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. 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.
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.
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. 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.
A C&EI NW2 takes a break at the yard in Chicago Heights on March 31, 1964.
Steam Locomotive Roster
300, E-1, E-2
B-2 Through B-5
F-1 Through F-3
G-1 Through G-7
H-1 Through H-6
K-1 Through K-3
M-1 Through M-3
N-1 Through N-3
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.