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History of the Madison County Railroad

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser

 

 

Construction began on the Madison County Railroad in 1867. This railroad extended from Edwardsville, west to the Mississippi River, where it formed a connection with the Alton and St. Louis riverboat packets. The railroad was constructed by Tunstall and Holmes of St. Louis, who had purchased the steamers of the Alton – St. Louis line from the Chicago & Alton Railroad, when that company extended its line from Alton to St. Louis. Judge Joseph Gillespie, Judge David Gillespie, and Captain J. F. Lusk were the prominent pioneers of the Madison County Railroad. Edwardsville subscribed $50,000 cash, and $25,000 bonds to the building of the railroad. The original intention was to build from Edwardsville to Alton. Captain J. True Dodge represented Tunstall & Holmes, contractors, in the building of this railroad. The civil engineers were H. C. Swift and T. M. Long, and the first engine, at the suggestion of Captain Dodge, was named the “Harry C. Swift.” The German Savings Bank of St. Louis had a mortgage on the railroad, and eventually foreclosed it, and the property was purchased at the sale by Jay Gould, who owned it for sixteen years, when it passed into the control of the Wabash, and was operated by that company until leased by the Illinois Terminal in 1899.

 

RAILROAD NEEDED IN EDWARDSVILLE
Source: Alton Telegraph, February 23, 1866
The great question of interest with our people at present is the railroad. A meeting was held in the court house last Saturday, at which the reports of the various canvassing committees were heard, when it was found by adding together the various subscriptions, that the sum contributed has reached forty-nine thousand dollars – lacking only one thousand of the amount required. It is to be remembered, however, that there will have to be a margin to cover losses, and to secure that amount, committees have been appointed for the coming week, and a vigorous canvass will doubtless be made. In the meantime, we will probably hear from the other contracting parties, and if so, by next Saturday, will know whether the road is to be built.

The importance of the work for our town and county is beginning to be better appreciated, and we hope the matter will not be allowed to rest till we hear the whistle of the locomotive. No arguments are necessary now on the subject, as it is, we are almost out of the world, and to our town and surrounding country, it is a work of prime necessity. Our village does not at present even receive a visit from those who desire to invest their means, because it is not accessible. Besides, we need a large population to sustain the institutions of social and intellectual progress. For instance, we have a number of Baptist and Presbyterian Church members, and yet there are not enough of either of these denominations to organize a church that can sustain a regular minister. This must continue a great drawback against the growth of our town.

The railroad would obviate this, and we could offer inducements to members of either these powerful denominations to become a part of our population. The lecturers of national fame, the vocals of the country, whose sweet strains rapture and purify the soul, pass us in their journeyings because the swift tread of the iron horse conveys them more speedily and conveniently to more favored places for the exhibition of their talents.

 

    Madison County Railroad - 1873 map

 

EDWARDSVILLE RAILROAD
Source: Alton Telegraph, October 18, 1867
We learn from Mr. H. C. Swift, engineer of the road, that the grading of the roadbed of the Edwardsville railroad is very nearly completed, and that track laying will be commenced by the first of November. The contracts require the road to be in running order by the first of December next.

 

MADISON COUNTY RAILROAD COMPANY
Source: Alton Telegraph, December 20, 1867
By reference to the City Council proceedings, it will be seen that a preamble resolution was introduced into that body, granting to the Madison County Railroad Company the privilege of laying down a track the entire length of the levee, commencing at a point west of Weaver’s elevator, and intersecting the Chicago Road near Piasa Street. It will also be noticed that the franchise grants the privilege for a period of twenty-five years at the magnificent annual rental of $200. The subject was referred to the Ordinance Committee to report.

 

EDWARDSVILLE RAILROAD
Source: Alton Telegraph, December 20, 1867
The Madison Courier learns that the rails are being laid on a portion of the Edwardsville railroad, and is credibly informed that the company are sanguine of completing the line before the new year. Nearly the entire grading is completed, the working party now being engaged inside the corporation of Edwardsville.

 

MADISON COUNTY RAILROAD
Source: Alton Telegraph, January 24, 1868
We learn from Mr. H. C. Swift, the efficient engineer in charge of the construction of the Madison County Railroad, that the track is now laid to within a mile and a quarter of Edwardsville. Mr. Tunstall, President of the roads, yesterday purchased a passenger car at Litchfield for the use of the road, and trains will commence running between Alton and Edwardsville next week. The trains will enter Alton on the track of the Terre Haute Railroad. It is with no ordinary gratification that we announce the early completion of this important railroad connection, as it is destined to be of great business importance to both Alton and Edwardsville, as well as to all this section of the country; not to speak of its advantages in point of convenience and social intercommunication.

