Historic Structures

CBQ Early History Chicago, Burlington and Quincy -CBQ- Railroad Roundhouse and Shops, Aurora Illinois

American railroad development can be divided into a number of distinct stages. From 1830 to 1850, railroads were thought of and developed as supplements to the existing coastal and inland waterway system of the United States. Short-line railroads radiated from most of the major seaboard cities, and canals and rivers of the eastern states were linked by rail. Further west, shipping points on the Great Lakes and the Ohio River were connected, and planners looked to railroad links with the Mississippi River as the next logical goal. By 1860, however, this relationship between rail and water transport had been so radically altered that railroads carried more freight than the inland waterways.

The period from the end of the Civil War to 1920 has rightly been called the Age of Railroads. During these 50 years, track mileage increased 5-fold and railroads came to have an almost monopolistic hold on all areas of transportation. By 1900, almost every thing and every person moving more than. 15 miles was transported by the railroads. The first decades after the Civil War witnessed the completion of the midwest rail network and the construction of the first transcontinental road. In the following decades, additional transcontinental lines were constructed and fierce competition arose over access to these lines. Finally, at the end of the century, multiple roads between major metropolitan markets were developed. This over-building eventually forced many companies to consolidate.

Railroad's hold on the American transportation system continued into the 1930's, but the economic system that emerged following the Second World War included a major role for the automobile and the airplane. The inter-state highway system and the jumbo jet took over the transportation of people, leaving the railroads and the trucking industry to fight over America's freight business. These nation-wide patterns can be seen in both the general history of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad and in developments at the shop complex at Aurora, Illinois.

The history of the CB&Q Railroad and of the Aurora shop complex began with a meeting of businessmen from the Illinois towns of Batavia and Aurora in late 1848. Out of that meeting and a number of others held in early 1849, came a concerted set of financial and legal plans that led to the issuing of a state charter for the Aurora Branch Railroad on February 12, 1849. Initial plans called for the construction of 12 miles of track and roadbed from Aurora north through Batavia to a junction with the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad at what is now West Chicago. Before the track construction phase was completed in late 1850, the small company was already looking for a place to build terminal facilities on the east side of the Fox River in Aurora. When regular service between Chicago and Aurora began on October 21, 1850, the CB&Q had arranged to share the Galena railroad depot in Chicago and had constructed a temporary building on the north edge of the property that would eventually hold the large shop complex in Aurora.

During the next 4 years, the principal Illinois components of what would become the CB&Q railroad fell into place. Numerous charters had been issued by the state that provided for construction of crucial segments of a system that could link Chicago and the Mississippi River, but no company had complete control of a direct route across the state: the Peoria and Oquawka Railroad planned to link these 2 cities on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers; the Northern Cross Railroad hoped to run a line southwest from the terminus of the Michigan-Illinois Canal to Quincy; the Central Military Tract Railroad intended to parallel part of this route from Galesburg to the canal; and the Aurora Railroad developed a plan for a route leading southwest towards Galesburg and the Mississippi. This competition to construct and control a southwestern route to the Mississippi depended primarily upon the abilities of the respective companies to raise the necessary capital to finance track construction. The Aurora Railroad's success in attracting such money as early as 1852 was critical in the race for control of the southwestern corridor across the state.

In 1852, the company changed its name to the Aurora and Chicago Railroad, and in the following year completed the 46 mile stretch from Aurora west to Mendota. The Peoria and Oquawka completed tracks from Galesburg to the

Mississippi River opposite Burlington in 1855, and in 1856 the Northern Cross opened service between Galesburg and Quincy. A new state charter issued in February 1854, allowed the Aurora and Chicago, the Central Military Tract, the Northern Cross, and the Peoria and Oquawka to consolidate in whatever arrangement seemed feasible. The first step toward this end occurred on July 9, 1856, when the Central Military Tract merged with the newly re-named Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. In 1864 consolidations with the Quincy and Chicago (formerly Northern Cross) and the Peoria and Burlington put into place the main Illinois lines of the CB&Q system.