Wednesday, January 14, 2015

PRR's Panhandle Route (Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis)

If you are interested in the Panhandle route in the Chicago area, skip to Chicago & Great Eastern Railway.

posting concerning the Panhandle detailing junctions, passenger stations, and track elevations.

AbandonedOnline describes the pieces of the Panhandle in chronological order including a significant upgrade in 1949 to increase the clearance and to double track the line. I described the Panhandle from east to west and got myself really confused. "During World War II, the Panhandle Line was among the busiest in the United States....A train wreck west of Steubenville shortly after required Conrail trains to be rerouted between Pittsburgh and Columbus to the Fort Wayne Line. Much of that traffic was further rerouted onto the Pittsburgh-Cleveland-Chicago line, which could then reach St. Louis. After noting the change reduced operating costs, Conrail abandoned the Panhandle Line from Columbus to Bradford, where the railroad split into a northern segment to Chicago and southern segment to Indianapolis. Both segments were also abandoned." [AbandonedOnline]

Brain A Morgan posted
The Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad, commonly called the Pan Handle Route (Panhandle Route in later days), was a railroad that was part of the Pennsylvania Railroad system. Its common name came from its main line, which began at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, crossed the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia, and continued west to Bradford, Ohio, where it split into a northern line to Chicago and a southern one through Indianapolis, Indiana, to East St. Louis, Illinois. The Panhandle came into the region from North Judson, Indiana as the southern track that paralleled the C&O to La Crosse, IN. On the east side of La Crosse, C&GE headed due west while the C&O curved to the north to leave town to both the northwest and to the northeast. The abandoned Monon is the north/south tree line on the west side of town. I'm surprised that the segment of the CG&E that served both grain elevators in town was torn up. I would have thought they would have connected that segment to the C&O track right next to it. You can easily follow the "land scar" to the west through Kouts, where you see the land scar for the Erie go through town on an angle. It continues due west until it gets to Hebron where it curves northwest to parallel US-231 on the north side. The line went through Crown Point, Beatrice, Washington Heights and onto the 59th Street Yard where it parallels the B&OCT. The B&OCT turned East at Western Avenue junction ( Not to be confused with the Milwaukee Road/ C&NW junction.) then heads further north until it reaches close to the C&NW California Avenue Coach Yard and heads due East to reach the North Leads of Union Station. The North Leads of Union Station were shared by both the PCC&StL and Milwaukee Road.
Jeff Toppen: Is this the abandoned railroad bridge that crosses I-57 at about 107th st?
Michael Henry Brown: Jeff Toppen YES IT IS.
Seth Lakin: Originally the line went from LaCrosse to Valparaiso to open up the through route while west to Crown Point and Chicago was being built. Once the new construction opened, this section was abandoned, one of the first railroads abandoned in Indiana.
[Some replys to this comment discuss the abandoned RoW.]

Unless noted otherwise, the source is Wikipedia.

Note that the PRR had two different routes west of Pittsburgh. The northern route was the PFW&C. This southern route was the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad, commonly called the Panhandle Route. The PFW&C was a rather methodical march west. I'm going into the construction details of this route because it might be a better example of local towns building railroads to prosper and then later bigger railroads snarfing them up to create a bigger system to compete with peers. In the case of the Pennsy, it was in a railroad grab war with NYC. And the NKP grew by grabbing railroads in the north-central part of Indiana.
Wikipedia: Western Pennsylvania RR, Circa 1874

The reason it was called the Panhandle Route is that it crosses the little sliver of West Virginia, the Virginia Panhandle, that is north of the southern Pennsylvania border.

In 1848, the Steubenville and Indiana Railroad was charted to build west from Steubenville (on the Ohio River next to West Virginia) to Indiana via Mt. Vernon. But before it got to Newark on April 11, 1855, it had made an agreement with Central Ohio Railroad, which was opened Nov 1854 from Bellaire (across the Ohio River from Wheeling) via Zanesville and Newark to Columbus, to use its tracks to Columbus. On April 16, 1857, connectivity was obtained between Steubenville and Columbus, and the Columbus and Xenia Railroad provided connectivity through to Cincinnati.
In the meantime, the Pittsburgh and Steubenville Railroad was chartered in 1849 to build the Pennsylvania portion of its namesake. But West Virginia would not grant a charter for the little segment across the panhandle because it wanted a route through Wheeling and West Virginia favored the Baltimore & Ohio interests over the Pennsylvania interests. The importance of a charter is that it enables eminent domain acquisitions. On July 22, 1853, the president of the S&I deeded the needed right-of-way that he had bought from 36 landowners across the panhandle to P&S so that a charter was not needed. Additional charters were obtained to build two bridges over the Ohio River that are required by this route. With the two bridges, the P&S, and Grant's Hill Tunnel, the S&I was connected to the Pennsylvania Railroad on Oct. 9, 1865.

