Thoughts About Trains

In addition to passenger service, engine 4960 provided freight service on the railroad line through Dayton. We lived right next to the railroad tracks (the bush on the right is in our back yard) so passing freight trains shook everything in the house. Living so close, you became deaf to the noise and it was not unusual for someone to ask if the train had come through yet. My mother had a set of glass shelves which hung on the dining room window. One of the ways to answer the question was to see if any of the trinkets on the shelf had fallen over.

Other people were not quite so complacent about the noise. Once a guest who had spent the night in our guest room, which was on the side next to the tracks, came down to breakfast asking “WHAT was that thing that came through my room in the night?”

As children we left coins on the track or crossed pins, which made scissor shapes when squashed by the wheels. We always waved to the red caboose, regardless of whether anyone was there to wave back..

The track ran uphill going north out of Dayton. In bad weather, when the track was icy, it seemed to take forever for the train to pass our house. It seemed to slip back one foot for every two it gained.

The passenger service ended in 1952, (see here and here for the end of the “Dinky”) but engine 4960 continued a freight run twice a day until newer engines took over in 1966.

The Depot at Dayton

The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy branch railroad line through Dayton began in Aurora and went through to Streator. We know the names of a few of the station agents who manned the Dayton depot. See below for mention of Wilmot Van Etten, Thomas Belrose, and Roy McBrearty in the Ottawa newspaper..

The route ran as follows:
Burgess Junction
Grand Ridge

Ottawa Free Trader, 10 Sep 1881, p5, col 1
An appalling accident took place at the C., B. & Q. railroad crossing on Columbus street in this city on Wednesday last, resulting in the death of Bernard Dougherty
[description of accident omitted]
We believe the time allowed on the card for making the run to Ottawa depot from Dayton is too short. The time for leaving Dayton is 11:16 and Ottawa 11:28 – 12 minutes; distance four miles, one and a half of which is through the city, further the engine takes water and crosses a railroad track and a swing-bridge.

Free Trader, March 3, 1888, p. 8, col. 4
James Ryan, our Cornet Virtuoso, is studying telegraph with [Wilmot] Van Etten at the depot. Jimmie is always on the key and we hope he will become an expert and get big pay.

Free Trader, January 24, 1891, p. 8, cols. 2-3
Thos. Belrose, Jr., has now taken charge of the station at Fox. He has been a student at the depot here for a long time, and we all wish him success in his new quarters.

Free Trader, April 11, 1902, p. 8, col. 3
Mr McBraerty is laid up with rheumatism. His son Roy has charge of the depot.

Derailment in Dayton

These pictures of a train derailment in Dayton were taken about 1958-59. I need to get back to reading the newspaper to see if I can find the exact date. Maybe someone seeing this will know exactly when it happened. If so, please leave the date in the comments.

In any case, you may recognize some of the bystanders, even if you can only see their backs. Click on the picture to see the full size version.

Goodbye to the Dinky


On February 2, 1952, the Burlington passenger train that had linked Dayton with Ottawa and other towns from Streator to Aurora for 82 years carried its last passengers. The service had dwindled to two trains a day, one northbound and one south. Cars and trucks had taken much of the express traffic, as well as the passengers. C. C. Tisler, a local historian who wrote for the Ottawa Republican-Times, wrote two articles about the demise of the dinky, saying:

The puffing switch engine, with its steam and smoke and clank and bang and roar also are vanished and been replaced with the plebian Diesels. The Burlington has gone modern – but old time railroaders are a bit nostalgic about the whole affair.

You can read the complete articles, with photographs, here.

Here Comes the Railroad

railroad tracks

The railroad track heading south on its way to Ottawa.

Burlington passenger car

CB&Q caboose

CB&Q passenger car and caboose

store, depot, elevator

The railroad depot in Dayton, between the store on the left and the elevator on the right.

In 1869 the Ottawa, Oswego and Fox River Valley Railroad began purchasing the right of way through Dayton for their planned route from Aurora to Streator. The portion of the route that went through Dayton was not completed until about 1876.

C B & Q 1888

The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy schedule in the Free Trader shown above lists a stop in Dayton. A passenger could board the train at 7:42 in the morning and be in Chicago at 10:35. After a day’s business or shopping, the 4:30 pm train would get one back to Dayton at 7:37. It made spending the day in Chicago an easy trip as nowhere in Dayton was far from the depot.

The CB&Q leased their route from Aurora to Streator, which passed though Dayton, from the O. O. & F.R.V. RR and in 1899 the O. O. & F.R.V. RR was bought by the CB&Q. The CB&Q assets were sold in 1999 to Illinois RailNet, which became Illinois Railway (IR) on May 1, 2005.