Aurora, Elgin & Fox River Electric
LocaleFox River Valley
Transit typeInterurban
Number of lines3 (interurban)
Began operation1895
Ended operation1972
System length40 miles (64 km) (interurban)
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
ElectrificationTrolley wire 600 V DC
Top speed45 miles per hour (72 km/h)

The Aurora, Elgin & Fox River Electric (AE&FRE), was an interurban railroad that operated freight and passenger service on its line paralleling the Fox River. It served the communities of Carpentersville, Dundee, Elgin, South Elgin, St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia, North Aurora, Aurora, Montgomery, and Yorkville in Illinois. It also operated local streetcar lines in both Aurora and Elgin.


Ground floor plan of Aurora’s depot and coal power plant, as reported in 1891.
Ground floor plan of Aurora’s depot and coal power plant, as reported in 1891.

Predecessor companies opened service in 1895 between Carpentersville and Elgin; in 1896 between Elgin and St. Charles and Aurora and Geneva; in 1899 between Aurora and Yorkville; and in 1901 between St. Charles and Geneva. In the era 1901-1906 it was known as the Elgin, Aurora & Southern Traction Company.[1][2][3]

The EA&S merged with the Aurora Elgin & Chicago Railway in 1906 and became the new Aurora Elgin & Chicago Railroad's Fox River Division. The company was separated by order of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in 1923, when the Fox River Division assumed the AE&FRE name, and the rest of the AE&C (the Third Rail Division) became the Chicago Aurora and Elgin Railroad.[1]

Service typically operated on one-hour headways between Elgin and Aurora, with connecting service between Carpentersville and Elgin, and between Aurora and Montgomery.[citation needed][4][5]

Passenger service ended March 31, 1935, except on a short stretch of track used by the CA&E in St. Charles and Geneva, where passenger service ended December 31, 1937. Freight service continued on a 3-mile (4.8 km) stretch of the line between Coleman Yard and the Elgin State Hospital under electric power until 1947, and by diesel until 1972. At that time, the remnant of the line was sold to its current museum operators. Rail remaining between the current museum site in South Elgin and the State Hospital was removed in 1978.[1][6] [7]

Today much of the railroad’s former right of way is now a bicycle path known as the Fox River Trail. The Fox River Trolley Museum in South Elgin operates over a preserved section of its right of way.


Fox River Line
Elgin State Hospital
South Elgin
Five Islands
St. Charles
North Aurora
Fox River Park

Elgin and Aurora streetcar systems

By 1900 both Elgin and Aurora had electric streetcars on lines radiating out from downtown. Elgin had 12 miles (19 km) of track, the downtown area was double tracked in the 1920s. Aurora had 18 miles (29 km), with double track in most of the downtown area by 1900. Aurora’s lines were often “through routes”, entering downtown on one line and exiting on another.[8][9]

Since 31 March 1935, when rail passenger service was discontinued, routes in Aurora have changed, by 2013 under successor Pace little of the early city lines remained. In Elgin, by contrast, most streetcar lines are now part of longer bus routes.[a][10]

Elgin-Aurora interurban line

The interurban line left Elgin going south on State Street (Route 31[b]), past the State Hospital (a.k.a. Asylum)(mile 1.8), then down the side of LaFox Street through Clintonville/South Elgin (mile 3.1). Curving east onto private right of way the line went through the freight interchange at Coleman (mile 4.5)[c], across the river on its own bridge, and continued south to an intersection with Fifth Avenue in St. Charles. Street running started there, south to Main Street, then west across the river to Third Street, and south again into Geneva on Anderson Boulevard. At State Street the line turned east and went to Third Street (Chicago Junction[d], mile 11.6), where it turned south, then east, jogged south on Route 31, then onto private right of way between Route 31 and the river. A mile further south the line returned to Route 31, Batavia Avenue, street running through Batavia (mile 14.6), then on the east shoulder through North Aurora to the Aurora city limits. In Aurora the interurban used the Lake Street streetcar line on to the terminal.[11][12]

In 2013 Pace Route 801 Goes from Elgin to Geneva, although largely on a more western alignment. From Geneva to Aurora Pace Route 802 follows the original interurban line very closely.[10]

Rolling stock

By 1900 most Fox River area lines shared management, city car orders were often divided between Aurora and Elgin.
Lists include AE&FRE, predecessors EA&S and AE&C, as well as city systems in both Aurora and Elgin.[13][14][15]

Cars used in interurban service

Interurban cars were double trucked with heavier construction than city cars.

Numbers Builder Year Length Seats Notes
St. Louis 1901 45 ft 8 in (13.92 m) 48/48/44/44 [16]
200, 202 Niles 1906 47 ft 6 in (14.48 m) 48
204, 206 McGuire 1907 47 ft 10 in (14.58 m) 48
(even only)
TCRT 1899 43 ft 2 in (13.16 m) 48 bought 1913, sold 1918
except 212 scrapped 1927
(even only)
Cincinnati 42 ft 5 in (12.93 m) 46 bought in 1918
300-306 St. Louis 1924 38 ft (11.58 m) 52 sold 1936

Cars used in both city and interurban service

Some double trucked cars were used in both city and interurban service.

