The St. Louis, Rock Island, and Chicago Railroad built a line from the southeast edge of Beardstown to the river and constructed a bridge to the west side of the Illinois River in 1869. The first train service started the next year. The inaugural run consisted of an engine decorated with willow boughs and three flatcars on which seats were placed for an excursion.
CB&Q Railroad Yards at Bearstown, 1910
The city bonded itself for $150,000 and was assured that the railroad would build a roundhouse and division shops in the town. Beardstown was a changing point for crew and passengers. For fifty years the railroad was the main industry. Several hundred roadmen lived in the town with their families. Passengers who arrived or laid over in town would stay at the Park Hotel.
In 1882, the name was changed to the Rockford, Rock Island and St. Louis Railroad. Business continued to prosper until the strike of 1922. Divisions grew among the residents when some families took in the "scabs" that were hired to fill in for the striking employees. Shortly after the strike, the company moved its division offices and shops to other towns.