Illinois Central Railroad

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Logo of the IC from 1972
Logo of the IC until 1972
Illinois Central Rail Road Company stock from 1899

The Illinois Central Railroad ( IC, ICRR, ICG ) was an American railroad company. Due to the merger with the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad , the company was called Illinois Central Gulf Railroad from 1972 to 1988 . The company was bought by the Canadian National Railway in 1998 . Its two main routes ran from Chicago to New Orleans and to Sioux Falls and Omaha ( Nebraska ). A famous passenger train was the City of New Orleans on the Chicago – New Orleans route, which Steve Goodman created a lasting memory for with the song of the same name . However, the song only became known in the version by Arlo Guthrie . The daring catch-up run of the ICRR train driver Casey Jones in 1900 is legendary , which led to an accident, whereby Jones was able to prevent greater loss of life through self-sacrifice.


Development until 1945

EMD TR1 9251 of the IC in November 1942
Route network 1850

The IC was founded with the support of the Illinois General Assembly on February 10, 1851 to cover a stretch from Cairo at the confluence of the Ohio River into the Mississippi River to Centralia and from there with two branches to Galena on the Illinois / Iowa / Wisconsin border as well to build Chicago. The construction of the railway was supported from 1850 by the granting of land rights by President Millard Fillmore . With the completion of the line in 1856, Chicago now had a connection to the Mississippi and the company built a steamboat line from Cairo to New Orleans.

From New Orleans in 1858 the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railway from New Orleans via Jackson (Mississippi) to Canton (Mississippi) and in 1860 the Mississippi Central Railway from Canton to Jackson (Tennessee) was completed. The Illinois Central completed the section from Jackson to Cairo in 1873 and was able to offer a continuous north-south rail connection for the first time - but initially only with a ship passage over the Mississippi in Cairo. The following year, Illinois Central took over the two companies. Until 1881, the routes south of Cairo had the broad gauge of 1,524 mm (5 feet) common in the southern states . The two parts of Illinois Central were only connected in 1889 with the construction of a Mississippi bridge in Cairo.

From the 1870s, the railways began to penetrate the fertile areas of the Yazoo Delta on the western edge of the state of Mississippi. For this purpose, Illinois Central founded the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad in 1882 to build a route from Jackson to the west. In the meantime, the competing Louisville, New Orleans and Texas Railroad built a route between Memphis and New Orleans via Vicksburg and Baton Rouge . This company was supported by Collis P. Huntington , who wanted to establish a connection between his railways Southern Pacific Railroad and Chesapeake, Ohio and Southwestern Railroad (Memphis – Louisville). This project was completed in 1884 and initially withdrawn traffic from the IC through the purchase of the Mississippi and Tennessee Railroad between Memphis and Grenada (Mississippi) . The announced competition with the Illinois Central did not materialize, however, as Huntington's empire was now in financial difficulties. In this situation, the Illinois Central acquired these routes and merged them with the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad. This expanded the route network by 28% and the presence of Illinois Central in the southern United States.

Route network 1892

From Galena, the route was extended across the Mississippi River to Iowa and reached Sioux City on the Missouri River in 1870 . Further expansion westward began in the 1880s under the leadership of EH Harriman . The Chicago, Madison and Northern Railroad was founded to provide a connection from Chicago to the Centralia-Galena route near Freeport (Illinois) and to Madison (Wisconsin) and Dodgeville (Wisconsin) . Illinois Central also built routes to Cedar Rapids , Sioux Falls in South Dakota and Omaha in Nebraska .

In 1893 the Chesapeake, Ohio & Southwestern Railroad was bought and in 1895 a line to St. Louis was built . In 1906 Indianapolis and 1908 Birmingham (Alabama) were connected to the network. In 1909 she acquired control of the Central of Georgia Railway . In 1926 the local traffic line in Chicago was electrified and in 1928 a new shortcut line was built between Edgewood (Illinois) and Fulton (Kentucky) to bypass the bottleneck in Cairo.


After the Second World War , the company began to simplify its corporate structure. By the late 1950s, the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad and the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad were fully integrated, the Chicago, St. Louis and New Orleans Railroad ; Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Northern Railroad ; Tremont and Gulf Railroad ; Peabody Short Line Railroad ; Louisiana Midland Railroad and the western portion of the Tennessee Central Railroad acquired.

In 1962, Illinois Central Industries was founded as a holding company. This gave the company the opportunity to invest in other industries without being subject to the regulations of the Interstate Commerce Commission .

