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Texas Eagle Detour over the old CE&I

by Chris Guenzler

10/01/2010 I woke up at the Drury Inn in St Louis and had an excellent breakfast. I walked back the same way to Amtrak and was seated in the First Class Lounge where I could get on-line via the cables they provided. I waited in here until it was time to board my train.

Texas Eagle 10/01/2010

I walked out to the train and boarded the 0220 Car and got into my Room 6 for Chicago. The train had Engine 39, Transition 39010, Sleeper 32016, Diner 37002, Lounge 33027 with Coaches 31041 and 34103. We left St Louis on time at 7:55 AM for the no station stop run to Chicago.

A Brief History of the Line we will be riding today.

The Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad was a Class I railroad that linked Chicago to southern Illinois, St. Louis, and Evansville. Founded in 1877, it grew aggressively and stayed relatively strong throughout the Great Depression and two World Wars before being purchased by the Missouri Pacific Railroad (MP, or MoPac) and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N). MoPac merged the C&EI corporate entity in 1976 and was later acquired itself by the Union Pacific Railroad.

The Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad was organized in 1877 as a consolidation of three others - the Chicago, Danville and Vincennes Railroad (Chicago-Danville, November 1871), the Evansville, Terre Haute and Chicago Railroad (Danville-Terre Haute, October 1871) and the Evansville and Terre Haute (Terre Haute-Evansville, November 1854). Intended to merge or purchase railroads that had built lines between the southern suburbs of Chicago and Terre Haute, Indiana through Danville, Illinois, the C&EI constructed a new line from Chicago to a Mississippi River connection in extreme southern Illinois at Thebes.

The management of the Chicago and Eastern Illinois and the Chicago and Indiana Coal Railway ("the Coal Road" or C&IC) became intertwined and eventually a connection was built between the two railroads between Goodland, Indiana (on the C&IC) and Momence (on the C&EI). By 1894 the Eastern had merged the C&IC. The C&EI continued this vigorous growth into the next decade.

In 1902, the Frisco purchased a controlling interest in the Chicago and Eastern Illinois and continued building; first a connection between the two railroads at Pana, Illinois, next extending the line in Indiana to Evansville and a connection with the Ohio River. However, in 1913 financial problems led to the collapse of the Frisco, and the Eastern was once again on its own by 1920. The C&EI spun off a variety of their lines, including the "Coal Road" (which became the Chicago, Attica and Southern Railroad). The C&EI did not survive the Great Depression intact, entering bankruptcy in 1933, re-emerging just before World War II in 1940. The railroad continued its brisk growth once again, gaining access to St. Louis, Missouri in 1954.

The Missouri Pacific Railroad and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad began carving up the Chicago and Eastern Illinois between them starting in 1961. The line directly south of Chicago to near Danville was actually purchased by both railroads (and to this day continues to be owned and operated jointly by MoPac and L&N's successors, Union Pacific Railway and CSX Transportation respectively), but Missouri Pacific eventually merged the Eastern in 1976.

The C&EI operated many streamliners. Its own trains the Chicago to Cypress was the Meadowlark, and the Chicago to Evansville was the Whippoorwill were short lived. The C&EI ran the Chicago to Evansville portion of the L&N's Humming Bird, and Georgian. The railroad also participated in the Chicago to Florida passenger service on the "Dixie Route", with trains such as the Dixie Limited, the Dixie Flyer, the Dixie Mail, the Dixie Flagler, and the Dixiana.

The Trip

The train left St Louis heading directly east to cross the Mississippi River.

Looking south down the Mississippi River.

The Gateway Arch with downtown St Louis behind it.

Another view looking south down the Mississippi River.

We headed north and here is one more picture of the Gateway Arch. The train ran through East St Louis where it seemed there are railroad tracks everywhere you look.

Another rail line came into ours.

A private switcher with privately owned passenger cars. At the road crossing at MP 294.4 our train crew had to flag the crossing. The line we are on now is joint UP/NS/KCS trackage. Our train reached the active Lennox Tower and when we reached Mitchell I would be on new mileage until we reached the route of the Cardinal which we will take into Chicago.

