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Then & Now: Illinois Traction System – Minooka

The Then images show a view of the Minooka station looking east from the tracks in the early 1930s.
The Then images show a view of the Minooka station looking east from the tracks in the early 1930s.

Interurban railway systems once were a common form of transportation for many towns both large and small across America.

As a mode of transportation, the interurbans were a transition between the sole reliance on steam railroads to the later dependence on automobiles and trucks.

After Frank J. Sprague developed the right motor and delivery system in 1887, the major development of these new electric lines was in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. The terrain of these areas, along with the great number of medium sized rural towns that were fairly densely populated proved to be ideally suited to interurban construction

Electric interurban trains grew out of the city-based networks of electric streetcars, commonly known as trolleys. New transit companies nationwide began to electrify their lines with power supplied by electric motors pioneered by Sprague.

Because electrifying streetcar lines was expensive, a period of consolidation followed within the transit industry that often left a location market with only one or two competitors.

These new, larger, and much better capitalized companies were interested in expansion and helped to expand their extensive networks into the countryside, helping to end rural isolation in the early 20th century.

The Illinois Traction System, an interurban electric system that ran from Chicago to Princeton, was built in several stages. In 1902, the first segment was built from Ottawa through Spring Valley to Ladd. The section eastward from Ottawa to Marseilles was completed that same year. An extension was added eastward from Marseilles to Seneca in 1906, and the westward extension was completed from Marquette to Princeton the following year.

The Chicago, Ottawa & Peoria Railway began operations in 1904 and eventually connected Joliet and Princeton by 1912, when it joined at Joliet with the Chicago & Joliet Electric Railway. With this connection, it was now possible to make a trip from Princeton to Chicago.

In 1923, the entire system became part of the Illinois Traction System. The route remained in operation until 1934 when the system was abandoned.

The Minooka passenger station was constructed like other passenger stations of the Illinois Traction System. Built in 1916, the standard Spanish Mission Revival architectural design included a two-story section that contained a substation.

The brick building has a concrete foundation and measures 73’x 23’. The structure contains brick load-bearing walls with a rock faced brick up to the window sill, and a smooth-faced brick to the roof level.

The structure includes a low-pitched, hipped roof covered with red clay tile. The entire roof is support by steel truss that spans nearly 23’. The roof also has overhanging eaves, decorative brackets and cast iron molded gutters.

The substation portion of the station is where electric power was converted from 33,000 votes to 600 volts for use on the traction system. The east and west walls of the Minooka station contains six circular openings near the second floor roof line that originally were used for receiving cables of the transmission line.

The Minooka passenger station is one of two surviving examples of the standard station design used by the Illinois Traction system for its interurban service. Presently, only the Morris and Minooka stations remain standing.

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