RR EXPANSION

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RAILROAD EXPANSION IN THE LATE 19TH CENTURY

The second stage of railroad construction began during the Civil War and continued into the 1870s. By 1875 eleven railroads had entered East St. Louis including: (1) the Illinois and St. Louis Coal Road; (2) the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad; (3) the Terre Haute, Alton, and St. Louis (Atlantic and Mississippi); (4) the Illinoistown and Belleville Railroad (also known as the Cairo Shortline); (5) the Chicago, Alton, and St. Louis; (6) the St. Louis, Vandalia, and Terre Haute (known as the Vandalia); (7) the Toledo, Wabash, and Western; (8) the Rockford, Rock Island, and St. Louis (later absorbed by the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad (9) the St. Louis and Southeastern Railroad, (10) the American Bottom Lime, Marble, and Coal Railroad; and (11) the St. Louis, Alton, and Terre Haute Railroad (Bond 1969:49, 50; Cole 1922:360).

Of these railroads, eight had facilities on Bloody Island. The 1874 map of the East St. Louis waterfront by Warner and Beers depicts the extent of railroad use on Bloody Island at that time (Figure 13). At the north end of the Island was the Toledo, Wabash, and Western Railroad located between Spring and Winter Streets. The T,W,& W had three large freight depot buildings and a roundhouse. South of the T,W,& W was the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad complex, which extended from Winter Street to Christy Avenue, and was separated into two parcels by the Chicago, Alton, and St. Louis Railroad yards. The north portion included extensive railyards, four

freight depot buildings, and a connection to a grain elevator. The southern part included yards and four additional freight depot buildings, as well as a rail connection to a grain elevator west of Front Street. At this time, the St. Louis Transfer Company, owned by officers of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad, was transferring freight between the railroad yards and the Wiggin's Ferry. The rail connections with other railroads and the railroad to the waterfront was part of that operation.

Between the Ohio and Mississippi railroad complexes were the Chicago, Alton, and St. Louis Railroad yards, three freight depot buildings, and a small engine roundhouse. Continuing south on Bloody Island, the next railroad was the St. Louis, Vandalia, and Terre Haute, located between Mullikin and Dyke (Broadway) Streets. This railroad had a long freight depot on the north side, a shorter freight handling facility adjacent to Dyke Street, and two smaller buildings on Front Street that may have been offices. East of the freight facilities was the Vandalia Roundhouse, located just west of Brooklyn Avenue.

South of the Illinois and St. Louis Bridge (Eads Bridge) was the property of the St. Louis and Southeastern Railroad. There were no railroad tracks or buildings here at this time. South of Bogy Street was located the St. Louis, Alton and Terre Haute Railroad, with extensive freight handling facilities including two large freighthouses abutting Front Street and other smaller structures. The engine facilities consisted of a railyard and a 360-degree roundhouse located west of Cahokia Creek and east of a remnant of the old Mississippi River channel.

South of the St. Louis, Alton, and Terre Haute Railroad was the Illinoistown and Belleville Railroad, also known as the Cairo Shortline. The Cairo Shortline, constructed as a narrow gauge (three foot-wide tracks, as opposed to the standard 4 foot 8 1/2 inch gauge), had its railyards north of Pratt Street, a small roundhouse at the corner of Church and Fourth Streets, and direct connections with the East St. Louis grain elevator, as well as access tracks to the Wiggin's Ferry landing.

Located at the southwestern edge of Illinoistown was another St. Louis, Alton, and Terre Haute Railroad complex, organized in 1862 from the defunct Terre Haute, Alton, and St. Louis segment of the Atlantic and Mississippi Railroad. The roundhouse depicted on the 1874 map was built sometime after 1863 and consisted of a 100-degree roundhouse flanked on the north by a building that was probably an engine house. This roundhouse, called the Illinoistown Roundhouse, was leased to the Indianapolis and St. Louis Railroad between 1867 and 1882, a railroad company chartered when the Terre Haute, Alton, and St. Louis was reorganized (Wilderman and Wilderman 1907:793).

