Upper:The Elgin & Belvidere Electric CompanyThe Elgin & Belvidere interurban line carried passengers and freight between its named endpoints for more than two decades, until growth in private auto ownership, better roads, and the Depression drove the E&B (and many other interurban routes) out of business.Rebirth of the Elgin & Belvidere By the early 1960's, the Illinois Electric Railway Museum had outgrown the original North Chicago location used since 1953.
The E&B was completed in 1907. Connections were available at Belvidere for Rockford, Freeport, and Janesville, and in Elgin for Aurora and Chicago. Passenger locals stopped at crossroads and farmhouses, often carrying children to school or picking up the cans of fresh milk that gave the rural line its "Dairy Route" nickname.
Union was a favorite destination during the 1920's, as its taverns never shut down during Prohibition. Union was also the site of the world's first (1915) automated electrical substation, converting high voltage transmission line AC to 600 volt DC for the E&B's overhead.
With competition from the new Grant Highway (U.S. 20) and bus lines, the E&B closed down and ended all service in March, 1930.
IERM members investigated potential new sites near Joliet, Batavia, Union, and East Troy, Wisconsin. The organization (renamed Illinois Railway Museum in 1962) eventually selected a portion of the abandoned Elgin & Belvidere interurban line between Union and Coyne Station Road, and purchased the vacant right-of-way for back taxes. IRM also bought an additional 20 acres of farmland on Olson Road to provide room for a permanent building and storage yard.
In 1964, the museum's collection of 42 cars moved to the site, where members constructed over a mile of track on the old E&B right-of-way east of Union. Electric passenger operations began in 1966.
Since then, IRM has expanded to more than 120 acres, with over a dozen buildings, ten miles of operating and display track, and nearly 400 pieces of rolling stock — all accomplished by our volunteers!