Saint Charles to Galena

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Map submitted by Greg Harrison, Lee M.

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St. Charles Industrial Lead: A grade crossing near the active end of the line. Photo by Brandon Rusnak, June 2012.

This railway line was completed in 1888 as part of the Minnesota & Northwestern Railroad, which was soon renamed the Chicago, St. Paul & Kansas City Railroad, subsequently becoming the Chicago Great Western in 1892. The CGW struggled at times, but survived until 1968, when it was merged with the Chicago & North Western, who abandoned this line soon after the merger. This line constitutes a majority of the CGW mainline within the state of Illinois.

The most recent abandonment of this line was in 2011, a short spur known as the Saint Charles Industrial Lead, in Saint Charles, by the Union Pacific.

See also the abandoned Ingalton-Forest Park portion of this former CGW mainline.

In photo #2, that view is actually still of the abandoned tracks, but does face the active portion of the line which is about 1/4 mile or so beyond the photo. Just out of camera view is IL Route 64 where the city has torn out the tracks for construction on Route 64. Past that there's another block or so of abandoned tracks with the active portion of the line beginning past that. The rails have been cut where the active portion ends.

Brandon
St. Charles, IL
8/13/2012

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I have a Dec. 2, 1887 Minnesota and Northwestern ticket stub from Dunbar to German Valley, IL. I grew up near German Valley but can anyone tell me where Dunbar is located?

Lin Moseley
Lynchburg, VA
3/18/2013

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To answer Lin Moseley's question concerning the location of Dunbar,IL.My research of the Chicago Great Western in one of the books that I own refer that Dunbar is now known as South Freeport,IL.& was a railroad junction with the Illinois Central Railroad at one point and was used by the Great Western Railroad to get to Galena,IL.& onto Dubuque,Iowa during the CGW's early years before the Winston Tunnel was built.Dunbar was located on farmland and not really in any populated location & at one point even had a water tank to refill steam locomotives.I had just seen a photo print sold on Ebay recently of the South Freeport,Il.location with a red barn in the background of farm fields.

Dave G.
Berkeley, IL
11/24/2013

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Really a shame on so many levels. Hopefully the ROW will be preserved as this would make a fine route to link downtown St. Charles to shopping areas, the Du Page Airport, and even to Metra.

Matt McClure
Schaumburg, IL
12/9/2013

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Survey Tech. C.e.s. in Rochelle, il have made copies of all Railroad R.o.w. plates in Ogle co. Most date 1916

Randy Phillips
Mendota,il, IL
1/3/2014

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The Winston Tunnel was a highlight of this line. It was difficult to traverse, and a fan room was installed on west side to clear exhaust fumes. To keep trespassers out, the east end has been bulldozed in. Entry in the west end is dangerous, as there are many rattlesnakes. Too bad more of the line is not a trail. Part of the line from St. Charles to Sycamore is the Great Western Trail.

At Byron, a segment of the track and the bridge over the Rock River survive as a rail connection to the Byron Nuclear Power plant. On occasion, generators are shipped in and out by rail.

The Depot at Elizabeth is a railway museum.

George Carlisle
Urbana, IL
1/13/2014

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I had visited the Winston Tunnel in the Mid 1980's well before it was fully closed off & before many people knew about it.It was a real challenge to traverse the territory in those years.I had read about the CGW Route through Western Illinois towards Galena before I even tried to look for the Winston Tunnel.I made 2 trips before I was able to find it.I went in the late October to avoid the extensive overgrowth & had used my late father's Coleman 2 Mantle Gas lantern to explore the inside of the tunnel into the deep interior & ended up in the center of it which was caved in. This was such an adventure to me!I was in my early 30's.It was so dark that the lantern barely lit up walls of the Winston Tunnel.

The Fan house was there & I studied it closely trying to make out the features of this ancient structure.It was so old like some lost building that once an important place in the function of the Chicago Great Western Railroad.After reading about the history of the CGW one will finally discover the truth of the Winston Tunnel that it was truly a "Hole in Alpheus Stickney's Pocketbook".

