The Chicago and Illinois Midland Railway


The Chicago and Illinois Midland Railway was historically a Class I system but in later years after the American Association of Railroads (AAR) reclassified the railroad industry it became one of the many shortline systems found across the country. The C&IM was never a large railroad stretching a little over 100 miles in length at its largest. However, it did move vast amounts of coal in central Illinois to power plants located to the north. Interestingly, the C&IM did not gain its name from the fact that it reached Chicago but rather from the companies which owned the railroad. In 1996 the C&IM became part of the Genesee & Wyoming family of shortlines and its name was changed to the Illinois & Midland Railroad and today the I&M is a very successful operation.

To pull the heavy loads of coal the Chicago & Illinois Midland purchased exclusively six-axle road-switchers; seen here are two of its SD9s and an SD18 (middle unit) sitting at the engine terminal in Springfield, Illinois on August 15, 1965.

The C&IM has its roots dating back to the Pawnee Railroad of 1888 which connected Pawnee, Illinois with the Illinois Central some 15 miles to the west. In 1905 the Pawnee was purchased by coal-related interests (for the express purpose of moving coal from central Illinois coalfields to their coal-fired power plants located near Chicago), the Chicago Edison Company and Illinois Midland Coal Company and renamed as the Chicago and Illinois Midland Railway to reflect its ownership by these two companies. It was also at this time that the ownership of the C&IM by Chicago Edison and Illinois Midland Coal forever shaped the future of the railroad as they oversaw its direction until the 1980s when it was eventually sold.

During the 1920s the C&IM took over the bankrupt trackage of the Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis Railroad which connected Springfield with Havana to the northwest and then stretched from Havana to Peoria to the northeast, a sort of dogleg layout. The acquisition of the CP&StL nearly quadrupled the size of the C&IM and all but allowed it to reach its final length of some 121 miles. Interestingly the purchase of the CP&StL essentially broke the C&IM in two from its original east-west line connecting Taylorville and Pawnee and its new railroad lines stretching from Springfield to Peoria. To bridge this gap the C&IM acquired trackage rights from the Illinois Central Railroad at a new junction known as CIMIC (east of Pawnee, where the original Pawnee Railroad connected with the Illinois Central Railroad) to Springfield, some 15 miles to the north.

Throughout the rest of the C&IM’s history it had an up and down profit margin. In the 1960s the bottom fell out on high-sulfur, bituminous coal (due to the passage of the Clean Air Act and before technology was available to remove particulates emitted by high-sulfur coal, which is now once again popular), which is primarily what the C&IM hauled out of Illinois thus significantly affecting the railroad’s earnings.  While the railroad was attempting to be sold by Commonwealth Edison during this time for a mere dollar!, it made an about face and retained ownership of its railroad after demand for the Powder River Basin’s clean burning coal (located in Wyoming) skyrocketed. Thus, through interchange with western carrier like the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy the C&IM again had an important reason for being in business.

One of the C&IM's six SW1200s, #21, sits just outside the engine house in Springfield on August 15, 1965.

While the railroad did relatively well for the next 20 years or so, interestingly it was the deregulation of the railroad industry that brought about the railroad’s eventual sale by Commonwealth Edison. Now that railroads could set their own rates for the movement of freight traffic the C&IM’s parent found it cheaper to simply contract out coal movements with other nearby railroads rather than move the black diamonds itself using its own railroad.  So, in late 1987 the railroad was sold to private investors and then in 1996 the C&IM was acquired by the Genesee & Wyoming, which added it to its portfolio of railroads through the purchase. Not long after the G&W’s acquisition it renamed the company the Illinois & Midland Railroad (IMRR or I&M).

C&IM SW1200 #23 pulls a cut of cars through the Springfield yard on August 15, 1965.

Today the Illinois & Midland Railroad is a very strong railroad seeing over 100,000 annual carloads of traffic, which is diversified in (according to the railroad) "...agricultural products, building materials, minerals, and municipal and industrial waste."  One final note about the Chicago and Illinois Midland Railway, it purchased the only two units of EMD’s unique (and rare) RS1325 model, which was a 1,325 hp, four-axle diesel-electric road-switcher. Obviously it was not a very successful design but interestingly since the C&IM purchased the units in 1960 they have remained on the railroad’s roster through its takeover by Genesee & Wyoming in 1996, and even today you can still catch these unusual diesels (which have a short, sloping stubby nose and cab/carbody design very similar to EMD’s very successful SW7, SW9, SW1200, and SW1500 switcher models).

Diesel Locomotive Roster

Electro-Motive Division

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
SW120018-2319556
RS132530-3119602
SD950-5419555
SD1860-6119612
SD38-270-7519746

Steam Locomotive Roster

Class Type Wheel Arrangement
5Ten-Wheeler4-6-0
8Mogul2-6-0
A-1American4-4-0
B-1, C-1, D-1, F-1 Through F-3Consolidation2-8-0
D-2 Through D-4Switcher0-8-0
E-1 Through E-4, F-4, F-5Mikado2-8-2
G-1 Through G-4, H-1, H-2Santa Fe2-10-2


A C&IM wooden transfer caboose, #34, wears the railroad's attractive Christmas livery of green and red as it sits at the yard in Springfield on August 15, 1965.

For more on the fallen flag railroads like the C&IM consider one (or all) of Mike Schafer's Classic American Railroads books (listed below is the first in the series). He has published three thus far covering virtually all of the most well known fallen flags. I have all three in my collection and highly recommend them, the photography is excellent along with learning a general history of each railroad. If you're interested in perhaps purchasing this book please visit the link below which will take you to ordering information through Amazon.com, the trusted online shopping network.

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