July 3, 1957 began as most Fridays (after review, it was a Tuesday) before a national holiday began, with people heading off to work with hopes of sneaking away at lunch.
A few commuters headed toward Chicago on the Chicago Aurora and Elgin.
On occasion, the postwar St. Louis cars did serve as the Batavia shuttle car, as illustrated here, and the early wood cars regularly provided peak-load capacity.
There are enough wood cars in the Illinois Railway Museum collection to completely cover weekday electric car service, and enough Chicago Aurora and Elgin cars for the museum to accommodate all weekend riders with equipment from that electric railroad alone.
Here 309-36-308-319 await passengers.
But thanks to the desires of Chicago city fathers to provide an upgrade to the L in the median strip of a planned expressway, Aurora and Elgin cars are terminating at Forest Park, with passengers transferring there to the L, for a slower ride downtown. The railroad has been seeking to abandon all passenger service, with approval from the Illinois Commerce Commission for a suspension of service effective in late April enjoined. Suburban interests would obtain legal authority to assume the service upon posting of a bond. But no such bond was forthcoming, and on July 3 a judge voided the injunction, then closed court for a long weekend.
Railroad officials promptly suspended all service. At the museum, the re-enactment is a bit more dramatic than reality, with passengers asked to leave the train at the next station. It was true back then that a Chicago-bound train and a Fox Valley-bound train both tied up at Wheaton, leaving passengers to their own resources.
A Pullman-built steel car, 409, and Cincinnati steel car, 431, set passengers down.
They then deadhead to the Wheaton car shops.
The wood car train is also on the railroad, and its crew has also received word that service is suspended, effective immediately.
Reality was more dramatic ... there was a set of wood cars laid up at Forest Park, and the station agent there was instructed to post the discontinuance notice, lock up the ticket office, then (despite not being a qualified motorman) use his set of control levers to run the train west, where a relief crew would be available to bring the cars to Wheaton. Oh, and make sure none of the irate passengers attempt to board the train. Here's where an electrified third rail comes in handy ...
Chicago's commuter railroads did honor the tickets of other railroads, and the accounting departments had some work the next day ... plus, at the time, neither the Burlington nor the Chicago and North Western had enough seats for the stranded interurban passengers. But honor the tickets they did.
Steam powered commuter trains were rare in Chicago by 1957. As were commuter trains equipped with push-pull gallery cars. A few years ago, the museum used its Commuter Streamliner as the rescue train.
To keep things in perspective, a two-car Commuter Streamliner can seat more passengers than six of the wooden interurbans did.
There's more on the weekend's events, including reenacting the abandonment, and the work required to get the cars ready, at Hicks Car Works. Just keep scrolling.