Kingdom of Callaway Historical Society

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   C & A Railroad Page

Callaway County, Missouri



Chicago & Alton Railway


Chicago & Alton Railway. The history of this railroad, like that of many others, affords an interesting example of the changed conditions brought about by railroads themselves, without ever intending or thinking of them. It might be supposed that the road was conceived and built for the purpose of connecting the two great cities of Chicago and St. Louis, with Alton as a way station, but it was not. When it was conceived the connection between Chicago and St. Louis did not exist. The two places scarcely knew one another. St. Louis was only a brisk, prosperous little river city, and Chicago was smaller still, with a population half as great as that of one of its wards at the present time .It was in 1847 that the road had its beginning in the Alton & Sangamon Railroad Company, chartered to build a railroad from Alton to Springfield - the cities of Chicago and St. being so little taken into account in the conception that their names, even, were not included in the name of the road. Alton was one of the most important and enterprising towns in the State, and Springfield, in Sangamon County, was the capital - and it was though advisable to have a railroad between the two. The Legislature of Illinois did not contemplate the extension of its to St. Louis, and if such a thing had been hinted at it would not have granted the charter, for an extension to a point opposite St. Louis would have been considered hostile to the most ambitious and thriving river town in Illinois, and the doctrine of "State policy," much talked of in those days, peremptorily forbade any public measure that would facilitate the transfer of business to the cities of other States. Not until 1852, six years after the charter was granted, that the road was built to Springfield. Two years later it was extended to Bloomington, and a year later still to Joliet. The Chicago & Mississippi Railroad met it at Bloomington, and this gave unbroken connection between Chicago and Alton. As the Legislature of Illinois still refused to allow the road to be extended to a point opposite St. Louis, the connection between Alton and that city was by fast packets, the passenger packet making two trips a day. The road gave to St. Louis its first rail connection with the East, for several years all travel between St. Louis and New York went over it. In 1857 the road was reorganized as the St. Louis, Alton & Chicago Railroad, but it was not until 1863 that it was extended to St. Louis and assumed its real character. In 1862 the road from Godfrey to Milton was opened, and became part of the Jacksonville line, and a branch was built from Roodhouse, Illinois to Louisiana, Missouri. In 1872 it extended its system into Missouri by building the road from Louisiana through Mexico to cedar City, opposite Jefferson City, on the Missouri, and in 1879 to Kansas City, by securing control of the Kansas City, St. Louis & Chicago Railroad. In 1879 the Chicago * Illinois Railroad was bought, and became the Coal City Branch. Occupying such an advantageous geographical position, running through some of the most fertile lands and prosperous cities of Illinois and Missouri, and linking together the three great cities, Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City, the road naturally attracted the attention of capitalists, who saw in it a most desirable, if not an absolutely necessary, piece of property, for them to control in order to round out their plans and to protect their other railroad investment, aside from the dividends which the Alton property could be relied upon to supply on its own account. Therefore, during the year 1898 the bulk of the common and preferred shares of the Chicago & Alton Railway were purchased from the owners, who had held them as a permanent investment for an uninterrupted term of twenty-five years or more, the preferred shares having paid annual dividends of 7 per cent, and the common shares average annual dividends of over 8 per cent. The prices [paid by the purchasers, generally known as the "Harriman Syndicate" were $200 for the preferred and $175 for the common stock, the nominal value of each share being $100. The original owners of Chicago & Alton stock, it will be seen, were exceedingly and unusually fortunate with respect to continuous and handsome dividends for more than a quarter of a century, and excellent prices for their shares when they decided to part with them.

Now that is has passed into other hands, it is pleasant to note the faith of its new owners in the property on which they are spending millions in development. Grades are being cut down and curves are being eliminated. Large number of old bridges are being replaced with new ones. Extensions of double track are being made, and additional side tracks are being provided. New engines, new passenger cars, and new freight equipment have been added, and orders for more have been placed. Always a first-class line, the new management believe that it is capable of development beyond anything that was conceived for it by its builders. under the conspicuously able management of President Felton, the faith of the new owners in the possibilities of this splendid property is already being justified and demonstrated in large increased traffic receipts.

In the later part of the year 1899 that part of the St. Louis, Peoria & Northern Railway lying between Springfield and Peoria passed into the control of the Chicago & Alton Railway Company, and is now a part of that system. The Chicago & Alton - or the "Alton" as it is popularly called - is now a compact system, operating on both sides of the Mississippi in the States of Illinois and Missouri, with Chicago, St., Louis, Kansas City, and Peoria as its chief terminals, and it is recognized as one of the most efficient and useful of the St. Louis systems.


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