A Chicago Hub Railroad of the 1930's - 1940's
The Alton Railroad - (Chicago and Alton Railroad)

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The Alton Railroad, until 1931, the Chicago and Alton, was a class 1 railroad that well served the Chicago to St. Louis passenger trade, using the Union Station as a Chicago tenant. The Alton also ran trains from Chicago to Kansas City but did not compete well with the Santa Fe or the Rock Island whose long distance trains to the West Coast captured most of the KC traffic. To see the Chicago to KC service, in 1940 go to.
The Alton, passenger service specialized in the Chicago-St. Louis run where it's Abraham Lincoln, Ann Rutledge, and Alton Limited along with several other trains, including a night sleeper dominated a fast and lively competition, as you can see below.
The Alton was early to replace steam with diesel-electric power, and by 1946 most of its Chicago to St. Louis fleet was dieselized.
The Alton also was the first railroad to install sleeping cars and dining cars, built by Pullman, in Chicago to St. Louis service.
During the 1931 reorganization from C&A to Alton the Alton was purchased by the B&O but was run as an independent entity.
In 1947 the Alton was merged into the Gulf Mobile and Ohio.

Short History of the Alton Railroad
The Alton had a long and colored history with many name changes along the way.
The initial charter was for the Alton and Sangamon Railroad issued on February 27, 1847 for a line from the Mississippi River town of Alton, Illinois to the state capital at Springfield. This line was finished in 1852.
The line extended to Bloomington, in 1854, as the Chicago and Mississippi Railroad, and to Joliet in 1855, where it ran over the Chicago and Rock Island to Chicago and La Salle Street Station..
The Joliet and Chicago Railroad was chartered on February 15, 1855 and opened in 1856. It was leased by the Chicago and Mississippi creating a continuous line from Alton to Chicago. Two more reorganizations formed the St. Louis, Alton and Chicago and then the Chicago and Alton Railroad by October 10, 1862. On December 28, 1863 the Alton and the Pittsburgh Ft. Wayne and Chicago Railroad completed an agreement for the Alton to move from the Illinois Central depot, where they had been briefly, to the PFW&C depot on Madison Street, later to become the Union Station, where the Alton resided until it's demise. (Amtrak does, however, us the old Alton line, now part of UP and Canadian National for passenger service to St. Louis).

Chicago and Alton
Chicago and Alton
July 1921

In 1864 the Chicago and Alton chartered the Alton and St. Louis Railroad to complete its line to East St. Louis.
The Kansas City line grew from the leasing, 1n 1870, of the Louisiana and Missouri River Railroad running from Louisiana to Springfield, Missouri, and the leasing, in 1878, of the Kansas City St. Louis and Chicago Railroad running from Mexico to Kansas City, Missouri.
So by 1878 all the essential main lines of the Chicago and Alton Railroad were established.
1906-1931 - Chicago and Alton Railway controlled at various times by the U. P., the Rock Island and Nickel Plate.
1931-1947 - Alton Railroad - subsidiary of the Baltimore and Ohio
1947-1972 - Alton merged into Gulf Mobile and Ohio Railroad
1971 - Passenger service taken over by Amtrak
1972-1987 - Alton merged into Illinois Central Gulf
1987 - Alton Joliet-St. Louis line sold to Chicago Missouri and Western
1989 - CM&W acquired by UP
1990 - St. Louis (& Springfield) to KC sold to Gateway Western Railroad
1998 - Canadian National purchases Joliet-Chicago portion of old Alton. Passenger service operated by METRA
1997 - KCS obtains St. Louis-KC line from Gateway Western

Alton Map

Map of the Alton Railroad circa 1930-1940

Technological Advances by the Alton Railroad

The Alton was the first railroad to install a sleeping car designed by George Pullman and built in the C&A's Bloomington shops. This went into service on the Chicago to East St. Louis line on September 1, 1859.

The Alton was the first railroad to install a dining car, the Delmonico, in regular service. It was built by George Pullman in the CB&Q Railroad's Aurora, Illinois shops. Two more dining cars, the Tremont and the Southern were also built and leased by the Chicago and Alton, providing dining car service on all of its Chicago to East St. Louis trains.

In 1932 the Alton was the first Chicago-St. Louis Railroad to install air conditioning on its passenger trains.

The Alton was the leading Railroad in Chicago to St. Louis service, as the chart below will testify.

