The Mass Transit Special

Elmhurst. (Robert W. Gibson Photo, Mark Llanuza Collection)

Elmhurst. (Robert W. Gibson Photo, Mark Llanuza Collection)

We continue our recent series on the last days of the fabled Chicago, Aurroa & Elgin interurban with some additional pictures from Mark Llanuza, who writes:

On March 6th 1958, the CA&E saw its first passenger train over the line in eight months. It was dubbed The Mass Transit Special, and it was intended to jump-start the resumption of passenger service.

Aboard were railroad officials and politicians from various communities along the line as well as members of the Illinois Mass Transportation Commission. It was a two-car train set made up of the 417 and one of the St. Louis cars. This train stopped at suburban towns with many people coming out to stand by the CA&E and bring it back to service. Some towns (like Glen Ellyn) had marching bands. Attendance was large in many towns but it wasn’t enough to bring back service. These photos were captured by Bob Gibson.


If you would like to read more about why the effort to save the CA&E failed, check out our previous post The CTA, the CA&E, and “Political Influence” (February 18, 2015).

-David Sadowski

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5th Avenue, Maywood, March 6, 1958. (Robert W. Gibson Photo, Mark Llanuza Collection)

5th Avenue, Maywood, March 6, 1958. (Robert W. Gibson Photo, Mark Llanuza Collection)

5th Avenue, Maywood, March 6, 1958. Notice how the platform extensions have been flipped up to accommodate freight trains. (Robert W. Gibson Photo, Mark Llanuza Collection)

5th Avenue, Maywood, March 6, 1958. Notice how the platform extensions have been flipped up to accommodate freight trains. (Robert W. Gibson Photo, Mark Llanuza Collection)

Elmhurst. (Robert W. Gibson Photo, Mark Llanuza Collection)

Elmhurst. (Robert W. Gibson Photo, Mark Llanuza Collection)


Glen Ellyn. (Robert W. Gibson, Mark Llanuza Collection)

Glen Ellyn. (Robert W. Gibson, Mark Llanuza Collection)

Glen Ellyn. (Robert W. Gibson, Mark Llanuza Collection)

Glen Ellyn. (Robert W. Gibson, Mark Llanuza Collection)

Main Street, Lombard. (Robert W. Gibson Photo, Mark Llanuza Collection)

Main Street, Lombard.  (Robert W. Gibson Photo, Mark Llanuza Collection)

CA&E Ephemera

Here is an interesting piece of CA&E ephemera– a Car Equipment Defect Report from June 1, 1914. Car number 303 has “leaks all over.”





One curious thing about this form is the reference to the Chicago Aurora & Elgin Railway. As far as I know, in 1914 it was called the AE&C, before being reorganized into the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin Railroad (not Railway) in the early 1920s.


At one time, people purchased their electric service directly from the interurban, as seen in these 1918 bills.

At one time, people purchased their electric service directly from the interurban, as seen in these 1918 bills.

New Beginnings for 320

CA&E wood car 320, the last saved car to leave the property, was also the first to operate again in a new location in 1962. According to Don’s Rail Photos, “320 was built by Jewett Car Co in 1914. It was modernized at an unknown date and sold to Iowa Chapter NRHS in 1962. It was transferred to Midwest Electric Railway Museum in 1968.”

From 1962 to 1968, the 320 ran on the Southern Iowa Railway. Again, according to Don’s Rail Photos:

The railroad became home to the Iowa Chapter, NRHS, in the 1950s. Three interurbans were acquired, plus a CGW caboose. In 1958 1.5 miles of the Mystic branch was abandoned. When the Centerville powerhouse was closed, ISU wanted to abandon or sell the line. It was purchased by a local group and became the Southern Industrial RR. In 1966 the wire was removed on the Moravia line and a CB&Q motor car was acquired. The wire remained at Moravia and box motor 101 was stationed there for switching. Also in 1966 the Chariton River trestle burned and the line was severed. The wire at Centerville was removed and service became occasional. The Moravia operation was abandoned on July 18, 1967, and was the final electric operation.


Since 1968, the 320 has been restored and now provides service during the Midwest Old Thresher’s Reunion every Labor Day weekend in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

Here are some pictures of the 320 on the Southern Iowa Railway, taken between 1962 and 1964 by the late James D. Johnson:

Madison Street, October 20, 1962. (James D. Johnson Photo)

Madison Street, October 20, 1962. (James D. Johnson Photo)

"Milwaukee, southbound," October 12, 1963. (James D. Johnson Photo)

“Milwaukee, southbound,” October 12, 1963. (James D. Johnson Photo)

(James D. Johnson Photo)

(James D. Johnson Photo)

(James D. Johnson Photo)

(James D. Johnson Photo)

(James D. Johnson Photo)

(James D. Johnson Photo)

(James D. Johnson Photo)

(James D. Johnson Photo)



Here's another one from the New Dave's Rail Pix.

