Best known to most today as the old Chicago & North Western Railroad Depot in Sycamore, IL.
Other names, or aliases: The North Western, CNW, C & NW, C&NW.
The present Depot was completed in 1880 and replaced a smaller wooden depot completed in
1859. Initially, the present Depot served the Sycamore, Cortland & Chicago Railroad which
was for a time managed by Chauncey Ellwood, a Sycamore lawyer and stockholder. Mr.
Ellwood organized local funds to replace the lineís original engine with a new Baldwin in
The present Depot was built in an Italianate style that was popular in Sycamore in the late
nineteenth century. It was finished with brick pilasters, a string course of stone beneath the
second floor windows, and segmental arches over the windows and doors to dress out what was
actually a very utilitarian building. The headhouse was approximately 36 feet by 35 feet and
included a large waiting room and ticket office on the first floor, and four offices on the second
floor. The rear freight room had freight doors on the west and north end and is about 33 feet by
72 feet in dimension, featuring massive wood beams and hand-hewn rafters supporting the
The Chicago & Northwestern Railroad purchased the SC&C Railroad in 1883 to get a right-of-way
through Sycamore and its agricultural market. It also connected northern Illinois with coal
pits in Spring Valley, about 55 miles south of Sycamore. In time, the new mainline passing on
the west side of the Depot connected Spring Valley with Belvidere and industrial centers in
southern Wisconsin, avoiding the rail congestion closer to Chicago.
The Depot underwent some modernizing and remodeling in the decades that followed,
including the installation of menís and womenís toilets on the first floor, and a separate
smoking area. Electricity replaced the original kerosene lamps and a wooden extension was
added to the north end of the brick freight room. The last through passenger train stopped at the
Depot in January 1931, but a short run between Sycamore and DeKalb remained in service
until 1937. For a brief period, the Depot was used as the Sycamore bus station. In 1942, the
extension from Sycamore to Belvidere was abandoned, and in 1963 the C&NW sold the Depot
to a local lumber dealer and the wooden freight extension was demolished.