East Alton to Hillsboro
This railroad line was built in 1855 by the Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Chicago Railway, which merged with other local railroads to form the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and Saint Louis Railway, "The Big Four". The line changed hands again in 1906 when the New York Central purchased the CCC&StL.
Date of abandonment of the line is not known.
This line was built by the Terre Haute and Alton Railroad. In January 1851, the Illinois legislature chartered the Terre Haute and Alton, and construction began in 1852. George H. Drury, in "The Historical Guide to North American Railroads", reports that the expectation of its builders was that Alton would be more important than St. Louis. On March 1, 1856, the main line from Terre Haute, Indiana, to Alton, Illinois, was completed. Through the usual nineteenth century process of corporate combinations and financial failures, this line came into the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati & Indianapolis in July 1882. In 1889 that railroad was consolidated into the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway. John Szawjkart, in "Train Watcher's Guide to St. Louis", reports that "about 1900" the railroad built the Pana Sub, a new route from Hillsboro to Mitchell. This new route was a shortcut to St. Louis. Szawjkart reports that "...the original main was relegated to local service and slowly abandoned." Drury reports that New York Central leased the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis in 1930.
I am about the last NYC trainman alive that worked this line. My Dad worked it through the 1940's and 50's. I hired in 1962 and worked it with him up until close to the end around 1982. I can probably get the exact date from my old time book. They opened the "Short Line " for the St Louis World's Fair in 1904. I have several old pictures of them digging at Hillsboro building the new route. I have some pictures of Hillsboro, Litchfield,Hornsby,East Gillispie, Gillispie,Bunker Hill Dorsey, Bethalto, and East Alton.
Interesting comments by Mr. Gilpin and Mr. Arnett. I'm working on a history of the original main line between Hillsboro and Butler, which is now a hiking trail. By "Short Line", do you mean what became the main line and still serves as such between Hillsboro and St. Louis? If there are pictures of the construction of the main line near Hillsboro, I'm sure the Montgomery County Historical Society would be interested. My recollection is that the use of the old main line ended in the late 1960's. Do you think that this line was actually in use until 1982?
The previous comment is by Mark Joy. For some reason my name didn't show up on the post.
I love reading the comments and looking at the information. I am interested in collecting as much information as possible from Illinois and especially personal experiences. I only have bits of information I can get online. Would anyone like to share with me? I stumbled on to this site because I am researching abandoned rail cities and this one seems to be linked to Anderson in Macoupin county (very hard to locate 39.344 -89.845).
Mr. Joy, I have done some searching and found that the NYC ran a eastbound Passinger Train over the Old Line from St Louis- East Alton -Hillsboro back in 1934. it doesn't show a westbound at that time, just East. In employees Timetable # 4 dated Sept. 30, 1934 shows Train # 2 The Indianapolis Special departing St Louis at 615 am daily except Sunday stopping in East Alton at 705am-Bethalto-715am-Moro-718am-Dorsey 726am Bunker Hill 737am Dorchester 746am Gillispie 756am Hornsby 805am Litchfield 825am Butler 837am arriving Hillsboro 850am Mattoon 1045am. Number 2 was not in the Timetable on TT # 18 June 22, 1941. They ran a Mixed train with a Coach on the rear of Local # 56 & 57 until TT # 20 dated June 7, 1942 56 & 57 ran daily except Sundays. # 57 was Westbound and #56 Eastbound. I'm still looking for the date on last train out of Hillsboro the date of the first train down the short line in 1904.
Does anybody out there have any old pictures of East Alton that i can get copies of for a permanent display in East Alton city hall. old souvenirs n memorabilia etc. thanks
I lived in Bunker Hill and our house was near the elevator in town. We moved to the house in the mid 60's and I could watch the switching at the elevator from my bedroom window. At that point in time, Bunker Hill was the "end of the line" and the train usually arrived at night, maybe once or twice a week. When I graduated from high school in 1973, I believe service had already stopped.
The section of the "Old Line" between the west side of Litchfield and the Olin Brass plant at East Alton was abandoned in 1965 by the New York Central Railroad, lessee of the Big Four since 1930. The 12-mile stub from Hillsboro to Litchfield continued operating in order to serve International Paper, Litchfield Creamery Company, Litchfield Lumber Company and Weather-Proof Company (WEPCO), which was located in the old American Radiator plant at Litchfield. The NYC interchanged cars with the Illinois Central, Wabash (later Norfolk & Western) and Burlington (CB&Q) Railroads in Litchfield. The NYC became part of the Penn Central in 1968. Service between Hillsboro and Litchfield continued until 1973, when washouts on the line caused its closure. The Illinois Central obtained operating rights over the line at Litchfield for a time in order to serve the International Paper plant. Despite being out of service, the line between Hillsboro and Litchfield was not officially abandoned until 1976, when Conrail, which was formed to take over operations of the Penn Central and various other bankrupt railroads, did not include the line in its system. I grew up near this line and remember its operations very well. I later worked for Conrail from 1985 to 1999.
