Greetings lads and lassies as we travel back in time. Picture it! The Fox River Valley, 1902. Two Chicagoans venture off to Kane County in search of great bargains at a flea market, go down a random road and end up in a time warp. Jared and I were those boys, and that time warp was the Fox River Trolley Museum. Damn…..and me without my parasol and smelling salts!
Nestled along the Fox River in the sleepy village of South Elgin lies an amazingly quirky and educational treasure—the Fox River Trolley Museum (361 South LaFox Street, South Elgin) Although I’ve heard about this place for years (It’s been around since 1961) it wasn’t until this past weekend when we were coming back from the Kane County Flea Market did I get a taste of trolley life (after tasting Thug Life for SO long). This tiny museum is adorable and so incredibly fun, especially for a grown up kid like myself.
As a said earlier, the Fox River Trolley Museum is an absolute treasure and a total time warp. The museum has a collection of 30 antique electric trolleys, railroad cars, and locomotives, which range in construction from the late 1880’s to the 1950’s. You purchase tickets (a whopping $5) at a tiny restored trolley station named Castlemuir and ride it about 10 minutes (to and from) to a nearby station called Blackhawk (Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve) all while enjoying the sites, sitting in a restored 1902 trolley car.
So hop on as we step back in time to ride the Chicago Aurora and Elgin Railroad! Though today this line is really just for educational purposes the Chicago Aurora and Elgin Railroad during it’s heyday was a major transportation powerhouse, connecting the cities along the Fox River (back then considered separate cities and not just well off suburbs were people like Jenny McCarthy reside in) to Chicago’s West Side and Loop.
And I do really mean restored, from ancient rattan seats to old school, vintage advertisements and a separate section on the trolley for smokers (think of dandy Victorian men smoking pipes, not hipster douchebags and their vapes). Neat side note; the smoking car not only came with a separate door to keep the smell as pipe tobacco away from non-smokers and dainty women prone to “the vapors” but also had a spot on the way where you could strike your match and a separate tiny compartment where to toss your matches (considering the trolley was made of wood, proper match disposal DOES make sense, doesn’t it?).
Suprisingly the rattan seats were actually comfortable and the seats were similar to modern-day Metra seats, you can turn them around if you’re traveling in a group, or if you want to be antisocial just turn it around and face way. The compartments also came with overhead storage so you could carry all your old timey Victorian goodies. I assume parasols and carpetbags, you know, the essentials in travel.
The entire operation in run solely on volunteers who not are incredibly knowledable when it comes to knowing practically everything about all the different trolley cars they have in their museum but surprisingly were so incredibly friendly on as hot as we went (I can saftely attest I almost surcame to the vapors).
And they have other cars to explore as well! Curious to see what the CTA Purple Line was like in the 1970’s? What a vintage South Shore Line train looked like (as if the current South Shore Lines weren’t dated looking enough as it is? But I digress)? How Northshore Ballers traveled in green, velvet comfort in the 1940’s? Don’t worry, the Fox River Trolley Museum has got you covered!
Feelin’ like a baller, or want to at least pretend to be baller? Please consider dropping a few bucks their way! How many people came to know (or at least remember) the Fox River Trolley Museum is not for a good reason. Two, pardon my French, little fuckers decided one night to bust out the windows of many of their historic trolley cars with an icepick, just for shits and giggles, and caused a whooping $110,000 worth of damage to trolley cars that have literally been on this planet for over 70 years. So if you feel the need to give, please drop a few bucks their way; Fox River Trolley Museum GoFundMe. Or if you want to visit and also embrace time warp life like we did; stop by on by!