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NIU grad recalls Sycamore railroad history

Published: Tuesday, June 3, 2014 10:13 p.m. CDT

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SYCAMORE – What started as a 20-page report for Northern Illinois University student Clint Cargile turned into a 220-page book about Sycamore's railroad history.

Cargile is the author of the book, "Five-Mile Spur Line: A Railroad History of Sycamore, Illinois." The book focuses on the history of Sycamore's railroad depot, now home to the DeKalb County Community Foundation, 475 DeKalb Ave., Sycamore.

"The more I researched, I kept finding all these interesting stories," Cargile said. "Instead of writing about the [depot], it became the railroad that built the building, which became an entire book."

Residents will get their first look at the book during an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the DeKalb County Community Foundation. Cargile, who graduated from NIU in May with a master's degree in history and specialization in public history, will give a talk every half-hour starting at 1:30 p.m.

Cargile volunteered to write about the depot in 2011 as part of an internship. He worked with Sue Breese, director of the Joiner History Room in Sycamore, and the Sycamore History Museum to find the necessary research for the book.

What he found was that after DeKalb secured the first railroad in the area, Sycamore leaders decided to build their own five-mile spur line to connect the town to the main line through Cortland, linking Sycamore to Chicago, according to a DeKalb County Community Foundation news release.

The $30 book will be sold at the community foundation, the Sycamore History Museum and the Joiner History Room. Proceeds will benefit all three organizations.

Breese said proceeds will go toward buying office supplies so the Joiner History Room can continue to offer free copies for children working on research projects.

Dan Templin, executive director of the DeKalb County Community Foundation, said their portion of the proceeds will go toward making building renovations. The foundation has already received more than $750,000 from donations and is about $30,000 short of reaching their goal, Templin said.

Cargile said those who read the book will be surprised to learn that not everyone in the mid-1800s was supportive of the railroad idea.

"It was a very contentious issue," he said. "There were people for it and against it. You realize when you do the research that people back then weren't really any different than they are today."

If you go

What: "Five-Mile Spur Line: A Railroad History of Sycamore, Illinois" book event and open house

When: 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday

Where: DeKalb County Community Foundation, 475 DeKalb Ave., Sycamore

Why: Proceeds of the sales will benefit the DeKalb County Community Foundation, Joiner History Room and Sycamore History Museum.

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