The year 1872 marked the beginning of a new era in the railroad history of Chicago. Even as late as 1871, the railroad companies had comparatively little confidence in the realization of the hopes of the citizens, that Chicago was destined to be the great inland commercial metropolis of America. Such a lack of faith is not, however, a matter of surprise. Not even the most sanguine of prophets, looking over the ruins of 1871, could have imagined that before two decades had passed, a new city would arise, in greater beauty and added wealth, to become like Rome, the point to which all roads should lead.
At the beginning of the year of 1872, less than eleven thousand miles of railroad centered in Chicago, and the total number of trains leaving the city daily was seventy-five. The aggregate earnings of all the companies were $82,776,984, of which $29,175,119 were net profits. By the end of 1884, there more than twenty four thousand miles of railroad track, earnings doubled to $162,810,061 while profits reached $66,287,274.
The number of trains leaving the city in 1884 was one hundred seventy eight daily, which doesn’t include the suburban trains.
Birdseye View of the Chicago Railway System
The policy of the railroads has been here, as around most large cities, to build up the suburbs, by affording ample accommodations, at reasonable rates of transportation, to those who sought homes beyond the city limits. The effect has been pronounced and salutary. The territory adjacent to Chicago has been filled with villages of great beauty. Persons who prefer to dwell apart from the noise and whirl of the metropolis have been enabled to combine the quiet of country with the conveniences of city life; and those whose means forbade the purchase of homes at the rates governing the price of real estate in Chicago have found pleasant abodes, easy of access, within their reach.
The growth of the railroad systems centering in Chicago has been so rapid during the period since the fire of 1871, that the corporations, while enlarging their terminal facilities and extending the length of their sidetracks, still complain of a lack of adequate accommodations in the city.