Elgin and Belvidere Electric Company

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The Elgin and Belvidere Electric Company (operational from 1907-1930) was a 36-mile (58 km) interurban line that connected Belvidere, Illinois and Elgin, Illinois. It was the central link in the interurban network connecting Freeport, Rockford, Elgin and Chicago which included the Rockford and Interurban Railway to the west and the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin Railway to the east.[1]

History[edit]

The Elgin and Belvidere Electric Company was incorporated March 11, 1905.[2] Bion J. Arnold acquired the railroad after it went into financial difficulties during construction in 1906. His company, The Arnold Company, designed and built the power generating stations and the overhead structure for the railway, and had largely been paid in railway securities.[3] Arnold used the railroad as a proving ground for pioneering designs; the first automatic substation was on the line at Union and the railroad was one of a handful to use gasoline generators to generate electric power. Its rolling stock consisted of standard wooden interurban cars which typically ran in short one- to three-car trains on hourly intervals. Arnold himself was heavily involved in the line's construction and management, and at one point operated the cars himself during a strike.

Closing[edit]

The railroad was never particularly profitable, with a rate of return of about 2% in its best years. On March 9, 1930, the railroad ceased operations due to competition from the parallel Chicago and North Western Railway and from the automobile. For a time the railroad sat moribund, with the cars stored at the shops in Marengo, until Arnold scrapped the line himself in the mid to late 1930s.

Preservation[edit]

The Illinois Railway Museum acquired 7 miles (11 km) of the abandoned right of way through a delinquent tax sale east of Union, Illinois in 1956.[4] The museum currently operates trains over this section of the line during the summer as part of its demonstration railroad.

The exterior of the interurban rail station at 202 E. State Street in Cherry Valley remains basically intact, and is now home to the administrative offices of the Cherry Valley Fire Protection District.

There is a remaining 350-foot (107 m) concrete arch bridge spanning a river east of Belvidere, IL.[5] Its preservation seems likely due to sturdy construction, making removal unprofitable.

Huntley-Union Marengo Trail[edit]

In 2006, the McHenry Conservation District opened the first phase of the Huntley-Union-Marengo (H.U.M.) trail [6] along the former right-of-way from Union, Illinois to Marengo, Illinois. The trail is eventually planned to connect to Huntley, Illinois as well, following the former rail right-of-way where possible.

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ See Gustafson, Carl. "The Dairy Route: A History of the Elgin & Belvidere Electric Company." (1967, Gustafson Publications).
  2. ^ Biennial report of the Secretary of State of the State of Illinois for the Fiscal Years Beginning October 1, 1904, and Ending September 30, 1906. Springfield, Illinois: State of Illinois. p. 61. 
  3. ^ http://www.arnoldmagnetics.com/History.aspx Arnold Magnetic Technologies - History
  4. ^ http://www.irm.org/history/history.html Illinois Railway Museum
  5. ^ http://bridgehunter.com/il/boone/bh48923/
  6. ^ http://www.mccdistrict.org/re-bicycling.htm McHenry County Conservation District

Hilton, George W.; John F. Due (1960). The Electric Interurban Railways in America. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. p. 343.