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Illinois Central

The Mainline of Mid-America

The Illinois Central system encompassed railroad lines through 14 states in the central section of the United States, known as Mid-America. The IC was chartered in 1851, and traces its roots back to 1828 with the formation of the West Feliciana Railroad, which later became part of the IC. The IC was the first land-grant railroad, the first railroad to promote settlement of the Western lands of Mid-America, and the first railroad to perfect a method of shipping fruit by rail. Until the merger with the Canadian National, the Illinois Central was the only major rail carrier in the United States still operating essentially under its own name without interruption after nearly a century-and-a-half since its founding. In its long and colorful history, the IC achieved many "firsts" in the fields of commerce, transportation and western settlement.

Illinois Central Historical Society

Dubbed the "Main Line of Mid-America," the original Illinois Central Railroad was one of the country's first Class 1 rail systems. Chartered in 1851 by the General Assembly of its namesake state, the decades led to the turn of the century would bring major expansion on both the northern and southern ends of what would become the major north-south rail service of the central United States. Expansion into Iowa commenced by 1870, and new lines crisscrossed Mississippi, Louisiana, and eventually reached into other southern states. Eventually forming something of a "T", the IC went west from Chicago as far as Sioux Falls, and southward through eastern Kentucky and Tennessee to Jackson, Ms and the port of New Orleans. The growing IC acquired various parallel lines throughout the southern states, such as the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley, as well as the east-west Meridian, Ms to Shreveport, La line. In 1972 the road merged with a parallel competitor, the smaller Gulf, Mobile & Ohio, to form the Illinois Central Gulf system. The ICG eventually proved a bloated network, and the company was later reorganized and consolidated--dropping the "Gulf" and shedding most of the former GM&O trackage. The second Illinois Central survived until 1998, when purchased by the expanding Canadian National network.

Illinois Central Railroad system map

1892 system map

Illinois Central Railroad system map

1967 system map

Links / Sources