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Don's Rail Photos

Chicago Harvard & Geneva Lake Ry.


Northeastern Illinois had a large collection of traction lines which have passed into memory of a few, but which are long gone. We think of the North Shore and the 'Roaring Elgin, but there were others which were quite fascinating. The CH&GL was not the least of these.

In 1899 the road was built to connect the Chicago & North Western at Harvard with the resort of Fontana on beautiful Lake Geneva. From the appearance, car 1 seems to have been built by Pullman. There was at least another combine similar but probably a later design.

Summer traffic was heavy, but it disappeared in the Fall. After the first year, the line had to compete with a newly built Milwaukee Road line thru Fontana directly connecting it to Chicago.

In the winter the line became a heavy freight hauler to bring ice from the lake to the C&NW interchange. They acquired a steam road box car and converted it to a freight motor. They used a McGuire truck designed for elevated service. The picture was probably taken at Fontana after abandonment.

Other freight customers included a large stock yard at Walworth and milk from the Bowman Dairy at Big Foot. The line was most successful in the interchange freight business.

In 1911 it came under control of the Marengo & Harvard Ry. This was a proposal to connect the Woodstock & Sycamore Traction which ran between Sycamore and Marengo. It connected with the DeKalb Sycamore & Interurban at the south end. Grading was done north of Union towards Woodstock and then would continue on to Harvard. The Elgin & Belvidere was to be used between Marengo and Union. This would have provided a thru line from DeKalb to Fontana. But it was never to be. The W&S, which used McKeen gas cars, folded in 1918. The CH&GL followed in 1930. The line was not fully torn up for several years, and there are reports that the very north end of the line provided service to a gravel pit at the end.

I visited the area in the early 1950s. At Fontana we found the probable remains of the freight motor. Much of the right of way could be seen along the road until it ran down the street in Harvard. On the portion north of Union, right of way could also be found as well as a house which was converted from a substation which never was used.


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