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312 prior to 1940s modernization
Collection of Carl Oberfranc
Weight:100,000 lbs.
75,000 lbs. (311, 312)
Trucks:Badlwin 8435
Standard C-80P (311)
2-GE66B (311, 312)
Control:GE C211
Couplers:Van Dorn


Ground was broken on the Chicago, Wheaton and Western Railway, an east-west interurban line intended to connect Chicago (via the Aurora, Elgin & Chicago at Pleasant Hill) with Geneva and possibly DeKalbĀ in 1908. By November, work on the Chicago Wheaton & Western had progressed far enough that the company placed an order for the construction of three interurban cars (with an option for an additional three) with the J. G. Brill Company.2 Actual construction was undertaken by the G. C. Kuhlman Company of Cleveland, Ohio,3 a firm which Brill had purchased in 1904.4 By January of 1909, part of the option was selected and the order was increased to five cars.5

The Kuhlman cars followed the same general design as the existing AE&C rolling stock in that they were double-ended interurban cars built to meet the clearance restrictions of the Metropolitan Elevated, had clerestory roofs, arched upper sash stained glass windows over pairs of passenger windows, and an oval stained glass window for the restroom. They also included the hallmark arch above the train doors for multiple unit (train line) and bus (power) receptacles. Visually, the cars differed from the others on the property in that they had no exposed side sill (the next cars would be the same) and that the belt rail only existed beneath the double windows instead of following the length of the car. (A full length belt rail would later be applied.) The cars, as delivered, were also equipped with window guards as was customary on the AE&C, but these would later be removed.

The Kuhlman cars presented a stylistic difference from the rest of the fleet in that, as delivered, they featured a belt rail that only existed beneath the paired windows. Additionally, these were the first cars not to have an exposed side still.

Electric Railway Journal

The interior was divided into four sections: the main compartment, a smaller smoking compartment, and a vestibule on each end. The compartments and vestibules were separated from each other by partitions with a hinged door in the middle.

Passengers boarded and alighted through the vestibules. Immediately behind each side door was a hinged plate. When folded down this covered the stairwell and was flush with the floor providing easy access to the car from stations with high level platforms, such as on the “L.” The motorman’s controls were also located here, on the left side of each vestibule.

As delivered, the interiors were of quarter sawed African mahogany, finished in natural colors with inlaid tracings of other woods in contrasting colors. The parcel racks and metal trimmings were of copper bronze with a dull finish. An electric light was provided over each seat, attached to the side of the car. Each car had a domed ceiling finished in a delicate shade of cream with holophane lights which ran down the center. The aisle floor was of inland rubber tiling.3

Each car contained a lavatory, the floor of which was solid white marble; the remainder was done in white tiling.3

Although there were no apparent financial ties between the Chicago, Wheaton & Western and the Aurora, Elgin and Chicago Railroad, the cars were lettered “Aurora ~ Elgin ~ Chicago” and numbered 311-315 (continuing the AE&C’s numbering scheme). They were delivered to the AE&C’s Wheaton shops prior to July 1909, where they had their trucks installed.3 They entered service not long afterward.

Circa 1911, the cars were equipped with folding destination and classification signs beneath the motorman’s window which were added in order to help identify limited trains. When flipped down into the open position, this produced a 30 in. x 30 in. white square with the word “Limited” and the train’s destination. In the center of the sign was an 8 in lens illuminated by a 16 cp [15.696 candela] lamp. The back of the sign was painted the same as the exterior of the car to reduce its visibility when folded up and not in use.6

The arrival of the 400 series, in 1923, precipitated the decline of the use of the Kuhlmans (in addition to everything else in the wooden fleet). The 400s, a product of the Conway administration, were designed to be a modern, comfortable car for the faster limited runs to the Fox River Valley. Upon their arrival, the 400s were exclusively assigned to this service, replacing the earlier equipment. The wooden cars were thus sequestered into local service.

Use of the Kuhlmans was further eroded in 1927. After Samuel Insull acquired the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin in 1926, the company purchased another set of steel cars which were compatible with the 400s. The Insull management did not maintain Conway’s system of limited-specific cars, instead opting to use the entirety of the new, steel fleet for base service. The arrival of the 420 series in 1927 meant that the wooden fleet was now only needed for rush hour Wheaton-Chicago locals and the Batavia shuttle.7 It would be in these services that the cars would spend the rest of their careers.

By the 1940s the cars were in need of an overhaul and their appearance (namely the stained glass windows in both the arched upper sash and in the clerestory) was decades out of style, so the cars began to be cycled through Wheaton shops to be rebuilt. The most noticeable difference upon reentering service was the covering over of the arched windows.

All five cars survived the rolling stock purge following the cutback of service to Forest Park in 1953. Their careers came to an end after forty eight years when the CA&E ended passenger service on July 3, 1957.

311-314 were scrapped, leaving 315 as the sole surviving example of this series. It was purchased in 1961 by the Rockhill Trolley Museum in Rockhill Furnace, Pennsylvania where it is currently housed.8

Additional Photos


  1. The Great Third Rail. Central Electric Railfans' Association, 1961, p. III-18.
  2. Rolling Stock.” Electric Railway Journal 28 Nov. 1908, p. 1479. <via>
  3. Plans for Electric.” The DeKalb Daily Chronicle [DeKalb, Il], 26 Jul. 1909, p. 8. <via>
  4. G. C. KUHLMAN CAR CO.” Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Case Western Reserve University, 18 May 2002. Accessed 27 Jun. 2016.
  5. Rolling Stock.” Electric Railway Journal 16 Jan. 1909, p. 123. <via>
  6. Rolling Stock Maintenance and Other Operating Features of the Aurora, Elgin & Chicago Railroad.” Electric Railway Journal 19 Aug. 1911, p. 309. <via>
  7. Plachno, Larry. Sunset Lines: The Story of the Chicago Aurora & Elgin Railroad 2 - History. Transportation Trails, 1989, p. 313.
  8. Salomon, Joel. “CA&E #315.” Rockhill Trolley Museum, 2002. Accessed 1 Jan. 2017.