Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Forgotten Railways of Chicago: The Chicago Milwaukee and Gary Line


The abandoned Milwaukee Road corridor as portrayed on my Abandoned Railroads map.
Source: abandonedrails.com
The Chicago Milwaukee & Gary line got its start as the Illinois, Iowa & Minnesota Railway in 1904. In 1905, the line was extended from Aurora to Rockford, IL and that is where this blog is going to focus on. The Chicago Milwaukee & Gary name as a railroad was a misnomer, as the line never actually traveled to any of it's namesake cities, although it did provide a line to bypass the heavy freight traffic around the Chicago area. The railroad was leased to the Milwaukee Road in 1922 and eventually sold to them outright in 1930, who abandoned the Rockford to Kirkland line. The Milwaukee used the line for transporting coal from it's interests in Southern Indiana to it's more typically northern operations. The DeKalb to Aurora segment was abandoned in 1947, splitting the line into two disconnected short lines. By 1980, the line was abandoned as all traffic had ceased on the line.
The trail from the Galena Blvd Parking Lot
 The right-of-way is now occupied between Aurora and Sugar Grove, IL by the Virgil Gilman Nature Trail. Virgil Gilman was an important figure for the Fox Valley Park District in it's early days. Much of the infrastructure of the trail was built after the days of the railroad; as such, the bridges have a modern look to them, and most are built with trail users in mind, as such, they are mostly just outside the original right-of-way, as can be seen in some of the pictures here.
Bridge over Galena Blvd 
Bridge over Galena Blvd



Galena Blvd


Galena Blvd looking west

Looking south on the Galena Blvd bridge.


Crossing Densmore Rd

Looking south on Densmore Rd, the rural history of this area is still intact, although development is occurring on all sides of this farm.

Densmore Rd looking north.


Looking east toward Densmore Rd

While on this March day I didn't have to worry about extreme temperatures, these trees provided excellent shade from the abundant sunshine.




Approaching the IL-56 bridge. The trail ends slightly west of here, and no longer goes near the old right-of-way.

The bridge itself is not entirely on the right-of-way, but actually about 50' north of it. The actual line can be seen going under IL-56 here. 
IL-56 going east (north) toward I-88




A topo map from 1964 showing the East-West Tollway original alignment. (Source: USGS)
While Sugar Grove is a developing village outside Aurora, it doesn't need a 4 lane freeway to access it. Why then is IL-56 a freeway? This was originally the East-West Tollway, which started at IL-47 in Sugar Grove about a mile south of here and continued as Toll US-30, or present day I-88. When IL-5 which became I-88 was constructed west of here towards DeKalb, this little freeway was essentially a 4 lane spur to Sugar Grove. It actually USED to be Interstate Standard until Golf View Rd was built to connect with a subdivision to the west.

Looking south on IL-56 towards IL-47 at the Galena Blvd interchange.



At the bridge over IL-56.


Prairie between the rights-of-way of IL-56 and the trail itself.

Looking east now toward the bridge.

If you look closely, you can note some of the original right-of-way of the line.


The right-of-way meets up with the trail again past the bridge to the east.


Fire department address sign.


Back to the bridge over Galena Blvd.


The bridge is not exactly over the right-of-way over Galena Blvd, but can be easily noted from the bridge given the design of the parking lot.


A little more east at Prairie St. This is so cool and helpful to bike users, wish more of these existed!

Map of the trail.


Looking toward Prairie St


First bridge west of Prairie St

Looking south past this lake, if one looks closely you can see a railroad trestle for the BNSF Line. Trains can be heard from the trail here.

On Orchard Rd under the bridge for the trail. The trail continues into downtown Aurora, and the Virgil Gilman Nature Trail also uses part of the old Elgin Joliet & Eastern Line that ran to Normantown, IL as well.






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