v27-1 Hazards of Early Train Travel

Vol. XXVII No. 1 - SPRING 2016

By LeRoy Blommaert

The next time you miss your bus, or your “L” is delayed, reflect on this account of an early train journey from Milwaukee to Chicago over what is now the Metra North division that forms the western boundary of Edgewater. The account appeared in the February 1, 1856, issue of the Chicago Tribune.

On the morning of the ninth of January, Mr. Hibbard, a conductor of passenger trains on the Chicago and Milwaukee road, left the latter place [Milwaukee] with his train at the usual hour of starting, arriving at the State Line on time. Here he waited some sixteen minutes for the train from Chicago before it arrived. At Chittenden [renamed Rose Hill in 1859 after the cemetery opened] he had gained nine minutes, behind time, and a fair prospect to get through on time, when he found, about two miles south of Chittenden, thirteen freight cars standing on the track, having been left there by the accommodation train. [At this early stage, just about a year after the line opened, the line was single track with sidings for passing.] Being obliged to wait for the right to the track for some time and getting out of wood and water, the engine returned to Evanston and got a good supply of fuel and water and then proceeded to remove the freight cars to a side track. In doing this, the coupling bars of the engine broke and our friend Hibbard was forced most unwittingly to the conclusion that the game was up and the train would have to be out all night, it being after ?? O’clock [unable to make out the number]

Determined that his passengers should be made as comfortable as possible, Mr. Hibbard chartered a team and came to Chicago for provisions. Applying to Mr. Drake at the Tremont [an early Chicago hotel], he was supplied with an ample quantity of good things. Starting back for the train he reached it about 2 o’clock in the morning, finding his passengers contented and cheerful to an astonishing degree and keeping up the glowing fires in the stoves. Breakfast was soon served picnic fashion.

Nothing could be done to get the train clear and neither wood nor assistance came from Chicago, the officials here making no useful effort to relieve the sufferers. At one o’clock p.m. a freight and wood train arrived and Mr. Hibbard at once proceeded to work with the three engines on hand and cleared the track so as to reach this city at 9 o’clock that night – all safe and sound.

Oh… one more thing: The Chicago Tribune reported on January 10, 1856: “According to the Tremont House thermometer the mercury fell to thirty-one degrees below zero Wednesday morning” Wednesday was January 9, the day the train left Milwaukee.