 

MADISON COUNTY RAILROAD
Source: Alton Telegraph, January 24, 1868
The work of track laying on this road, although progressing slowly, is now nearly completed. It is the intention of the directors to run trains into this city and not to Madison, as has been stated.

 

MADISON COUNTY RAILROAD
Source: Alton Telegraph, January 31, 1868
The railroad is nearly completed. The locomotive is this side of the creek, and inside of the corporation. We hope for the energetic gentlemen, to whom we owe the important work, the greatest success in the enterprise. Captain Tunstall is deserving of the thanks of our people, who should do their best to make the road a paying enterprise.

 

MADISON COUNTY RAILROAD
Source: Alton Telegraph, April 3, 1868
The facilities for reaching Edwardsville from Alton, via the new railroad, are so excellent that those who have made the trip declare it to be more trouble than to go to New York.

 

MADISON COUNTY RAILROAD
Source: Alton Telegraph, May 1, 1868
We had the pleasure yesterday of making our first trip over this new railroad, and found it a very great improvement over the old mode of getting to and from the county seat by buggies and carriages, both in reference to time and comfort. We left Alton about nine o’clock, and arrived safely in Edwardsville a little after ten. The citizens of that place, and the proprietors of the road, deserve the thanks and gratitude of the traveling public for their liberality and enterprise in shortening the distance between the two places. Success, say we, to all railroad enterprises.

 

MADISON COUNTY RAILROAD DEPOT
Source: Alton Telegraph, May 8, 1868
The Madison Courier says that the depot of the Madison County Railroad at Edwardsville is nearly completed. It is situated on St. Louis Street. The turntable and engine house, situated about one-half mile up the road, are finished.

 

MADISON COUNTY RAILROAD
Source: Alton Telegraph, May 29, 1868
From Edwardsville: Since the completion of the Madison County Railroad, quite an impetus has been given to the business interests of this heretofore very quiet rural town. In fact, the place is thrilling with the recently acquired inspiration of the steam horse. A number of new buildings are being erected, and the community in general seems actuated by a desire to enlarge its borders and extend its fair fame. But notwithstanding this amiable disposition, there are influences, we think, that tend rather to retard than advance the growth of this place. Railroads, telegraphs, steamboats, and in fact, all the varied paraphernalia of an intelligent civilization, are effective in accomplishing the grand aims and purposes of their construction only when made use of by men of enlarged and comprehensive views, guiding and controlling them with some view to the public welfare and general prosperity, as well as the advancement of their own individual interests. So too, when a town is so unfortunate as to be owned by a number of greedy, grasping capitalists, whose highest aspirations in life are the filling of their own coffers and pockets, its future prosperity is rather vaguely discernible. But a grateful reflection it is that misers, as well as other folks, eventually “shuffle off this mortal coil,” and make room for better men. And thus the aforesaid inventions of genius eventually accomplish their legitimate purposes, though often held in check for many years. They are the ultimate fore-runners of better things.

It is the general rule, when a railroad happens to be built through or to a hitherto obscure village, that its inhabitants at once assume airs of the utmost importance. Property at once rises to a fictitious value, and the consequence is pro tempore retardation, rather than an improvement, in the interests of the place. Business is usually suspended for the first six months, and the inhabitants congregate at the “depot” to witness the arrivals and discuss the increased value of their town lots. Time, however, reduces affairs to their normal proportions, and gradually are accomplished the happy results of intelligent industry and enterprise.

 

MADISON COUNTY RAILROAD
Source: Alton Telegraph, June 19, 1868
It is understood that on the first of next month, the Madison County Railroad Company intend to commence running their trains direct to Alton, instead of to the Coal Switch, as heretofore. It is to be hoped that this will be done. Great benefit would doubtless result to the company and accommodation to the public.

 

ACCIDENT ON THE MADISON COUNTY RAILROAD
Source: Edwardsville Intelligencer, November 18, 1869
Yesterday morning, as the locomotive on the Madison County Railroad was run upon the turntable near the engine house, the turntable gave way, which caused considerable delay, in consequence of which there was no train left here in the morning or afternoon, and as a matter of course, none arrived.

 

MADISON COUNTY RAILROAD
Source: Alton Telegraph, December 4, 1868
The new arrangement of trains on the Madison County Railroad is working smoothly and satisfactorily. The trains make two trips a day between this place and Edwardsville. They leave the latter place at 7:20 a.m., and returning, leave this city at 8:40 a.m. In the afternoon, they leave Edwardsville at 2:10 o’clock, and returning, leave this city at 6:40, on the arrival of the Alton packet. This change is highly advantageous and convenient, and meets with the cordial approbation of all who are accustomed to travel much between this place and the county seat, and vice versa.

The trains are under the charge of conductor Cobine, who is as gentlemanly and accommodating an official as any of our longer lines of railway can boast.

 

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