“THE RED CABOOSE TRAIL”
Welcome to The Red Caboose Trail, one of many local Scouting hiking & biking routes across these United States. Hiking, biking, and learning along each of these trails qualifies the Scout for that trail’s patch as well as accumulates miles toward the Scout hiking strips.
The information that follows enables a scout to learn as they go. In the case of The Red Caboose Trail, hikers learn about history and remaining features of the rail road that preceded the trail, environment and habitat of the area, the history of the continually growing Illinois Prairie Path (IPP), of which the Red Caboose Trail is now one small part. The Red Caboose Trail follows the Elign Branch of the IPP for ten miles from Wheaton to Pratt’s Wayne Woods County Forest Preserve.
To earn The Red Caboose Trail Patch:
1. Bike\hike the entire trail.
2. Identify three different birds on the trail and study one to find out what it likes to eat (don’t say bird seed J ).
3. Use the information below to find out something about the trail you never knew.
4. Sing the Little Red Caboose Song at the end of your hike.
Points of Interest on the Red Caboose Trail:
1. Intersection of S. Carlton and W. Liberty roads, near downtown Wheaton. This is the intersection of the Main Route, Elign Branch, and Aurora Branch of the IPP. It is also the zero mile marker for the Elgin Branch of the IPP. The Elgin Branch of the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin Railway, “The Great Third Rail” runs from Wheaton to Elgin. It opened on May 26, 1903. The commuter train parking lot here makes a convenient location to start your hike. Note: Check in advance with the Wheaton Police Department for parking availability and cost.
If you wish to camp overnight as part of your bike/hike you might consider the cabin at Herrick Lake Forest Preserve. Herrick Lake is located about 4 miles south of the starting point, just off the Aurora Branch of the IPP. Reserve early, just a few cabins for groups.
2. Start by going up and over the railroad overpass. While you’re on top of the bridge, pause for a view of downtown Wheaton. Wheaton is the County Seat for DuPage County and home to a variety of attractions such as the Wheaton History Center (including the HO model railroad display in the Lower Level), Cosley Zoo and old train station, Wheaton College, DuPage County Historical Museum and the Billy Graham Center.
The prairie land that was to become Wheaton was settled in the 1830’s by the Babcocks, Butterfields, Wilsons, Browns, Chadwicks, Wheatons, and Garys. It was primarily the efforts of Erastus Gary and the brothers Warren L. and Jesse C. Wheaton, two teachers and a carpenter, which led to the establishment of a community; they had the vision and the land! Realizing the importance of the railroad for future growth, they offered three miles of free right‑of‑way to the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad. When the first trains arrived in 1849, railroad officials hung the sign, "Wheaton Depot," thereby naming the new town.
3. Less than a mile from the starting point, Lincoln Marsh is a 130-acre area acquired by the Wheaton Park District between 1979 and 1991. Part of the Winfield Creek Watershed, it serves as natural habitat for wildlife and waterfowl, aids in flood control through flood water storage and water quality improvement, and is one of the last few natural areas in urban DuPage County. The Lincoln Marsh Natural Area Overlook was created as the Eagle Scout project of Jay Hofner, BSA Troop 374. It was dedicated November 11, 1993. Note: The trails that branch off the IPP into the marsh may only be used by hikers, no bikes allowed.
4.Jewel Road. When the Elgin Branch of the IPP opened in 1967, this was the starting point of the Red Caboose Trail. Jewel Road was also the location of a train station along the C, A & E Railroad. In Summer 2000, you can see evidence of the rails still embedded under Jewel Road. Depending on the extent of asphalt patching, the tracks can sometimes be see protruding from the sides of the road way or as cracks running across the road to mark the rails underneath.
5. Geneva Junction ‘Pleasant Hill” Station: Moved in 1950, the location of the station platform was on the south side of the trail. The C.A.&E. also maintained a passing siding on the north side of the trail, extending to the northwest.
