Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

Moderators: metraRI, JamesT4

  by Prairiefire
Does anybody here have recollections, old timetables or images (trains, stations) of the old commuter services to the Lake Geneva, WI area (C&NW to Williams Bay, Lake Geneva, Milwaukee Road to Walworth). When did these trains come into service? Why did they die? What historical accounts are you familiar with, vintage photos, etc.

I have found a few things on the web: Milwaukee Road timetable from 1964, years of discontinuances of service (Williams Bay in 1966, Lake Geneva in 1975, Walworth in 1982), and a couple of images of C&NW commuter trains from 1965 in Williams Bay and Lake Geneva (on the photosite of the Chicago and Northwestern Historical Society).

The Walworth station and the rails are still standing and could be rehabbed back into service (Wisconsin and Southern uses them for freight service, they appear to be class 2 or 3 trackage), Lake Geneva and Williams Bay trackage and stations are gone, but evidence of the old ROW still exists.

Also any info on the old interurban lines from Fontana/Walworth to Harvard?

I am looking to write an article for the local paper on rail, past, present and future, possibly an internet blogsite, and also to generate local interest in bringing passenger service back to our area someday.

Any stories, histories, memories, images that you may have??
  by atlpete
Sorry I can't give you any substantial information about those lines in that area, however I did run across this link on another forum that includes a few shots of the C&NW operations around Lake Geneva. It's just a flat-out remarkable collection of photos, I hope you find it helpful and as enjoyable as I have..

http://rides.webshots.com/album/3150782 ... y?start=48

I grew up in the Chicago area in the sixties and have seen the EJ&E squeeze over that C&NW "Northwest" dvivision at Barrington, but never made it out to Fox Lake or Lake Geneva, wish I had though.
  by TheGortex
I know that Racine has fixed up their old C&NW station.

  by Tadman
How come Walworth and Lake Geneva made it to RTA, but no longer? WI didn't want to pay for their fraction?

  by doepack
Tadman wrote:How come Walworth and Lake Geneva made it to RTA, but no longer? WI didn't want to pay for their fraction?
Yes and no. In Walworth's case, the residents voted against an increase in additional sales taxes needed to subsidize the service, which, by 1980, had been reduced to just two trains a day anyway. It's my understanding that they were willing to vote for the increase if it meant more service, but due to the Springfield budget crisis then (sound familiar?), that resulted in other service cutbacks, RTA was unfortunately not in a position to make that promise. So in effect, those fine citizens of Walworth county said thanks, but no thanks...

CNW's Lake Geneva situation, however, was a bit different. Among other things, The Staggers deregulation act of 1980 had allowed railroads more freedom to abandon unprofitable lines with impunity, and, citing a loss of both passenger and freight business, CNW put this line up for abandonment shortly after Staggers was enacted into law. The ICC eventually granted CNW's abandonment request, and although CNW actually wanted everything between Ringwood IL, and Lake Geneva torn up, a compromise was reached with the RTA to retain the service right up to the Wisconsin border to Richmond IL. It's widely believed RTA wanted the compromise because Richmond was still part of McHenry county, which of course represented RTA's six-county service area. But as it turned out, nobody really rode that far anyway, and service was trimmed back to the current McHenry terminal within a few years...
  by MikeF
Prairiefire wrote:Also any info on the old interurban lines from Fontana/Walworth to Harvard?
Here's what "The Electric Interurban Railways in America" (Hilton and Due, Stanford University Press 1960, ISBN 0-8047-4014-3) has to say about the Chicago Harvard & Geneva Lake Railway:

"In northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, the 11-mile Chicago Harvard & Geneva Lake, although never connected with the Chicago-area electric roads, provided an important service to the Geneva Lake resort area as a connection for the Chicago & Northwestern [sic]. The road, completed on July 4, 1899, was one of [Illinois'] oldest interurbans. Its passenger business was subject to significant seasonal fluctuations, and the construction of a branch line by the Milwaukee through Walworth provided substantial competition. However, the Milwaukee line offered certain advantages, for the CH&GL was able to build up considerable carload interchange freight business with it, primarily in milk, ice for Chicago cut from Geneva Lake, and livestock.

