A Chicago Hub Railroad of the 1930's - 1940's
Illinois Central Railroad

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The Illinois Central (IC) sometimes called the Main Line of Mid-America, was a railroad carrier in the central United States, with its primary routes connecting Chicago, Illinois with New Orleans, Louisiana and Birmingham, Alabama. A line also connected Chicago with Sioux City, Iowa (1870). There was a branch to Omaha, Nebraska (1899) west of Fort Dodge, Iowa and another branch reaching Sioux Falls, South Dakota (1877) starting from Cherokee, Iowa.(wik)
The Illinois Central was, for a time, the only major rail carrier in the United States still operating essentially under its own name without interruption after nearly a century-and -a-half since its founding. In its long and colorful history, the IC achieved many "firsts" in the fields of commerce, transportation and western settlement.(ich) On February 11, 1998 the IC was purchased by the Canadian National Railway; integration of operations began July 1, 1999, though the Illinois Central name continued to be used until after the railroad's sesquicentennial in 2001. As time passes, the IC identity is slowly fading through CN's maintenance and repainting programs, although IC locomotives repainted into the CN paint scheme retain "IC" reporting marks and lettering on the sides of the cab.(wik)
In the 30's and 40's the IC was quick to introduce diesel-electric powered passenger trains. In 1936 it placed in service the last articulated EMC/Pullman-Standard/GE diesel-electric train set, the "Green Diamond" for its Chicago-St. Louis run. This forced the Chi-StL leader, the Alton, to switch to lightweight diesel trains. In 1940 the "City of Miami" streamliner started behind EMD E6 diesel locomotive power. In 1942 the "Panama Limited" Chicago to New Orleans was the last pre-war lightweight streamlined passenger train introduced. There were many other name trains on the IC.(rp)

Illinois Central
Illinois Central

History of the Illinois Central Railroad (IC)

1840 - Original attempt to build with little success
1850 - Land Grant Act signed by President Fillmore
1851 - IC chartered to build from Cairo, Illinois to Galena, Illinois ("old main") with branch to Chicago ("Chicago branch")
1856 - Line finished from Chicago to Cairo to connect with railroad operated steamboats to New Orleans
1861-1865 - Federal troops use IC to open Mississippi River
1867 - IC had crossed Mississippi and then leased Dubuque and Sioux City
1870 - IC reaches Sioux City through D&SS extension
1872 - Traffic agreements with New Orleans Jackson and Great Northern and the Mississippi Central (MC) allow IC to move northward to Jackson, Tennessee
1873 - New line from Jackson, Tennessee to Cairo, eliminates M&O and steamboat connection to reach Cairo
1874-1877 - IC consolidates NOJ&GN and MC, into the Chicago St. Louis and New Orleans Railroad as a subsidiary of IC
1881 - Gauge changed from 5 foot to 4 foot 8-1/2 inches standard gauge
1882 - IC chartered to build west from Jackson, Mississippi
1882-1889 - Edward Harriman takes interest in IC.
1884 - The Louisville New Orleans and Texas, west of the IC, completed from Memphis to New Orleans. This was a competing road with C.P.Huntington in control. The Huntington interests purchased the Mississippi and Tennessee giving him stronger entry against IC traffic
1884 - IC purchased LNO&T and M&T and consolidates them with Y&MV giving IC great strength in the south
1886 - Harriman decides to build west.
1886 - The Chicago, Madison & Northern was incorporated to build from Chicago to a connection with the IC's western line at Freeport, Ill., then north to Madison and Dodgeville, Wisconsin. The IC also constructed branches from its line across Iowa to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Omaha, Nebraska, and Sioux Falls South Dakota.
1889 - Bridge over Ohio River at Cairo completed. IC northern and southern lines connected
1893 - IC purchases Chesapeake Ohio & Southwestern (Louisville to Memphis)
1895 - IC builds line into St. Louis from the southeast
1900 - Minor train wreck at Vaughn, Mississippi. "Casey Jones (John Luther Jones) is immortalized
1906 - IC extends Effingham to Indianapolis through subsidiary Indianapolis and Southern
1908 - IC gains access to Birmingham, Alabama through trackage rights
1909 - IC purchases Central of Georgia Railway
1926 - Chicago suburban lines electrified
1928 - Cutoff from Edgewood, Illinois and Fulton, Kentucky cuts congestion
1936 - IC introduces "Green Diamond" lightweight streamlined train set on Chicago to St. Louis run. Train is last of the articulated train sets built by EMC and Pullman-Standard with GM Winton engine and GE electrics.
1940 - "City of Miami lightweight streamlined train with EMD E6 diesel locomotives, Chicago to Miami.
1942 - "Panama Limited", Chicago to New Orleans, is last pre-war lightweight streamlined train, with EMD E unit diesel power.
1945-1946 - Consolidation of subsidiaries, Gulf and Ship Island, and Yazoo &Mississippi Valley
1947 - Green Diamond equipment replaced. Original equipment becomes "Miss-Lou".
1948 - IC loses Central of Georgia after CofG bankruptcy reorganization
1956 - IC and the Rock Island jointly organize the Waterloo Cedar Falls and Northern
1968 - IC purchases WCF&N
1959-1974 - IC purchases several short lines
1960 - IC becomes completely dieselized.
1972 - IC merged with Gulf Mobile and Ohio to form Illinois Central-Gulf.
1990 - Illinois Central Railroad name restored
1998 - IC purchased by Canadian National
2001 - IC name remains until 2001
IC West
Illinois Central Western Lines
ic north
Illinois Central Northern Lines
ic south
Illinois Central Southern Lines

