A Chicago Hub Railroad of the 1930's - 1940's
Wabash Railroad

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The Wabash Railroad was a Class I railroad that operated in the mid-central United States. It served a large area, including trackage in the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri and Ontario. Its primary connections included Chicago, Illinois, Kansas City, Missouri, Detroit, Michigan, Buffalo, New York, St. Louis, Missouri, Toledo, Ohio, Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Omaha, Nebraska. The Wabash's major freight traffic advantage was the direct line from Kansas City to Detroit and Toledo, without going through St. Louis or Chicago.(wik)
In the 30's and 40's the Wabash offered a number of great passenger trains including the Banner Blue and the Blue Bird Chicago to St. Louis from the Dearborn Street Station in Chicago. The Blue Bird came out in a streamlined version with dome cars. Through service to the west coast from St. Louis was offered by the City of St. Louis, with co-sponsors the UP and SP. Fast Pennsy trains Chicago to Detroit, the Detroit Arrow and the Redbird, were carried by the Wabash from Fort Wayne to and from Detroit. Service was also provided from Toledo and Detroit to St. Louis, and Kansas City and from St. Louis to Kansas City, Omaha andDes Moines.(rp)
Wabash 1887
Wabash 1935
AugSep, 1935
Wabash 1938
Dec 12, 1938
Wabash 1943
Feb. 15, 1943
Wabash 1947
Sept 28, 1947

A variety of Wabash Timetable covers

Brief history of the Wabash Railway

The Wabash Railroad was formed by many, many short line and/or subsidiary railroads with many name changes and complex relationships. We have tried our best to coordinate what information is avauilable, however there are some minor differences in this data. We welcome any clarification you may provide.

Wabash Genealogy

Wabash Genealogy

Early Illinois Beginnings - Northern Cross
1830's - Mississippi River and Illinois luring people to seek better transportation modes from the east
1833 - Chicago named
1834 - Illinois legislature approves ideas for railroads in state, including a cross state line from Quincy, on the Mississippi River east to the Indiana state line near Danville.
1837 - First construction started at Meredosia, on Illinois River to build east and south toward Springfield. This railroad was named the Northern Cross
1838 - First railroad locomotive ("Rogers") west of Alleghenies hauls a party eight miles at Meredosia, Illinois on the Northern Cross, nucleus of Wabash Railroad
1842 - Northern Cross grows from Meridosia to Springfield, Illinois
1847 - Road sold by state and name changed to Sangamon and Morgan Railroad
1853 - S&M becomes Great Western Railroad and eastward expansion from Springfield begins
1856 - The Great Western reaches east to the Indiana line.

East Lines - Toledo to Illinois State Line
1852 - The Toledo and Illinois Railroad was chartered, in Ohio to build from Toledo on Lake Erie west to the Indiana state line.
1853 - The Lake Erie, Wabash and St. Louis Railroad was chartered in Indiana to continue the line west through the Wabash valley into Illinois
Both of these planned to connect to the Great Western in Illinois to reach the Mississippee River.
1856 - The T&I and the LEW&SL merged to form the Toledo, Wabash and Western Railroad.
post 1856 - Both companies go bankrupt
1858 - Toledo and Wabash Railroad acquires the TW&W, the Ohio (T&I) portion, and Wabash and Western Railroad acquired the the Indiana (LEW&SL) portion. Both combine as Toledo and Wabash Railway

Early Expansions
1860-1880's - Expansion into central and southern Illinois from Toledo, with mergers and reorganizations reforming the road and its names*.
1865 - Toledo, Wabash and Western Railway acquires Great Western Railroad, and a "direct, through line of railway starting at Toledo, OH, and terminating at Quincy, IL, and Keokuk, IA, a total of about 520 miles is created
1870's - Lines to 4 points on the Mississippi completed, including Hannibal, Keokuk, East St. Louis and a point near Alton, Illinois
1877 - TW&W, now 678 miles of trackage, is reorganized, during depression of 1877, and emerges as the Wabash Railway Company.
1879 - Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific Railway formed by merger of WRY and StLKC&N (See North Missouri section).

West to Kansas City - North Missouri Railway
1851 - The North Missouri Railroad was incorporated March 3, 1851, to build a railroad from St. Charles, Missouri to the Iowa state line.
1852 - NM charter revised to allow entry into St. Louis.
1855 - State bonds allow NM to buy rolling stock from a connecting line the Hannial and St. Joseph.
1855-58 - Construction procedes westward across Missouri.
1861-64 - NM sustains significant damage during Civil War.
1864 - Freight cars ferried across Missouri River at St. Charles.
1865 - Northern branch line to connect to the main line toward Kansas City completed.
1868 - Main line west too Birminghan, near Kansas City, is completed and entrance made into Kansas City over the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad (now the BN/SF).
1871 - St. Charles bridge completed and the North Missouri Railroad and the predecessors of the Wabash joined to provide a continuous line from Toledo on the east to the western part of Missouri.
l1871-72 . NM name changed to St. Louis Kansas City and Northern (SLKC&N).
1879 - SLKC&N merged with Wabash Railroad to become the Wabash St. Louis and Pacific Railway.
1887 - WSL&P Kansas City portion becomes Wabash Western Railway.
1889 - WW Railway merged into Wabash Railroad.