"The development of the automobile as the primary method of reaching resort areas seriously reduced the road's revenue and gave rise to operating deficits after 1928. Passenger service ended in 1930 but freight service was continued two more years, until the loss of business to trucks brought complete abandonment. For a time this road was a McKinley property."

CERA Bulletin 111, "Badger Traction," contains two pages of text on the CH&GL as well as several photos, a detailed map and a reproduction of the road's 1911 timetable. Send me a PM if you'd like a copy of those pages.
  by jle101205
Hi - I'd like to see the map and timetable if you still have the file/jpeg - I think this CH&GL line ran by my house. Thanks...Jim
  by busfan2847
Dates that I have for the Williams Bay line are:-

11/15/1855 Line opened from Crystal Lake to Richmond by Fox Valley Railway from Elgin
June 1856 Line opened from Richmond to Lake Geneva
1859 C&NW Kenosha to Rockford line enters Harvard
Fall 1860 service from Richmond to Lake Geneva withdrawn
7/26/1871 Line reopened from Richmond to Lake Geneva
6/1/1888 Line extended from Lake Geneva to Williams Bay
9/27/1924 Station at Terra Cotta on Williams Bay branch closed
1939 Harvard to Kenosha line closed
1/15/1932 Passenger service from Elgin to Crystal Lake withdrawn. From then on service to Lake Geneva & Williams Bay ran via the Wisconsin Division (Northwest Line). .
5/11/1956 C&NW dieselize commuter service
12/31/1965 Service withdrawn between Lake Geneva and Williams Bay
12/22/1969 Deferred maintenance caused schedules to be lengthened by 10 minutes on the branch and services were slowed further from January 1st, 1975.
1/1/1975 Deferred maintenance caused schedules to be slowed further
8/11/1975 Service withdrawn between Richmond and Lake Geneva
8/1/1980 Service withdrawn from McHenry to Richmond
1981 the Sunday service was withdrawn and Saturday service reduced to one train each way – weekday service remained at two trains each way.
4/2/1989 An additional pair of trains provided an extra am journey in each direction M-F.
8/14/2004 The remaining Saturday train was discontinued.

The 1950 schedule was:- .
M-S #644 WB 5:15 > CMS 7:10
M-S #622 WB 6:05 > CMS 7:50
M-S #686 WB 13:25 > CMS 16:20 via Crystal Lake – withdrawn 5/13/1950
S #720 WB 15:00 > CMS 16:50 summer only 7/1-9/2
Su #770 WB 16:40 > CMS 18:40 not summer 6/4-9/3
Su #772 WB 18:20 > CMS 20:33 summer only 6/4-9/4 .

M-S #627 CMS 7:13 > WB 10:25 via Crystal Lake – withdrawn 5/13/1950
Su #761 CMS 7:30 > WB 9:17 summer only 7/2-9/4
Su #763 CMS 7:45 > WB 10:02
S #775 CMS 12:30 > WB 14:26
M-F #681 CMS 15:40 > WB 17:31
M-S #649 CMS 16:18 > WB 18:15

Stations, mileage, opened
Terra Cotta, 20.4m, mid 1880s closed 9/27/1924
MC HENRY, 25.0m, 11/15/1855 OPEN
Ringwood, 28.5m, 11/15/1855 closed 8/1/1980
Richmond, 34.8m, 11/15/1855 closed 8/1/1980
Genoa, 36.6m, 7/26/1871 closed 8/11/1975
Pell Lake, 39.7m, 1926 closed 8/11/1975
Lake Geneva, 45.2m, 7/26/1871 closed 8/11/1975
Lake Coma, 49.2m, 1890 closed 12/31/1965
Williams Bay, 51.0m, 6/1/1888 closed 12/31/1965
(NB mileages measured from Fox River switch in Elgin.)