Dave Gloeckle
Berkeley, IL
1/13/2014

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My great grandfather, an engineer on the Chicago,St.Paul, Kansas was killed (1904)on the stretch of rail between St. Charles and Sycamore. The news article talked about a ravine but not much detail as to whereabouts. Wondering if anyone knew of how I could figure out where. I'd like to come down and walk the site.

Patrick Leahy
Afton, MN
3/1/2014

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To answer Pat Leahy's question is kind of tough.Most of the Chicago Great Western right of way in the countryside has been so converted by urbanization just like it has in Minnesota that it will be hard to find the exact location of of exact accident site of his great Grandfather's Steam Locomotive in 1904.I have hiked the CGW trail in IL & have vague idea of the location where it may have occured.This area of the CGW was generally flat through ILLINOIS farm land during that time period but I can see that there were several concrete culvert creek under passes built between St.Charles & Sycamore,IL which may constitute a ravine.I really wish that I could help more but a true hike & study of the Great Western Trail just might be in order to uncover the facts.I am available for your comments about this & may want to explore this trail with you sometime in the near future.

Dave G
Berkeley, IL
3/3/2014

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Dave,

Thank you for your response. I would love it if you had time to walk the section of the trail with us. I went back to the article and it says that my grandfather was about 4 miles west of St. Charles but who knows as to the accuracy of the article. I did a flyover the trail with google earth and boy I couldn't see much ravine. I could send you a transcript of the article before I come down which might give you some clues that I don't see.

Patrick Leahy
Afton, MN
3/6/2014

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To provide an answer to Pat Leahy,I have probably have an answer to your question.I think that I have narrowed down the location of your Great-Grandfather's Steam Locomotive accident so many years ago in 1904 on the CGW.You can check out Mapquest for further info.As I am familiar with the Great Western Nature trail.I believe as a rough search of the Trail that the accident may have occurred between the current Randall road & Wasco,IL on the Great Western Trail Map.Judging by my researched mileage of the CGW Nature Trail provided by the Kane County (ILLinois) Forest Preserve District.There are a lot of stream ravines there that probably eventually lead to the Fox River.You can Email me @ Michyelee@sbcglobal.net if you need more help to find the site.I hope that this helps in your research as it has been my hobby for many years researching the Chicago Great Western Railroad.I live near the old CGW in Berkeley,IL.Best Regards,Dave

Dave G
Berkeley, IL
3/6/2014

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Dave G., thank you for the info on Dunbar last November. I have since been able to find a bit more about in a Stephenson County history book. The fun part is that I lived about 3 miles from that spot for 37 years and never knew the history. Again, thank you!

Lin Moseley
Lynchburg, VA
3/6/2014

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I don't know if the copy/paste will work...But my good friend Mark Llanuza, has plenty of before and after pictures of the CGW,and othe RRS of Chicago and beyond.If your interested, either click his name, or just view the b/a. You can spend a day, viewing...I did.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/7547061@N02/9907856613/in/pool-railroad-before-after

Paul Gronemeier
Albuquerque/Roselle, IL
3/8/2014

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Another before and after by my friend Mark..

https://www.flickr.com/photos/7547061@N02/13632165743/in/photostream/

Paul Gronemeier
Albuquerque/Roselle
4/5/2014

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In an article published in the Rockford Morning Star on Wednesday, September 6, 1972, the last freight on the former CGW line will pass through Stockton, Illinois on September 30, 1972 and will be accompanied by farewell activities organized by the Heritage League of North West Illinois.

In an article published by the Rockford Morning Star on Wednesday, December 6, 1972, many farmers around Elizabeth in JoDaviess County whose farms bordered the CGW right-of-way were interested in purchasing the abandoned ROW next to their farms. The ROW under discussion extended from Leaf River in Ogle County west to Galena Junction.

Dean McMakin
Rockton, IL
3/25/2015

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Patrick Leahy, is the article regarding your great grandfather's train accident available online? I live west of St. Charles on the old line. I couldn't find any information about the accident in 1904, but I am curious to learn more and possibly help determine the location.

