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History of the Terre Haute and Alton Railroad

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser

 

In January 1851, the Illinois Legislature chartered the Terre Haute and Alton Railroad, and construction began in 1852. On March 1, 1856, the main line from Terre Haute, Indiana, to Alton, Illinois, was completed. In consolidatation with the Belleville and Illinoistown Railroad in 1856, the name was changed to the Terre Haute, Alton, & St. Louis Railroad. With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, additional equilpment, locomotives, and cars meant increased shops space, machinery, and larger workforce.  In February 1865, the St. Louis, Vandalia, & Terre Haute Railroad was incorporated, and proposed as the new western connection, joining the Highland & St. Louis and the Alton line. In March 1865, the Indiana Legislature changed the name of the railroad to Terre Haute & Indianapolis Railroad. In 1905, the railroad consolidated with the St. Louis, Vandalia & Terre Haute, Terre Haute & LOgansport, Logansport & Toledo, and the Indianapolis & Vincennes, to form the Vandalia Railroad Company.

 

CONTRACT MADE FOR CONSTRUCTION OF TERRE HAUTE AND ALTON RAILROAD
Source: Alton Telegraph, May 21, 1852
We had the pleasure yesterday of reading a dispatch from Captain Simeon Ryder, President of the Terre Haute and Alton Railroad, to Mr. William McBride, dated New York, May 13, which gives the joyful intelligence that the indefatigable Captain has completed the contract with Eastern capitalists for the construction of the entire line of our railroad to Terre Haute. The indomitable energy, perseverance, and industry displayed by Captain Ryder in securing the above consummation at so early a date, may be inferred from the fact that he only left Alton some two weeks since for New York, where he arrived on the 5th inst., and by the 13th, had accomplished the object of his visit. He will doubtless return to Alton in a short time with a corps of engineers, and prepared to break ground immediately upon this noble enterprise. The particulars are expected by mail in a few days. We congratulate our citizens upon this auspicious result of the labors of many who have been the firm friends of this enterprise from the beginning, among whom the Telegraph, and ourselves, are entitled to a small share of credit.

                          Terre Haute and Alton Railroad

TERRE HAUTE AND ALTON RAILROAD
Source: Alton Telegraph, July 30, 1852
This road comes before the public on its own merits. It is one hundred and seventy miles in length, commencing at Terre Haute on the Wabash River, and running through the thriving towns of Paris and Grandview in Edgar County; Charleson in Coles County; Shelbyville in Shelby County; Hillsboro in Montgomery County; Bunkerhill in Macoupin County; to the city of Alton on the Mississippi River, terminating at one of the most favorable points on the Mississippi River, and connecting at Terre Haute with the Terre Haute and Indianapolis Road, and thence with an extensive system of railroads from the East and Northeast, it cannot fail to be one of the most important roads in the Union.

This road runs through a portion of the State which is not excelled in the fertility and productiveness of its soil. No comparison can safely be made between this section of country, which is mostly prairie, and a heavy timbered country such as Ohio and Indiana, as to the ease and facility with which this country can be put into a highly productive condition. The population of the State through which the road runs is now rapidly increasing in numbers. The city of Alton, where the road terminates, now contains, including Upper Alton, a population of over seven thousand inhabitants, which is rapidly increasing. Alton is situated at the head of the American Bottom on elevated ground, and almost immediately opposite the mouth of the Missouri River. She reposes upon one of the largest coal fields in the valley of the Mississippi, and has inexhaustible supplies of the choicest limestone and superior lime. For manufacturing and commercial purposes, Alton has no superior. Her citizens are enterprising, intelligent, energetic, and fully alive to the advantages they possess.

The position of Alton gives her unrivaled advantages in respect to the lumber trade, the supplies of which come from the Upper Mississippi and Chicago, through the canal and Illinois River. She is on the clear waters of the Mississippi. The country in the interior will have to depend mainly upon lumber purchased from this point for fencing and enclosing their fields.

