Friday, September 26, 2014

Gardner, Coal City & Northern Railroad.

John Weeks documented that the railroad that originally used an Illinois RR Bridge east of Morris was the Gardner, Coal City and Northern Railroad Co. It was purchased in 1891 by EJ&E just a few years after it was built. Its main purpose in the early 20th century was to serve the coal mines around Coal City and Gardner. It had several spurs to the various mines.

After some of the strip mines were played out in the 1950s, they were sold to a recreation club -- Coal City Area Club -- that did a lot of earth moving and tree planting to create a recreation area complete with a beach. The history of the club mentions that Com Ed leased the right-of-way for high lines. Given this clue, I used a satellite map to trace the route. It continued straight south along North Coal City Road, east of Carbon Hill and through the west part of Coal City. (In a 1940 aerial map, Coal City was still completely east of the railroad.) The power lines continue straight south past Central City. Then they head southeast so I think they leave the GCC&N right-of-way.

The satellite image to the right shows a land scar and tree line that indicates the route jogged east. (The southern-most power-line tower is in the upper-left corner of the image.) Switching to an 1940 aerial photo, the diagonal part continues until it is just north of South Coster Road, and then it turns south and goes along the east side of the road. And the next aerial photo confirms the route continues south. In fact, it intersects with a railroad that runs almost east-west. The east branch went to Gardner and the west branch went to another coal mine. The west branch is still visible as a fence line. The mainline route follows Coster Road to South Wilmington. The resolution of the aerial photos is not good enough to determine if the track is still present in 1940.

The railroad is intact north of the Illinois River, so it is easy to trace the track back to the Walker Junction where it connects with the EJ&E mainline northeast of Plainfield. An article on page 2 of the Fall 2011 Newsletter of the Carbon Hill School Museum concerning a strike by coal miners lists the mileposts of the railroad:

Mile 0  Walker Junction
Mile 1  Plainfield
Mile 5  Caton Farm
Mile 12  Minooka -- connects here with Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway
Mile 18  Divine
Mile 21  Dell Abbey
Mile 24  Carbon Hill
Mile 25  Coal City -- connects here with Santa Fe Railway
Mile 27  Centerville
Mile 30  Mazonia -- connects here with the Chicago and Alton Railway
Mile 31  Coster -- connects here with the Kankakee and Seneca Railway

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