Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Depot, Plano Illinois

Date added: November 3, 2022 Categories: Illinois Train Station

The Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy Railroad was one of the country's major railroad companies. Freight and passengers were being moved between Chicago and states to the west on the C. B. & Q. Railroad line, with the main tracks to and from Chicago going directly through Plano. The C. B. & Q. Depot was constructed of brick to replace the aging wooden depot and to provide a solid statement of support to the community of Plano from the railroad company.

Plano was not built upon a river as its neighbors to the east, Yorkville and Oswego had been. Instead, it was built around the railroad. When the engineers from the Aurora Branch Railroad were making preliminary surveys, a route through Little Rock which was approximately five miles northwest of Plano, was considered. Lewis Steward suggested a route farther to the south would be less expensive and he promised to build a "good live town" for them, and it was done. Plano has often been called "The Child of Lewis Steward's Creation." Lewis Steward laid out the town, planted trees, set up provisions for a water works, and put in a grain elevator.

The name, Plano, Spanish for plain, was suggested by John Hollister. The name refers to the fact that the town does not lie along the river banks but high up on a plain. The town was laid out in 1853, soon after the railroad tracks were laid. Plano was incorporated as a village in 1863 and became a city in 1883.

The first depot was a wooden one, manufactured in Aurora and transported by rail to the site. It was originally located on the south side of the railroad tracks and was built in 1855. When the present depot was built in 1913 the wood depot continued to be used as a freight depot for some time. It was moved in 1978 to its present location at the Kendall County Historical Society's Lyon's Farm and Village in Yorkville, Illinois.

"Altogether, the new depot, besides meeting a need of long standing in Plano is to be a building that Plano may point to with pride. It will be an asset in the general public's estimation of the town, for its appearance is to be such a decided improvement on the old depot." Kendall County News. June 4, 1913

"If this is done, and we firmly believe it will be, the citizens of Plano will have a mighty warm spot in their hearts for the good old Burlington R. R. and it will be a black eye, possibly, to a competing electric road." Kendall County News, February 26, 1913

The depot was built by Eidelgeorge, Reuter and Company of Aurora. It was finished in 1913. For many years much of the activity of the growing community centered around the railroad and depot. Plano became an industrial city and the railroad was of great importance in bringing in materials and shipping out products which were largely farm machinery. The Independent Harvester Company was one of the great benefactors of the freight and passenger system. A memo from E. D. McNamara, the station agent, to William Deering Steward, president of the Independent Harvester Company, dated September 13, 1915, reported that the period of July 1, 1914, to July 1, 1915, had seen the greatest total of carload shipments during one year since the establishment of the railroad at this point.

The passenger trains served not only the business community but all the townspeople. Many men took the train to work in Aurora, some worked in the Burlington Railroad shops.

In September of 1913 the National Farmer's Congress met in Plano for the First National Conference on Marketing and Farm Credits. In attendance was Governor Dunne of Illinois who arrived on a special train. The whole town turned out to greet the governor for a day of celebration. This celebration was held in the immediate area surrounding the depot. Photographs showing the large crowd standing around the depot are on display at the Kendall County Historical Society's Archives.

Several headlines from 1917 read about special events centered around the trains. "To Welcome Capt. Lord Home, The People of Plano, Regardless of Creed, Station in Life or Color are Going to Give Kendall County's Only Soldier Boy Who Went to The Front a Royal Welcome as He Alights from The Midnight Train Tonight." Another reads: "The Third Regiment Illinois National Guards are on their way to Houston, Texas, will arrive in Plano Thursday morning, tomorrow, 12 coaches at 9:30 and stop ten minutes. Major Lord and other Plano boys will be on this train. Let Plano give them a grand reception and suitable farewell and make it a royal ten minutes so that the 3rd Regiment will always remember Plano."

The depot was somewhat of a social center. Reporters from the local newspaper regularly met the trains and wrote news items about the comings and goings of the people. In the late 1920s Plano's citizens looked forward to watching a train each week which brought girls from Chicago for a week's outing at Millhurst, a YWCA summer camp south of town. The girls wore the sports clothes of the day and townspeople still recall those baggy, black bloomers that were in style at the time. The girls walked back and forth to town and always created a lot of interest wherever they went.

Mail came to Plano daily on several trains. Pouches were quickly delivered to the Post Office and sorted, and the citizens had immediate access to their mail.

In the days when few people had telephones, the Western Union telegraph office kept the local citizens in touch with the larger world. Western Union served the business community as well. For other people, the telegrams often brought news of the deaths of family members. During World War II, station agent Frank Young was responsible for notifying families of servicemen of injuries and deaths.

