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Re: [CBQ] Fox River Branch Presentation@Sheridan,IL Saturday 11/27

To: CBQ@xxxxxxxxx, Judy Wheeler <wwowjudy@xxxxxxx>
Subject: Re: [CBQ] Fox River Branch Presentation@Sheridan,IL Saturday 11/27
From: "cbqbill1x" <kybillhusb@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 23 Nov 2021 17:13:46 -0500
Thanks Leo. I grew up in Oswego, and have passed your meeting notice to the Oswego Little White School Museum (the museum was originally a school for grades 1-3; I attended there, along with Judy Wheeler, who is President of the Museum). Roger Matile works at the museum, and has written many articles for the Aurora Beacon News on the history of the Burlington and other railroads operating in the area.

Sorry I can't attend, but I live in Louisville, KY. Plus we are having a "late" Thanksgiving dinner with our daughter and family on Friday.

Here are a few clips from my "Explore Rail History" database:

Railroad History of Streator

Streator is a city in LaSalle and partially in Livingston counties. The city is situated on the Vermilion River approximately 81 miles (130 km) southwest of Chicago, Illinois in the prairie and farm land of north-central Illinois.

Streator owed its existence to coal. With rich veins of coal underlying the entire area along the Vermillion River, all that was needed was a way to get it to market, and thus the reason for the construction of the Ottawa, Oswego & Fox River Valley Railroad, which would connect Streator with Montgomery, where iit connected with ts eventual parent, the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad (Montgomery is just south of Aurora, IL). The opening of the Ottawa, Oswego & Fox River Valley to Streator in 1866 was quickly followed by the building of three other railroads:

1. the Dwight Division of the Chicago & Alton railroad was commenced in 1870 and was completed in a few months. The Chicago & Alton eventually became the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio, and then the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad.

2. the Chicago, Pekin & Southwestern (Streator-Pekin, IL, opened in 1873 becoming part of the Santa Fe Railroad) came next; it became part of the Chicago, Santa Fe & California Railway, which was the Santa Fe's extension from Kansas City to Chicago at Corwith.

3. the Chicago & Paducah  (Streator-Effingham, opened 1874, becoming part of the Wabash in 1880),

Thus, within a period of eight years, Streator had gone from a city with no railroad connections, to a city with four major railroads serving the city.  The building of these railroads increased the value of the mining interests, by lowering transportation costs through competition, and increasing the number of markets that Vermillion Coal could reach.  The Streator coal fields were within easy reach of the manufacturing and coal-consuming centers of the entire country. Eight different coal-shafts were soon in operation. The coal deposits seemed to be inexhaustible in 1870. The success of the mines brought a flood of workers, resulting in the growth of population from about 1,500 persons in 1870 to 18,000 in 1912.

In 1912 Streator coal and other products reached the markets through seven lines of railroad radiating in twelve different directions. It had thirty passenger and forty freight trains daily and handled eight million pounds of freight and fourteen coal mines.

In addition to coal, the area around Streator contained rich clay and shale, which gave rise to Streator's brick, tile and pipe industries. In time, these supplanted coal as Streator's leading exports, but Streator was best known for its glass bottle industry. In the early 20th century Streator held the title of "Glass Manufacturing Capital of the World." Streator continued to flourish for much of the early 20th century. Ultimately the demand for coal was replaced with the growing needs for gas and oil. Many of the underground mines in Streator closed during the 1920s. The last of the mines shut down in 1958.

Streator was named for Worthy S. Streator, an Ohio industrialist who financed the region's first coal mining operation. It was founded in 1868 and incorporated as a city in 1882 when Col. Ralph Plumb was elected as its first mayor. Streator's early growth was due to its success as a coal producer, a major glass manufacturer and a railroad hub in the midwest. Today Streator's economy is led by heavy-equipment manufacturer Vactor, food distributor U.S. Foodservice and glass bottle manufacturer Owens-Illinois.


Streator began with coal. Vast beds of coal lie just beneath the surface throughout much of Illinois. The demand for coal was increasing in the mid-19th century, and East Coast capitalists were willing to invest in this region.