6. Geneva Branch of the C.A.&E.: Opened in September, 1909 to service West Chicago and Geneva and provide a direct connection from Wheaton to the Fox Valley Branch along the west side of the Fox River. The Branch originally turned off the trail at about mile marker two on the trail. After a subdivision was built at this point, access to the Geneva Branch was routed north across Geneva Road and then South on the west side of the subdivision to rejoin the historic route. The original route can be seen on some older IPP maps and USGS maps.
7. Geneva road station: Midway between and Geneva junction we pass into Winfield township, which was first settled in 1832.
8. Gravel pit: heart of Timber Ridge Forest Preserve is the home of large resident population of Canadian geese, which return each spring to nest on the islands and enjoy the water.
9. Branching off to the north and right is a path leading to Klein Creek Farm.
Kline Creek Farm, sitting within the 1200‑acre Timber Ridge Forest Preserve in Winfield, is a "living history" farm depicting farm life as it was on this site and hundreds of others like it in 1890s DuPage County. Its purpose is to explore what life was like here a century ago. The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County has combined original structures, authentic re‑creations, livestock and authentic activities into a realistic 1890s DuPage County working farm.
Kline Creek Farm began as a log cabin homestead in the early 1830s. Casper Klein settled the farm in 1834. The white farmhouse was built in 1889. It continued as a working family farm through the 1960s, when it was purchased by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. The Farm first opened to the public in 1984 for special events, and opened for daily, year‑round operation in July of 1989. The Farm has restrooms and can be a pleasant stop on your hike.
10. Timber Ridge Forest Preserve: A large stand of virgin woods and reclaimed pasture land, which is now home to many native species of birds, animals and prairie plants. Deer are often seen along this stretch of trail between the gravel pit and the river crossing. Mile marker 3 is in this section.
11. West Branch of the DuPage River: Shortly before reaching the bridge we again crossed a township boundary this time into Wayne Township which was first settled in 1834. The marsh area to the north of the bridge contains a varied population of water foul muskrats and, on occasion, even beaver. Mile marker four is near this point.
12. Prince Crossing (Ingelton) Station: The brick structure on the west side of the road was a C.A.&E. substation which converted electric current to the proper voltage for the use of the Railroad. A storage siding was also located here to the northwest of the building. This is the most significant remaining structure on this portion of the IPP.
13. C.A.&.E. and C.N.&.W crossing. This was once an intersection of the Chicago Great Western R.R. and the C.A.&.E. The “Great Western” was built in 1866 and merged with the Chicago and North Western in 1968. The CN.&W was formed 1864 and traces it’s beginnings to the Galena and Chicago Union which began local operations in 1848. Just past this point is mile marker five.
14. Lakewood station: Remains (asphalt platform and wood posts) of the passenger platforms can be seen on southwest side of the trail. The station building stood just to the west side of the trail. Passing siding was also located here as well as an elevated unloading trestle for construction materials. The sidings were located on the north side of the trail and extended northwest toward Route 59. Mile marker six is about one-half mile ahead.
15. St. Andrews (Schramer Road) station: in the early days the lake located to the north along the highway now part of St. Andrews County Club was a source of soft water to early pioneers in the area. The Route 59 overpass provides a nice view of the area.
16 C.A.&.E. and E. J.&.E Grand Crossing is just past mile marker eight. The Elgin Joliet and Eastern R.R. was built in 1867 the C.A.&.E. crossed tracks on a trestle here. Today, the earthworks for the trestle lift the trail and provide a challenging set of bumps for the mountain biker. Steps make it easier for the hiker.
17. From the northwestern trestle earthwork on the trail, look down and view the marsh area. This was once a C.A.&.E. and E.J.&.E. interchange track. The interchange was between the grade crossing and Army Trail Road. It allowed the interchange of freight cars between the two railroads this permitted both railroads to provide service to towns and companies that were not on their own right of way.
19. Wayne substation the C.A.&.E. maintained a substation just to the north of the interchange yard which provided electricity not only for the railroad but also for the town of Wayne. In 1903, the C.A.& E. contracted to supply electric power for street lights in the village and in 1924 the homes in Wayne received power from the railroad. In 1928, the public service company established it’s own facilities here to supply the town with electricity. Today a power station still exists in the area.