"Whenever there is talk of railroad activities in Plano from 1917 to 1945 the name of Walter Sanderson enters the conversation. Sanderson came to Plano from Canada in 1917 and immediately became employed at the pumping station east of town near the bridge. Sometime in the early 1930s with the coming of diesel engines, the pumping station was abandoned and Sanderson came into town as the gatekeeper at the railroad switch tower on Center Street. During many of these years he worked a seven-day week, fifty-two weeks a year. His faithfulness to duty and his quiet friendliness continues to be remembered by all who knew him." Plano Record, June 27, 1979

Still in the memory of many Plano people is the passing through of the Burlington "Zephyr," the new streamlined passenger train, on its non-stop trip from Denver, Colorado to the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago in 1934. R. A. Graves, Mayor of Plano, issued a statement in the Kendall County News, giving the information that on Saturday, May 26, a whistle one hour before its coming would give the citizens time to get to the tracks. "City Officials, American Legion, Superintendent, and Teachers of the schools have agreed to assist in keeping people back a safe distance from the track and it should be understood by everyone that to get the best view of the train you should be back at least fifty feet away from the Railroad." People who remember being there recall the crowd as being the largest they had seen in Plano.

Currently, Amtrak stops at the Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy Railroad Depot on the Burlington Northern tracks, one of the smallest stops in the nation.

Building Description

The Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy Railroad Depot is strategically located in the center of downtown Plano, Illinois on West Main Street. On the south side is the Burlington Northern railroad tracks. To the north is Main Street with its row of commercial buildings. On the east and west ends are city parking lots. The building was constructed in 1913.

The following physical description of the proposed new depot was printed in the Kendall County News, June 4, 1913:

This building is one of the three which they are now erecting, one at Macomb, one at Sandwich, and the other here in Plano, - all of about the same size and construction, and all meeting the pressing needs for station accommodations in the towns named.

Plano's new depot is to be on the north side of the C. B. & Q. Tracks, directly opposite the old depot site. It will cost approximately $15,000. The measurements over all, will be 100 feet long by 24 feet wide, by 16 feet high with a five foot extension on either side at the center to provide a main entrance, on the city side, and a larger room for the ticket office and operator's room on the track side. Already eighteen men are at work on the concrete foundations, which had to be put down six feet beneath the former ground level before a sufficiently solid footing could be secured. The old park area is to be graded up to within six inches of the level of the station floor, which will be eighteen inches higher than the track. The space not occupied by the actual depot and its surrounding brick platform will be sodded and graded and will add a great deal to the beauty of the main street in Plano.

The building is a narrow rectangle that sits east/west on the site, parallel to the railroad. It is a one-story brownish-red brick building with a basement for the mechanicals at the west end, and a crawl space under the center section. The red tile roof is gabled with its ridge parallel to the main length of the building. At the center of the building is a higher roof that has a ridge perpendicular to the main roof. This perpendicular roof is used to highlight the building entrance on one side of the building and the ticket office on the other side. The building has a single chimney located in the western 1/3 of the building. The foundation of the building is concrete. The trim and water table is Bedford limestone. Most of the windows are double-hung and have wood frames.

On the north elevation, the centrally located entrance protrudes northward from the adjacent building walls to clearly designate the entrance. The entrance has two aluminum and glass doors (these originally were wooden) and a large transom above. Two metal bracket light fixtures flank either side of the doors, with three-over-one windows on either end that provide light and ventilation for the restrooms, completing the entrance. East of the entrance are two sets of two, one-over-one windows with three-pane transoms above. This configuration is repeated directly to the west of the entrance. The westerly quarter of the north elevation has two pairs of three-over-one windows.

The east elevation has at its center a wooden door with two panels on the lower half and a glass panel in the top half, with a four-pane transom window above. On either side are single, one-over-one windows with a three-pane transom above.

The south elevation, which faces the tracks, has, starting on the east and proceeding to the west the following: a pair of one-over-one windows with three-pane transoms flanking a larger one-over-one window with a four-pane transom; a wooden door with two panels on the lower half and a glass panel in the top half, with a four-pane transom window above; the ticket office projects out from the adjacent walls with a pair of one-over-one windows on either side of a three-over-three window, the original three-pane transoms have been boarded over. Repeated to the west, or men's waiting room side of the ticket office is a mirror image of the door/window arrangement from the women's waiting room side. The westerly quarter of the south elevation has two pairs of three-over-one windows. There are single, one-over-one windows with three-pane transoms on both the east and west elevations of the ticket office.

The west elevation has a pair of large wooden freight doors with a single seven-pane transom above.

The interior's east end is a large waiting room for women. Near the center of the building is the entrance core, consisting of the entry, vestibule, restrooms, and ticket office. The ticket window has metal bars and decorative glass. West of the entrance core is the men's waiting room. The west end of the building consists of the baggage room and the access to the basement below.

The floors are mosaic tile. The walls have a five-foot-high tile wainscoting and plaster above. The woodwork is oak.

Few changes have occurred since the building was built. These include a set of modern glass entrance doors, and the division of the men's waiting room into two smaller office spaces.