Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Havana Rantoul & Eastern Railroad

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. (Right of way)

Image: "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.” (Jack Keefe)
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.

Havana Rantoul & Eastern RR Stock Certificate. (Amazon)

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.

Havana Rantoul & Eastern Timetable, 1885, at this point under the Wabash flag.
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 re-gauged to standard gauge.

Passenger service along the route ended in the 1930's or early 1940's. Most of the line was abandoned pre-1980, but an 8 mile stretch of the line still operates as the Fisher Farmers Grain & Coal Railroad between Rantoul, IL and Dewey, IL. (DeBruler)

Image: Eric Coleman, FFG&C RR 1828
Thanks as always for reading!

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