Note that railroads were originally not viewed as a means of transport across the country. They were still viewed as a means to reach a river or canal town. Thus Ohio's choice of 4' 10" for the gauge instead of 4' 8.5" was not considered a problem. But it soon became a problem with Indiana and Ohio railroads both building to the border to meet each other.

The routes between Columbus and Indianapolis is a classic example of a bunch of little railroads connecting and reconnecting as other railroads are built. And some of the railroads changed to 4' 10" so that they could interconnect with Ohio railroads. I wrote my own explanation, but my eyes glazed over it as I read it just as they do when I read any other account of dates and towns. So I threw away what I wrote and created a map. To get a scale that would fit on this map, I had to add some dots for some towns:
  • black: Bellefonte
  • blue: Union City, IN
  • purple: Bradford
  • orange:  Piqua
  • red: Xenia
The colored lines that I added to the map represent the various railroads. The dates below denote the charter; begin construction; and completion.

Google plus paint

  • yellow: Little Miami (LM): 1836; 1841; 1846.
  • dark blue: Indianapolis and Bellefontain (I&B): 1848; ?; 1850?.
  • red:  Columbus and Xenia (C&X): March 12, 1844; 1848; 1850.
  • black: Dayton and Western (D&W): 1851; ?; 1854.
  • purple: Indiana Central (IC): 1851; ?; 1853.
  • light blue: Columbus, Piqua and Indiana (CP&I), on Aug. 6, 1863, it was reorganized as the Columbus and Indianapolis (C&I): Feb. 23, 1849; 1853, 1859.
  • green: Richmond and Covington (R&C): March 12, 1862; 1862; 1863.
The IC and D&W had a joint operating contract, and they ran their first train between Dayton and Indianapolis on Aug. 1, 1854. The LM and I&B are not part of the panhandle. I include them because they helped justify the construction of other lines. It is worth noting that the I&B is now part of the CSX system. Much of the other track has been abandoned.

Columbus and Indianapolis Central Railway, Google plus paint
The R&C was obviously some sort of "I don't like you" retaliation construction. It was built by the IC and C&I after which the IC dissolved its joint agreement with the D&W on Mar. 9, 1863.
On January 10, 1864 the IC, C&I and R&C signed an agreement for joint operation as the Great Central Line between Columbus and Indianapolis, headed by the Indiana Central. The C&I bought the R&C on September 5, 1864. The Indiana Central Railway and Columbus and Indianapolis Railroad merged October 19 to form the Columbus and Indianapolis Central Railway, with a main line from Columbus, Ohio to Indianapolis, Indiana and a branch from Bradford, Ohio to Union City, Indiana.
I started mapping the railroads between Richmond and Logansport. It is worth noting that Logansport was another town on the Wabash and Erie Canal. Those railroads were involved with railroads between Richmond and Cincinnati. Because of railroads building next to each other, mergers, reorganizations, etc., I count 11 railroads. So I'm going to cut to the chase, the Cincinnati and Chicago Railroad was formed on Oct. 10, 1854 by merging lines between Cincinnati & Richmond and between Richmond & Logansport. It completed the route on July 4, 1857. But the Panic of 1857 caused it to be sold at foreclosure and reorganized July 10, 1860, as the Cincinnati and Chicago Air-Line Railroad. 
On Sept. 25, 1857 the Chicago and Cincinnati Railroad was charted to build from Logansport northwest to Valparaiso. It opened in 1861 with a connection at Valparaiso with the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway to gain access to Chicago. The Cincinnati and Chicago Air-Line opened a bridge over the Wabash River at Logansport on Sept. 25, 1861. Joint operation between Richmond and Chicago began July 1, 1862 and ended Jan. 29, 1865.
In 1857 the Galena and Illinois River Railroad (G&IR) was chartered to build from Galena through Chicago to the Indiana state line towards Lansing, MI. The Chicago and Great Eastern Railway (C&GE) was incorporated in 1863 to build from Logansport northwest to the Illinois state line towards Chicago; and it acquired, then absorbed, the G&IR charter.
The line from Chicago (12th Street) south and southeast to the Chicago and Cincinnati at La Crosse, Indiana opened March 6, 1865, and the old line northwest from La Crosse to Valparaiso was abandoned. On May 15, 1865 the C&GE absorbed the Cincinnati and Chicago Air–Line Railroad and Chicago and Cincinnati Railroad.
Evidently the G&IR organizers never built anything. The charter's actual use was for an Indiana railroad to gain its own access to Chicago. The access continued north and then went east to approach the Union Station from the north. Most of Pennsy's trains used the much more direct route of the PFW&C to the south side of Union Station.

