Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Galena & Chicago Union and Peru & Indianapolis

The first city in a railroad name is considered the more important name. Note that when railroads were first built, the nation was dependent on rivers and canals for transportation so the town on the waterway was considered more important and the railroad was being built to connect the inland town to the waterway. These railroads are an example of connecting towns to waterways.

Galena & Chicago Union RR


The Galena & Chicago Union Railroad was the first railroad built out of Chicago. At the time, the major transportation routes where north and south because of the rivers and canals. And the major cities were river towns such as St. Louis and New Orleans. Galena was another significant town because it was on the river and because it had lead mines. Galena got a post office in 1826. At the time the G&CU was chartered in 1836, Chicago was basically a trading post in a swamp. Since Galena was the more important town, it was the first town in the railroad's name. But that effort to build a railroad failed because of the 1837 panic. So wagons continued to take 11 days to transport lead from Galena to the Chicago River.

In 1847, real estate developers in Chicago obtained the charter and started building the railroad to increase the value of their land that was north of the Chicago river. They could not get financing from East coast investors. They had applied for federal land grants, but were denied even though the Illinois Central got grants. So they sold stock to farmers and built further West as they were able to get more funding. Most people know this route as the C&NW, which is now owned by the Union Pacific.

The G&CU demonstrated service to Oak Ridge (now Oak Park) in 1848 with the Pioneer Locomotive. The railroad progressed to the West -- West Chicago and Elgin in 1850, Belvedere in 1851, Rockford in 1852, and Freeport in 1853. The G&CU never made it to Galena. (UP) Hauling the farmer's wheat harvest proved lucrative enough that they no longer cared about the mining business. (Tribune) And being a link in the anticipated transcontinental traffic became the next priority. Starting in 1854, the G&CU built the more direct Dixon Air Line connecting Chicago to Geneva, Dekalb and Fulton, IL. It opened in 1855 (Metra, cnwhs). "In 1862, the G&CU had leased in perpetuity the Cedar Rapids and Missouri Railroad, which was to be the first railroad to reach Council Bluffs, Iowa, and the First Transcontinental Railroad." (northwest)

"Some towns that were narrowly bypassed by the Galena & Chicago built their own branch lines to connect to that railroad. For instance, a branch was built from Aurora and Batavia to what is now West Chicago. That branch evolved into the BNSF line." (Metra)

During 1855-57, they added a second track between West Chicago and downtown. Since most of the depots had been built on the north side of the original track, the new track had to be built along the south side. You want the depots to serve the inbound passengers to keep them warm while they wait for the train's arrival. And you want them to use the track that is closest to the depot so that they don't have to cross any tracks to get to their cars. So the north track carries eastbound (inbound) traffic and the south track carries westbound (outbound) traffic. This is left-handed running. Railroads normally run right-handed. I have spotted at least one sign that is wrong because the sign-maker was not aware of the exception.

An 1863 map of the G&CU is interesting because it shows the Chicago & Northwestern RR was another railroad. The merger of the C&NW and G&CU occurred in 1864. "Among the reasons for adopting the C&NW name for the combined company was that it more accurately described the range of the consolidated company – plus the fact that no part of the combined railroad reached Galena." (Metra) The map also indicates that the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy had finished its route from Aurora to Galesburg and the routes to Burlington and Quincy but that it was still using its original line to the C&GU line. Update: an 1862 map.

Brad Burchett posted
Update: Brad's comment:
Chartered in 1836 this line was once the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad. It was Chicago's first rail line. Although it never reached the lead mines of Galena, IL. Freeport, IL was as far west as it went. During the 1970's the C&NW cut the line back to Winnebago, IL and then Rockford.
Seen here in 1991 the local is leaving Rockford heading back to the yard in Belvidere, IL also the site of a Chrysler plant, which has been the main reason the line is still going.
The track branching off to the north is the KD line. At one time it ran to Kenosha, WI. But was cut up in the 1930's. At the time of this photo the line only extened about 5 miles to Loves Park, IL.
John Gebhardt A nice photo to see. Thanks for posting it showing the Rock River bridge behind the train.

This posting reminded me that, while building towards Galena, they realized the real action was going to be in Omaha/Council Bluffs when the transcontinental railroad was finished. So they quit working on this route and built a more direct route to Council Bluffs from West Chicago.

This now branch line is of significance to me because it is the one that goes past the IRM. Of all the visits I have made there, a freight train went past only during my last visit. I took a short video because the motion makes it possible to tell where the train is in the background. And a video gives you a feel for the speed of the train.

Peru & Indianapolis RR


When I first saw mention of the P&I in a history of the Lake Erie & Western RR, which was part of the history of the Nickel Plate RR, I was reminded of the convention that the first city in a RR name was considered the more important city and that Peru was on the Wabash & Erie Canal. Then when I was studying a NKP locomotive spotting, I got confirmation that the original purpose of the RR was to connect Indianapolis to the canal.
The Peru & Indianapolis was incorporated January 19, 1846, to connect Indianapolis with the Wabash and Erie Canal at Peru. Construction began at Indianapolis in 1849 and service began over 21.42 miles of line to Noblesville on March 12, 1851. At the request of the Noblesville merchants, the railroad was built in 8th street to reduce the drayage cost for local freight. As the railroad built north it stimulated the location of new towns like Buena Vista, renamed Atlanta in 1881. The Peru & Indianapolis opened to Tipton in 1852, to Kokomo in 1853, and to Peru, 73 miles from Indianapolis, in early 1854. (ITM)
This was the oldest segment of what would become the Nickel Plate System. "In 1864 the P & I was reorganized as the Indianapolis, Peru & Chicago. In 1871 the IP & C took over the 88 mile Chicago, Cincinnati & Louisville, a recently consolidated chain of roads between Peru and Michigan City. The resulting 161 mile line between Indianapolis and Michigan City would be operated as a single operating division for the next 90 years, under a succession of owners." (ITM)

By the time the tracks got to Peru in 1854, railroads were already reducing the importance of canals. That is probably why they developed this map in 1850 to emphasize the railroads that it would connect with.

Library of Congress, 1850 The LoC map is zoomable.
So the line would not have the originally envisioned Indianapolis-to-Peru traffic, but it would still have the business, freight and passenger, of the farmers along its route.
The line enjoyed heavy traffic until 1918. "The gas boom of the 1890s stimulated industrial growth in towns like Noblesville, Arcadia, and Atlanta, with sidings serving glass plants, strawboard factories, tin-plate mills, and other container-related industries." (ITM) And it carried Pennsylvania's Chicago-Indianapolis traffic from Kokomo to Indianapolis. The traffic was so heavy that they installed electric block signals in 1911. I have marked up an INDOT map to show current ownership of the Lake Erie & Western trackage. The Hoosier Heritage Port Authority track is operated by the Indiana Transportation Museum.

Update: A Facebook description of how the P&I was routed through Indianopolis.


Meredosia to the east


I don't know the official name of the railroad because I learned of this route when studying early locomotives. The line was built between Meredosia and Morgan City. Morgan City seems to be one of those 1800s towns that has now disappeared. And the railroad was abandoned so long ago that it does not show up on the 2005 SPV Map as an abandoned railroad. But on Movember 8, 1838, it operated the first locomotive in Illinois --- Rogers. It was shipped from Paterson, New Jersey, via New Orleans.

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