Chicago to New Orleans - 1940
The competition from Chicago to New Orleans was all IC in 1940, with their Panama Limited and Creole traveling a much shorter and direct route south to New Orleans, while the C&EI and L&N, with the "Dixie" trains following a more circuitous route through Nashville, Birmingham and Mobile. The 20 hour time was leisurely, and if you perused a timetable in 1940 you could not find a 60+ start-stop speed on the IC or the C&EI anywhere along the New Orleans routes. By 1943, however the IC had introduced the City of Miami streamliner to Florida, and upgraded the Panama Limited to diesel-electric power. The Chicago-New Orleans time was reduced to 18:00 hours, which, during wartime, was a testimony to the economics of using diesel-electric locomotion versus steam. The changes, in just 3 years, spawned a whole new series of 60+ speeds, as are shown in a chart below.

RR Name Train # and Name Hours Miles

Illinois Central 921.2
23 - Panama Limited 20:00
1 - Creole 23:40
3 - Louisiane 25:20
25 - 25 34:25
C&EI with L&N 1067.3
93 - Dixie Limited 28:30
97 - Dixie Mail 35:40

Illinois Central - Chicago South 60+ speeds - 1943

You could search the 1940 IC timetable south from Chicago toward New Orleans and Florida and find no 60 or better start stop speeds. Then, by 1943, the IC introduced the diesel powered Panama Limited and City of Miami streamliners, replacing the steam power. The 1945 timetable showed the following high speed operations:

Train#From CityTo CityMilesMin.mph
City of Miami 53 Champaign Mattoon 44.5 38 70.3
City of Miami 53 Centralia Carbondale 56.8 50 68.2
City of Miami 53 Mattoon Effingham 26.9 25 64.6
Panama Limited 55 Mattoon Effingham 26.9 25 64.6
City of Miami 53 Kankakee Champaign 72 67 64.5
Panama Limited 55 Chicago Ht's Kankakee 47.9 45 63.9
City of Miami 53 Chicago Ht's Kankakee 47.9 46 62.5
City of Miami 52 Effingham Mattoon 26.9 26 62.1
Panama Limited 55 Kankakee Champaign 72 70 61.7
City of Miami 52 Mattoon Champaign 44.5 44 60.7
City of Miami 52 Champaign Kankakee 72 72 60.0
Average Speed 538.3 508 63.6

Illinois Central - Chicago to St. Louis 60+ Speeds - 1940
The IC, with a slightly longer run to St. Louis had to jack their speeds up to compete with the Alton. The main line south from Chicago was where the higher speeds were attained, with the branch over to St. Louis, apparently, on slower track. The good performance by the IC was due to early installation of diesel-electric power on their crack trains such as the Green Diamond.

Train#From CityTo CityMilesMin.mph
Green Diamond 50 Clinton Gibson City 38.6 32 72.4
Green Diamond 51 Kankakee Clinton 92.7 77 72.2
Daylight 19 Kankakee Gibson City 54.1 46 70.6
Green Diamond 51 63rd Street Kankakee 47.9 41 70.1
Daylight 20 Franklin City Gibson City 20.6 18 68.7
Green Diamond 50 Gibson City Kankakee 54.1 48 67.6
Daylight 20 Gibson City Kankakee 54.1 50 64.9
Green Diamond 51 Clinton Mt. Pulaski 20.5 19 64.7
Daylight 19 63rd Street Kankakee 47.9 45 63.9
Green Diamond 50 Springfield Clinton 44.7 42 63.9
Daylight 19 Gibson City Franklin City 20.6 20 61.8
Average Speed 495.8 438 67.9

Our Sources
Private Collection of Richard R. Parks(rp)
Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia [web](wik)
Official Guide- April 1940
Illinois Central Historical Society(ich)
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Richard Parks


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Web Page Written and Maintained by Richard Parks
Copyright Richard Parks, March 3, 2011, revised June 4, 2011