In 1866 Worthy S. Streator, a prominent railroad promoter from Cleveland, Ohio, financed the region's first mining operation. Success of the project required a rail line near the mines. Plumb and Streator "invited" Streator's friend, then Ohio Congressman James A. Garfield to sign on as an investor. In return, Garfield was expected to work with Robert C. Schenck, then the president of the American Central railroad, in getting the railroad to "bend their lines" to Streator. Eventually the plan did not work. The Vermilion Company then made arrangements with the Fox River Railroad (Ottawa, Oswego & Fox River Valley Railroad) line for their needed rail service. Coal, the reason the line was built in the first place, stopped being a regular cargo in the early 1950s, finally disappearing altogether by the end of that decade.

Altogether, Streator had 8 rail lines entering the city:

1. the Chicago & Alton railroad (Illinois Central/Canadian National)
2. the Chicago, Pekin & Southwestern (Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe/BNSF)
3. the Chicago & Paducah  (Wabash/Norfolk Southern)
4. the Indiana, Illinois & Iowa (New York Central/Norfolk Southern)
5. the Chicago & Illinois River (Alton/Illinois Central/Canadian National)
6. the Ottawa, Oswego & Fox River Valley (Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, Burlington Northern/BNSF/Illinois Railnet/Illinois Railway)
7. the Illinois Valley & Northern (Chicago, Burlington & Quincy/Burlington Northern/BNSF/Illinois Railnet/Illinois Railway)
8. the Fairbury, Pontiac & Northwestern (Chicago & Paducah/Wabash/Norfolk & Western/Abandoned)

History of the Ottawa, Oswego & Fox River Valley Railroad (the Fox River Branch of the Burlington RR)

The Ottawa, Oswego & Fox River Valley Railroad (Fox River  Branch Railroad)  built the Fox River branch of the Burlington between Geneva and Streator on the east side of the Fox River. The line that we know as the Fox River branch ran from a junction just south of Aurora, near Montgomery, to Oswego, Yorkville, and Streator, where large supplies of coal were located. The railroad was an important artery connecting the coal mines in north-central Illinois with northern Illinois.

This line was originally chartered in 1852, in Newark, IL, to build a railroad from Ottawa north to Elgin, and from Ottawa south to Bloomington and beyond, but remained inactive until end of the Civil War. In 1866, local farmers were seeking less expensive transportation means for grain shipments, while others were seeking less costly alternatives to access the coal mines in Ottawa.  The line was built in two sections: a northern section (Geneva-Aurora, 9.5 miles) and a southern section (Montgomery-Streator-Winona, 57.5 miles). The southern section between Montgomery and Streator was built first, and then the "extension" between Aurora and Geneva on the west side of the Fox River was built at a later date.

Around 1867, the railroad built a 12 mile extension from Streator to a connection with the Illinois Central at Wenona (or Winona)*.  This trackage was later purchased by the St. Louis, Jacksonville & Chicago, which became part of the Alton Railroad.  

* Wenona appears to be on the original mainline of the Illinois Central that went north from Cairo, Illinois, at the southern tip of the state, to Mendota, Galena and Dunleith, IL on the Mississippi River opposite Dubuque, IA, Mendota was a major junction point between the Burlington, the iC and later the Milwaukee Road.

In April 1869, the company was authorized to finance the line with bonds sold by municipalities along the route. Residents of Oswego voted to buy a half interest in the new line, while other towns along the line raised a similar amount. The line was built in two parts: the main line running from Montgomery (Aurora) to Streator, and a second line running from Aurora to Geneva.  Although the Ottawa, Oswego & Fox River Valley signed a construction contract with Oliver Young, who then assigned the contract to C.H. Force & Co, who in turn contracted for the actual construction with James F. Joy of the CB&Q.  Joy agreed to have the CB&Q build the road, and then lease the line in perpetuity.  Construction began immediately, and the line became operational in 1870, with the entire line being opened for business on January 15, 1871. In 1871, the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy gained control of the line. Eventually, the line was extended to tap the coal mines in Streator, IL. Poors Manual of 1903 indicates the line began in Geneva, rather than Aurora.

1977- The Fox River Branch line between North Aurora and Geneva was abandoned in 1977 (this line ran on the west side of the Fox River).

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