P.S. to my earlier post: I would be very interested in any photos of the Old Line (track, depots, trains, industries, etc.) that readers might want to share. Thanks!
Thank you Mr. Edrington for the "recent" history on the line. I know I was one disappointed young boy when the train stopped coming to town. You may already know that part of the line is still utilized in Litchfield to switch an industrial park on the west side of town near the old Route 66. It's a high nose switcher painted in the late Illinois Terminal livery. Pretty hard to miss in that color. I see it occasionally when we visit relatives in Hillsboro. It was actually featured in Trains Magazine some time back.
Additionally Mr. Edrington. You may want to contact the Bunker Hill Library or the Historical Society for pictures that might be available. I'm sure if you Google them, there is a way to contact them. I do know the old station no longer exists in Bunker Hill.
You're right, Mr. Scroggins, and I should have pointed that out in my earlier post: a short piece of the Big Four does still exist in Litchfield to connect the industrial park to BNSF's Galesburg-Paducah line. (Further east on the Big Four, a short segment still exists at Shelbyville also, primarily to connect an International Paper plant to UP's former C&EI line between Chicago and Benton.) I remember the Big Four depots at Hillsboro, Litchfield (freight house) and Gillespie, but not Bunker Hill. I also have a vivid memory of seeing a westbound NYC "caboose hop" (only an engine and caboose) around sunset, just east of the former C&NW crossing between Hornsby and Gillespie, not long befoe the line was abandoned west of Litchfield. As I kid I used to watch "Milnot" cans being unloaded from boxcars at the Litchfield Creamery, and saw the local freight at many locations between Hillsboro and Litchfield.
I remember when the trains on this line still ran through Litchfield, IL.
I know this is about the railroad line, but wondered if anyone would have any photos of the old coal mine, that was next to the tracks just north of the old Radiator Plant, in Litchfield?
Please comment on the old Hillsboro-Butler / Hillsboro-Litchfield line that appears to have run from the Schram Glass - Kortcamp mine area in a curving Northwesterly route through Hillsboro, across Taylorville Rd near what is now the municipal waste treatment plant, over the creek (trestle) and the must have split with one track heading North to Butler and the other track heading West over to Litchfield. Easy to see on Bing and Google Earth the tree-filled RR right of way that hide whatever is left of the old track. Question: I walked on the trestle just off Taylorville Rd in the latter 1950s thru late 1960s during visits to Hillsboro: when was that trestle removed...or did it collapse into the creek? And, is the story my relatives told of a locomotive derailing off that trestle and dropping into the creek bed decades earlier actually true?
For Thom -Bangkok, CN. I'm sorry, I don't know what happened to the trestle that was by where the waste water treatment plant is now. I do know that the line did go on through Butler and wind around in to Litchfield. That was the Big4 Line, and the railroad that built Litchfield, IL. Sadly, the rail line has been gone for a long time now.
Many thanks indeed to Brenda R of Litchfield.
Bangkok Thailand (only int'l choice on this site is Canada)
Brenda R....I believe that trestle was a casualty of the flooding in 1973. Perhaps Mr. Edrington can help you if he still subscribes.
The through truss bridge over Middle Shoal Creek near the Hillsboro sewage treatment plant was still standing for some time after abandonment of the line. Likewise, the girder bridge over West Shoal Creek between Litchfield and Butler stood for a number of years after abandonment, before finally being dismantled. I am not sure exactly where the washout that caused Penn Central to embargo the line in 1973 actually occurred. The line was in poor condition and carried very little freight by then. It primarily served International Paper at Litchfield and received only a small switching charge from connecting railroads at Litchfield (ICG, N&W, BN) to move cars the short distance from the connections with those lines out to the IP plant on the west side of town. When the PC embargoed the line, the ICG received temporary authority to operate over that section of the line so it could continue to serve IP. Service east to Hillsboro never resumed. PC was undoubtedly glad to be rid of it, and in the analysis and planning leading up to Conrail's takeover of the PC and other bankrupt railroads in the East, the line was left out of the Conrail system. The PC bankruptcy estate then salvaged the rail for scrap, and offered the right-of-way for sale.
After doing a lot of research I found my Old Penn Central Timetable # 6 with Bulliten Order # 601 they took the Old Line out of Service at 1201am April 29, 1973 the last train operated over this Line supposedly was April 20, 1973. There was a wash out at MP 200 near the West Shoal Creek Bridge little over a mile west of Butler. There had been a 5 MPH slow order on this section for several years. It kept washing out with each hard rain. In an earlier statement I mistakenly reported they closed this line in 1982 that is when they closed the line between Paris and Pana. After taking this out of service the IC did the switching for a short time at Litchfield and then the CB&Q took over until Terry Respondent Corp. began switching Litchfield on the former NYC tracks west of the CB&Q diamond.