20. Wayne: The Village of was named in the honor of revolutionary war hero general “Mad Anthony” Wayne although the town was originally known as Wayne station. This was done in order to prevent confusion with the nearby Wayne center. Wayne was first settled in 1834 by John Laughlin. His home still stands west of town. The village of Wayne was first served by the Galena and the Chicago Union R.R. in 1850. By the turn of the century, Wayne was received passenger and freight service by three different railroads. The Chicago and Northwestern (on the Chicago and Galena Union tracks) on the west side of town and the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin and Elgin, Joliet & Eastern on the east.
Army Trail Road derived its name from the use of an old “Indian” trail by the troops of Col. Abraham Eustis, dispatched in 1832 to deal with Chief Black Hawk and his followers who were causing unrest in the Rock River Valley area. One of the weary foot soldiers who trod this trail and camped one night on the banks of the West Branch of the DuPage River (the location was later named Wayne center) was destined become famous in his own right ... farmer, student, storekeeper, flatboat pilot, soldier, lawyer, legislator, statesmen and finally president of these United States of America ... Abraham Lincoln. And congratulations to you! You’ve made it to mile marker nine.
21. West Wayne Siding: the C.A.&.E. maintained passing siding and scale track for weighing cars here on the north side of the trail extending northwest from Powis Road.
22. Turn off point: the Red Caboose trail leaves the Illinois Prairie Path here to enter Pratt's Wayne woods forest preserve whew! If you are going to the youth campground or picnic areas, you have less than a mile to go. Or stay on the IPP and head for mile marker ten.
23. Pratt’s Wayne Woods Forest Preserve: The preserve is comprised of reclaimed farm and pasture lands, and also was formerly the property of Morton Sand and Gravel Company. The lakes are former gravel pits that were laboriously reclaimed by the Palm family for use as a sportsman's hunting and fishing lodge. The Palms originally intended to retire here in their park, but the property was purchased by the State of Illinois. In 1965, the Forest Preserve District received 169.79 acres from the state. The preserve was again enlarged with a purchase of 250 acres from George Pratt in 1974. The preserve is named in honor of George Pratt, former Forest Preserve Commissioner, and the Pratt family, who are long time area residents.
Pratt's Wayne Woods is the largest forest preserve in DuPage County. Located in the county's northwest corner, the preserve's 3,300 acres combine with Illinois Department of Natural Resource land adjacent on the north to form a continuous 4,000 acre stretch of land. The savannas, marshes, meadows and wetlands of Pratt's Wayne Woods offer a myriad of nature‑loving opportunities and recreational excursions. The preserve's Brewster Creek area is the site of a major wetland restoration program.
Pratt's Wayne Woods is located on the outwash plain of the West Chicago Moraine. Made up largely of wetlands, this landscape combines calcium‑rich water with wet sandy soil to support unique varieties of plant life more commonly seen near Lake Michigan. The savanna, with its widely spaced black, bur and white oaks, is dotted with spreading dogbane, pale‑leaved sunflower and smooth yellow violet wildflowers.
Pratt's Wayne's numerous wetlands provide a lush environment for waterfowl including Canada geese, egrets, great blue heron, wood ducks and the state‑endangered sandhill crane. Beaver, coyote, fox, white‑tailed deer, red‑tailed hawks, screech owls and numerous other mammals and birds also inhabit the preserve's wild acres. In the marsh areas of Brewster Creek, Norton Creek and Fern Meadows, explorers can view great Angelica, marsh marigolds, shooting star and dune ladies' tresses among the more common spotted Joe Pye weed, wild strawberry, black‑eyed Susan and tussock sedge. As you move through the trails, look out for a turtle sunning itself.
As you ride past the marsh, you’ll reach mile marker 10. You made it! You can turn back to Wheaton to complete a twenty-mile loop or head on for many more miles of IPP paths to explore. Straight ahead lie the beautiful trails along the Fox River!
History of the Red Caboose Trail
It Started with A Train: Why the Chicago Aurora & Elgin?"
