Plans for the construction of the Indianapolis, Delphi and Chicago Railroad (which became the Monon) began in 1867, though progress was slow and most citizens along the proposed route had little confidence that it would ever be completed.
Several south Lake County businessmen, including Melvin Halsted of Lowell, began in 1869 to secure the right-of-way for the new line in the Lowell-Cedar Lake area. Halsted invested thousands of dollars of his own money, encouraged other investors, and after stiff opposition from the lake area, obtained the land for the railroad.
By 1874 the work of grading and building bridges began, and much of it was completed when the work was stopped due to a decision by the railroad company to investigate another route. This caused a financial hardship on contractor Halsted, as well as on his south county investors. Companies which furnished supplies and materials for the construction also suffered greatly, with no prospects of ever being paid.
John Lee, a railroad president, had organized a group to investigate a possible route from Brazil, Indiana, to South Chicago, Illinois, a route that would have bypassed both Lowell and Cedar Lake on its way to Illinois. A considerable amount of money was pledged for this project.
But in the fall of 1879, Col. S.B. Yeoman of Ohio undertook the completion of the line, investigated both routes through Lake County, and had a survey made. "For a little while, the interests of the conflicting lines hung in a balance and there was an uncertainty as to what was to be the result, an unpleasant suspense resting in minds of many," said historian Timothy Ball.
Col. Yeoman's report of his survey convinced the railroad and the investors to reconsider the route through Lowell and Cedar Lake. He said in part: "Whatever may be the interests elsewhere in the County as effected by the location, Cedar Lake is too beautiful to be left out, promising too much as a pleasure resort!"
But still another survey was made to build the railroad on the east shore of Cedar Lake, on to Crown Point instead of passing through St. John and Dyer. The citizens of West Creek Twp. and Cedar Creek Twp. gave no encouragement for that proposed route, and it was not projected.
Once again, attention focused on the route through Lowell and the west shore of Cedar Lake. Work to complete the line on the already finished grade was progressing rapidly, and by the spring of 1881, regular trains commenced running through Lowell and Cedar Lake.
Historian Ball said: "The sylvan shores of Cedar Lake became no longer secluded retreat and the former comparatively solitary wilderness swarmed with human life by hundreds and by thousands."
Melvin Halsted wrote: "In the spring of 1874 I began grading a mile south of Creston, and helped to select the route (working 50 deeds), graded most of the right of way, and built some of the bridges from Dyer south. The railroad has been a very costly affair to me, but the town and country received the benefit." Halsted was never completely repaid, for he paid out $85,000 by 1894 and received but $65,000.
Trouble began soon after the tracks were laid through the swamp north of Creston, when the rails began to sink into the swamp, and tales were told about a steam engine sinking into the mire, never to be seen again. The tracks were moved a short way to the west on firmer ground from Creston to the early station of Paisley on the southwest edge of the lake.
Then came the rush to buy lakefront property, the prices being quickly inflated, with most of the owners fearing that they might not realize all the financial benefits that the new situation offered. For a time very little of the lakefront property could be purchased at any price.
In the fall of 1881, excursion trains began to run and pleasure seekers and vacationers came from all parts of the area, including Chicago, Ill.
In the summer of 1882, Cedar Lake was visited by many prominent personalities. The list included U.S. President Chester Arthur, Secretary of War Robert Todd Lincoln (President Lincoln's son), Postmaster General Gresham, Lt.-Gov. Hanna and many others, who, according to Rev. Ball "tarried a moment and saluted the multitudes assembled to greet them."
A regiment of militia from Chicago established a camp at Cedar Lake that same year and remained about seven weeks. Many times during that summer, from three to five thousand soldiers were visiting at a time.
The management of the railroad acknowledged the prospects of Cedar Lake as a resort, established inexpensive rates for commuting to Chicago, ran extra and special trains, and were "obliging and accommodating as far as possible."
Once again a quote from historian Ball: "At this closing of the summer of 1884 and a half century of development; the outlook of the lake is bright and pleasant. Often, during the day, trains of cars wind along the beach, several steamers ply its waters; the sailboats appear like great birds with widespread wings; many row boats dot the waves, and tents adorn the coast line.
"Some can drop their toil and care and rest in the deep, cool shades, or bask in the full, sweet, soft rays of sunlight as the gild the banks, and dance on the sparkling waters of Cedar Lake."
Of the three railroad stations at Cedar Lake, only one now survives, on much newer tracks moved many rods to the west. Paisley was a station at the south, with Armour to the north of the old line along the shore.
On Sept. 30, 1967, a huge crowd assembled at the Lowell Depot, a band played, sirens wailed as the one o'clock Monon passenger train came through Lowell and on to Cedar Lake for the last time. Now, only non- stop Amtrak passenger trains rush past both towns.
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