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Illinois Short Line Railroads

Published: April 20, 2023

By: Adam Burns

4757971632623h2h5619372048369564.jpgRespondek Railroad SW1200 #1206, serving the Tri-City Regional Port District in the St. Louis area, is seen here at Granite City, Illinois in the fall of 2005. The unit was built as Illinois Terminal #780. American-Rails.com collection.

Alton & Southern Railway

(reporting mark, ALS):  The historic Alton & Southern dates back to 1910 as the Alton & Southern Railroad.  It was incorporated by the Aluminum Company of East St. Louis (later Aluminum Company of America or Alcoa) to provide better switching/terminal service at its plant in East St. Louis. 

In 1968 the system was jointly acquired by Chicago & North Western and Missouri Pacific, which renamed it as the Alton & Southern Railway (and acquired its current logo using a combination of its owners' designs). 

In 1972 the C&NW sold its interest to the Cotton Belt, a Southern Pacific subsidiary.  Today, the A&S is wholly-owned by Union Pacific, which has since acquired all of the previously mentioned railroads.

Belt Railway of Chicago

(reporting mark, BRC):  The history Belt Railway is a long-time terminal switching carrier serving the Chicago area that traces its roots back to 1882. 

Today, it continues to provide these services within the Windy City operating 28 main line miles and a total of 300 miles in all where it interchanges with every major railroad in the region (including six of the seven, current Class Is).  Its primary terminal is Clearing Yard.

Bloomer Shippers Connecting Railroad

(reporting mark, BLOL): This road, also known as "The Bloomer Line," has been in service since 1985 when it acquired the Illinois Central Gulf's line between Colfax to Kempton.  It later purchased a section of former Wabash property between Strawn and Gibson City from NS in 1990.  Its traffic currently consists of grain, fertilizer, plastics, corn, soybeans, wheat, and lumber.

Burlington Junction Railway

(reporting mark, BJRY):  This small terminal-like railroad operates four, very short disconnected lines in Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois.  It began operations in 1985 and its traffic currently consists of agriculture products, chemicals, and fertilizer handling about 3,000 carloads annually. 

To railfans the railroad is well-known for operating a set of rare Alco C415 switchers (#701-702), few of which were ever built and even fewer that remain operational.

Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern Railroad

(reporting mark, CFE): This very large short line began operations in 2004 under the RailAmerica banner, and subsequently acquired by Genesee & Wyoming in 2012.

It operates a total of 323 miles, most of which is the former Pennsylvania Railroad main line from Crestline, Ohio to Chicago via Fort Wayne, Indiana (formerly the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago).

Chicago, South Shore & South Bend Railroad

(reporting mark, CSS):  This historic system traces its roots back to an interurban.  On December 2, 1901 the Chicago & Indiana Air Line Railway was incorporated to connect East Chicago and Indiana Harbor, a distance of about three and a half miles.

In 1904 the railroad reincorporated as the Chicago, Lake Shore & South Bend Railway to better reflect its intentions of connecting East Chicago with South Bend, a distance of about 67 miles. 

By 1908 the original route between East Chicago and South Bend was opened and completely electrified operating on a 6,600-volt, alternating current (AC) system (700 volts within city limits).  In 1925 it was acquired by Sam Insull which formed the Chicago, South Shore & South Bend Railroad to acquire the assets of the earlier carrier. 

While the CSS&SB became noted and derived significant revenue from passenger/commuter service it also built up a substantial freight business, which eventually superseded the former. 

In 1989 the South Shore was able to completely drop passenger service, handed over to the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District.  Today, the road is owned by the Anacostia & Pacific Company, continuing to operate its original main line with traffic highly diversified.

Chicago, St Paul & Pacific Railroad

(reporting mark, CSP):  This Progressive Rail short line operates the former Chicago Terminal Railroad that served the Bensenville Industrial Park.  It began operations in 2019.  It takes its name from the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific, the fabled Milwaukee Road whose primary shops were located in Bensenville.

Chicago Port Railroad

(reporting mark, none):  This small switching/terminal line began service in 2006 operating just 1.3 miles serving the Calumet River Yard and local transload facility at Chicago's Torrence Avenue and 117th Street.  It connects with Chicago Rail Link.

Chicago Junction Railway

(reporting mark, CJR):  A Progressive Rail property that was formerly the Chicago Terminal Railroad, this short line serves the Centex Industrial Park in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. 

