, some of which are not fit for this site.

The CA&E lives on today as the Prairie Path, railway museums, our memories, and, if you notice, in the colors of the remote parking trams at O'Hare airport!!!!

My childhood is full of memories of the CA&E living at 458 Poplar Ave., Elmhurst, IL.

We moved to Elmhurst from Peru, IL in June, 1953. My Dad really wanted to be a Burlington commuter, but they found the right house in Elmhurst. From February to June, Dad lived at the Lawson YMCA in Chicago and came back to Peru on weekends on the CRI&P. In May, he went out to the house in Elmhurst after work to repaint the rooms.

I received my dog, Dusty, for my 9th birthday in March, 1954. Most nights unless it was raining (snowing was fine), Dusty and I would walk the block and a half to the CA&E to meet my Dad coming home from Chicago. Dad (Richard E. Burn) was an attorney for Borg Warner Corp at 200 South Michigan, Chicago.

Until 1956, we would see the eastbound Chicago Great Western Oelwein to Chicago local which passed Poplar Avenue about 6:15 pm. Dad came in at 6:28 pm on a four car Wheaton local. I remember thinking as a 10 year old how silly it was that the southbound Leyden Lines Route 41 Roosevelt Road bus did not wait for the train. Sometimes, the train held the bus, but the driver tried to beat the train and miss the connection.

When I was a child, growing up on the north side of Chicago, our family would take the eL downtown and transfer to the CA&E, to go to Aurora, where my grandmother lived. As everyone that knows anything about the CA&E does, the train split in Wheaton, but here's a coincidence. We moved there later. In fact, our house on College Ave., was across the street from the CA&E & CNW tracks.

After I married, my wife and I moved to the Los Angeles, CA area and then to the Portland, OR area, where I have been since 1964.

My first ride on the Chicago Aurora and Elgin occurred in 1952 between Aurora and the Wells Street station in Chicago, Illinois. I was immediately fascinated with the railroad, the sparks, the swaying motion, the speed, and of course the roar of the traction motors beneath! Thereafter, I spent many hours at the Aurora terminal next to the Fox River after grade school each afternoon. I got to know many motormen and conductors while waiting on one of the wood benches under the covered roof of the concrete platform for trains to arrive or leave. One motorman was very kind to me. I think his name was Andy Hughes. He was younger than the others and showed me how to throw the "knife switch" from overhead current to third rail power in the box in the motorman's compartment. I always offered to help reverse the seats for the next eastbound trip, going through each car and even the smoking section. In those days the Chicago newspapers were delivered by the CA&E and carried right up front next to the motorman! I'd help them remove each bundle of newspapers to a waiting van too. And I'd spend time inside the Broadway station when there were no trains at the platform chatting with the ticket agent and ladies at the snack counter.

One afternoon my favorite motorman "Andy" asked me if I'd like to ride up to Forest Park with him and I jumped at the opportunity! He wore the typical railroad uniform and when he pulled out his pocket watch and got up from the wood bench I followed him into the motorman's compartment and stood by him as he shut the door and waited for the conductor's highball and off we went! He told me to hang on to the metal bars by the front window as I watched him operate the controller, brake lever, and air horn. It was fun to switch from single track to double track as we left the Aurora station and headed up to Illinois Avenue under wire. Then we reached Aurora Avenue and Hankes Avenue and switched from overhead to third rail power. Andy told me to duck down whenever we crossed an intersection so none of the railroad's "spotters" would see a kid riding illegally in the motorman's compartment and he wouldn't get fired! It was a great trip and I still remember pulling into the turning loop at Forest Park to unload passengers for the transfer to CTA trains and then slowly moving on to the CA&E's own westbound platform there. Andy then introduced me to another crew and I boarded an Aurora bound car but this time had to ride in the passenger compartment. I do remember foolishly walking between cars while they were in motion which still frightens me to this day! But it was another memorable experience.