Imagine a time before expressways; a time before suburban mass transit. A time when those who were not local shopkeepers or their employees had to travel into the "big city" to work -- no exceptions. A time when the suburbs were quiet, peaceful places to live and the city was still the center of the world whether it be business, education, or entertainment.
Now imagine a clean, fast, economical, and dependable trolley system to move those suburbanites between the their middle‑class homes and the city, and back again. A system which thought of their passengers first, and strove to provide better service than the heavy rail system which paralleled the trolleys’ right‑of‑way for most of its’ path and typically succeeded.
What you are imagining is the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin Railroad.
Organized in 1899 as the Aurora, Wheaton & Chicago, (then changed to the Aurora, Elgin & Chicago 18 months later), the corporation began to lay an electric rail line utilizing a 600 volt third rail system from 52nd Avenue in Chicago all the way out to Aurora Illinois. After the lines’ opening on August 25th, 1902, branch lines were quickly built to Batavia and Elgin over the next nine months. For a few years until March 8th 1905, the AE&C terminated at 52nd Avenue. However, permission was given to the rail company to operate trains on the Metropolitan West Side Elevated all the way into the Loop; Chicago’s central business and entertainment center.
Things pretty much ran smoothly for the next two decades until the WWI when inflation caused the company to become unable to cover costs and make debt payments, and Western Electric petitioned the court to place the railroad in receivership.
After the war when things began to sort themselves out, the AE&C was reorganized as the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin Railroad on March 16th, 1922. Shortly after, Samuel Insull’s Middle West Utilities took over operations, but when his empire collapsed in 1932, so did the CA&E. It was down, but not yet out.
The CA&E staff performed well through WWII, and the railroad emerged from bankruptcy for the second time in the fourth quarter of 1946. However, like many interurban lines across the country, the blossoming use and dependence on the automobile would spell the railroads ultimate death.
In 1952, the creation of the Congress Expressway (now the Eisenhower, or Rt. 290) into downtown Chicago was approved. The new expressway may only have forecasted a slow death if planned differently, but the fact that it would be built in the same place that the Metropolitan West Side Elevated ran meant an instant blow. The West Side Elevated, which the CA&E used to get into the loop, would be torn down to make room for the mighty automobile.
However, the CA&E was not going to go without a fight. It petitioned to have it’s line terminated at Forest Park, and on September 20th, 1953 loyal CA&E passengers lost their one‑seat ride to the loop. They would now have to transfer to the CTA at Forest Park -- a major inconvenience for many riders.
The line continued to struggle mightily until 1957 when the railroad went before a judge seeking permission to temporarily suspend passenger operation. This was granted on June 30th, but a group of loyal passengers fought back and were granted to post a bond by noon on July 3rd in order to keep the line running.
On June 3rd at 12:10 pm all passenger operations were suspended when the passenger group could not post a bond. All trains were called into the Wheaton yards, and regularly scheduled passenger traffic would never run over the line again. Hundreds (if not thousands) of commuters got on the CTA and rode out to Forest Park at the end of the day, only to find no CA&E trains awaiting them to transfer to. Near riots broke out when these commuters discovered there was no ride to take them back home.
The CA&E fiddled with freight operations for the next 18 months or so, but these operations were never a moneymaker, and on July 10th, 1961 total abandonment of the line was approved. Cars were scrapped or sent off to museums, stations sold, and the right‑of‑way fell into disrepair.
"Passenger Operations" resumed in 1966(?) when the CA&E right‑of‑way became part of the Illinois Prairie Path system. Today, you can walk, jog, or bike down the old right‑of‑way and get a sense of what was once a great interurban railway. The rails and signals are all gone, but you can still see some of the old stations and power substations along the way. Although none no longer serve as rail stops, the evidence of their past use is still very much visible.
"That’s why the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin.”
CAE stops from Wheaton heading northwest to Elgin...
St. Charles Road
Rails to Trails
On September 30, 1963 the Chicago Tribune printed a letter to the editor written by Mrs. May Theilgaard Watts, a distinguished naturalist, teacher, and author. In her letter Mrs. Watts outlined a proposal to convert the abandoned Chicago, Aurora and Elgin right‑of‑way into a trail through the western suburbs of Chicago. The letter inspired a small but dedicated group of trail advocates who decided to make the idea a reality.