Line to Omaha
1878 - Council Bluffs and St. Louis Railway formed, serving both Iowa and Missouri.
1879 - CB&O (Missouri) merged into SLKC&N.
1879 - SLKC&N part of WSL&P Railway
1886 - CB&O (Iowa and WSL&P portion) now the Omaha and St. Louis Railway.
1896 - O&SL becomes Omaha and St. Louis Railroad.
1901 - O&SL nerged into Wabash Railroad.

Wabash Railroad from 1880
1880 - Lines northward to Chicago from Decatur completed. Chicago & Western Indiana provides terminal access and is partially owned by Wabash.
1881 - Lease of Eel River Railroad and construction of new track allows entry into Detroit
1889 - Wabash Railroad organized from WSL&P
1904 - Wabash Pittsburgh Terminal Railway formed and acquired control of the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad (see W&LE web page). Tjis gives the Wabash access to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as the final step in an attempt to break the near-monopoly of the Pennsylvania Railroad and New York Central Railroad for traffic to the east.
1905 - The New Jersey Indiana and Illinois Railroad was originally created by the Singer Sewing Machine Company in order to transport their products from South Bend, IN, to a connection with the Wabash Railroad in Pine, Indiana. The line began service in 1905 and officially operated on only 11.4 miles of track. The line ran between South Bend and Pine, Indiana, where it met the Wabash Railroad.
1908 - WPT goes bankrupt and later becomes part of the Pittsburgh and West Virginia Railway (see P&LE web page).
1911 - The Ann Arbor Railroad buys the Manistique and Lake Superior Railroad.
1915 - Wabash Railroad sold at foreclosure, and reorganized as the Wabash Railway Company
1925 - Wabash Railay acquires the Ann Arbor Railroad but operates it as a separate entity (see Ann Arbor page).
1926 - The Wabash had purchased the NJI&I in 1926 but continued to operate it as a separate railroad.
1927-1933 - Pennsylvania Railroad acquires loose control of Wabash and holds it through ICC arguments and court proceedings
1931 - Wabash back in receivership
1941-2 - Wabash Railroad organized and bought by Pennsy
1946 - City of St. Louis, new streamlined coach and Pullman service to the west coast cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, in conjunction with UP and SP
1950 - Wabash "Blue Bird" operates first "dome" cars from Chicago to St. Louis
1953-1955 - All steam locomotives phased out
1954 - Piggyback service started
1960 - PRR leases Wabash to Norfolk and Western Railway
1962 - PRR subsidiary Detroit Toledo and Ironton Railroad assumes control of Wabash
1963 - Wabash sells the Ann Arbor to the Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad.
1964 - Nickel Plate merged into N&W, and N&W leased Wabash and Pittsburgh and West Virginia Railway
1968 - PRR and NYC become Penn-Central
1970 - Pennsylvania Company divests all shares of Wabash to N&W
1982 - N&W and Southern Railway merge to become Norfolk Southern Railway
1982-1991 - Wabash Railroad remains a legal entity
1991 - Wabash absorbed into Norfolk Southern

Wabash Map

Wabash - Chicago to St. Louis 60 or greater speeds - 1940
The Wabash took a slightly more liesurely pace to St. Louis with it's fine Banner Blue and Blue Bird trains, but it did rack up a few nice start stop runs.
Train#From CityTo CityMilesMin.mph
Banner Blue 11 Taylorville Litchfield 32.5 29 67.2
Banner Blue 10 Monticello Gibson City 32.9 30 65.8
Banner Blue 11 Gibson City Monticello 32.9 30 65.8
Banner Blue 10 Edwardsville Litchfield 30.5 28 65.4
Banner Blue 10 Litchfield Taylorville 32.5 31 62.9
Blue Bird 24 Decatur Englewood 165.9 163 61.1
Blue Bird 21 Englewood Decatur 165.9 164 60.7
Average Speed 493.1 475 62.3

Our Sources
Private Collection of Richard R. Parks(rp)
Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia [web](wik)
Official Guide- April 1940
Wabash Railway Historical Society, Excerpts from an article written by the Advertising and Public Relations Department of the Wabash Railroad Company, August, 1959(whs)
Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri: Railroad Articles
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Richard Parks


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Web Page Written and Maintained by Richard Parks
Copyright Richard Parks, May 2, 2009, revised November 18, 2011