 

THE TERRE HAUTE AND ALTON RAILROAD
From the Toledo, Ohio, commercial Republican
Source: Alton Telegraph, September 17, 1852
This important road, commencing at Terre Haute, Indiana, and terminating at Alton, Illinois, is now being pushed ahead with much vigor. The entire construction of the line has been let to Messrs. Barnes, Phelps, and Mattoon of Springfield, Massachusetts, at an estimate of $3,000,000. They are to complete the contract and have the entire line in good running order within three years.

Much of the stock is taken in New York City; some in Springfield, Massachusetts; and the balance in the West. This fact shows that New Yorkers are appreciating the benefits of Western trade, and the importance of securing the traffic.

Mr. Thaddeus R. Ryder of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, has the contract from Messrs. Barnes, Phelps, and Mattoon to build all bridges and finish all the masonry necessary. He intends immediately building a bridge across the Wabash at Terre Haute, and has brought with him from the East some twenty or thirty first-class workmen, so that there should be no delay. The necessary tools for working are on their way, and arrangements are being made so that no drawback need be apprehended.

The country through which the road passes is beautiful and productive. Leaving Terre Haute, it passes through Paris, Charleston, Shelbyville, Hillsboro, and Bunker Hill. All these are thriving towns, and will furnish many passengers. The road, by this route, will be 165 miles long. The greatest elevation above the waters of the Ohio and Mississippi is 322 feet. It proceeds nearly in an airline – the curves being very few.

The building of this road will not only greatly benefit New York by the produce it will bring into that commercial city, but will also be advantageous to the section of country in which it is located, for we learn that the company intends building a car shop, a machine shop, etc., intending to build and equip all locomotives, passenger and baggage cars – in short, everything necessary for the road. Thus, an immense number of mechanics will find constant employment, and be induced to make the neighboring country their home. The company deserves much credit, both for the energetic manner in which they have made contracts, and also for their judicious selection of skillful contractors.

A connection between this and the Lake Erie and Wabash Valley Road can be made by a branch of 34 miles from Danville. This will furnish the most direct route to the Mississippi.

The Alton and Springfield Railroad is nearly completed, and the old Springfield and Meredosia Road has been purchased by a responsible company who are bound in their contract with the State to extend it to the Indiana line within two years. Thus, it will be seen, that as respects our extreme Western connections, everything is as favorable as could be desired.

Alton, at which both lines strike the Mississippi, owing in part to natural advantages and in part ot the railroad policy of Illinois of building up commercial cities within her own borders, is likely to become a favored point for the concentration of railroads. It is situated on the clear waters of the Mississippi, three and a half miles from the mouth of the Missouri, and is the nearest point to St. Louis at which a railroad would be out of danger from the floods which every few years sweep over the American Bottom.

 

TERRE HAUTE AND ALTON RAILROAD
Source: Alton Telegraph, October 15, 1852
We learn that the contractors are busily engaged in pushing forward the construction of this great enterprise. A large force is employed on the other end of the road, and the best feeling prevails all along the line between Alton and Terre Haute. About 75 miles of the road are permanently located, and it is expected that the heavy work over the Wood River, in the vicinity of Alton, will be put under contract next week.

 

TERRE HAUTE AND ALTON RAILROAD
Source: Alton Telegraph, October 22, 1852
We are gratified to announce that ground was broken yesterday on this end of the Terre Haute and Alton Railroad. A considerable force is now at work at Shields’ Branch, erecting abutments for the bridge. This force will be shortly increased, and the work of construction will go on simultaneously at a number of points. Mr. Phelps, one of the contractors, is now in Alton, personally overseeing the work. Mr. Hunt, Chief Engineer, with a full corps of assistants, has also arrived and will speedily locate and make specifications for the residue of the road.

A good feeling prevails among our citizens upon the subject of this road, and we trust they will cordially cooperate with those who have it in charge. Of its importance, no one of our readers for a moment has a doubt, and we should all see to it that no effort of ours shall be wanting to bring it to a speedy completion.

