Palatine, Lake Zurich and Wauconda Railroad

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The Palatine, Lake Zurich and Wauconda Railroad (PLZ&W) was an 11-mile (18-kilometer) short-line railroad built to connect the towns of Palatine, Lake Zurich, and Wauconda in the northern part of the U.S. state of Illinois.

Justin Orvis and Robert Wynn founded this railroad. They originally envisioned a 75-mile (120-kilometer) electric route throughout Lake and McHenry counties, but this was the only stretch developed. The route delivered freight and commuters to these communities, as well as vacationers to Dr. Wilson's Deer Grove Park picnic grounds (now Deer Grove Forest Preserve). The railroad had many problems due to secondhand equipment and the steep trestle built to cross the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern in Lake Zurich. The most famous engine on this route was nicknamed 'Old Maud' and was purchased from the Chicago and North Western Railway.

The railroad opened in 25 August 1912 and closed in 1924. Financial mismanagement, the improvement of local roads and the rise of the automobile helped bring down this route.

Richard Whitney researched the railroad for 30 years and wrote the book Old Maud: The Story of the Palatine, Lake Zurich & Wauconda Railroad, published by Transportation Trails in 1992. In the Spring of 2014 in the railroad magazine "First and Fastest", William R. Coulson wrote an article entitled "No Good Deeds Go Unpunished: The Sad Story of the Waukegan, Rockford & Elgin Traction Company", "First and Fastest", Spring 2014, PP. 52-64; which reports on the discovery in a Waukegan basement of the 100-year old original land deeds for the railroad's right-of-way. The article also posits that the nickname "Old Maud" of both the engine and the railroad itself originated from the name of railroad founder and attorney Claire Edwards' sister - whose name was Maud. The deeds attached detailed plats showing the exact location of the entire right-of-way. The deeds are being donated to the Lake County Discovery Museum.

Portions of the PLZ&W right-of-way are still visible, especially along the Palatine Bike Path south of Dundee Road and just north of Dundee Road in the Deer Grove Forest Preserve, where you can still find the pilings for the bridge that crossed the creek. Wooden ties and spikes were found in these areas in 2006. Another relatively undisturbed section is in the wooded area just north of Cuba Road and east of Rand Road. A beautiful section of canopy trees over the old rail bed was found there in 2007. Other sections west of Quentin Road are visible but difficult to get to because of the thick brush.

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Book references[edit]

  • Whitney, Richard. Old Maud: The Story of the Palatine, Lake Zurich & Wauconda Railroad (Transportation Trails, August 1992) ISBN 0-933449-14-3