Chad
St. Charles, IL
9/4/2015

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To all CGW buffs- I grew up in Glen Ellyn born in 1961 and as a kid always asked my dad why there were no trains ever on the CGW line in N. Glen Ellyn. This was the late 60's and my dad said there used to be. Neither of us knew of the C&NW merger in 1968. While traveling to my uncles farm in Mt.Carroll in 1971 we did see the track being lifted and scrapped south of Freeport. We drove through Pearl City all the time to get to Mt. Carroll. The Amber Lights supper club was right next to the crossing in Pearl City. It was after my dad died that I finally figured out the entire route of the line from Chicago to Galena Junction after looking at an old atlas that had the 1898 railroad map of northern Illinois! My plan after high school was to walk the old ROW from Glen Ellyn to Galena Junction in the summer and I bought a backpack. I never did the hike because I figured my feet wouldn't hold up and I would get lost on private property trying to follow the old roadbed. I have and will always be fascinated with the history of this railroad. With the advent of google maps satellite I can do the hike from my computer. On the east end the line merged with Soo Line tracks that run along the south side of the Eisenhower Expressway and using google earth you can follow the old ROW from the east all the way to Galena Junction zooming in and out as needed. West of South Freeport its alittle tricky but you can pick-up treelines and traces of the old road bed even through farm fields!

The East Stockton yard is also visible by the shape of vegetation there in the shape of a rail yard! And the top of the mound or hill is visible where the Winston tunnel lies beneath. Check out The Unofficial Great Western Page on Google (trainweb.com) for logos, pictures, tales and historical accounts of the story of the CGW. I have scoured that web-site several times to learn the rich history and the heyday of this railroad. Also of note is that railroad was there before the airplane was invented then eventually passed by the Dupage airport and Freeport airport-both airports have been expanded and both airports now cover portions of the CGW ROW! See you all on the Great Western Trail Leo Kelley

Leo
Glen Ellyn , IL
1/7/2016

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The merger of '68 pre-dated me by about six months, so I never saw a CGW train in action, but became fascinated with the line after getting hold of a copy of "Six Units to Sycamore" as a kid growing up in Chicago.

In 2000, while making digital maps for navigation systems, we mapped DeKalb Co. Throughout the project we stumbled across the CGW ROW, usually in the form of tree lines, humps in the road (Five Points), and even a culvert that a farmer had tilled completely around - leaving an isle of green and stone in the middle of his field. IIRC, that was west of Clare. (Oh how I wish we had phones with good cameras in 2000!)

Tracing the CGW (or any abandoned ROW) online provides much fun. But even more fun is trying to trace the ROW from an airliner! Nowadays, living in IA, I get to fly between O'Hare and Waterloo - and make it a game to find the CGW on every daylight passage. I can usually pick it up around St. Charles and have followed it all the way to about Stockton/Elizabeth, before our flight path usually crosses over it.

Yeah, the CGW lines are mesmerizing, haunting even. Funny enough, last year I learned that I reside only 200 feet from the CGW's Cedar Falls, branch. It's still traceable as a bike path, but has been massively reworked at its former junction with the IC (today CN). I've come to consider it as my "spiritual connection" to the CGW system!

John S
Cedar Falls, IA
10/24/2016

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Just curious if Pat Leahy { or anyone else } has had any luck in finding the exact location of the train wreck site. I bike this trail often & know the terrain between St. Charles & Sycamore pretty well. There are no significant natural ravines to speak of, but several areas where the grade was built up extensively & a wreck in this area would probably slide down the embankment to what might be referred to as a ravine. There are two areas with topography that might be the accident sight not far from the beginning of the trail in St. Charles close to Peck Road. Another high fill is further west in the Wasco area. Just beyond Brown Road { parking available } you enter a wooded area with several possible 'ravines'....

mark kaspar
st. charles, IL
12/21/2016

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Just a note regarding George Carlisle's comment about the Winston Tunnel. Access to the west portal is now made easier with a parking lot area off Blackjack Road. You're still in for a decent hike from this point, but there is parking. Well worth the effort. Don't bother with the east portal. That's on private property. Several years ago I hiked out there with two friends { one of the friends has a relative who lives on the hill above the tunnel & gave us permission as he knows the owner well - a little sketchy, I know..} and we encountered an irate man claiming to be the landowner. I stated we had permission & inquired his name to which he refused. He stated he was going to call the police to which we countered with a 'go ahead'...in fact we'll call. At that point he sped away in his pickup. After all that there wasn't much to see as the retaining walls were bulldozed over leaving only the top several feet of the portal remaining - not worth trespassing over...but do see the west end. We went in late autumn with cool temps & did not see { or hear } any rattlesnakes!

