The "Roarin' Elgin" is perhaps a railroad that should
have never been built due to the fact that several large granger Class I
railroads already provided passenger/commuter railroad services to the Chicago metro area. In any event, the CA&E began life as the Aurora, Elgin & Chicago Railway in 1902 connecting 52nd Avenue in Chicago with the suburb of Aurora.
What is most unique about this railroad is not so much the fact that
it was electrified but that it was energized using the third rail
application. Common over short distances for passenger safety and tight
spaces (like in subways) third rail (whereby a third rail runs parallel
to the two railroad rails near the ground and the locomotive picks up
power via a "shoe" that contacts it) is extremely rare to see it used
over such a distance, in this case covering the nearly 48 miles between
downtown Chicago and Aurora.
|A panoramic view of what remains of the CA&E's shops and stored equipment in Wheaton, Illinois during the summer of 1962. Five years after the road shutdown the equipment had still not been disposed of.|
The AE&C reached its peak length of 68 miles by 1930 along
with 8 miles of trackage rights on two different interurbans (the
Chicago Rapid Transit Company and the Aurora, Elgin & Fox River
Electric Company). Along with connecting Aurora the AE&C also
connected the suburbs of Elgin, St. Charles, Geneva and Batavia. The CA&E came about following a
reorganization of the AE&C in 1919, which it emerged from in 1922
becoming the classic system known today. In 1926 the railroad came under the control of
utilities mogul Samuel Insull. Insull was successful in turning
around two nearby interurban railroads and it would have been
interesting to witness what he could have done with the CA&E if it
were not for the Great Depression which hit at the end of the decade.
The railroad again entered bankruptcy
in 1932 and could not emerge for nearly 14 years until 1946 although
traffic from World War II allowed the CA&E to upgrade its motive
power fleet (which consisted primarily of motorcars along with a small
fleet of Baldwin-Westinghouse B+B electric freight locomotives). With the constant encroachment of highways, automobiles and other modes of transportation
the CA&E found it more and more difficult to stay profitable so in
an attempt to improve services it began abandoning some light branch
lines. However, it found that it simply could not profitably compete
for passenger traffic any longer and in a very abrupt move which became famous and left commuters stranded, the CA&E ceased all passenger operations at 12 noon on July 3, 1957.
|Seen here is an uncommon snow plow used for interurban operations, seemingly built from a freight motor. The maintenance-of-way machine withers away in Wheaton, Illinois on July 6, 1962.|
Motorcar and Locomotive Fleet
#10 - 28 (even): Built by the Niles Car & Manufacturing Company in 1902 these motors were the first owned by the then Aurora, Elgin & Chicago Railway.
#30 - 58 (even), #101 - 109 (odd): Built by the Stephenson Car Company in 1902.
#201 - 209 (odd): Built by the Niles Car & Manufacturing Company in 1904.
#400 - 419: Built by the Pullman Company in 1923.
#420 - 434: Built by the Cincinnati Car Company in 1927.
#451 - 460: Built by the St. Louis Car Company in 1945.
The CA&E owned six freight electric locomotives, all built by Baldwin-Westinghouse and included #2001, #2002, #3003, #3004, #4005 and #4006.
|A Roarin Elgin' interurban car built by the St. Louis Car Company in 1945 rusts away in Weaton, Illinois on June 7, 1962.|