Galesburg to West Havana

Fulton County Narrow Gauge Railroad

The Fulton County Narrow Gauge Railroad, also known as the Spoon River Peavine, was built between Galesburg and West Havana, Illinois, around 1880. It served strip mines and local farmers within Fulton County, and operated passanger trains up until the early 1900s. The line was converted to standard gauge around 1910. In 1930, the line was purchased by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railway. In 1934, portions of the line between Fairview and Galesburg and between Lewistown to Havana were petitioned for abandonment; those segments were torn about 1934/1935.

The right-of-way can still be found in the some areas (especially north of Lewistown near IL Route 97, and north of Fairview), though most of it no longer exists.

The Fulton County history book from 1968 states the only thing left of the little community of Bybee was the former right-of-way and a cemetery.

The FCNG went through the following towns:

  • Lewistown
  • Cuba
  • Fiatt
  • Fairview

Thanks to Jan Smith for contributing information about this route.

For the story of this line, see _History of the Fulton County Narrow Gauge Railway, Spoon River "Peavine"_ by E.W. Mureen, Bulletin 61A (Revised) of The Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, Inc., 1988.

According to Mureen, the leadership in Lewiston started the railroad in 1878 in an effort to secure the political allegiance of northern Fulton County in the struggle with Canton for possession of the county seat. Lewiston won. The line operated until August 23, 1934.

Last time I looked (a long time ago), most of the grade had been plowed under. The only parts still visible were at road crossings or where some buildings still stood along the ROW, as at Fiatt. I also remember a short stretch still extant immediately north of the Spoon River at London Mills.

Richard V. Gilpin
St. Louis, MO
8/29/2010

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exactly, where is the tracks at in havana?? i lived there a few years of my life and i didn't know about the abandend tracks. could you tell me anything about it, like if people are able to walk on it, ride there bikes between the rails etc. also, i would like to have the directions to the tracks as well if possible. i greatly appreciate the information. p.s. my name is greg.

Greg
Havana, IL
9/17/2010

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Greg, it never reached Havana. The line terminated in West Havana aka Point Isabel, just south of where the Spoon River empties into the Illinois, directly across from Havana. Both rivers have undergone significant engineering and the former townsite appears to be a wooded marsh. I'm not sure if another RR ever crossed there. If not, its load would have either ferried across and/or transferred onto barges at West Havana.

John
Alton, IL
9/26/2010

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I read they ferried passengers acrossed. The tracks were removed from West Havana about 1935. The freight was also at one point ferried acrossed. I think there was a temporary bridge that was rented from another railroad there but it was too expensive or something & they had quit using it. I need to dig out the book on this i got in a box in a closet & reread it. Theres still concrete slab near the riverfront park at Havana where the bridge use to cross but no track or bridge in that spot remains today. The only way to cross the river is the Highway 136 bridge down the river from that.

Im not sure if the old grade can be seen or not as its a wooded & marshy area now. Theres a fishing area with a trail that goes around near the Spoon River that is currently in the area. The trail leads back into wooded area near the area the tracks were but i didnt see anything when i walked it 5 or 6 years ago. This area is right next to The Spoon River on Rt 78 west of Havana.

Jan Smith
Cuba, IL
10/15/2010

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There was a railroad bridge over the Illinois River at Havana. From what research I have done to this point, it appears it was constructed circa 1873-74 by the Indianapolis, Bloomington & Western Ry, owners of the line that later became the Illinois Central's Havana District. This line was to be extended to the Mississippi River at Keokuk, but never made it. IB&W went bankrupt and the bondholders of IB&W's "Extension Railway" (ie the future ICRR Havana Dist) bought the line at auction and formed the Champaign, Havana & Western Ry. CH&W was almost immediately leased or consolidated (haven't determined which, yet) by Jay Gould's Wabash, St. Louis & Pacific. Gould had no interest in pushing track farther West at Havana as the Wabash already had a line from Decatur to Kansas City via Springfiled and Hannibal; however, Gould also happened to own the narrrow-gauge Havana, Rantoul & Eastern line which was constructing East and West out of Rantoul. The FCNG was granted rights to lay a third rail across the bridge, in anticipation of connecting with the HR&E upon reaching Havana, and operated trains into Havana. HR&E never made it to Havana and the trackage rights agreement was terminated around 1886-7. FCNG terminated in West Havana after that. Interestingly, that date also corresponds with the Wabash bankrupcy and the Wabash controlled CH&W line changing hands from Wabash to Illinois Central.

