Monday, March 9, 2015

II&I: Indiana, Illinois & Iowa Railroad

Facebook: 1901 Railway Guide
The Facebook link includes a caption for this map of "DELAYS AT CHICAGO AVOIDED BY ROUTING YOUR FREIGHT CARE I., I. & I.". Unfortunately the west and east ends have been abandoned so that it can't as effectively bypass Chicago. But the number of trains that run through Chicago instead of to Chicago has increased with the development of unit trains and the movement of freight classification to other towns. For example, NS classifies its Chicago-area freight in Elkhart, IN; and BNSF classifies its freight in Galesburg rather than Cicero and Corwith yards. (Cicero and Corwith are now intermodal yards.) It is a shame this route out in the country-side where high-speeds are possible is no longer available so that through trains could bypass the Chicago area so that taxpayers would not have to pay billions of dollars to help improve the train throughput of Chicago. (For some of these expensive Chicago projects, select postings using the CREATE label.)

The corporate history between Streator, IL and South Bend, IN is easy to determine because the 3I built it. The stretch from Streator to North Judson, IN was built in 1881 and extended to South Bend in 1894. (StockLobster)

NS .pdf file
Large version of above 1901 map
I include closeups of the western end of the 3I and NS/NYC routes to help figure out what happened on the west end. First of all, we need to recognize that the 1901 map is of the "timetable style." That is, it doesn't accurately depict the geography between the towns.

Google plus Paint
I marked a road map to indicate the timetable towns because these towns don't show at a resolution that allows me to include the whole area on the screen. On a satellite map, I could easily trace a land scar of a railroad from Granville, across the Illinois River, past DePue, up to Seatonville and over to Ladd where the RoW meets an existing route to Zearing. From the timetable map, I had assumed that the mainline ran from Seatonville to Zearing with a branch to Ladd and Churchill. But I could not find any land scars between Seatonville and Zearing.

KankakeeBeltMap found on HoosierValley, rotated
Then a comment on Facebook and a Kankakee Belt Route map confirms there was no direct connection between Seatonville and Zearing. But the segment between Ladd and Zearing was built by the Illinois Valley & Northern (IV&N).

Even though the II&I was a competitor of CB&Q/IV&N between Ladd and Streator, including having its own bridge over the Illinois River, it seems to have shared the RoW with CB&Q/IV&N to Walnut, IL and then CB&Q/Illinois Grand Trunk Railway all the way to Fulton, IL.

The 1901 map above was the high-water mark of the 3I because the New York Times reported on December 29, 1901 that the above Kankakee Belt Route segment had been purchased by Vanderbilt. The article also states that every year the 3I earned a surplus because it carried through freight around Chicago. (NYtimes) Wikipedia indicates that in 1907 Vanderbilt combined the 3I with Indiana Harbor Railroad and Danville and Indiana Harbor Railroad to form the Chicago, Indiana and Southern Railroad (CI&S). This was the corporate name for the Kankakee Belt Route. Wikipedia also states that the western terminus was at Seatonville, IL. But it went on to Ladd, with a branch to Churchill and a connection to Zearing.  In 1914, the CI&S was one of several Vanderbilt railroads that were consolidated to form the modern New York Central Railroad.

As described in the Kankakee Belt Railroad posting, the II&I has also been abandoned east of  Walkerton, IN.

BNSF Subdivisions
There have been five oil train explosions in the last five weeks. And many of those trains were using the more modern tank car design. The train that burned south of Galena, IL was going only 23 mph when it derailed. Unlike many shortlines, BNSF is supposed to be maintaining its mainlines. It is disturbing that the new tank car design doesn't seem to help much because I live just a few blocks from the BNSF/CB&Q mainline. Exploding trains would be another reason why through trains should bypass the Chicago area rather than run through it. About 8-10 BNSF/NS run throughs do bypass Chicago using the Kankakee Belt. If BNSF had not abandoned the east and west ends of the IV&N and the Illinois Grand Trunk Railway between Walnut and Dearing Junction, it could have moved trains from the Aurora subdivision to the 3I and run all NS trains around Chicago. Perhaps the grades down into the Illinois River Valley and back out are too steep for economical operation? I currently don't know which generation abandoned the 3I route east of Walkerton, IN --- Conrail, Penn Central, or NYC. If this segment was left intact, bypass trains could go around the entire Chicago area. I still don't understand why CSX doesn't use the Kankakee Belt for its run-through trains to the BNSF. It turns out that the NS run-through trains use an old Michigan Central CSX segment in Indiana as part of their bypass route. Railroads would rather have taxpayers pay billions and risk oil train explosions in major urban areas rather than cooperate?

Matthew Ginkel -> NS Kankakee Line
Update: Matthew's comment:
I whipped this up a little awhile ago for the Indiana Railroads forum, should help make sense of what the group covers.
Marty Bernard caught a couple of engines and a caboose at the end of the line in Zearing, IL.

