C.A.E. Rail: Chicago, Aurora, Elgin Railroad

Chicago Aurora and Elgin Railroad 1936 map

Chicago, Aurora, Elgin Railroad: Lombard Historical Markers

The Lombard Historic Preservation Commission and Local Landmarks Committee in partnership with the Illinois Prairie Path Board and DuPage County, is proud to announce the addition of new historical marker signs along the Illinois Prairie Path Trail that was once the route of the Chicago, Aurora, Elgin Railroad, or CAE Rail.

The signs are located at four different locations along the trail where four stations once stood. These signs mark the locations of Green Valley Station near Brewster Ave., the Main Street Station near Main Street, the Stewart Avenue Station near Stewart Ave., and the Westmore Station near Westmore-Meyers Rd. The signs include images of the original stations that are no longer standing, and information about the CAE Rail that once traveled from Chicago to Aurora and Elgin.

The Illinois Prairie Path runs east and west through Lombard and is used by thousands of pedestrian and bicyclists each year. The CAE Rail Sign Project was overseen by the Lombard Historic Preservation Commission and is designed to educate residents and visitors to Lombard about the history of the Illinois Prairie Path and its origins as the CAE Rail. The signs also encourage users to share their Illinois Prairie Path experience on social media with #CAERail. 

Below is information on four former stations on the Aurora, Elgin, and Chicago Railroad: Green Valley, Main Street, Stewart Avenue, and Westmore Road.  These former stations are featured along the Illinois Prairie Path.
  1. Green Valley Station
  2. Main Street Station
  3. Stewart Avenue Station
  4. Westmore Station

Green Valley Station

The Aurora, Elgin and Chicago Railway was established in 1901 (also known as Aurora, Elgin and Chicago Railroad [1919]; later as Chicago, Aurora and Elgin Railroad Company [1922]; then as Chicago, Aurora and Elgin Railway [1946]).

Prior to 1920, this fourth and final Lombard stop was known as the West Lombard Station.  It was renamed Green Valley after the title of a novel by Lombard author Katherine Reynolds.  The station consisted of two small wooden shelters on either side of Brewster Avenue.  No ticket agent was available.  This was a flag stop and was served only by local trains.

To the west was the most expensive part of the Aurora, Elgin and Chicago double track.  Substantial cut and fill work was used to bridge the DuPage River Valley.  The trains crossed a high fill above Finley Road and a concrete art deco bridge over Illinois Highway 53.  Finally, the trains bridged the East Branch of the DuPage River.

Heralded by the trade press as the greatest single advance in the industry, the Aurora, Elgin and Chicago Railway opened in 1902 with 33 miles of track and powered with an electrified third rail.  Service to the Chicago Loop began in 1905.  It used the Wells Street Terminal at the southeast corner of the Loop.  For the first twelve years, it was a financial success as riders increased.  From 1914 to 1919, expenses rose faster than revenues and the railway was forced into foreclosure.  The U.S. District Court in Chicago split the railway into two parts:  the Third Rail Division and the Fox River Division.  Built a decade before automobiles and modern highways, the Aurora, Elgin and Chicago Railway faithfully served the western suburbs of Chicago and the Fox River cities for over five decades.  Electric railroads had significant advantages over horse-drawn vehicles and steam driven trains.  They were cleaner, faster, and more comfortable.

Capable of transporting 100,000 passengers daily, the railway was losing $2,000 a day.  On July 3, 1957, an injunction to continue passenger service was lifted, and by mid-day all train service permanently ended without prior notice to the public. The abandoned track bed was purchased in 1965 by the DuPage County Highway Commission for $750,000.00 which provided Lombard with a 2.75 mile strip of the Prairie Path through the village.

CAE Green Valley Station