If anyone has documented information on the Havana bridge, I'd like to hear about it.

Thomas Scott Jr.
Monticello, IL
5/30/2012

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I have found a couple pictures of the Fulton County Narrow Gauge, in the Canadian Archives of all places. I can send them if you have a email address.

Ralph Beaumont
Canada
11/13/2012

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I think part of this line still has a coal tower somewhere I don't know right now

austin
morton, IL
7/4/2013

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Found a 20ft high cut-stone bridge pier on the West side of the Illinois River at Havana - the remains of the IB&W/CH&W bridge. It is on the North side of the Rte 136 highway bridge and about 100 feet back of the river bank. Couldn't find any other evidence of the old railroad bridge. I suspect that the current Rte 136 bridge, and Rte 136 going West, were probably constructed either on or partially on the railroad right of way. If anyone has pics or other information on the CH&W or the FCNG, I have a hotmail.com account and handle is nkp639.

Thomas Scott Jr.
Monticello, IL
8/2/2013

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and if you ant any righter there it is ok

austin
morton, IL
8/7/2013

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As of October 14, 2013 where can you see the remnants of this line? i looked at fairview and could not see the ROW. i was almost on my hands and knees at the point the map showed the railroad crossed the road.

Robert Thompson
Peoria, IL
10/14/2013

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Was the rail bridge at Havana ever used? I thought the portion of this line from Lewistown to Fairview was used up into the 1970s because of the coal mine in Fairview. it was I understood North of Fairview and South of Lewistown that was abandoned in 1934.

Robert Thompson
Peoria, IL
10/16/2013

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The line was still in existence, albeit standard guage, from Lewistown to fairview. A spur across Route 97 south of Cuba went to a coal mine and still ahd a flasher on Route 97 though the tracks had not been used in quite some time. The right of way was scenic and would have been great for a tourist line or even a bicycle trail. However, neither of these happened. The old depot in Lewistown is a museum of Fulton County Narrow Guage. A flasher on Route 95 had bright lights on top to illuminate the tracks wehn a train was crossing. The highway dipped either side of the line, so visibility may have been an issue.

The ferry llanding in Havana was in use in 1998. The bridge piers had deteriorated and repairs were necessary, lest the bridge collapse into the river. A temporary ferry landing was built on the west side while bridge was closed for repairs. Traffic congestion was severe as three highways crossing at Havana. Even with two ferries, waits of an hur or more were not uncommon. One of the ferry barges was later the Grafton Illinois to Missouri.

George R. Carlisle
formerly Urbana, IL, IL
1/13/2014

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there appears to be an abandoned railroad grade running at a northwest-southwest angle bordering the Living Springs Methodist camp a couple miles northwest of Lewiston. I wondered if this was a remnant of the line

karl
oakford, IL
9/25/2014

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Karl, I believe that is one of the few sites than can be seen. That is i believe on the portion of the track that was ran into the 1970's serving the coal mines.

Robert Thompson
Peoria, IL
9/25/2014

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I have a number of old postcards in my collection showing the abandoned bridge piers of the IB&W/CH&W bridge at Havana still in place in the early 1900's. I'm curious about the former FCNG routing at Lewistown before the CB&Q rerouting onto their own line through town.

Bob Fiedler
Evergreen Park, IL
4/18/2015

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South of Fairview on a gravel road is a cement railroad crossing marker. It is south of the old town of Bybee

Larry
Canton, IL
3/5/2016

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you know people have tried to tell me about the marker in bybee for years and i for the life of me cannot find it

Robert Thompson
Peoria, IL
3/5/2016

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I'm not sure there is a marker for the town. I know about where it was located, and the cemetery sits back in a field off the road. Don't know if a person could gain entry to it or not. The next time I am riding around in that area, I will see if there is actually a marker for the town.

Larry
Canton, IL
4/11/2016

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I know a cross buck still exists north of Fiatt area where the Lewistown- Fairview cb&q /Bn ROW is. This branch was abandoned in 1977. It was also the former FCNG ROW.

From Satelite the ROW for this line is quite visable in several locations :northwest of Lewistown, Cuba, Bybee areas.

Jan Smith
Canton, IL
4/14/2016

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