Mapping The Progress Of Carbondale’s Railroads

A 1907 Jackson County atlas in the collection of the Jackson County Historical Society showed the railroad junction on Carbondale’s north side as it existed at that time.  The junction was located near the location where the concrete coal towers stand today.  The north leg of the wye track crossing U.S.51 and used to turn Amtrak’s trains around today is the only part of the junction still in use.

The map from the 1907 atlas forms the basis for this series of maps to show how the railroads of Carbondale were built in the latter half of the 19th Century.  The downtown area of Carbondale is just below the edge of these maps, and is not shown.

1854: The Illinois Central builds its north/south mainline through Carbondale.

1868: The Grand Tower & Carbondale (Green) completes its line from the Mississippi River at Grand Tower.

1871: The Carbondale & Shawneetown (Red) builds east from Carbondale to Marion .

1880: The St. Louis Coal Railroad leases the Carbondale & Shawneetown and then builds northwest to Harrison, just north of Murphysboro (Red).

1895: The St. Louis Coal Railroad has become part of a system reaching from East St. Louis to Paducah, known as the Cairo Short Line (Red). Meanwhile, the Grand Tower & Carbondale has merged with the Grand Tower & Cape Girardeau to form the Chicago & Texas, which then builds eastward from Carbondale to Johnston City (Blue).

1897: The Illinois Central has acquired both the Cairo Short Line and the Chicago & Texas, bringing all rail lines through Carbondale under a single owner.

Of the lines built by the railroads to pass through Carbondale, the original North/South mainline of the Illlinois Central is all that remains.  The first portion of the secondary lines to be abandoned was the southern half of the Carbondale-Paducah segment in 1956.  Cutbacks continued until the final segment, the portion of the Johnston City line between Carbondale and Herrin, was abandoned in 1987.

Two portions of these lines survive today as a part of the Crab Orchard & Egyptian Railway, a division of Progressive Rail.  The CO&E took over the line between the east side of Marion and Crainville in 1978, and tracks in Herrin in 1987.  The Herrin portion is currently dormant due to several industries closing down during the first decade of the 21st Century.