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Friday, December 4, 2009

Palatine, Lake Zurich & Wauconda Railroad


After the Civil War, Chicago's population boomed, and the city became the railroad hub of the nation. Railroad lines stretched out from the city like tendrils, reaching and connecting a myriad of small towns, and an entire nation.

The first railway into Lake County was the Chicago & Milwaukee Railroad which arrived in Waukegan to much fanfare in 1855. (right)

By the 1870s and 1880s, many towns in Lake County had railroad depots, including Grayslake, Gurnee, and Lake Villa. Though Wauconda seemed forgotten, the townsfolk dreamt of having a railroad come through its borders to connect Cook County to Wisconsin.

Finally, in 1911 work on the Palatine, Lake Zurich & Wauconda (PLZ & W) Railroad began. The last obstacle to making the dream a reality was purchasing land on Lake Zurich Golf Club property.

Golf Club founder Charley Wood and other members of the club learned that the railroad could not condemn cemeteries. Doctors who were also club members went to the county morgue for the unclaimed bodies of four deceased men. They buried the men and put up a sign to mark the “ad hoc” cemetery and stop the railroad from acquiring the land. Fortunately for Wauconda, this only caused a short delay while the railroad rerouted its tracks.

In 1913, an 1885-built engine named “Old Maud” was purchased from the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad and the new line was in business.

Real photo postcard of the dedication of the new railroad with the first train arriving in Wauconda. (above)

PLZ&W abandoned depot in Lake Zurich, photographed about 1965.

Unfortunately, the railroad struggled for many years, never attracting passengers during the winter months and losing customers to the growing popularity of automobiles and trucks. In 1924, only 11 years after its promising start, the dream of the PLZ&W Railroad came to an end.

A PLZ&W Railroad overpass in disrepair, photographed about 1965.

There are no remains of the PLZ&W to be found. The site of the Wauconda depot is now home to Wauconda's Police Department.



Map showing the PLZ&W Railroad line. Created by Richard Whitney and used in his book, "Old Maud: The Story of the Palatine, Lake Zurich & Wauconda Railroad." 1992.

Nationwide from the 1950s and 1970s, enormous amounts of rail heritage were abandoned and ripped up, including railroad lines and New York's original, legendary Pennsylvania Station. Nostalgia for railway history has sparked an interest in preservation. Though it's too late for the PLZ&W, other aspects of railway history are being saved from demolition or preserved in museums.

The nation's largest railway museum is located in Union, Illinois. The Illinois Railway Museum’s mission is dedicated to preserving the history of rail operations in and around Chicago (including the area’s extensive trolley operations), as well as the entire country.


20 comments:

prairie Dog said...

I didn't know Wauconda ever had a railroad termninal.
Do you know about where this postcard photo was taken?
BTW, I love your posts with the historical photos!!!

D_Dretske said...

The caption on the postcard says "First train in Wauconda." Based on maps for the PLZ&W's route, and assuming the photo was taken at the end of the line in Wauconda, that view was taken at the southeast corner of today's Route 176 and Main Street.

Thanks for reading my blog! It's great to hear you're enjoying it.

Anonymous said...

Diane,

Neat story about the RR. Thanks for researching and posting it!

Anonymous said...

I wanted to view a map of the PLZ&W route. Is there a map available on line?

D_Dretske said...

There is a map in the book "Old Maud: the Story of the Palatine, Lake Zurich & Wauconda Railroad" by Richard Whitney. If you don't have access to the book through your library, please contact me at the museum and I'll send you a copy of the map. ddretske@lcfpd.org

K_Jenn said...

Hi Diana,
It's hard going today finding any remnants of the old P, LZ & W RR. Does anyone know if the LZ Depot was torn down or was it saved and reused as a residence or something? After the tracks crossed Ivanhoe rd., but before Old McHenry, are there any remnants? My wife & I live on the grounds of the old Wauconda Golf Club.

Anonymous said...

I believe there are remains of the PLZ&W in the Cuba Marsh just south of Cuba Rd & Rainbow Rd. There is a part of an old trestle. Also, on the north side of the road barely visible is a landscape rise that is in alignment with where the trestle would have been.

D_Dretske said...

The track remains at Cuba Marsh Forest Preserve are from the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railroad (EJ&E) and lie in the western portion of the Forest Preserve. The PLZ&W RR line was northeast of Cuba Marsh near Route 12.

Anonymous said...

Ryan Inc. of Janesville, Wi did much excavation of the rails. They do have some photos, as I have seen them in one of their books.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if anyone knows where the tracks ran near old mchenry road and RT12. I lived in Valentine Manor right near there and i was curious if the tracks ran through the subdivision or in front of it where 12 is now.

D_Dretske said...

I finally got around to posting the map from Whitney's book. Hopefully this will help everyone. Please feel free to email me directly if you need a hard copy of the map or would like it emailed. I can be reached at the museum at ddretske@LCFPD.org

Thanks!

Stacy Inglat said...

My name is Stacy Inglat I live in the old Wauconda Train Depot. Why doesn't anyone ever talk about them moving the old train depot to Maple Avenue in Wauconda. And that is is know a resident?

D_Dretske said...

Thanks for your comment!

The old Wauconda depot is certainly one more piece in the story of the PLZ&W. I believe the depot was moved to Maple Street and turned into a residence about 1929. Great recycling!

brian said...

The article mentions that there aren't any remains of the railroad...However,you can find a few remaining pilings (very small) of a bridge that once took the railroad over a creek in the Deer Grove East Forest Preserve...Just north of Dundee Road and east of Quentin Road.

Anonymous said...

On Old Rand Road south of Ivanhoe Road south of Wauconda, you can see the right of way along the south side of the highway. In Camp Reinberg (Forest Preserve) north of Dundee you can see the right of way through the woods.

Tavic said...

Found a pretty good article on it for download.

http://www.shore-line.org/_pdfs/No_Good_Deeds_Go_Unpunished.pdf

Anonymous said...

I was raised in lake Zurich manor...we as kids would use the old rail bed as a shortcut to town...it headed north across miller road by Seth pain school...there was an old Boy Scout camp there too.....Lions drive is now there....gary Jennrich.

Rob Neff said...

The raised bed can be seen just south of Kitts in Lake Zurich. It's best with a light dusting of snow, to see it thru the brush, just W of Old Rand Road. Also, the bed can be seen in Deer Grove Forest Preserve (with some hiking) maybe 200 feet west of Louise Lane and Dundee. It crosses a stream and there used to be a trestle there (a nearby geocache explains it). There's a clear path (if you're on foot and don't mind the thorns) going north until it joins a modern trail in the forest preserve. And then N. of the Atrium nursery on Cuba it supposedly follows the east border of the large property for sale, but it's not very clear to me.

Unknown said...

The LZ depot is still standing and privately owned. An attempt to restore the building was done by the private owner in the late '80s and early '90s.

Unknown said...

Does anyone know who owns ej and e station in lake Zurich?