On August 10, 1972, the Illinois Central and the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad (GM&O) merged to form the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad . At the same time a few smaller companies were acquired, such as the Columbus and Greenville Railroad , the Bonhomie and Hattiesburg Southern Railroad and the Fernwood, Columbia and Gulf Railroad . After these acquisitions, the Illinois Central Gulf had eight parallel north-south routes. Only near Fulton (Kentucky) was a bottleneck in the route network. There were also eight east-west routes:


The Illinois Central Gulf was of the opinion that these east-west routes did not fit into the corporate concept of a north-south railroad. In addition, the connections to the neighboring railway companies were not available to the extent that they were needed for profitable business operations. The company therefore began to sell unneeded routes. Several new regional railway companies emerged from these sales:

Several routes were also sold to so-called shortlines between 1974 and 1990.

Route network 1996

These reductions related not only to the lines, but also to the tracks and rolling stock. Most of the route between Chicago and New Orleans was double-track. The Illinois Central removed a track and introduced computer-controlled train control, in addition, unneeded wagons were scrapped and surplus locomotives were sold.

On February 29, 1988, the company renamed itself again in Illinois Central Railroad, since most of the lines acquired by the merger with Gulf, Mobile & Ohio were sold again.

With effect from January 1, 1989, the railroad company was spun off from its parent company Whitman Corporation (formerly IC Industries) by giving the shareholders of Whitman Corporation additional shares in the rail company's new parent company, Illinois Central Transportation Co. In March 1989, the Prospect Group , previously owned by MidSouth Rail Corporation , took control of the company. In 1990 the shares of the railway company were sold to the owners of the Prospect Group or brought to the stock exchange. In the same year attempts were unsuccessful to acquire the MidSouth.

From 1994 the Illinois Central Corporation was the holding of the railway company. In 1994 a merger with Kansas City Southern was considered. In order to achieve a higher volume of traffic, the Illinois Central acquired the Chicago, Central & Pacific in June 1996 for a price of 157 million $.

In February 1998, the Canadian National Railway acquired the Illinois Central Railroad. The merger was approved by the Surface Transportation Board in early 1999 .

passenger traffic

Illinois Central was an important provider of passenger train connections on the main axes between Chicago and New Orleans and between Chicago and St. Louis. Long-distance train connections were also established between Chicago and Omaha, but these never reached the importance of the first two. The largest passenger station was Central Station on 12th Street east of Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Due to the south-north course of the main line from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes , the railway played a major role during the Afro-American Great Migration in the 1920s.

The most important train was the Panama Limited , a first-class night train consisting of Pullman cars between Chicago, St. Louis and New Orleans. As a result of the losses that occurred due to the operation of the train, it was combined in 1967 with a pure seated carriage train called the Magnolia Star . On June 1, 1971, Amtrak took over the operation of the train, but after ten years changed the name for marketing reasons in favor of the City of New Orleans streamlined train, which ran during the day until 1971 and which had become famous thanks to the song of the same name . Other important long-distance trains such as the Creole or the Louisiane also ran on the route . Between Chicago, Springfield and St. Louis itself, however, the Green Diamond was the most important train. Other significant long-distance trains were the Hawkeye , which ran daily between Chicago and Sioux City, and the City of Miami , which ran from Chicago to Miami every other day on the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad , the Central of Georgia Railway, and the Florida East Coast Railway .

In terms of local traffic, suburban traffic in Chicago was particularly important, as it connected the train stations along South Michigan Avenue with the suburbs of the metropolis and was taken over by METRA .

After 1971, Amtrak drove the Shawnee between Chicago and Carbondale (Illinois) over the tracks of the Illinois Central in addition to the Panama Limited . Today, next to the City of New Orleans are the Illini and Saluki operates daily between Chicago and Carbondale.

Another passenger train corridor for Illinois was planned for the former Blackhawk route between Chicago, Rockford and Dubuque, Iowa . The project study assumes costs between 32 and 55 million dollars depending on the route chosen. From 2010 to 2014, the Illinois Department of Transport negotiated with the Canadian National, but an agreement could not be reached.

Corporate management

Chairman of the Board / Chairman of the Executive Committee

President / Chief Executive Officer

Web links

Commons : Illinois Central Railroad  - Collection of Pictures, Videos, and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Illinois Central Railroad number 790. Steamtown National Historic Site, accessed September 15, 2012 .
  2. a b c d George H. Drury: The Historical Guide to North American Railroads . 2nd Edition. Kalmbach Publishing Co., Waukesha 1999, ISBN 0-89024-356-5 , pp. 195-199 .
  3. Dec. 31, 1988, Page 31 - St. Louis Post-Dispatch at Retrieved April 26, 2019 .
  5. Amtrak Black Hawk Service Restoration Status Updates . April 7, 2011. Retrieved September 15, 2012.
  6. ^ Plan for Amtrak service from Chicago to Rockford on hold. In: Chicago Tribune . February 9, 2015, accessed July 7, 2016 .
  7. ^ Ackerman, William K., Railroad Historical Company, Illinois Central Railroad Company: History of the Illinois Central Railroad Company and Representative Employes By William K. Ackerman, Railroad Historical Company, Illinois Central Railroad Company (Retrieved February 9, 2009).