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  The Illinois River Railroad

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Survey and Construction
On November 11, 1858, Richard S. Thomas, President of the Illinois River Railroad, announced that first mortgage bonds had been sold to buy "all the Rails, Chairs, Spikes, Frogs, and Switches, that are required to complete the road from the junction of the Peoria and Hannibal Road, to Jacksonville in Morgan County."

The Illinois River Railroad would run from Jacksonville north to LaSalle eventually, but first would run to the junction of the Peoria and Hannibal Railroad between Peoria and Pekin. It would run through the towns of Jacksonville (where it would connect with the Jacksonville, Alton, and St. Louis Railroad), near Virginia, through Chandlerville, Bath, Havana, and Pekin.

The road would be a straight run of sixty-six of its seventy-five mile length, with relatively low grades that required some cutting (twenty-three miles of twenty feet) or embanking (fifty-three miles of fifteen feet ). Three bridges would be built: a 292-foot drawbridge and five 150-foot spans across the Illinois River for a total length of 1,076 feet; a 150-foot bridge over the Mackinaw River, and a 170-foot bridge over the Sangamon River.

Local materials would be used - wood instead of stone south of Pekin, and gravel from several local pits. T-rail weighing 55 pounds per linear yard, 8-inch face cross ties and 12-inch face joint ties would be secured by wrought iron 'chairs' and heavy spikes. Costs for the building of the railroad were estimated to be as follows.

Cost of building the Illinois River Railroad
The Chief Engineer, J.B. Cummings, surveyed the route and estimated the construction costs in his final report. They are summarized here:

Item Cost
Clear, grade, bridges $543,000
track and materials $557,000
Equipment, rolling stock $180,000
Buildings, shops $ 85,000
TOTAL $1,375,000
cost per mile $18,300

The cost of the construction and running of the railroad was financed by $1,375,000 in subscriptions and mortgage bonds (720 at $1,000 each and 600 at $500 each). The first issue would yield ten percent per annum, bringing the cost of interest to the company to $120,000 annually. They would also sell $742,000 in securities. The bonds were bought by individuals (800 bought $285,000)and municipalities ($600,000) along the route.

Projected Railroad Revenues
Revenues were estimated by using 1857 economic data from the towns and counties along the railroad route. Railroad owners anticipated income from passenger traffic, freight traffic, and mail. Prospects were optimistic because these counties were established, productive in agriculture (wheat, corn and hogs) and manufacturing (saw mills, ice merchants, distilleries), and still attracting settlers, who could arrive by rail as well as by river. Farmers often had to wait months to ship their grain on the river because of low water in the summer and ice in the winter. Trains could ship their harvests and meat products as needed.

Illinois River Railroad Projected Income Chart
Revenue SourceAnticipated Income
30,000 passengers @ $2.25 $67,500
112,500 way passengers @$.80 $90,000
mails $10,000
750,000 bushels wheat exported $37,500
2,000,000 bushels corn exported $80,000
500,000 bushels other grains exported $25,000
30,000 barrels flour exported $ 6,000
25,000 hogs $12,500
5,000 fat cattle $ 7,500
1 million bushels coal imported $18,000
25,000 Tons misc. freight $75,000
Operating Expenses -$187,000

Unfortunately, this railroad, for all its planning, went bankrupt before it got out of Pekin, and shareholders were left with worthless paper. The same promoters started the Peoria, Pekin, and Jacksonville Railroad after the end of the Civil War, again locally financed. The line came through Bath in 1868. It ran mail trains, freight trains, and four daily passenger trains. Unfortunately, the improved road between Jacksonville and Bath was finished the next year, drawing much local traffic away from the rail line, which continued business with fewer passengers when automobiles became popular in the 1930s.

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