Thursday, March 30, 2006

Fantasy Rail

What routes would you like to see?

We're not talking here about routes that are possible, or even likely. What would you like to see? Some pretty outrageous passenger routes have even become reality, so put your mind to it and let us know.

When this writer was a kid, our fantasy passenger route went right through the back yard. It was a branch off the Burlington Route line that passed through Clyde, the large yard in Cicero, Illinois, along the three-track Chicago-Aurora speedway. Going west, the yard started at Cicero Avenue and ended right about Ridgeland Avenue. Today, much of the yard has been converted to intermodal transfer and there is almost nothing left of the steam ready tracks and the hump bowl that existed when we were kids. In the early 1950s, the yard was also crossed by the Laramie Avenue bridge that used salvaged trusses from a Mississippi River bridge that had been loaded on railcars and moved wholesale to the Cicero site.

A fantasy branch would have left the main line from Chicago just past Cicero Avenue, passed under Laramie Avenue, and proceed due west along 27th Street. This alignment would not only take it right past my boyhood home, with a station stop at 27th Street and Harvey Avenue in Berwyn, but would also allow the line to skirt Salt Creek further west (who cared about the environment when your were 10) and enter Oakbrook, an affluent suburban area sorely devoid of train service. So there could have been some practicality to my fantasy.

Throttling west, the fantasy line could eventually connect to the Chicago Aurora & Elgin in Warrenville, IL. (The latter railroad lasted only until 1957 as a passenger carrier.) In alternate format, the branch would be electrified with third rail or overhead and become a part of the CA&E going the other way, with a change of trains at Cicero Avenue or - more fantasy - an overhead wire strung all the way into Union Station. Our fantasy: Ride a local from my home station into Union Station, Chicago, or go west and change trains for an electric ride into Aurora instead of walking the 8 blocks or so to the nearest station on the Q.

Another boyhood fantasy involved the Douglas Park line of the Chicago L taking off from its right-of-way in the alley north of Cermak Road and running south through our back alley. Of course, there would be a station stop serving both lines right in our house. Probably a car service yard for the electric trains, too. (The Douglas Park line cut back to 54th Avenue in February 1952, two months before this writer turned 5 years old. Before that, it did run to Oak Park Avenue and crossed Harvey Avenue north of Cermak Road. Because our maternal aunt had an apartment on Cermak with a back porch above the L tracks, which ran at grade through the alley easement, we still remember it.)

Imagine how noisy our home would have been!

More about fantasy passenger rail routes another day. What about telling us some of yours for a future blog?

© 2006 C. A. Turek - mistertrains@gmail.com
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