Chicago Terminal Railroad

(reporting mark, CTM):  This road is a Iowa Pacific operation, utilizing former Milwaukee Road trackage in northwest Chicago.  It acts as a terminal/switching line while also offering car storage capabilities and has been in service since early 2007.

Chicago Rail Link

(reporting mark, CRL):  The Chicago Rail Link is a division of OmniTRAX and operates 72 miles of trackage along the South Side of Chicago. 

Along with switching services the road's customers include BP Amoco, Agrifine, Cargill, Nidera, ADM, ARRO Corporation, Great Northern Lumber, Horsehead Metal Management, Leavitt Tube, and Ozinga/Midwest Marine.

Cicero Central Railroad

(reporting as mark, CERR):  A division of Watco, this short line began in 2015.  It operates only a half-mile of track in Stickney, Illinois to serve the Koppers chemical plant.  Interchange is provided with Canadian National.

Coffeen & Western Railroad

(reporting mark, CAEG):  This privately owned short line, created on February 5, 2004 is a division of the Ameren Corporation to serve its power plant at Coffeen, Illinois.  It interchanges with BNSF and UP at Walshville and the line is 13 miles in length.

Crab Orchard & Egyptian Railroad

(reporting mark, COER): The CO&E has a fascinating history.  It first began service on July 2, 1971 operated by the American Rail Heritage Ltd. as an excursion, tourist line from the Illinois Central depot in Marion to nearby Ordill and back. 

The road utilized a 2-4-2T #5 to pull its trains.  Within a few years it acquired a much larger steamer to meet the growing demand of visitors, Roberval & Saguenay 2-8-0 #17. 

However, before the road could restore the engine a fire destroyed the depot at Marion on June 13, 1977.  The incident also destroyed two of the road's coaches and main offices in the building.  With its future in limbo, fate stepped in; the Illinois Central Gulf sold CO&E the entire property and trackage on October 18th that year. 

With its new assets the railroad turned to freight service for continued operation, using 2-4-2 #5.  This move made it the very last carrier to use steam power in regular freight service. 

Since then steam has been retired but freight has grown steadily.  The company currently owns an SW1 switcher (#6), named the William "Bill" E. Schreiber as well as a pair of SW1200s (#1136, the City Of Herrin, and #1161, the Marion Ross). 

It still operates the 8.5 miles between Marion and Ordill with traffic including grain, fertilizer, lumber, coal, paper, steel, oil products, chemicals, scrap iron and manufactured goods.

Decatur Central Railroad

(reporting mark, DCC):  Launched in 2016 by OmniTRAX this short line is a joint venture by the railroad, The Broe Group, and Topflight Grain Cooperative, Inc. to handle grain from processing companies along the 16-mile route to an interchange at Decatur with the Canadian National.  It will also serve the Midwest Inland Port.  The property is ex-Illinois Central trackage.

Decatur Junction Railway

(reporting mark, DT): This short line, a Pioneer Railcorp property, first began service during September of 1993 on 38 miles of trackage between Assumption and Cisco, Illinois.  Its traffic consists primarily of grain, fertilizer and plastics.

Decatur & Eastern Illinois Railroad

(reporting mark, DREI):  Launched in 2018 and a division of Watco, this large short line maintains 182 miles that radiates in all four directions away from Chrisman, Illinois; branches extend to Decatur, Neoga, and Georgetown with additional branches reaching into Indiana at Hillsdale and Terre Haute.

Eastern Illinois Railroad

(reporting mark, EIRC) (Closed): The privately-owned Eastern Illinois began operation in April of 1991 when it acquired a section of the former Nickel Plate Road between Neoga and Metcalf, Illinois a distance of 53 miles.  

It was once part of the old Indiana Hi-Rail Corporation, which operated the line from May of 1988 until March of 1991.  It was acquired by Watco's Decatur & Eastern Illinois at the end of 2019.

Effingham Railroad

(reporting mark, EFRR):  The little Effingham Railroad operates as a 400-foot, terminal switching road in the town of Effingham where the main lines of CSX and Canadian National also pass through. 

Its primary traffic includes switching a 200,000 square-foot warehouse as well as a breakfast cereal company and cement company.  The road handles between 2,000 and 3,000 carloads annually. 

It operates with two locomotives; SW1200 #2716 (built as Reading #2716) and GP10 #7510 (built as PRR GP9 #7063).  The latter is marked for the Illinois Western, an allying road.

Elwood Joliet & Southern Railroad

(reporting mark, EJSR):  This short line, a Watco property, began service in 2020 operating 2 miles of former Elgin, Joliet & Eastern trackage in Crest Hill, Illinois along the Des Plaines River that serves various industries.  Its traffic consists of plastics and chemicals.

