The Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad, "Speed-Efficiency-Service"

The Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad was a Midwest Class I system that operated almost entirely in Illinois connecting St. Louis and southern Missouri/Illinois with Chicago to the north. A well-managed property throughout much of its history (although it did slip into bankruptcy a few times) the C&EI’s traffic was heavily made up of coal (in southern Illinois) and interchange with the many other Class I systems it connected with (i.e., bridge traffic). While the railroad floated in and out of control by other larger systems, like the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway (the Frisco), it was finally purchased by the Missouri Pacific in the early 1960s with the Louisville & Nashville also acquiring ownership of its Evansville route.  

Chicago & Eastern Illinois F3A #1203 works with a GP9 and another F3A to pull a string of boxcars through Chicago Heights, Illinois on March 31, 1964.

Today, virtually all of the C&EI’s former routes are still intact, most of which are operated by MoPac successor Union Pacific and L&N successor CSX Transportation.   The C&EI dates back to 1877 when it was created through the merger of three smaller systems the Chicago, Danville & Vincennes Railroad (created in 1871 it connected Chicago with Danville, Illinois); Evansville, Terre Haute & Chicago Railroad (created in 1871 it connected Danville, Illinois with Terre Haute, Indiana); and the Evansville & Terre Haute (created in 1854 it connected Terre Haute and Evansville, Indiana). Later, in the 1890s the C&EI added the Chicago & Indiana Coal Railroad to its system, which linked LaCrosse and Evansville, Indiana.   

Chicago & Eastern Illinois Passenger Trains And Streamliners

Dixie Flagler (Florida East Coast): (Chicago - Atlanta - Miami)

Georgian (Louisville & Nashville): (Chicago - Atlanta)

Whippoorwill (C&EI's Only Streamliner): (Chicago - Evansville)

Other Classic Midwestern Railroads

Louisville & Nashville, Future Successor To The C&EI

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, A Legend All Of Its Own

Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific: The Fabled Granger Road

Chicago & Illinois Midland, Central Illinois's Coal Road 

Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range, "The Missabe Road" 

Chicago, Burlington & Quincy: Serving America's Heartland

Chicago & North Western, Spanning The Midwest

Milwaukee Road, From The Midwest To Seattle

Chicago Great Western, "The Corn Belt Route"

Elgin, Joliet & Eastern, Bypassing Chicago

Minneapolis & St. Louis, "The Peoria Gateway" 

The Soo Line, Serving The Upper Midwest

Wabash, "Follow The Flag"

After the C&EI also built extensions into southern Illinois and Missouri (Thebes and Chaffee), and connected to St. Louis in the late 19th century and early 20th century the railroad had a north-south upside-down “Y”-shaped system (which also connected Woodland, Illinois and Evansville, Indiana) that was over 1,000 miles in length and began moving considerable amounts of traffic.  Two primary means of traffic made up the majority of the C&EI’s traffic base, coal from the large deposits located in southern Illinois and interchange with several Class I systems. For instance, the railroad’s connections with the large eastern and western systems of the day included the Nickel Plate Road; Pennsylvania Railroad; Frisco; New York Central Railroad; Gulf, Mobile & Ohio; Illinois Central Railroad; the Katy (Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad); Missouri Pacific; Rock Island; Baltimore & Ohio; and the Louisville & Nashville Railroad.

Even though the Chicago and Eastern Illinois was a well-managed and profitable company throughout much of its history it did have some hiccups along the way. First, in 1902 after being perceived as a threat the railroad was taken over by the Frisco and left to wither, so much so that by 1913 it was bankrupt and its physical plant in shambles. While the C&EI was able to pull out of that rough stretch in the 1920s it again fell into receivership in 1933, although once again was able to get back on its feet after 1940.   After this point for the next 20+ years the C&EI prospered and did relatively well, reaching St. Louis on its own in 1954, dieseling its motive power fleet by 1950, double-tracking its main line between Chicago and Woodland, and installing Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) in 1947 over its core main lines.  For more information about the C&EI please click here to visit the Chicago & Eastern Illinois Historical Society's website.  For further reading about the C&EI please click here.

Diesel Locomotive Roster

C&EI GP7 #222 pulls a string of hoppers through the yard at 51st and Normal Streets in Chicago on April 21, 1965.

The American Locomotive Company

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
S1103-105, 106 (Ex-StL&OF)1941-19464

The Baldwin Locomotive Works

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity

Carrying a logo inspired by its parent, C&EI caboose #13502 rests at the yard in Taylor, Texas during May of 1977.

Electro-Motive Corporation/Electro-Motive Division

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
GP9221 (Second), 229 (Second), 233-2381956-19588
E9A1102 (Second)19581
F3A1200-1205, 1400-14091948-194916
F3B1300-1301, 1500-150419487
BL-21600-1601 (First)19482

A C&EI NW2 takes a break at the yard in Chicago Heights on March 31, 1964.

Steam Locomotive Roster

For more information about the C&EI's steam locomotives please click here.

Class Type Wheel Arrangement
100 (Various)American4-4-0
300, E-1, E-2Atlantic4-4-2
B-2 Through B-5Switcher0-6-0
C-1, C-2Switcher0-8-0
F-1Saddle Tank2-6-6T
F-1 Through F-3Mogul2-6-0
G-1 Through G-7Ten-Wheeler4-6-0
H-1 Through H-6Consolidation2-8-0
K-1 Through K-3Pacific4-6-2
M-1 Through M-3Twelve-Wheeler4-8-0
N-1 Through N-3Mikado2-8-2
O-1, O-2Santa Fe2-10-2

Chicago & Eastern Illinois FP7 #1609 arrives with the combined Humming Bird/Georgian at 79th Street in Chicago on a cold March 31, 1964.

It was during the latter 1960s that the railroad finally lost its independence forever when first the Missouri Pacific gained control of the railroad in 1967 and then the Louisville & Nashville Railroad purchased its 206-mile line between Woodland Junction, Illinois and Evansville, Indiana giving the railroad direct access to Chicago (via trackage rights). Finally in the fall of 1976 the C&EI disappeared forever when it was formally merged into the Missouri Pacific. Since then the MoPac has become part of the Union Pacific system but the original C&EI lines still play an important part in the UP’s network today (even the L&N line is presently still used by successor CSX). For more information regarding the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad please click here.

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