Here’s another one from the New Dave’s Rail Pix.

Here is another photo from the June 9, 1957 CA&E fantrip we covered in a previous post. We have added the photo there as well:

CA&E 459 at Raymond Street in Elgin, June 9, 1957. (Mark Llanuza Collection)

CA&E 459 at Raymond Street in Elgin, June 9, 1957. (Mark Llanuza Collection)

With so many CA&E cars now preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum, it’s fitting to consider IRM’s own interurban origins. The museum’s Main Line was once part of the Elgin & Belvidere Electric, which ran from 1907 to 1930.

For several years after abandonment, the railroad’s cars sat out in the open in Marengo, waiting for buyers that never came.

Again, according to Don Ross:

In 1956, I was checking on ownership of an abandoned C&NW right-of-way for the Illinois Railway Museum, and I stopped in the county clerk’s office in Woodstock. The clerk became curious and then suggested that we might be interested in a piece of property which was on the delinquent tax rolls. It was 50 feet wide and 7 miles long. After paying the taxes for two years, a quit claim was filed and this has become the home of the IRM at Union, IL.


According to Don's Rail Photos, "103 provided freight and express service."

According to Don’s Rail Photos, “103 provided freight and express service.”

Space, the Final Frontier

Thanks in part to the generous donations from our readers, we have now solved the space problem caused by the growth of this blog. During our first year, we posted 13gb of files, our entire allotment under a WordPress professional account. When space became tight, we had to figure out some workarounds, posting some of our image files elsewhere.

However, this was not entirely satisfactory, because our readers could not magnify those images for closer scrutiny, as they can with all the ones we upload via WordPress. With this additional upgrade, we now have unlimited storage space, and will not need to worry about running out of space as long as we can continue to make the yearly payments.

We have many exciting things planned for future posts. At any given time, planning for this blog includes having posts for today, tomorrow, next week and next month. We have been keeping many plates spinning in the air, and although from time to time they have threatened to come crashing down, with your help and support, our future looks bright. Watch this space.

-David Sadowski

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20 thoughts on “The Mass Transit Special

  1. You may need to check “The Great Third Rail” for some background on the proper nomenclature of the CA&E…..on June 28, 1946, the Chicago Aurora & Elgin Railway Company acquired the properties of the Chicago Aurora & Elgin Railroad Company.

    I suspect you have assigned the wrong date to the defect report you have pictured. The scribbled date can be translated any number of ways to fit the proper ID the form’s heading suggests.

  2. The most likely explanation for the 1914 date on the “CA&E” bad order form is that the handwritten year is not “14”. Since 303 was only 8 years old in 1914, a “leaking all over report” at that time in its service life, on a road that clearly did look after its rolling stock, would be quite remarkable.

    My guess would be its more likely to be in 1944, as a lot of traction rolling stock (around the world) was “ridden hard and put away wet” during World War II.

      • My late father commuted from Batavia to Chicago on the CA&E around 1953. He used to laugh about the time that on returning home when entering the car from Eola to Batavia all the passengers were standing in the aisle with their umbrellas up due to the water entering the car from the ceiling. Every seat was quite wet since the car was leaking so bad in the rain.

      • Back about that time my late father commuted from Batavia to Chicago on the CA&E. I recall him telling me that one time on the return trip he was quite surprised to find all the passengers standing in the aisle of the car as he entered it in Eola holding their umbrellas. My father said the car was leaking horribly. No seats were dry.

  3. I was an uninvited guest on that CA&E charter trip in March, 1958. I skipped school that day, and since I lived in Elgin, was forced to ride a local Greyhound bus (ugh!) to Lake Street in Maywood and walk south. I made a point to speak to Mayor Paul Egan of Aurora (an invited guest), and told him how much I appreciated his efforts to save the railroad. He was amiable, if a bit gruff. He was in court in Wheaton the morning of July 3, 1957 and offered his house in a last bid; the judge refused. The Copley newspapers, Aurora Beacon-News and Elgin Courier-news portrayed him as a blustery, comic character, but he was dead serious.