mark kaspar
st. charles, IL
12/21/2016

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Dear old CGW RR friends it is nice to hear from you folks again,it has been a long time.It's true that the former CGW Railroad much beyond Sycamore,IL is almost totally gone.It is not good.Most of the western IL ROW has been reclaimed by former & new farm land owners.The CGW was built a very long time ago before we were all were born in the late 1880's.At least the Great Western Trail still exists between Villa Park,IL & Sycamore and parts of the CGW RR still also exist in Iowa & Minnesota also.I really miss the Great Western Railroad right here in Berkeley,IL where I still reside.I live only a block away from the former railroad & do remember it very well as a child in the 1960's.We used to wait for the CGW Trains to park right here in Hillside,IL & run up to the tracks & poke sticks into the last of the old Stock Cars to tease the livestock.One day,a young brakeman caught us & said he would open the stock cars & let the livestock eat us if we did not leave the the animals alone.We ran like hell & never came back.My Friends & I were about 7 or 8 years old in 1967 or 1968.This is a true story & probably one of the many Chicago Great Western stories that have been told.This is a true story. We all miss the CGW Railway.God bless the Chicago Great Western Railroad.

Dave Gloeckle
BERKELEY, IL
12/21/2016

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Mark Kaspar (and Patrick Leahy), over the past year I have found about 5 newspaper articles of the train accident on Jan. 18, 1903 in which the engineer, James F. Leahy, (Patrick Leahy's great grandfather) was killed. The exact location is never mentioned and each of the stories appear to get some of the details wrong (note articles below that but By piecing them all together I think Mark Kaspar is correct that the most likely location is just west of Brown Road near Wasco or near Peck Road west of St. Charles. I live in the area and am on the trail frequently.

The Sycamore True Republican: http://idnc.library.illinois.edu/cgi-bin/illinois?a=d&d=STR19030121.2.1&e=-------en-20--1--txt-txIN--------

The Chicago Daily Tribune: http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1903/01/19/page/2/article/one-dead-30-hurt-in-train-wereck

Chad
St. Charles, IL
12/22/2016

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Chad, sorry about the delay. I found the article on newspapers.com. I was mistaken the date was 1903, not 1904. The Minneapolis Journal, 19 Jan 1903, Mon, First Edition. An article in the St Paul Globe date 1/19/1903 indicated the train at high speed hit a broken rail just before it crossed a bridge. The speed of the train carried it across the bridge on the ties then the entire train pitched down a 20' embankment.

Mark, I have not found the location but I would have to travel down to the site

Patrick Leahy
Afton, MN
12/22/2016

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Dunbar / South Freeport are one in the same. The IC always called it Dunbar in their timetables & on the CGW it was referred to South Freeport. My paternal grandparents lived in a CGW owned house between the South Freeport depot & the IC's mainline. My grandfather was the CGW section foreman based in South /Freeport. Most of the interchange yard is now covered by the southwest end, of the main runway, for Freeport's Albertus Airport. This runway was lengthened in the 80's removing evidence of the yard tracks. This link shows the trackage there in 1939. https://www.flickr.com/photos/milepost107/8359963744/in/photostream/lightbox/

Rick Hess
Schaumburg, IL
2/13/2017

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Hey Mr. Rick Hess It is really great that you had added the Information concerning The South Freeport/Dunbar location to this CGW RR Website.I kind of thought an Airport took the area over. I prefer Train Travel over the Airlines anyday. Good info posting Rick as I do miss the CGW RR!

Dave Gloeckle
Berkeley, IL
2/13/2017

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Shortened Link: http://a-r.us/q6m

Do you have any pictures or information about Saint Charles to Galena? Please . You will get credit for anything you contribute.