Evansville Western Railway

(reporting mark, EVWR):  This short line, a division of  P&L Transportation, began service on January 1, 2006.  It operates 124.5 miles of former Louisville & Nashville trackage rail between Evansville, Indiana and Okawville, Illinois (there are also spurs reaching White Oak and Sugar Camp).

It handles tens of thousands of carloads annually with traffic consisting primarily of coal, grain, food products, chemicals, fertilizer, lumber, and building materials.

Gateway Industrial Railway

(reporting mark, GIRR):  This private short line is owned by the Avatar Corporation.  It began operations in early 2019, serving just o.46 miles of trackage (including a transload facility) in University Park, Illinois.  Interchange is established with the Canadian National.

Illinois & Midland Railway

(reporting mark, IMRR):  This road was formally known as the historic Chicago & Illinois Midland, a system with roots dating back to the Pawnee Railroad of 1888.  It gained its current name in 1905 when it was acquired by coal interests. 

While the system had plans of reaching Chicago these hopes never materialized.  It owned two segments, from Peoria to Springfield while another ran between Compro and Taylorville. 

The sections were connected via trackage rights over the Illinois Central.  In 1996 Genesee & Wyoming acquired the line and renamed it as the Illinois & Midland. 

Today, the original C&IM is still operated by G&W save for the extension to Compro.  In all it owns 97 miles with traffic consisting of chemicals, coal, food/feed products, forest products, metallic ores/minerals, and municipal solid waste.

Illinois Railway

(reporting mark, IR): Formerly known as Illinois RailNet and owned by OmniTRAX this short line has been in service since 1997 operating four disconnected lines in the western suburbs of Chicago that total 113 miles. 

The carrier moves a wide variety of aggregates, sand, and mineral products with primary shippers including U.S. Silica, Fairmount Minerals, Techni Sand, James Hardie, Watco Reload, ADM, Behr Iron & Minerals, and Unimin Corporation.

Illinois Western Railroad

(reporting mark, ILW):  This short line is owned by Charles W. Barenfanger Jr., who also owns the small Effingham Railroad.  This carrier is also a terminal/switching road located near the town of Greenville and serves a 700 acre industrial park that is ideally situated to the CSX main line next door. 

The road also connects to BNSF nearby, roughly 3 1/2 miles away.  The company's sole locomotive is aforementioned GP10 #7510 (built as PRR GP9 #7063) that sometimes pulls double-duty on the Effingham.

Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad

(reporting mark, IHB):  This historic terminal road traces its history back to 1907 when it was created through the mergers of several small systems in the Chicago area.  For many years it was jointly owned by the C&NW and NYC, until the former sold its interest to the Milwaukee Road. 

Today, the switching line remains jointly owned by CSX, NS, and Canadian Pacific.  It operates a total of 320 miles of which roughly 30 is main line.  The IHB skirts the western side of Chicago with operations reaching into the northwest corner of Indiana.

Indiana Rail Road

(reporting mark, INDR):  This now large, profitable, and successful Class II regional began humbly in 1986 when it acquired 155 miles of former ICG property between Indianapolis, Indiana and Newton, Illinois. 

Over the time the system continued adding trackage and spinoffs from the larger Class Is, aggressively working to grow its customer base in the meantime.  Today, the road owns lines that trace their roots back to the Milwaukee Road, Chicago & Eastern Illinois, Louisville & Nashville, and Monon along with the aforementioned IC property. 

It owns or has trackage rights on some 500 miles reaching Chicago, Louisville, and Newton, Illinois while handling more than 200,000 annual carloads.

Iowa Interstate Railroad

(reporting mark, IAIS):  This now successful, Class II regional started out in 1982 as the Iowa Railroad when this little shortline purchased 375 miles of the Rock Island's former Chicago-Council Bluffs main line between the latter city and Bureau, Illinois. 

Two years later in 1984 the nearly-abandoned property was purchased by the Heartland Rail Corporation, renaming it as the Iowa Interstate Railroad. 

It was nearly abandoned again but prospered under new management in 1990.  What started out handling only a few thousand carloads annually has turned into a profitable company that now boasts more than 110,000 carloads of freight each year. 

It currently operates from Chicago (via trackage rights over CSX) to Omaha with a branch to Peoria and even features new power in the form of ES44AC road-switchers.

