In the early 1880s, Mr. D. L. Wing sought a railroad line between Springfield and Saint Louis, Missouri. Intending to get help from the Illinois Central to build the line, Mr. Wing built out of Springfield a couple of miles of railroad, known as the Saint Louis, Peoria and Northern Railroad. However, the IC neither complied nor offered funding. It wasn't until 1885 when the state of Illinois gave him a charter that Mr. Wing was able to begin the majority of construction.
The first major portion was built by Wing's company, by then called the St. Louis & Chicago Railway, and completed from Springfield to Mount Olive, IL in 1887. The next portion of the line was built after Wing's company finally ended in 1889, by the St. Louis & Peoria Railroad; construction began and completed between Mount Olive and Alhambra, IL in 1889. Note that Wing's portion of the line was by then owned by the North & South Railroad. The section between Alhambra and Glen Carbon, IL (the final section) was organized by the St. Louis & Eastern Railroad in 1889 and completed in 1893. At Glen Carbon Junction (or Glen Tower) in Glen Carbon, IL, the railroad obtained trackage rights on the Litchfield & Madison line (later the Chicago & North Western line, which ironically is also abandoned today in Glen Carbon) the rest of the 10.75 miles to the St. Louis Terminal Railroad Yard in Madison, IL, where it was able to access downtown St. Louis.
The St. Louis, Peoria & Northern Railway was created in 1896 to unite the three railroads that owned the line: the St. Louis & Peoria, North & South, and St. Louis & Eastern Railroad companies. The St. Louis, Peoria, & Northern Railway was bought by the Illinois Central in 1900, and was relatively well used by the IC until the line's abandonment. The IC's Chicago to St. Louis passenger express train ran on the Springfield to St. Louis line. The line also served many coal mines along its route. The coal mines in Glen Carbon were closed in the 1930s, as well as the majority of the other mines along the route. Even without the coal trains, the line saw some decent traffic until the Illinois Central Gulf years. The IC officially changed their name to the Illinois Central Gulf (ICG) Railroad in 1972. The Springfield St. Louis line was abandoned in 1982 due to ongoing financial issues at ICG, and the tracks were pulled out.
Today, the only portion of the line still open and in operation is between Springfield and Farmersville, IL, owned by Canadian National Railroad (CN), as they purchased the IC in 1998 and had full control over the IC by 1999. The Illinois & Midland Railroad (IMRR) operates trackage rights from Cimic, IL to Springfield, IL on this line, and operates roughly 10-12 trains per day on that portion of the line. South of Cimic, the line ends at Farmersville, where it serves a mine. What little remains of this line (between Springfield and Cimic) is seldom used today. CN only operates 2 trains per week to serve the mine in Farmersville. The half of the remaining portion of line north of Cimic still sees plenty of traffic thanks to the IMRR's trackage rights.
In addition, portions of the abandoned ROW are used as rail-trails. The portion between Farmersville and Waggoner, IL is used by the Green Diamond Rail Trail, which was opened in 2000, and is 4 miles long. Future plans include possibly extending the trail south through Litchfield and all of the way to Marine. The Glen Carbon Ronald J. Foster Heritage Trail runs on the R-O-W between Glen Carbon (at the old location of the Glen Tower) and Marine, IL, and is about 12 miles long today, and includes a couple of rest stations with drinking fountains. The first section built was built in 1991 by the village of Glen Carbon and was 3.2 miles long. The second section was built in 1998 and was 3.5 miles long, and was also built by the village. The third section was built by Madison County Transit (which owns over 85 miles of rail-trails in Madison County, IL) and goes the rest of the way to Marine, and was completed in 2007.
Thanks to Jim Dodds for contributing information about this route.