Sunday, August 9, 2020

The Springfield & Illinois South Eastern Railway

The Springfield and Illinois South Eastern Railway connected Springfield, Illinois' State Capital, to Shawneetown, IL on the Ohio River, a distance of about 175 miles. The company was formed in 1870 following a merger of two railroad companies: The Pana Springfield & North Western Railroad, and Illinois South Eastern Railway.

Both a product of mergers and acquisitions, it would succumb to one just five years later, when it was acquired by the Ohio & Mississippi Railway. 

For most of its life however, it would fall under the flag of the B&O Railroad, as subsidiary line the Baltimore and Ohio Southwestern Railroad.

B&O 2917 Locomotive. Image via Southern Illinois Railroads
The B&O combined the right of way with its own branch line from Springfield northwest to Beardstown, IL, creating a 220+ mile line. 

The Line on an 1876 B&O Railroad Map. Image: Wikipedia Commons
The line would slowly be abandoned throughout the latter part of the 20th century. The most significant abandonment came from Junction, IL (just west of Shawneetown, IL) to Flora, IL. This 1971 abandonment cut 73 miles of the line.

What survived passed down to the Chessie System, and later the CSX Railroad. The Beardstown-Springfield line was abandoned in 1979, leaving the remaining operation to a short line railroad known as the Prairie Trunk Railroad. The short line was also short lived, as the rest of the operation was completely abandoned by 1985. The combined abandonments represent the longest abandoned railroad corridor in the State of Illinois.

East of Springfield, the Lost Bridge Trail preserves about five miles of the original right of way.

Below is an excerpt of a retiree's job from the State Journal Register. "Morton Black had worked 23 years for the B&O Railroad when he retired July 31, 1941. He was a watchman on the bridge over Sugar Creek east of Springfield and his job was to walk the 1,700 foot span after every train passed, checking to make sure hot embers dropped by the steam locomotives didn’t start a fire on the tie deck or in the wood trusses. Watchmen worked seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Small platforms placed at intervals held barrels of water in case it was needed. When diesel locomotives replaced the steam engines, the bridge tenders were out of work. Ironically, this bridge was destroyed by fire in the mid-1960s. Shortly after, the B&O rerouted the line to south of IL-29."
Image: State Journal Register
Thanks as always for reading!

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