1935 - Two American Car & Foundry lightweight B&O train sets were produced, one of cor-ten steel and one of aluminum car body construction.
1935 - The B&O sent the cor-ten train set to the Alton for the Abraham Lincoln with the Lady Baltimore 4-4-4- steam locomotive at the head end..
11936 - Lady Baltimore not successful on Abe Lincoln runm so box cab B&O EMD #50 sent to Alton as a replacement and Lady Baltimoreis retuirned to B&O. The Alton rebuilds #50 as a shovel nose cab unit.
1937 - The aluminum train set sent from B&O to Alton for Ann Rutledge. It was reassigned as the Abraham Lincoln with the Ann Rutledge getting the cor-ten train sert with the Lord Baltimore 4-6-4 steam locomotive.
1937-1942 - The Lord Baltimore steam runs on the Alton, presumably on the Ann Rutledge. The Abe Lincoln is shovel nose #50 with aluminum train set.
1940 - The probable Alton name train Line-up, Chicago to St. Louis; Alton Limited - Alton steam with heavyweight consist. The Ann Rutledge - Lord Baltimore 4-6-4 steam and cor ten train set. Abraham Lincoln - Shovel nose diesel, aluminum train set.
1942 - Lord Baltimore steam returned to B&O.
1946 - All Alton Chicago-St. Louis trains are dieselized.

Chicago to St. Louis

In the 1940's four railroads competed for Chicago to St. Louis passenger traffic. During 1940 there were 15 trains a day from Chicago to St. Louis. Although all four railroads fielded very competitive streamlined trains on this run, the Alton Railroad ran the most trains, seven by number, This was followed by three each on the Illinois Central and the Wabash, and two on the Chicago and Eastern Illinois. In 1940, these roads all tried to maintain a running time of about 5 hours to St. Louis.
By 1943 the sub-5 hour runs were over and the competitors had relaxed to a more leisurely pace of about 5:20 + or - to St. Louis, probably a war time accommodation, which continued after the hostilities had ceased.

Alton Railroad Time 284 miles
2- Abraham Lincoln 4:55
19- Ann Rutledge 5:20
1- Alton Limited 5:30
5- The Mail 6:35
11- 11 9:10
7- The Fast Mail 10:15
9- Midnight Special 10:45
Illinois Central System 294.2 miles
51- Green Diamond 4:55
19- Daylight 5:30
17- Night Diamond 7:25
Wabash Railroad 285.7 miles
21- Blue Bird 5:15
11- Banner Blue 5:30
17- 17 7:35
Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad 290.4 miles
21- The Zipper 5:00
23- Silent Knight 7:23

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Alton - Chicago - St; Louis 60+ speeds - 1940
The Alton Railroad had to hustle a little to be super competitive in the Chicago to St. Louis corridor. Here are the 60+ start to stop times and speeds. In 1936 the Abraham Lincoln, and in 1937 the Ann Rutledge became diesel powered, having received Box cab EMD diesel-electrics from parent company B&O, in order to compete with the Green Diamond of the Illinois Central. The Alton Limited retained its steam power. It was 1946 when the St. Louis fleet went 100% to diesel-electric power.
Train#From CityTo CityMilesMin.mph
Abraham Lincoln 3 Bloomington Lincoln 29.8 27 66.2
Ann Rutledge 18 Bloomington Joliet 89.4 82 65.4
Abraham Lincoln 2 Bloomington Joliet 89.4 83 64.6
Abraham Lincoln 3 Springfield Alton 71.9 67 64.4
Abraham Lincoln 3 Joliet Bloomington 89.4 84 63.9
Ann Rutledge 19 Bloomington Lincoln 29.8 28 63.9
Abraham Lincoln 2 Springfield Lincoln 28.7 27 63.8
Abraham Lincoln 2 Alton Springfield 71.9 68 63.4
Ann Rutledge 18 Alton Springfield 71.9 68 63.4
Ann Rutledge 19 Springfield Carlinville 38.7 37 62.8
Ann Rutledge 18 Springfield Bloomington 58.8 57 61.9
Alton Limited 4 Bloomington Joliet 89.4 88 61.0
Ann Rutledge 19 Joliet Dwight 36.4 36 60.7
Ann Rutledge 19 Carlinville Alton 33.2 33 60.4
Average Speed 828.7 785 63.3

Our Sources
Private Collection of Richard R. Parks(rp)
Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia [web](wik)
Official Guide- April 1940
Classic Trains-Summer 2007-Kalmbach Publishing Co.
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Richard Parks


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Web Page Written and Maintained by Richard Parks
Copyright Richard Parks, May 30, 2009