The Northern Illinois Railroad was built in 1884-85 to connect the coal fields of Spring Valley to Belvidere, to the north, and what was perceived as lucrative railroad connections there. Consequently, the NIRR also saw steady passenger business, as it was a main north-south link in the region. The Chicago and Northwestern Railroad purchased the line in 1888.
Passenger service ended in the 1920s. Both the northern and southern sections of the line have since been abandoned: On the north side, the Belvidere-Sycamore segment saw abandonment in 1942; Sycamore-Dekalb in the 1980s. To the south, the Spring Valley-Troy Grove line has been abandoned (year unknown). The remainder of the line continues to see use under C&NW successor Union Pacific Railroad.
Thanks to Wayne DeMunn for contributing information.
A portion of the line from DeKalb, south down to Troy Grove IL still exists and is used daily from the Union Pacific's main-line at DeKalb. It is noted above in the last sentence but I thought many may be interested in the specific portion that still exists as there are still may possible photo opps along this stretch.
Line poles still visible where this line used to cross Barber Greene Rd and there's a rise in the road where this line used to cross Bethany Road as well.
On my comment above that is on the Sycamore to Cortland branch.
After contacting abandoned rails with the info, I became somewhat inspired to research the Northern Illinois Railroad further and have since posted an album set to my profile at flickr dot com. There are both old and newer photos along with newspaper clippings drawn during the actual time the railroad was built. You can check it out at the link below or copy it to your browser and click go.
In an article published in the Rockford Morning Star on Sunday, August 2, 1942, traffic on this branch between Belvidere and Sycamore was halted in mid-July, and by the end of that month the track between Belvidere and Herbert had been pulled up with the the expection that the removal of the remaining track to Sycamore would be pulled up within the next two weeks. The C&NW cited the reason for the abandonment was because the ROW had become unprofitable. The rail was subsequently scrapped to support the war effort.
In an article published in the Rockford Register Star on Saturday, September 29, 1984, the C&NW received permission from the Illinois Commerce Commission on September 4, 1984 to abandon its track between DeKalb and Sycamore effective October 4 following.
Today, I was shown a photo of the C&NW Henrietta depot on this line which still exists and appears to be used as a residence. Does anyone have any more information?
The Sycamore/Cortland line was originally the Sycamore & Cortland RR, then name changed to Sycamore,Cortland & Chicago RR, later bought out by Chicago & Northwestern. C&N added a spur from the south end of Sycamore (about where Ideal Industries is at) to Dekalb which is the old ROW still visible at Bethany rd and Barber Greene rd. The tracks from the spur south to Cortland were tore out about 1930.