Remember the branch of the Columbus and Indianapolis Central Railway to Union City described above? In 1852 the Marion and Mississineaw Valley Railroad was incorporated in Indiana to build from Union City northwest to Marion. And in 1853 the Marion and Logansport Railroad was incorporated to continue northwest from Marion to Logansport. The Union and Logansport Railroad (U&L) was incorporated in 1863 with the M&WV and M&L routes. We will see below that the route was finished in 1867.

In 1853 the Logansport and Pacific Railroad was formed. It got reorganized a couple of times and finally made it to the Illinois state line near Effner in 1859 as the Toledo, Logansport and Burlington Railroad (TL&B). This segment is now part of the current Toledo, Peoria & Western.

The Columbus and Indiana Central Railway was formed in Sept. 11, 1867 as the merger of the C&IC, U&L, and TL&B. The main line, formerly being built by the U&L was finished in 1867.
Wikipedia, CC&IC circa 1868
In 1868 this railroad was merged with the C&GE to form the Columbus, Chicago and Indiana Central Railway (CC&IC).

The rest of the new main line, from Marion northwest to Anoka, on the old main line east of Logansport, was completed March 15, 1868, making the old route via New Castle and Richmond into a branch. The CC&IC now had main lines from Columbus, Ohio to Chicago and Indianapolis, Indiana, with branches from near Logansport, Indiana southeast to Richmond, Indiana (on the Indianapolis line) and west to Effner, Indiana. The Erie Railway offered in late 1868 to lease the CC&IC, but the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and St. Louis Railway made a better offer on January 22, 1869, leasing it on February 1.
(I could not find Anoka on Google Map.)

Since the motivation for studying the Panhandle Route was its entry into Chicago, I include an enlargement of the 1868 map so that I can reference it later. Update: see Chicago and Great Eastern Railway for the details.

Wikipedia, 1868

A year after the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and St. Louis Railway leased the CC&IC, the St. Louis, Vandalia and Terre Haute Rialroad and Terre Haute and Indianapolis Rail Road were completed giving the PRR a route to East St. Louis via the PC&StL to Indianapolis. When the CC&IC went bankrupt, new Illinois and Indiana companies were made and they were merged with the PC&StL, Cincinnati and Richmond Railroad and Jeffersonville, Madison and Indianapolis Railroad on Sept. 30, 1890 to form the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway (PCC&StL).

In 1891 the PCC&StL acquired stock ownership of the Little Miami Railroad. On December 21, 1916 (taking effect January 1, 1917), the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway merged with the Vandalia Railroad, Pittsburgh, Wheeling and Kentucky Railroad, Anderson Belt Railway and Chicago, Indiana and Eastern Railway, forming the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad.
The PCC&StL was leased by the PRR on January 1, 1921, and finally was merged into the PRR's Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington Railroad on April 2, 1956.

Richard Parks has a summary of timetables that shows, of the 15 trains that ran between Chicago and Pittsburgh, only 3 of them took the 504.2 mile route via Columbus. (The others were on the PFW&C route.) The passengers on this route would be those that were traveling to an intermediate stop.


  1. When I first started working for the CNW in 1974, when ever we were taking a train to the then Penn Central, it was referred to on occasion as "the Panhandle". Is this because we would travel over trackage owned by the PCC&St.L or Panhandle as it was known?

    1. Yes if you went south from C&NW's California Yard to PC's 59th Street Yard.

  2. I have a hotel ledger with a Panhandle employees signature on it