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Grayslake rail history exhibit opens Oct. 13

The exhibit titled All Aboard: A History Railroads Grayslake
will be display Oct. 13 through Feb. 23 Grayslake Heritage
Center Museum.

The exhibit titled All Aboard: A History of Railroads in Grayslake will be on display Oct. 13 through Feb. 23 at Grayslake Heritage Center and Museum.

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Updated: November 12, 2012 6:10AM

GRAYSLAKE — A new exhibition which explores the role of railroads in the creation of Grayslake will be on display at the Grayslake Heritage Center and Museum from Oct. 13 to Feb. 23.

The exhibit “All Aboard: A History of Railroads in Grayslake” tells how the iron horse was important to local businesses and residents. The museum is at 164 Hawley St. Hours are noon to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and during downtown activities.

The exhibit includes rare images and artifacts from the collection of the Grayslake Historical Society, as well as items loaned by local collectors.

A working model train, with a Soo Line engine and cars, will also be on display. Hands-on learning opportunities related to the history of the railroad will appeal to younger visitors.

Two railway systems were prominent players in the development of Grayslake in the late 1800s and early 1900s: The Wisconsin Central Railway, later to become the Soo Line; and the Milwaukee Road, originally named the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway.

The railroads provided an economical and efficient means to transport agricultural, commercial and industrial products to and from the community as well as providing convenient transportation to passengers to and from Grayslake to jobs and recreation.

In 1885, Grayslake became an established station on the Wisconsin Central through the efforts of company representatives who sought the help of “Messrs. Hawley and Whitney ... to secure the right-of-way through the (Gray’s Lake) Farm,” according to “Grayslake: A Historical Portrait,” published by the Grayslake Historical Society.

The company sought to extend the railroad from Stevens Point, Wis. to transport lumber into Illinois. Other products transported by the railroad included livestock, agricultural produce, ice and tile. Passenger service was soon to follow.

Because the line extended into Chicago, commuters took the train into Chicago for their jobs and shopping. And Chicago residents seeking summer fun on the lakes came to Grayslake and the surrounding recreational area of Lake County.

One publication advertised a round-trip ticket to the Chicago Exposition in 1888 for $1.85. With the development of the automobile and trucks, the railroad boom in Grayslake waned beginning in the early 1920s. The milk train ended its run in 1922 after service of 32 years.

Railroad business surged in World War II with the transportation of supplies, equipment and passengers across the country. With gasoline rationing and restrictions on tire sales, many Grayslake businesses, including the Gelatin Co., Rouse stockyards, Wilbur Lumber Co. and Grayslake Feed relied on the railroad, according to “Grayslake: A Historical Portrait”.

In 1961, the name was changed to the Soo Line and passenger service was soon eliminated. The railroad was renamed Wisconsin Central again in 1987 and continues to provide freight service through Grayslake.

In the late 1990s passenger service resumed with the development of the Metra commuter line, including another track, providing passenger service to and from Antioch and Chicago and the many communities in between.

The Milwaukee Road has been providing passenger service to Grayslake for more than 110 years. The company began in 1880 with a line between Rondout and Libertyville. In 1899, the line was expanded and Grayslake became one of its original stations.

Following World War II, commuter traffic increased, but there was concern in the early 1950s by the railroad owners of declining profits. There was a move to abandon suburban commuter service, but public opinion prevailed with the result of commuter service continuing; however, with higher fares and eventually a charge for depot parking which had been free for many years.

Throughout the years there were numerous improvements at the depot including a paved and striped parking lot and a new depot with many remodeling improvements.

For more information, call (847) 543-1745.

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