Jim Arnett - I have meant to get in touch with you for some time regarding the Big Four "Old Line" between Hillsboro and Lenox, IL. You indicated previously that you had worked the line and that you have photos of various points between Hillsboro and East Alton. I would be very interested in obtaining copies of those photos, bulletin orders or any other documents pertaining to the Old Line. I'd be more than happy to pay for those copies and the cost of mailing them. I was born in Litchfield, grew up near the line east of Litchfield, and remember it well. I also worked for Conrail from 1985 until the CSX-NS split. If you would like to get in touch with me, you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks -- hope to hear from you.
Mr. Arnett...1973 sounds about right for the final operation to Bunker Hill. I graduated from high school that year and remember that the trains stopped about then. Bunker Hill has been in steady decline since then. The lumber yard that was serviced has been out of business now for several years and the grain elevator now ships everything by truck.
Thanks to several for responses regarding the Hillsboro trestle (below).
May be a minor point in the scheme of things, and perhaps only important as a story from my youth, however I am still wondering if anyone has info on whether a locomotive really came off the tracks on the trestle and is now buried in the creek below? Could this be true?
In reference to the "trestle in question"...the old Hillsboro-Butler / Hillsboro-Litchfield line that appears to have run from the Schram Glass - Kortcamp mine area in a curving Northwesterly route through Hillsboro, across Taylorville Rd near what is now the municipal waste treatment plant, over the creek (Middle Fork of Shoal Creek?) on the TRESTLE and then must have split with one track heading North to Butler and the other track heading West over to Litchfield.
Question: my relatives and I walked on this trestle in the latter 1950s thru late 1960s during visits to Hillsboro. Is the story my relatives told of a locomotive derailing off that trestle and dropping into the creek bed below decades earlier actually true?
I am also looking for information about the Big Four/NYC in the Litchfield, Illinois area. I fond the following notes from the brochure of a Challenger fan-trip that might flesh things out. I take it that the new Pana Sub bypassed Litchfield???
Notes by Brian T. McQuilty, St. Louis Chapter, National Railroad Historical Society.
Monday, July 19, 1993
Villa Grove, Illinois
The Big Four Route
The portion of today's excursion via Union Pacific's Pana (pronounced Pay'-na) Subdivision is the end result of many years of mergers and acquisitions, beginning in 1852 with the organization of the Terre Haute & Alton Railroad. Its backers favored a railroad to Indiana across coal-rich Southern Illinois to bolster the trade of the town of Alton, Ill., located on the Mississippi River above St. Louis, in the hope that it would gain dominance over St. Louis. The TH&A soon combined with the Belleville & Illinoistown Railroad to form the Terre Haute, Alton
& St. Louis, which opened for business in October, 1856. After an 1861 reorganization, this road emerged as the St. Louis, Alton & Terre Haute.
In 1867 the line was leased for 99 years by the Indianapolis & St. Louis Railroad, which was building between Indianapolis and Terre Haute. However, both the St. Louis, Alton & Terre Haute and the Indianapolis & St. Louis came under the control of the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati & Indianapolis Railroad (The Bee Line) in 1882. Seven years later, the Bee Line in tum combined with the Vanderbilt-backed Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis & Chicago Railroad to form the Big Four Route: the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad.
In December of 1904, the Big Four completed a "cutoff' into St. Louis, diverging from the original line at Hillsboro, Illinois and rejoining it at Lenox Tower at Mitchell, Illinois, northeast of St. Louis. The cutoff was in places heavily engineered with cuts and fills; it did not follow the existing topography as the old route had, over some surprisingly rugged countryside. The cutoff saved twelve miles and bypassed Alton, which by that time had lost the river commerce race to St. Louis. The Big Four immediately rerouted fourteen of its daily passenger trains onto the cutoff, including the route's premier train, the Southwestern Limited, leaving only five passenger trains to serve the eleven stations on the old line until 1942, when passenger service ended on the original route.
The Big Four Route operated semi-independently until 1930, when it was leased by the New York Central System. The NYC's ill-fated merger with the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1968 brought the line under the control of the new Penn Central. The Pennsylvania, however, had its own line into St. Louis at the time of the merger, which left the merged Penn Central with two closely parallel routes across Illinois. This situation continued into the period of Conrail ownership beginning in 1976 after the resolution of the Penn Central bankruptcy.
In April 1982 Conrail sold the Pana Subdivision to the Missouri Pacific Railroad, opting to use its ex-Pennsylvania line between St. Louis and Terre Haute, Indiana. The MoPac single-tracked the Pana Sub and extensively rebuilt it into a 60 mile-per-hour railroad, with remote dispatching from North Little Rock, Arkansa, using Centralized Traffic Control (CTC). The Missouri Pacific's merger with the Union Pacific Railroad in 1982 finally completed the long list of owners. Today, the Pana Subdivision forms an important link in the Union Pacific System, and hosts about eight freight trains daily.