Tuesday, February 3, 2015

IC's Rantoul Railroad Overview

Pre-1967 plus paint
The Havana, Rantoul and Eastern Railroad (HR&E) was created in January 1873 and a charter was granted on April 1st for a line from Havana, IL to the Indiana border. Evidently the charter was an April Fools joke because the railroad never reached Havana. The corresponding Indiana railroad, Mississippi and Atlantic Railroad Company (M&A), extended the line to West Lebanon. M&A was an odd name for a railroad that was charted to be about 10 miles long. (tdf23) West Lebanon was on the Wabash mainline between Detroit and St. Louis. The M&A was such a minor railroad that it does not even appear on the INDOT map of abandoned railroads. The line was constructed as narrow gauge.
1973 plus paint
  •  red: Summer of 1875 to beginning of 1876
  • yellow: put in service Dec. 1, 1878
  • blue: February 1879
According to my 1928 Railroad Atlas, the line to West Lebanon was still intact. But we see in the pre-1967 map that the Potomac to West Lebanon segment had been abandoned. My 1973 Railroad Atlas indicates the ICG still owned the route from Le Roy to Potomac.  At Le Roy, it connected with a Big Four route that went between Bloomington and Champaign.

I'm reminded that Jay Gould tried to build an empire using the Wabash railroad because he merged the HR&E into the Wabash. By the mid-1880s, Jay killed the Wabash; and the HR&E was put up for auction. The Illinois Central Railroad organized the assests it bought from the winning bidder as the Rantoul Railroad on June 3, 1887.  (tdf23) Now (2015) only a remnant west of Rantoul exists, the Fisher Farmers Grain & Coal Railroad.

Update: "The entire line was abandoned in 1943." [Trains Mag, April, 2017, "One family's railroad story" by Kevin P. Keefe, p29]

Forgotten Railways Roads & Places posted
The Havana Rantoul & Eastern Railroad was one of the very few narrow-gauge railways in the State of Illinois. Construction began in 1875, and eventually the line ran from LeRoy, IL to West Lebanon, IN. A Havana-LeRoy segment of the road was proposed, but never constructed.
It was built in response to the Illinois Central Railroad, whom financier Benjamin F. Gifford believed was charging exorbitant freight rates. Locals referred to the operation as the Punkin’ Vine, alluding to its narrow trackage.
Like many short lines, it ran on a shoestring budget, and had little in the way of rolling stock. Less than five years into its life, it was purchased by the Wabash Railroad.
In 1886, the Illinois Central, the line for whom the railroad was built to compete with, acquired the road, and ran it as a subsidiary called the Rantoul Railroad. During IC's ownership, it was regauged to standard gauge.
Most of the line was abandoned in 1980, but an 8 mile stretch of the line still operates as the Fisher Farmers Grain & Coal Railroad between Rantoul, IL and Dewey, IL.
Image from the article: "A westbound Illinois Central train passes the Sabina station en route to LeRoy. This was the first grain elevator east of LeRoy on the colorful “Punkin’ Vine.” The station is long gone, but its “Sabina” sign remained for years after the railroad was abandoned. (Photo courtesy of Jack Keefe)"

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