 

RAILROAD CAR MANUFACTORY AT ALTON
Source: Alton Telegraph, November 5, 1852
The establishment of a factory for the construction of railroad cars in Alton is now a fixed fact. Mr. Shelden Tomlinson of Springfield, Massachusetts is at the head of the enterprise, and having long experience in the business, is well qualified to carry it forward successfully. Six lots have been purchased in Hunterstown, upon which the buildings are to be erected, and the contracts were closed on Saturday. The main building or car shop is to be 90 x 40 feet, three stories high; and the foundry will be 60 x 40 feet, and all furnished with the best machinery, suitable for the manufacture of the finest cars. The Terre Haute Railroad Company have given Mr. Tomlinson a large contract to begin with, and he will doubtless secure a large portion of the orders now sent East.

 

SLEEPER ON THE RAILROAD TRACKS
Source: Alton Telegraph, November 19, 1852
We learn that as the passenger train was going north on Saturday, at a rapid rate, the engineer chanced to observe an object lying across the track, which on closer inspection, proved to be a man. Checking the speed of the locomotive, and running within a few feet of the careless or ignorant individual who had chosen such a dangerous couch, he caused the steam whistle to give one of its unearthly shrieks, and awoke the sleeper, but as no effort could bring him to a sense of the danger he incurred, it was found necessary to resort to force to get him off the track, which was finally accomplished, and the locomotive sped on its way, rejoicing.

 

TERRE HAUTE AND ALTON RAILROAD
Source: Alton Telegraph, November 26, 1852
The Common Council of Alton has granted the Terre Haute and Alton Railroad Company the authority to locate and construct their track upon and across such streets and alleys of the city as may be necessary for their purpose. It is provided, however, that the track of the road shall terminate at the Depot, which is not to be located West of the East line of Henry Street in Hunter’s Town. The contractors, Messrs. Barnes, Phelps, and Mattoon, are permitted to lay down a temporary track from the foot of Henry Street to the steamboat landing on the Public Square, for transporting the iron, materials, and furniture of the road, during the progress of its construction. It is to be laid down under the direction of the committee on Streets, Roads, and Bridges, and should it interfere with the necessary business of the public, it can be removed at any time by order of the Common Council, upon giving the company at least thirty days previous notice. We presume, however, there will be no objection from any quarter to the privilege thus temporarily granted to the company.

 

PROGRESS OF THE TERRE HAUTE AND ALTON ROAD
Source: Alton Telegraph, December 10, 1852
We have been furnished by Mr. Hunt, the Chief Engineer of this railroad, with a statement of the progress of the work at this end of the road.

The line of road from Alton to Bunker Hill, which forms the 1st Division, is now permanently located. The whole distance from Henry Street in Alton, where the depot is located, to the main street in Bunker Hill, is 18 miles, 3688 feet, which is 3022 feet shorter than the line surveyed in 1850. Of this distance, upwards of six miles is a level grade, and three miles more has a grade of 10 feet or less to the mile. Fifteen miles of the whole distance is straight line. The longest continuous straight line is 7 ½ miles. The shortest curve has a radius of 2,865 feet.

This division is divided, for purposes of construction, into 17 sections, all of which are let, and six of them (and among them are the two heaviest) are now being worked. The masonry for the whole division, comprising all the abutments for bridges, and the culverts, &c., is under contract to A. M. Morgan & Co. of Springfield, Massachusetts, who are pushing it forward with their usual promptness.

The abutments for the bridge over the Wood River are in progress, and will be ready for the superstructure during the present month. The construction of the road, on the 1st Division, is under the charge of M. R. Harlow, Esq., late Chief Engineer of the Litchburg and Worsester Railroad, Massachusetts.

Beyond Bunker Hill, on the 2d Division, a line has been located to Hillsboro under the direction of George Stevens, Esq., and which follows very nearly the survey of 1850, around the head of the Cahokia Creek. But another line has been run, crossing the Cahokia near Mr. Benjamin Dorsey’s, and which, if found practicable, will shorten the distance very materially. The final decision between the two routes will await the result of the estimates, which are now being made.

The surveys and estimates are being pushed forward with alacrity, and as soon as possible, the work of the entire road will be commenced with a strong force. The surveys and estimates, so far, afford cheering evidences of the cheapness and rapidity with which the road will be built.