Not too many months later, in July 1957, I was saddened when all passenger operations were suspended. I'd still go down to the Aurora platform, but they had boarded up the wood ramp from the Bridge and shut down the Broadway terminal station. Over the next months the rails started getting rusty and the weeds grew fast. The Aurora Beacon News kept running stories that passenger service might resume shortly, but it never happened. After a few years it was obvious the CA&E was gone forever. When I read that scrapping operations had begun, I went back to the Aurora station and snipped the wires that held the big red lens light at the end of the Aurora branch line and took it home for safekeeping. I also went into the abandoned Aurora station where bums were sleeping and the stagnant air smelled like urine inside. It was very dark in there, but I managed to take all of the remaining items from inside the ticket agent's cage including all the little rubber stamps that printed each stop and brought those home as well. I made one trip up to Wheaton, Illinois while they were tipping the fleet of rolling stock over and setting them on fire. I went inside the Wheaton shops buildings and took all of the remaining blueprints and flags and lanterns and roller signs and third rail insulators and anything else that was left, and brought those home too.

Years later, I gave those things to the group called "RELIC" in South Elgin along with a very rare hardbound copy of Motorman's Rules from the Chicago Aurora and DeKalb line that went out of business in the 1930s. Occasionally I would drive along the former right of way before the Illinois Prairie Path took over and remember going into the old power plant outside of Batavia, Illinois alone! It was very dark and damp inside that huge old building which was still standing at the time. So was the little passenger platform by the Wilson Street bridge in Batavia. The passenger platform at the Lakewood station was still there although covered with weeds and small trees by then. Someone told me most of the companies old records may have been buried at that site. When I saw the Prince Crossing station it was after a map making firm had moved out and the building was really beginning to deteriorate. But it was nice to see the stations still standing up at Villa Park and Ardmore Avenue. I went inside the old Warrenville Station too just before they were convening a town hall meeting there, but I have heard it has been torn down now. There were many artifacts still remaining along the CA&E prior to the Prairie Path taking over. I found many platforms, some still even showing the company colors of red on piping used around the sides of a platform or for handrails by stairways to the street below.

A couple years later I rode the North Shore Line on its last day of operations from their south loop station all the way to Milwaukee and back home late that night and nearly froze to death! It was one of the coldest days I can remember! But it was toasty warm inside the old Silverliner." My picture was on the front page of the Chicago Tribune the following day which carried a story about all the fans that showed up for one last ride.

After my two favorite electric interurban railroads were both gone, I moved away from the midwest to Florida where I now live. I know I would have become an employee of the Chicago Aurora and Elgin if it had survived, but my motorman friend, Andy, even told me it would not be around when I grew up, and he was right. I was so upset that the CA&E had shutdown, I even called Mr. Frank Flannigan, it's last President, at his home near Wheaton, Illinois. He was very polite and probably intrigued that a kid of only 12 years of age would find it so important to contact him personally about the railroad's problems. He told me it would be a tragedy if the CA&E did not resume passenger operations some day. There was another Irishman by the name of Lambert O'Malley who took over management of the Wheaton shops after the shutdown and kept a smaller crew of employees busy repainting CA&E cars, stations, platforms and even repairing rails for an eventual return to service. But there was no place to store CA&E passenger cars in Chicago, even if they had started sharing the new Congress Street median trackage with CTA trains. My own personal opinion is that CA&E's owners and shareholders had little or no interest at all of staying in business. Although they were in the best possible legal position owning a right of way between Desplaines and Laramie Avenue that the new highway needed, they sold it outright instead of bargaining with the State of Illinois for a new guaranteed entrance into the City of Chicago. That was a fatal mistake, since it effectively ended any legal claim of hardship due to circumstances beyond its control.

The Aurora and Elgin played a large part in my life as I was growing up. It was our family's means of getting to see one another before we owned a car.

Living in Forest Park, Illinois it was easy to pick up the trains to go to the Lake Wood Station and transfer to the bus to get to Geneva to visit my relatives. It was fast and clean.

The wish I had growing up that someday I would work for the line and operate the big interurbans. But fate was not to allow it.

The worst day happened when I was having my 17th birthday on July 3, 1957. That was the day I was in downtown Elgin and a single car pulled up to National St.

Knowing the motorman somewhat, he showed me the order to pull all the Watch Company commuter cars back to Wheaton as soon as possible. That was about a little after 12 noon. The end had arrived for a once proud and great line. The span of service was only 55 years.

There was so much politics to wanting to shut the railroad down it sure was not going to be kept running.

Everybody that knew of the line wishes it was still running today. The old expression wishing just isn't going to make it happen. You don't know what you have lost until it's gone.