The train rolled northeast across the gentle rolling countryside. The first siding at Gard had a UP ballast train in it. The train went over the NS ex Wabash Line at Worden before we came to Joan siding. The train is moving along at a nice fast clip. The train came to Walsh Jct before it ran under the BNSF coal line at Toland. The train ran by the siding at Hillsboro. Illinois Route 16 was running along our route to the south on our way to Witt. The couple across the hall remembered me from that California Zephyr Detour across Wyoming Carl and I took about six years ago. What were the chances they would be with me on two different Amtrak Detour Trips? The train ran through Nokomis as we rolled northeast.

Central Illinois countryside before we came to the siding at Ohlman before we continued through Rosamond then onto Pana with its siding.

There is an old tower from the old crossing of the IC Charter line and a station in Pana.

We have reached the flat lands where the glaciers once were on the way to Findlay Jct where the C&EI (UP) coal line from Southern Illinois joins into our route.

Findlay Jct.

Right after Findlay Jct there was this lake.

The train crossed the IC {CN} line from Mattoon to Decatur at Sullivan. The train crossed the flat lands to Cadwell with a southbound UP train in the siding there. From here we continued on to Tuscola passing through Arthur. The train came to the empty siding of Tuscola.

The train crossed both of the lines, the IC Mainline and the CSX Indy-Decatur at Tuscola. From here the train ran slightly more north to Villa Grove with a seven track yard where we did a pilot crew change. We left Villa Grove at 10:59 AM and ran by the siding of Block. At Grover the train crossed the NS line which was the former Wabash while I was picking up my to go order of an Angus Beef Hamburger which hit the spot. The train ran through Royal and on to Ellis as the train continued a good run north.

The train ran by a mile of fields with rolled hay. The train made its way onto Goodwine and then we slowed down to enter Woodland Jct where the CSX joins our route for the trip into Chicago.

Woodland Jct was at 12:16 PM.

Our train crossed the TP&W at Watseka with the station in this scene. The train continued north as we ran through Ben, Pittwod, Martinton and Papineau.

The train crossed the KB&S at St. Anne. The train ran through Wichert and then onto Momence.

The Kankakee River.

The train crossed the former NYC line to Streator at Momence. The train ran on to Grant Park and into Beecher.

The Beecher Station.

A MoPac Caboose was also at Beecher. The train rolled onto Steger and Chicago Heights as we closed in on Chicago. At the Beecher crossover we did just that to get by a slow moving UP freight. The train ran through Crete.

The train crossed the EJ&E at Jay. The train ran on north through Twelfth Street and Thornton.

The train crossed the ex GTW now CN and just past that point where the Cardinal route joins this is where my new mileage would be at an end. We dropped our pilot conductor at Yard Center. The detour will end officially at 21st Street and after we crossed the Chicago River we came to the end of this most excellent Texas Eagle Detour Trip over the old CE&I at 3:12 PM.

The Southwest Chief 4 10/01/2010

Texas Eagle Conductor Bobbie Price led me with less than 3 minutes to go until departure time, took me from Track 25 to Track 16. He got the attention of the of the fine rear conductor who opened the door on the rear car and I boarded. He told me to catch my breath and then walk three cars forward and find a seat. I did and took a seat in that car. The train is the same train I got off of in Kansas City except they replaced that Sleeper I rode in with a Transition Sleeper. I would just ride and relax on this trip to La Plata. I got a 6:00 PM Dinner Reservation as the train ran down the Triple Track Race Track. I did Sudoku Puzzles and just enjoyed the views of Illinois. At 6:15 PM I walked into the Dining Car and was seated. They never called 6:00 PM and guess who was finishing up his dinner? Bob Riskie my former Amtrak Conductor and good friend who had been in North Dakota and was going to LA to see his son before returning to Bend, Oregon. I was seated with an older couple going to Los Angeles and I enjoyed a New York Steak which was very good. No char dogs for me on this trip through Chicago. Then it was time to do something I hadn't had to do since 1/1/2008 pay for a meal in coach on an Amtrak Dining Car. Since that date it has been nothing but Sleeping Car. After that I visited with Bob through Fort Madison and had a great visit. I returned to me seat until about twenty minutes before the train was to arrive into La Plata. I took my luggage downstairs and talked with Bob who came to say goodbye and with our Conductor before we stopped at La Plata and I detrained.

La Plata 10/01/2010

The fabulous Maria Snodgrass picked me up and took me to the Depot Inn & Suites where Brock handed me the key to my surprise to the Victorian Suite. I used the sauna tube before calling it a night.

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