 

CAPTAIN SIMEON RYDER RETURNS
Source: Alton Telegraph, December 17, 1852
Captain Simeon Ryder, the energetic President of the Terre Haute and Alton Railroad Company, has returned from his recent trip to the East in good health and spirits. Everything betokens well for the active prosecution and speedy completion of the great work of constructing this road, which is to connect the waters of the Mississippi with those of the Atlantic.

 

TERRE HAUTE AND ALTON RAILROAD [very hard to read]
Source: Alton Telegraph, December 17, 1852
We learn that the work of construction of this important road, from Henry Street to _____, is progressing with commendable speed and dispatch. A large force is at ….. on the graduation, and the road is ….ready for the rail, as far out as Wood River.

The masonry upon the culverts and bridges are in a forward state of progression, and will be speedily completed. We understand a shipment of iron for the track has arrived in New Orleans, and is expected shortly to arrive here. The work of laying the …. commence immediately thereupon, ….. progress simultaneously with the ….. The walls of the car house are up …. height of one story, and if the weather remains favorable, will probably be finished in the course of two weeks. The ….. Morgans are pushing the manson work forward with all possible speed.

….thing speaks well for the energy of ….. and contractors who have the …. Charge; and we doubt not this last …. In the chain, which is to united St. ….. and Alton with the cities of the eastern …board, will be completed and equipped within the time and according to the terms of the contract.

 

ALTON AND TERRE HAUTE CONTRACTOR ARRESTED
Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, January 18, 1853
It will be observed by a telegraphic dispatch in another column, that Hogan, the absconding contractor of the Alton and Terre Haute Railroad has been arrested, and all the money recovered. This will be good news to many persons in this vicinity.

 

TRUSTEES ELECTED TO HOLD CITY BONDS FOR RAILROAD
Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, February 23, 1853
The Common Council have elected, by ballot, Samuel Wade, William Martin, and David J. Baker as Trustees, to hold the city bonds ordered to be issued to the Terre Haute and Alton Railroad Company. These gentlemen are well known for their integrity and financial ability, and we have no fear that the interests of the city will suffer in their hands.

 

RAIL TIES RECEIVED FOR THE TERRE HAUTE AND ALTON ROAD
Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, February 25, 1853
On yesterday, three thousand oak railroad ties for the Terre Haute and Alton Road were received at the levee from the Illinois River. These are the first of a large lot, contracted for by the company from that quarter.

 

TERRE HAUTE AND ALTON RAILROAD
Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, March 23, 1853
Levi Davis, Esq., Attorney of the Terre Haute and Alton Railroad Company, returned to this city on Monday night after an absence of several weeks, along the line of the road, upon the business of the company. We learn from him that the prospects of the road are in every respect most flattering, and that the feeling in its favor is everywhere strong and unanimous. The counties of Montgomery, Shelby, Edgar, and Coles have respectively issued their bonds in payment of their subscriptions of stock, and have placed them in the hands of trustees to be paid over, as the installments are called in by the company. The three first installments already called in, making a total amount of $110,000, were paid over to Mr. Davis. The road from Terre Haute to the Embarras River, with all the heavy work at that point, is all under contract to responsible and energetic parties, and will be pushed through as rapidly as possible. In spite of Col Brough’s financiering to defeat the building of the Terre Haute and Alton Road, its prospects were never brighter than they are at present, and all things clearly indicate that its construction is no longer a probability, but a certainty. Captain Simeon Ryder, President of the Company, left this city for New York yesterday, on business connected with the road.

 

ALTON AND TERRE HAUTE RAILROAD
Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, April 2, 1853
WE are much gratified to learn that the work on this road is progressing very rapidly, and that it will be pushed forward to completion with all practicable speed. The first section from Bunker Hill to Hillsboro is now graded, and nearly three miles of the road from Bunker Hill to Alton will be ready for the superstructure in the course of a few days.