May Theilgaard Watts at the Indiana Dunes State Park in October, 1957. Mrs. Watts was 70 years old in 1963 when she wrote the letter in the editor of the Chicago Tribune that started the rails‑to‑trails movement in the United States.
Over the next several years, the group gave hundreds of illustrated talks, led numerous field trips and generated extensive media coverage for the PATH. They also diligently sought and received the necessary cooperation from utility companies, civic leaders, and state, county and local officials.
In 1965 Mrs. Watts' group formally established The Illinois Prairie Path (The IPP corporation), an Illinois not‑for‑profit corporation. A year later, after DuPage County acquired twenty‑one miles of the right‑of‑way, The IPP corporation leased that portion from the county and began developing and managing it as a recreation trail.
DuPage County also leased portions of the right‑of‑way to several villages for parking, but to insure the PATH's vital continuity those leases reserved a strip not less than ten feet wide for the PATH.
The first Illinois Prairie Path logo sign was installed on the west side of Rte. 59 in Oak Meadows in 1967 before the Path was surfaced.
For the next twenty years The IPP corporation and its volunteers developed the ILLlNOIS PRAIRIE PATH in DuPage County for the benefit of area citizens.
Boy Scouts from the DuPage County area also have a history of active involvement in the Illinois Prairie Path. The following excerpt from “ILLINOIS PRAIRIE PATH, Trials and Triumphs” tells the story:
Presented By: Samual S. and Elizabeth R. Holmes
Delivered at the Mill Race Inn, Geneva, Illinois on April 12, 1979
I'm happy to tell you that one permanently successful project was accomplished by the DuPage Council of Boy Scouts. They christened the 13‑mile stretch between Wheaton and Wayne "The Red Caboose Trail" and they award patches to Scouts who complete certain mileage requirements. (Hold up picture in April 1979 Geneva Republican of Boy Scouts being given awards.) They mounted oil drum. trash barrels at intervals along the way and painted then with the Path logo. We were proud to learn that within two years, more than 3,000 Scouts had earned their Red Caboose patch.
Those trash barrels were badly needed.
Be Nice When Biking!
_ Be aware of wildlife both on and off the trail. Remember, you are a visitor in their habitat. With proper care, the next trail user will also be able to enjoy viewing wildlife.
_ Please stay on the right-hand side of the trail, except when passing on the left from behind. Bikes should pass only on the left. A polite call of "PASSING ON YOUR LEFT" can help to warn others of your approach from behind.
_ Always ride single file, especially when passing others on the left.
_ Always ride under control and watch your speed, especially aound curves.
_ Be aware of changing trail conditions.
_End of the Trail
Wrap-Up Your Hike or Bike on the Red Caboose Trail with this Scout Song:
LITTLE RED CABOOSE
Little red caboose Chug, chug, chug
Little red caboose Chug, chug, chug
Little red caboose behind the train
Whaa, whaa, whaa
Chuggin' on down the track
Smokestack on its back
Little red caboose behind the train
Whaa, whaa, whaa.
The intention of this song is to create
the effect of a train approaching and
departing. Sing softly at first, building
to a peak, then softly again.
From the Camp Hinds Songbook
Pinetree Council, BSA
This material was compiled by the work of many Boy Scouts in years past as well as from:
* Illinois Prairie Path Association www.ipp.org/ipp‑museum.html (lots of nice pictures)
* Chicago, Aurora, & Elgin Rail Road Historical Society http://midwest.railfan.net (more pictures to help prepare for your bike/hike)
* DuPage County Forest Preserve District www.dupageforest.com (including maps)
* Wheaton Park District www.wheatonparkdistrict.com
* For information on Scout badge programs offered by the Wheaton Park District, go to www.wheatonparkdistrict.com/recreation/scout_badges.html
Updated, biked (three times) and compiled by Scout Glenn Barnier (and dad), Troop 8, Three Fires Council, Naperville, IL Summer 2000