    My years of devotion and patronage were rewarded with a catered lunch gratis at Wheaton headquarters. I much enjoyed the Bob Gibson photographs, the best ever seen of this event. I didn’t know him at the time, so whether he was another uninvited guest or chased it in his car is lost to history.

      • No. He was a person of some girth and was well settled in his seat. Like Buddha, you came to him, not the other way around. I’m sure his likeness could be found in Aurora Beacon-News archives for that tumultuous period.

      • Chicago Tribune, December 30, 1990:


        RASPY-VOICED, JOWLY, BESPECTACLED PAUL EGAN (1899-1968) ran for mayor of Aurora in 1953 for one compelling reason-he needed a job. He was 54 and struggling to support a wife and five kids on $27 a week unemployment compensation.

        He shook no hands, rang no doorbells and criticized Aurora`s business and industrial leaders alike. He made only one public appearance and left when the audience got angry at him.

        To everyone`s surprise, he was elected to the $8,000-a-year job, and for the next eight years, life in the western suburb of 64,000 was never dull, to say the least.

        His term in office included lively fistfights with other elected officials; invitations to Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev and Cuban Premier Fidel Castro to visit Aurora; mass firings that included City Council members, the entire Aurora Civil Service Commission and nearly every police chief he hired; a declaration during a Palm Sunday City Council meeting that Lenin was “almost as great a man as Jesus Christ“; and appointment of a parrot as chief of police.

        As his very first official act, he fired both his police and fire chiefs, declaring that he would hold those jobs himself in addition to being mayor, thus saving the taxpayers two salaries.

        Discharged Police Chief Donald Curran, who had held office for 19 years, denounced the mayor as a “screwball“ and got a court injunction against Egan, which the mayor totally ignored. In all, Egan appointed eight police chiefs during his first four years in office, including a local minister, and at one time had two men serving at the same time.

        On one occasion Egan set up roadblocks to ban interstate trucks from Aurora streets. This earned him a censure from the City Council and a Circuit Court order to cease and desist.

        One of his actions so nettled Justice of the Peace John Chivari that he belted the mayor in the jaw, knocking him across his desk, after which Egan whacked the JP with a pair of scissors, slashing his forehead.

        Egan made headlines on July 18, 1957, which he described as “the worst day of my life.“

        After leaving City Hall hurriedly after landing a punch to the left eye of Commissioner W.B. “Scotty“ Robertson, Egan was arrested for speeding in Forest Park. After posting his driver`s license as bond, the embattled mayor drove to a gas station to meet an urgent need and accidentally locked himself in the washroom. Upon his release a half hour later, he got into his car and had a flat tire.

        In explaining the fight that started it all, Egan said: “Robertson was about to crack me, but I just happened to catch him first. After I clipped this guy on the kisser, I lit out.“ That quote, of course, was highly sanitized, because Egan`s everyday conversation was punctuated with obscenities.

        There were only a few mild objections when the press called Egan “unquestionably the worst mayor in America.“ And those, it was said, came from folks who thought the denunciation covered insufficient ground.

        At the end of his raucous term, Egan announced he would seek re-election. And even though the Chicago Tribune said that “local leaders, to a man, were against him, and so was the only newspaper,“ it turned out that everyone was against the bombastic Egan but the electorate, who returned the rotund, double-chinned street brawler to office by a stunning 12,362 to 8,621 votes. The man he beat was a college graduate with a degree in business administration.

        Egan kicked off his second term by kicking out the entire police force and urging citizens to make their own arrests. He appointed a red-haired female wrestler as chief of police, and when she resigned, he gave the post to a 100-year-old parrot named Senor Carr.

        “Hell, I didn`t know Carr was a blankety-blank parrot,“ he confessed.

        “I understood he was a blankety-blank Spanish nobleman.“

        As criticism of his administration mounted, Egan petitioned President Eisenhower to send paratroopers to Aurora to quell the “rebellion.“ When that failed, he placed a $72 phone call to the Kremlin to ask Khruschev to “send over 24 Russian communists with guns“ to put down his detractors.

        Eventually his high jinks proved too much, even for those who had twice elected him to office, so when Egan ran for a third term in 1961, the voters gave him the boot. He then got a job selling vacuum cleaners door to door and died in 1968 at the age of 69.

        Here’s his obit:

  4. Where was I in 1958? I had just returned from serving in the Coast Guard Reserve and was going to school at the UI in Chicago at the Navy Pier, otherwise I would have been at York Street to see the last movement on my favorite RR. The CA&E was part of me in my youth as it was always available to take me into the city whenever I had the desire/need to go. I still miss it today even though I have been living on the west coast for the past 35 years.

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