 

TERRE HAUTE AND ALTON RAILROAD
Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, April 21, 1853
We are authorized to state that a large additional number of hands will shortly be put upon the Terre Haute and Alton Railroad, and that the work will be rapidly prosecuted to an early completion. The iron is now being shipped to both ends of the road, and it is the intention of the contractors to commence laying the track at both ends as soon as the iron arrives.

 

RAILROAD BRIDGE OVER THE WOOD RIVER BURNED
Source: Alton Weekly Courier, July 13, 1854
The bridge constructed across the Wood River, about four miles from this city, by the Alton and Terre Haute Railroad Company, was burned down on Tuesday night. It is supposed to be the work of an incendiary. Some of the timbers remain, and it will be rebuilt as speedily as possible, but the road will be delayed considerably, as the Company were transporting iron for laying the track across this bridge, and that work will necessarily be suspended until it is replaced. The cost of the bridge was something over $3,000.

 

TERRE HAUTE RAILROAD CAR FACTORY
Source: Alton Weekly Courier, September 7, 1854
We embraced a favorable opportunity last Saturday to examine this extensive establishment, and gathered from the gentlemanly clerk, Mr. Wilcox, many interesting facts, of which we were not fully apprised, and which are well worth recording.

About forty men find constant employment at these works, in the various departments of car manufacture. Since the factory was established in June 1852, one hundred and thirty platform and house cars have been finished for the Alton and Terre Haute Road, and fourteen platform cars for the Ohio and Mississippi Road. In addition to this, they have done all the job work of the Terre Haute Road, including the manufacture of frogs and switches. The fourteen cars for the Ohio and Mississippi Road are a part of a lot of one hundred and fifty, which the company have contracted to build.

The low water on the rivers, and exorbitant price of freight, have delayed the arrival of large quantities of their iron, which is awaiting shipment at Pittsburgh.

The force now employed is able to turn out twenty-five cars per month. Their cars are pronounced by good judges to be superior in strength and workmanship to the cars in general use. They have heretofore cast the car wheels used in the construction of cars, and expect, after enlarging their furnace, to do so again. They contemplate an enlargement of the whole establishment, and a considerable increase of force in order to meet the demands made upon the establishment. They have received a proposition to build the passenger cars for the Ohio and Mississippi Road, which with the construction of their own passenger cars, will be an immense work.

In connection with this establishment are planning apparatus and a sash factory. The latter is in the third story, under the direction of J. M. Wood, an intelligent Boston mechanic. The machine employed in the manufacture of sash is one for which a patent has been secured by Mr. J. Levin of Springfield, Massachusetts. The lumber used is taken rough and sawn, planed, bored, mortised, and the tesante shaped, and in fact, the entire work is performed by the machine, except pulling together, and the matching is more perfect than we have ever seen done by machinery. Four men may be employed on this machine, which thus attended, will manufacture eight hundred lights per day, being an average of two hundred lights per day for each man employed.

The entire machinery of this large establishment, including the sash and planning machines, is driven by one steam engine, which is a model, both in construction and work. It is what is called the Tress Frame engine, the only one of the kind in the West, manufactured at the American Machine Works at Springfield, Massachusetts. It is equal to thirty-horse power, and runs with so little friction that it makes no perceptible noise.

We learn from Mr. Wilcox that the rails are laid on the Terre Haute Road one half mile beyond Bunker Hill, and the company have nearly a sufficient amount of rail on hand to lay the track to Hillsboro. A construction train runs out daily as far as Bunker Hill, leaving Alton at 7 o’clock a.m., and returning, leaves Bunker Hill at 3 o’clock p.m. The new engine, the Alton, which arrived a few days since, is nearly ready to take its place on the track. We are informed that the road remains in the hands of the contractors until the first division is complete, when as far as finished, it will be transferred to the company.