Hope this helps
  by busfan2847
I do not have as much information for the Milwaukee line to Walworth.

1900 Branch to Fox Lake opens with stations at Grays Lake, Long Lake, Fox lake (r/n Ingleside 1902); Nippersink (r/n Fox Lake 1902)
1901 Station built at Nippersink
1901 Line extended from Nippersink through Walworth to Janesville
1902 Pistakee stop opened, Fox Lake & Nippersink renamed
Milwaukee Road commuter service was provided mainly from Chicago to Fox Lake with a journey extended to Walworth, WI with stations at Spring Grove, Solon Mills and Xenda
5/1/1971 Milwaukee Road intercity trains along the Fox Lake branch to Janesville and Madison withdrawn at the Amtrak takeover
1971 Timetable from Walworth 7:00am M-F (118) & 7:05am S (604) due downtown 8:37am/8:42am, the return train was 4:45pm M-F (119) due 6:20pm and 5:06pm S (605) due 7:03pm.
1977 Milwaukee Rd enters bankruptcy
1979 Station at Rondout closed
10/1/1982 RTA purchases Milwaukee Road commuter operation and abandons service from Fox Lake to Walworth.closing Spring Grove, Solon Mills, Zenda and Walworth stations.

4/15//2000 Lake Country Limited - Chicago to Janesville Service started operating daily from April 15th, 2000 primarily for express shipments.
6/13/2000 Lake Geneva (Zenda) stop opened
3/24/2001 Service reduced to Saturday only
9/23/2001 Lake Country Limited withdrawn
Amtrak #343 CUS 20:15, Glenview 20:39, Lake Geneva (Zenda) 21:55, Janesville 23:05
Amtrak #344 Janesville 6:00, Lake Geneva (Zenda) 7:00, Glenview 8:50, CUS 9:20
  by busfan2847
Quick search on the internet shows that

http://www.naotc.org/timetablecollector ... _index.htm

Has a 1915 timetable for the Chicago, Harvard & Geneva Lake Railway showing connections to Chicago at Walworth (CM&StP) and Harvard (C&NW).

At that time they ran 9 trains daily each way from Fontana (Geneva Lake) to Harvard leaving Fontana at 5:45, 7:30, 9:15, 11:20, 12:55, 15:45, 17:40, 19:30, 21:25 with return trains from Harvard at 6:35, 8:20, 10:25, 12:10, 14:50, 17:35; 18:43; 20:35, 22:15 with the journey typically taking 40 minutes for the 11miles (From Fontana 10m to Walworth, 20m to Big Foot, 40m to Harvard)

The line opened 7/4/1899. Passenger service was only busy in the summer months and during the winter the line shipped ice cut from Lake Geneva. After it's first full year it had to compete with the CM&StP line through Walworth and Fontana. Passenger service ended 1927, freight service ended 4/1930.

The timetable shows trains from Walworth to Chicago at 6:15, 7:59, 11:24 & 18:03 taking ~2.5hrs to reach Chicago and trains arriving at Walworth at 9:50, 18:03 & 20:00 from Chicago

Also see http://walworthcountytoday.com/weblogs/ ... community/
  by SlowFreight
You'll find plenty of photos on flickr.com, like this one


I just searched cnw richmond, but when you start digging you'll find a few more from Ringwood, McHenry, etc. The big thing that kept the line open for freight was the chemical plant at Ringwood, but there were some other customers like the elevator in Genoa City. Before 1966, there was a branch line from Genoa City west to Hebron that was the remains of the Kenosha, Rockford & Rock Island, but the elevator was on the "main line." I heard that the North Western actually starved the elevator for cars, never providing enough empties to load. Granger roads were very good at killing branch lines when they wanted to, but in the long run I don't expect that the remaining industry would have really resulted in a thriving branch line.

Of note, the North Western had a practice of reversing one complete trainset during winter for the Lake Geneva line so that it would run locomotive-first on the morning commute. This was so that the first train of the day could plow the line better if any amount of snow dumped overnight. I think that practice ended in the late 1980s.