The Frisco's involvement began a tough stretch for the C&EI. The railroad was generally profitable but grand schemes by others sank it into bankruptcy twice. The Frisco, of course, wanted it as a Chicago connection but that carrier's collapse in May of 1913 also brought down the C&EI. Once reorganized and independent in 1920 the road enjoyed a few years of relative success, in part thanks to coal. The southern Indiana fields at this time generated some 10 million tons annually. However, a 1922 strike greatly hurt the market price from which the coal here never truly recovered. For the C&EI this resulted in tonnage being slashed by two-thirds. After the strike black diamonds remained an important commodity but never exceeded more than one-third of the railroad's annual tonnage. For instance, Mr. Anderson's article notes that for 1948 its traffic (comprising 10.9 million total tons) was as follows: coal 35.8%, manufacturing 34.3%, agriculture 10%, and the remainder various miscellaneous movements. In 1928 the C&EI was again acquired when the Van Sweringen's growing railroad empire, through their Chesapeake & Ohio affiliate, took over the property.
Principal Chicago & Eastern Illinois Passenger Trains And Through Services
The C&EI did operate its own streamliners although is best remembered for the through services to Florida which operated in tandem with the L&N, Florida East Coast, Atlantic Coast Line, Central of Georgia, and Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis. In 1946 it took delivery of two, lightweight trainsets from Pullman for its own streamlined operations; one was a four-car consist named the Meadowlark (mail-baggage/grille car with three coaches) and the other the seven-car Whippoorwill (combine, four coaches, diner, and parlor-lounge-observation). They were clad in a striking blue livery with gold/orange trim. The railroad's history with streamlining actually began years before either of these trains launched. In 1940, as part of the Dixie Flagler service hosted by the C&EI/L&N/NC&StL/Atlanta & Birmingham Coast/ACL/FEC the railroad unveiled a modest but striking shroud worn by 4-6-2 #1008 (K-2), a product of its own Oaklawn Shops (a project carried out for a modest $2,300). The Pacific featured a mostly aluminum/stainless-steel look with black trim and red-pinstripes. Mr. Dolzall notes that a 1941 grade-crossing incident changed the front-end to a bullet-nose appearance and the locomotive lost its shrouding entirely by 1943. The C&EI's passenger business remained strong through World War II as it average more than two-million train miles. Afterwards, however, that all changed. In 1949 it discontinued service to St. Louis and by 1960 losses were mounting, in part due to the L&N's growing disinterest. In 1968 the combined Humming Bird/Georgian was discontinued and the last remaining train still running before L&N's takeover was the Chicago-Danville local consisting of just a few cars.
All C&EI trains used Chicago's Dearborn Station.
Cardinal: (Chicago - St. Louis)
Century of Progress: (Chicago - St. Louis)
Chicago-Nashville Limited (L&N): (Chicago - Nashville)
Chicago Express (L&N): (Chicago - Birmingham)
Chicago-St. Louis Express: (Chicago - St. Louis)
Chicago-St. Louis Limited: (Chicago - St. Louis)
Chicago-St. Louis Special: (Chicago - St. Louis)
Curfew: (Chicago - St. Louis)
Danville-Chicago Flyer: (Chicago - Danville)
Dearborn: (Chicago - St. Louis)
Dixiana (L&N/NC&StL/A&BC/ACL/FEC): (Chicago - Miami)
Dixie Express (L&N): (Chicago - New Orleans)
Dixie Flagler (L&N/NC&StL/A&BC/ACL/FEC): (Chicago - Atlanta - Miami)
Dixieland (L&N/NC&StL/A&BC/ACL/FEC): (Chicago - Atlanta - Miami)
Dixie Limited (L&N/NC&StL/CoG/ACL): (Chicago - Jacksonville)
Egyptian Zipper: (Danville - Cypress - Joppa)
Evansville-Chicago Express: (Chicago - Evansville)
Georgian (L&N/N&CStL): (Chicago - Atlanta)
LaSalle: (Chicago - St. Louis)
Meadowlark: (Chicago - Cypress)
Nashville-Chicago Limited (L&N): (Chicago - Nashville)
New Dixieland (L&N/NC&StL/ACL/FEC): (Chicago - Miami)
New Orleans Special (L&N): (Chicago - New Orleans)
St. Louis-Chicago Express: (Chicago - St. Louis)
St. Louis-Chicago Limited: (Chicago - St. Louis)
St. Louis-Chicago Special: (Chicago - St. Louis)
Shawnee: (Chicago - Evansville)
Silent Knight: (Chicago - St. Louis)
Spirit of Progress: (Chicago - St. Louis)
Whippoorwill: (Chicago - Evansville)
Zipper: (Chicago - St. Louis)
The above passenger service listing is courtesy of Gary Dolzall's article, "The Case For The C&EI" from the January 1990 issue of Trains Magazine.
This time the onset of Great Depression brought financial ruin and the company again found itself in bankruptcy by 1933. It slowly recovered from these lean years, then witnessed record traffic during World War II that saw net profits reach nearly $3 million according to William Gregory and Robert St. Clair's article, "You Can't Keep A Good Railroad Down!" from the October, 1954 issue of Trains Magazine. On January 17, 1941 it officially emerged from receivership. While wartime traffic helped immensely so did the efforts of receiver John Walker Barriger III (best known for his years leading the Monon) who helped restructure its debt and financing. Into the 1950's the railroad fought sagging coal traffic by looking for other business primarily in the form of agriculture, trailer-on-flatcar/TOFC (the so-called Piggyback Flyers were hotshots which ran overnight from Chicago to the L&N connection), and manufacturing. These efforts did help turn immediate postwar losses into strong profits although the road's regional status left it vulnerable. One way in which it improved its postwar slump was through the retirement of steam, quietly carried out on May 5, 1952 when 2-8-2 #1944 finished up switching chores that day. The iron horse was replaced largely with Electro-Motive products as well as a few examples from Baldwin and Alco.