Joppa & Eastern Railroad

(reporting mark, JE):  Originally incorporated on April 4, 1990 this is another privately owned short line of the Ameren Corporation.  It serves a power plant near Joppa, Illinois along the Ohio River running from that point, 4.5 miles to an interchange with BNSF.

Kankakee, Beaverville & Southern Railroad

(reporting mark, KBSR):  This short line began service in 1977 over former New York Central trackage between Sheldon and Kankakee, Illinois acquired from Conrail that year.  In time the system grew as more trackage was shed by various railroads.  

Today, the KB&S operates roughly 155 miles connecting Kankakee, Danville, and Lafayette.  Its traffic consists of agriculture, chemicals, and plastics.

Kaskaskia River Railroad

(reporting mark, KRRC): This short line runs from a connection with the Canadian National at Lenzburg to the Kaskaskia River.  It is operated by the Kaskaskia Regional Port District.

Keokuk Junction Railway

(reporting mark, KJRY):  This short line has its beginnings in 1980 when it acquired roughly 4 miles of the Rock Island's former yard in Keokuk, Iowa to provide switching and terminal services. 

Since then it has steadily grown into a 126 mile system between Peoria, Illinois and Keokuk, Iowa as well as between LaHarpe and Lomax, Illinois (this trackage is primarily ex-Toledo, Peoria & Western/Santa Fe). 

The system also has trackage rights to Fort Madison, Iowa where interchanges with UP.   In 1996 it was acquired by Pioneer Railcorp and its traffic base includes corn, corn germ, corn syrup, meal, gluten feed, and railroad wheels.

Manufacturers Junction Railway

(reporting mark, MJ):  This terminal road dates back to its incorporation on January 28, 1903 and it opened for service in 1906 serving the area of Cicero. 

Today, it is a subsidiary of OmniTRAX and operates about 6 miles of trackage interchanging with CSX, Canadian National, Belt Railway of Chicago, UP (via BRC), and BNSF Railway.

Peru Industrial Railroad

(reporting mark, PIR): A subsidiary of OmniTRAX, this short line maintains 3 miles of track to serve customers at the Peru Industrial Park in Peru, Illinois.  It interchanges with BNSF and the Illinois Railway.

Pioneer Industrial Railway

(reporting mark, PRY): The Pioneer Industrial Railway is another Pioneer Rail Corporation property operating 8.5 miles of trackage between Peoria and Peoria Heights that was historically owned by the Peoria & Pekin Union.  The road began service on February 18, 1998 and its freight consists of lumber and steel.

Port Harbor Railroad

(reporting mark, PHRR):  Located in in Granite City, Illinois, this 5.2-mile short line serves the industrial port district known as America's Central Port.  Operations began in 2004.  Its traffic primarily consists of steel, aluminum products, food products, lumber, paper, chemicals, minerals, and grains.

The Prairie Line

(reporting mark, TPLX): This operation is based in O’Fallon, Illinois and according to the company they provide a long list of services including switching services, logistics and route planning, track maintenance, car repair, and industrial site development.

Riverport Railroad

(reporting mark, RVPR):  This small terminal/switching road serves the Savanna Army Ordinance Depot and operates a total of 72 miles of trackage including main lines, spurs, and sidings.  It interchanges with BNSF at Robinson Spur.

Shawnee Terminal Railway

(reporting mark, STR): This railroad is yet another Pioneer Rail Corporation short line operating just 2.5 miles of trackage near Cairo at 17th Street Yard for car cleaning and storage capabilities.  It interchanges with Canadian National.

South Chicago & Indiana Harbor Railway

(reporting mark, SCIH):  This system traces its history back to the Chicago Short Line Railway incorporated on December 8, 1900 and began service in 1903. 

In April of 2002 the property was acquired by International Steel Group, which renamed it as the South Chicago & Indiana Harbor Railway (this company was subsequently acquired by Mittal Steel/ArcelorMittal in 2005). 

Today, the SC&IH serves South Chicago and South Deering, Illinois along with Indiana Harbor, Indiana.  It operates 27 miles of track and continues to serve as a terminal railroad.

Tazewell & Peoria Railroad

(reporting mark, TZPR):  This small short line, a G&W property serves a terminal system around Peoria operating 24 main line miles with 100 miles in total including yards, sidings, and spurs. 

The T&P leases the property formerly known as the historic Peoria & Pekin Union Railway that dates back to 1881 (it is technically jointly owned by UP, NS, and CN). 

It serves a wide variety of customers and handles about 100,000 carloads annually while traffic consists of chemicals, coal, construction machinery, food/feed products, forest products, and steel/scrap.