Further south below the confluence of Cahokia Creek and the Mississippi River was the Illinois and St. Louis Railroad and Coal Company, which handled both freight and passengers. Extending from Belleville to Pittsburgh and Caseyville, and from there to East St. Louis and Brooklyn, the Illinois and St. Louis Railroad constituted one of the early local interurban lines for commuting between the towns of the St. Louis metroeast area. The passenger and freight depot was located south of the city limits and was serviced by the Wiggin's Ferry Company (Boylan 1938:190).

When the predecessor of the Illinois and St. Louis Railroad and Coal Company was originally planned in 1837, the railroad was designed to extend directly to the riverfront via Railroad Street, a street that separated Illinoistown from the newly platted town of St. Clair. Instead, the railroad was constructed south of the town to the site of the Wiggin's Ferry landing, which at that time was operating from the main'-and south of Bloody Island (Boylan 1938:189-190).

When the railroad was reorganized in the 1860s, a landing was retained south of town for the transfer of coal, and a spur was run down Railroad Avenue to the passenger depot at the junction of Railroad Avenue and the St. Clair County turnpike (Rock Road), which is known today as State Street. In order to extend the railroad to the Relay Depot and to connect with Eads Bridge to St. Louis, the officers of the Illinois and St. Louis Railroad desired to extend their railroad about three-fifths of a mile down Railroad Avenue. The city of East St. Louis, represented by Mayor John Bowman, insisted that the right-of-way had been forfeited (Boylan 1938:190).

Josephine Boylan describes the sensational political fight in 1877 between the railroad company and Mayor Bowman that raged from the courtroom to a late night confrontation on the tracks of the Illinois and St. Louis Railroad between railroad construction crews, a gang of St. Louis roughs, citizens of East St. Louis, and the mayor. Boylan quotes the contemporary newspaper accounts:

Last night many of our citizens, when they heard of the contemplated undertaking met at the terminus-of the track near the Rock Road; determined to resist any attempt by the Company to make the intended extension. This morning about four o'clock the attempt was made by the Company to lay the track; it was resisted successfully by the deputy marshals and citizens and a fence was put up immediately in front of where the Company desires to run their tracks. Should the fence be torn down and an attempt be made to put the tracks down, there will be trouble. Let every citizen who feels an interest in the matter be on hand and do his duty.

The Mayor stated that he had for some time past feared that the Illinois and St. Louis R.R. Co. would attempt to lay tracks on Railroad Street during the night, and although Mr. Branch, the president of the Company had assured him that nothing of the kind would be done, yet he placed so little confidence in the word of a man who spoke for a corporation that he had taken the precaution to place a special policeman on that street to sound the alarm should the railroad company attempt such a proceeding.

They proceeded with their work until they had put down their tracks across Main Street. At that stage of proceeding Mayor Bowman drove up in his buggy and stopped his horse on the ground over which the company desired to lay their rails. An armed crowd of roughs from St. Louis were about to force the Mayor from his position when citizens warned them to do so at their peril. The work stopped at once and a few moments afterwards, the property owners, Deputy Marshals and others tore up the ties and threw them into a pile and set fire to them. The negroes, nearly two hundred, who had been brought here by the Railroad Company offered no resistance when informed that there was an injunction in force against the laying of the track. The iron and some of the tires were brought to the market house. During the trouble one or two knockdowns took place, but no one was seriously injured.

Boylan writes that " ... it was insinuated that Mayor Bowman's opposition to the railroad arose from the fact that it had not retained him as attorney, whereas other railroads, which had done so, were granted privileges by the city" (Boylan 1938:190-191). Considering the controversy over the proposed railroad extension, it is puzzling that the Illinois and St. Louis Railroad was able to eventually succeed in laying the tracks by night shortly after the confrontation with the mayor and the people of East St. Louis. Though Boylan is silent on this question, it must be assumed that either a settlement of some kind was reached with the mayor or that the railroad simply pushed the road through after public emotions had leveled off.

 

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