Numbers Builder Year Length Seats Notes
148, 150 Brill 1898 36 ft (10.97 m) 36 scrapped by 1922
152 St. Louis 1898 46 ft (14.02 m) 48
156, 168 Brill 1909 36 ft (10.97 m) 36 bought second hand
170 Brill 1898 36 ft (10.97 m) 36 bought second hand
172 Brill 1898 36 ft (10.97 m) 36 bought second hand,
184, 186, 188 Pullman 1894-95 40 ft 10 in (12.45 m) 40 bought in 1909
(even only)
St. Louis 1908 43 ft 10 in (13.36 m) 44 bought second hand,
scrapped by 1922

City Cars

Most city cars were single trucked “Birney” style, although a few double trucked cars were used.
On arrival cars 48, 50-97, bought by AE&FRE, replaced most older cars.

Numbers Builder Year Length Seats Notes
48, 50-97 St. Louis 1923-26 28 ft (8.53 m) 32
(even only)
St. Louis 1897 30 ft (9.14 m) 24
154, 158-166
(even only)
St. Louis 1897 31 ft (9.45 m) 28
182 Brill 1897 26 ft (7.92 m) 24
(even only)
St. Louis 1913-16 41 ft 6 in (12.65 m) -
47 ft 10 in (14.58 m)
40 Double truck
(even only)
Niles 1910 32 ft 2 in (9.80 m) 24
(odd only)
Briggs 1894 26 ft (7.92 m) 59 9-bench open
(odd only)
Stephenson 1897 32 ft (9.75 m) 50 10-bench open
(odd only)
Brill 1894 33 ft (10.06 m) 50 12-bench open
double truck
141, 143,
147, 149
St. Louis 1894 33 ft 5 in (10.19 m) 72 13-bench open
double truck

Connecting lines

In 1920 the AE&C Fox Valley Division connected with four radiating interurbans, all were closed by 1937.[17][18]

Elgin & Belvidere

The Elgin and Belvidere Electric Company left Elgin from the end of the Edison Street line at Wing Street, going 36 mi (58 km) west through the small towns of Huntley and Marengo to Belvidere, and a 14-mile (23 km) run through connection to Rockford. With 9 passenger and 2 express cars they scheduled 19 trains each way with an hourly headway. Opened in 1907, it was the last to be closed to passenger service, in 1930.[19]

Chicago, Aurora & DeKalb

The Chicago, Aurora and DeKalb Railroad connected to the Aurora city system at Plum and View Streets, and went 28 miles (45 km) west through Kaneville to DeKalb. 3 passenger and 2 express cars made 9 trains each way in a day on a 90 min and 3 hour schedule. Opened in 1905 with light steam equipment, it was electrified by 1910, and closed in 1923.[20]

Fox & Illinois Union

The Fox and Illinois Union Railway left Yorkville (where it also connected with the C.B.&Q) and ran 20 miles (32 km) straight south through Newark to Morris. Opened in 1914, two passenger cars ran 5 trains each way in a day. Grain was the major part of its freight traffic. Passenger service ended in 1924 but freight, converted to gas-electric in 1931, continued until 1937.[21]

Aurora, Plainfield, & Joliet

The Aurora, Plainfield and Joliet Railroad left Aurora on the Parker Avenue line and ran 22 miles (35 km) southeast through Plainfield to Joliet. Eight passenger cars operated 17 trains each way in a day, and 3 streetcars provided local service in Joliet. First opened in 1903, it was converted to 5 Pierce-Arrow buses in 1924.[22]


  1. ^ Examples in 2013 include the east side “Dundee” line, part of Pace Route 543, and west side “Highland” line, part of Pace route 549.
  2. ^ By 1940 Illinois had designated Route 31 running north and south along the west side of the Fox River. For convenience this modern number is used here.
  3. ^ The section of track between the State Hospital and the Coleman interchange continued in use until 1972.
  4. ^ The section of track between Fifth Avenue and Chicago Junction was used by AE&C then CA&E shuttle cars until 1937, after the rest of the interurban service had been discontinued.


  1. ^ a b c C.E.R.A. (1961), pp. 6–7.
  2. ^ Peffers (1993a), pp. 9–11.
  3. ^ Peffers (1993b), pp. 7–8.
  4. ^ C.E.R.A. (1961), pp. 15, 20–22.
  5. ^ Peffers (1993a), pp. 102, 103, 115, 116, 130.
  6. ^ Peffers (1993a), pp. 41, 68, 99.
  7. ^ Plachno, Larry (1986). Sunset Lines The Story of the Chicago Aurora, & Elgin Railroad: v.1: Trackage. Transportation Trails. pp. 127, 131. ISBN 0-933449-02-X.
  8. ^ C.E.R.A. (1961), pp. 12, 75–79, II-7.
  9. ^ Peffers (1993a), pp. 50–71.
  10. ^ a b "Pace Bus". RTA System Map. Pace Suburban Bus. 2012. Archived from the original on 4 April 2013. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
  11. ^ C.E.R.A. (1961), pp. 4–5, 22–24, II-2, 3, 4, 6.
  12. ^ Peffers (1993a), pp. 10, 12, 74–99, 136.
  13. ^ C.E.R.A. (1961), p. 74.
  14. ^ Peffers (1993a), pp. 72–73.
  15. ^ Peffers (1993b), pp. 94–95.
  16. ^
  17. ^ Peffers (1993d), pp. 7–9.
  18. ^ "Interurban Railways of Illinois and Border Area" (PDF). Central Electric Railfans’ Association. 1939. Retrieved Jun 4, 2016.
  19. ^ Peffers (1993d), pp. 138–173.
  20. ^ Peffers (1993d), pp. 76–103.
  21. ^ Peffers (1993d), pp. 10–33.
  22. ^ Peffers (1993d), pp. 34–75.