Terminal Railroad Association Of St. Louis

(reporting mark, TRRA):  This historic short line has been in operation since 1889-1890, and handles switching assignments for industries in East St. Louis, Madison, and Granite City, Illinois as well as St. Louis, Missouri.  

The railroad was originally owned by the major railroads to serve the St. Louis area including Missouri Pacific/St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern; Wabash; Ohio & Mississippi Railroad (Baltimore & Ohio); Louisville & Nashville; Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway (New York Central); Rock Island.

Today, it is owned by BNSF, Canadian National, CSX, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific.

Toledo, Peoria & Western Railway

(reporting mark, TPW):  This historic system dates back to its formation in 1887 through the merger of the Peoria & Warsaw Railway and the Logansport, Peoria & Burlington. 

In time the TP&W came to operate a system stretching from Logansport, Indiana to Fort Madison, Iowa with a branch reaching Keokuk, Iowa and Warsaw, Illinois. 

In all its system stretched about 230 miles.  For many years the road was a subsidiary of the PRR but became independent once more following the bankruptcy of Penn Central.  In 1983 it was picked up by the Santa Fe, which sold much of the remaining property in September of 1999 to RailAmerica. 

Today, it is owned by G&W running between Peoria and Logansport.  Its traffic consists of chemicals, machinery, cement, feed meals and biodiesel, wind tower components, and other freight.

TransDistribution Brookfield Railroad

(reporting mark, none): This little short line operates just 0.46 miles of track to handle the Sweetener Supply Company's Brookfield Transload Facility in Brookfield, Illinois.  Interchange is provided with the BNSF Railway.


Vandalia Railroad

(reporting mark, VRRC):  This small short line is a Pioneer RailCorp property (since October of 1994) operating just 3 miles north of Vandalia.  Its principal freight includes steel pipe, plastic pellets, and fertilizer.  It began service in 1983 when Illinois Central Gulf began abandoning sections of the original IC main line between Cairo and Galena built during the 1850s.

Vermilion Valley Railroad

(reporting mark, VVRR): This small short line operates about 6 miles of track between Danville, Illinois and Olin, Indiana on trackage once owned by the NYC.  It was acquired from CSX by the Indiana Boxcar Corporation in 2003.

Wisconsin & Southern Railroad

(reporting mark, WSOR):  This large, profitable Class II regional has been successful in resuscitating many secondary, left-for-dead branch lines in the state of Wisconsin and northern Illinois (Fox Lake, although trackage rights give it access to Clearing Yard in Chicago) that once belonged to the Milwaukee Road and Chicago & North Western. 

It began service in 1980 and today operates more than 700 miles of track, some of which is owned by the state of Wisconsin. 

The company, currently owned by Watco since 2012, plans to continue resurrecting lines in the region it sees as a potential profitable ventures.  The Wisconsin & Southern handles more than 60,000 carloads annually with freight traffic highly diversified.

Contents

Alton & Southern Railway

Belt Railway of Chicago

Bloomer Shippers Connecting Railroad

Burlington Junction Railway

Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern Railroad

Chicago, South Shore & South Bend Railroad

Chicago, St Paul & Pacific Railroad

Chicago Port Railroad

Chicago Junction Railway

Chicago Terminal Railroad

Chicago Rail Link

Cicero Central Railroad

Coffeen & Western Railroad

Crab Orchard & Egyptian Railroad

Decatur Central Railroad

Decatur Junction Railway

Decatur & Eastern Illinois Railroad

Eastern Illinois Railroad

Effingham Railroad

Elwood Joliet & Southern Railroad

Evansville Western Railway

Gateway Industrial Railway

Illinois & Midland Railway

Illinois Railway

Illinois Western Railroad

Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad

Indiana Rail Road

Iowa Interstate Railroad

Joppa & Eastern Railroad

Kankakee, Beaverville & Southern Railroad

Kaskaskia River Railroad

Keokuk Junction Railway

Manufacturers Junction Railway

Peru Industrial Railroad

Pioneer Industrial Railway

Port Harbor Railroad

The Prairie Line

Riverport Railroad

Shawnee Terminal Railway

South Chicago & Indiana Harbor Railway

Tazewell & Peoria Railroad

Terminal Railroad Association Of St. Louis

Toledo, Peoria & Western Railway

TransDistribution Brookfield Railroad

Vandalia Railroad

Vermilion Valley Railroad

Wisconsin & Southern Railroad

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