A couple of comments to help answer a question posted by Brian McCarty provides some more details about the Zearing/Ladd/river area:
Steven Holding That was the old Three I that today is the NS. use to come out of Streator like today but crossed the Illinois River and ran thru Ladd to Zearing. Later the Chicago Indiana & Southern NYC The Milw Rd used this line to cross the river and service the coal mines in Granville area. 32 pool turns in the Ladd RH in the '20's Check out " Charles J. Devlin Coal Mines & Railroads His Empire" by Lewis Wabel In the back are plat maps of the area which show all the roads. .
Bruce Liebe The 3I line did not run to Zearing per se. The line to Zearing was CB&Q (BN). The Q ran from Zearing to LaSalle and on to Streator. The MILW went through Ladd and continued north to their major east-west main. The NYC ran to Ladd on that trackage. Ladd also and the CNW and LS&BC to the east. The MILW ran through Granville, Standard, etc. because of coal mines. It terminated in Oglesby where it served Marquette Cement. The 3I bridge has an interesting history. Was hit by a barge jn the 60s, caught fire and the bridge tender killed.

In this 1897 Map we see that the II&I route east of Streator is labeled as such. (The "& Iowa" is further to the right on the complete map.) But the route to the west either hasn't been built yet or the Rand McNally office has yet to get the information. Also Zearing seems to be called "V. & N. Cross.".
Excerpt from 1897 Map provided by Samuel Samara

Larry Mangan also posted the 3I map.

The comments in this post have maps that show t he Plymouth, Kankakee & Pacific was a predecessor to the II&I.


  1. Excellent article. I'll add a couple of comments. The 3I was primarily a coal-seeking RR, and terminated at Churchill, a cornfield junction SE of Ladd. This connected the 3I to the Milwaukee in Ladd and CNW at Churchill. Coal was mined in Spring Valley (viaCNW), Cherry (via Milwaukee) Ladd and Seatonville. The Illinois River bridge for the 3I was east of Depue, due south of Seatonville. The BR built the Illinois Valley and Northern (IV&N) in 1988, which included the Ladd to Zearing trackage. The route of the IV&N was more directly north of Streator and served the glass making industry in Streator, brick making in Lowell, and crossed the Ill. River at LaSalle serving a variety of industries there. The line paralleled the Rock Island to Spring Valley where it turned north, paralleling the CNW through a valley leading away from the Ill. River, thus allowing a reasonable grade up to the prairie 'flatland'. At Churchill the IV&N turned to Ladd (less than 2 miles) and then turned north to what was to become Zearing (Zearing wasn't platted until 1905), continued across the BR mainline to Walnut Jct. and Denrock. The 1905 plat of Zearing shows the 3I roundhouse in place; the only other structure was a depot (BR) I've had zero success finding documentation re: the arrangement between 3I and BR of track rights between Ladd and Zearing and how it was that 3I would build a steam facility someplace where they owned no track to get there. Ultimately, there was the roundhouse/turntable, a coaling dock and a water tower in Zearing, all shared by 3I (CI&S by that time) and BR. BTW, the track map of Ladd/Churchill is a real mess of spaghetti.

  2. Check out a railroad proposition from the 1870's called the Continental Railway. It might help explain what could have been the more proper Western Illinois and Eastern Iowa alignment of the II&I. Also see a paper railroad called the MK&E for Muscatine, Kewanee & Eastern.

  3. I can supply a high res map of the CR from 1873 if you like.

    1. I would be interested in 1873. Can you email a copy to

  4. I have been researching the history of the Vandalia Line (Terra Haute & Logansport RR – later PRR) at South Bend, IN. Per the 1901 Official Ry Guide, passenger service on the TH&L Vandalia Line was extended to St. Joseph, MI utilizing II&I trackage by means of leases. One daily TH&L train originating in Terra Haute stopped at the South Bend Vandalia Station before continuing on to St. Joseph. It was an indirect route, however, getting from the So. Bend station to St. Joseph. The II&I had its own passenger service out of St. Joseph to South Bend w/ 2-daily trains in both directions that ultimately terminated in Clinton Iowa per the Ry Guide.
    My questions are these:
    • What/where was the II&I passenger station stop in South Bend? I doubt very much that the through-trains to Iowa were re-routed to the out of the way Vandalia Station.
    • When was passenger service of the II&I RR terminated between South Bend & St. Joseph, MI?
    • When was the passenger service of the Vandalia Line (which came under control of the PRR) from St. Joseph to South Bend terminated?

    Paul Flaherty email:

    1. I'm afraid I don't know. Your level of expertise far exceeds mine.

  5. I have bicycled and driven through these areas every summer for years, and boy have the communities and towns changed. For more than 45 years I have seen the tracks disappear.