 

ACCIDENT ON THE TERRE HAUTE AND ALTON RAILROAD
Source: Alton Weekly Courier, January 17, 1856
Jan. 11 -- On yesterday morning, as the A.M. freight train, coming to this city [Alton] on the Terre Haute and Alton Railroad, had nearly arrived at Dorsey's Station, about fifteen miles from here, it met with a terrible accident, by the breaking of one of the wheels of the track supporting the locomotive, by whic the engine was thrown from the track, the tender turned upside down on the other side of the track, and five men killed by one of the freight cars running up on the engine. Those on the engine at the time of the accident were Conductor Wyman of this city; Mr. King, the engineer; Wesley Davis, the fireman, also of this city; John Morrison, an engineer from Dunkirk, New York who had been employed by the Company and was going over the road for the first time; and R. Bales and ______ Doak, both from Decatur, Macon county, the owners of the hogs which composed the freight of the train. Just previous to the smash, Mr. Wyman, the Conductor, observed the engine leaning to one side, and jumped off just in time to save himself. He received no injury whatever. The other five remained on the engine, four of whom were instantly killed, and the other, Mr. King, the engineer, lived three or four hours. As soon as the accident was known here, Superintendent Sargent took out a special train, accompanied by Drs. Williams, Metcalf and Allen, Messrs. Warren and Corson, of this city, but it arrived too late to render any aid to the engineer. He had passed to another world. Mr. St. John, the President of the Company, also arrived at the scene of the disaster a short time after it occurred. The relief train brought in the bodies in the afternoon, upon whom coroner Pinckard proceeded to hold an inquest, which he adjourned until this afternoon. The officers of the Company have also ordered a searching enquiry into the causes which produced the accident. Although not upon the ground, we made diligent inquiry and could not find that anybody was to blame. It seems to be one of these accidents which baffle all human foresight.

 

BRAKEMAN KILLED
Source: Alton Weekly Courier, May 14, 1857
When the 10 o'clock freight train over the Terra Haute, Alton & St. Louis Railroad arrived at the junction four miles below Alton on Friday night, it was discovered that one of the brakemen, named Jerome ?eads was missing. A car being sent back along the track, the missing man was found upon the track near a bridge a short distance this side of Bethalto, his body being cut in two and his head badly bruised in such a manner as to indicate that he had fallen between the cars while they were in motion, and his body been passed over by the wheels. A jury being summoned by Coroner Wright, and an examination into the circumstances made, a verdict in accordance with the above facts was rendered. The railroad company provided a coffin, .... respectably buried at .... [unreadable]

 

RIDE ON THE TERRE HAUTE AND ALTON RAILROAD
Source: Alton Telegraph, March 27, 1861
Yesterday morning we accepted an invitation from Mr. John Mack, the obliging conducted of the Alton train on the Terre Haute, Alton & St. Louis Railroad, to take a ride out to the Junction. As train was about to start, Mack suggested that perhaps we would like to ride on the locomotive. This seemed to us a happy thought, and we gladly took our position on the tool box, where we could have a full view of the track. It went very nicely at first - the train gliding along at a moderate rate of speed - and we enjoyed the novelty of our situation hugely. But presently the outskirts of the city were passed, the engineer pulled a rope, the engine gave a shriek and a bound, and we were tearing away at what seemed to us a fearful speed. We felt as though we were being shot from a cannon, and wondered how it would seem to be a cannon ball. Then, as rounding a curve, we distinguished at the distance of perhaps a quarter of a mile, a number of hogs on either side of the embankment. They did not seem to regard their position as being at all dangerous, and made no effort to get out of the way. We were not afraid, but could not help wondering what would be the consequence if one of those hogs should just step on the track. Now we have never heard of a train being thrown from the track by a hog, but as the engine neared them, we felt an irresistible inclination to seize the straps of our boots and hold ourselves up, but we didn't do it. The hogs passed, we began to picture to ourselves how a locomotive would look coming round the curve at the speed we were making - wondered how it would feel to be smashed. But we looked up and saw the telegraph poles, and then we knew that at that very instant, perhaps the faithful instrument at the next station was ticking the message - "Train No. --- Left Alton Station on Time." And we feel sure that a collision was out of the question. Arrived at Junction [East Alton], we hastened to take a place in the coach for the return trip. Now we do not believe that we are remarkably timid, and we know that on this well-regulated road there is no danger. But if any of our readers think they can ride on a locomotive for the first time, without an increase of pulse, let them try it! Mack, don't you put us on the "mashoen" again!

 

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