BRIEF HISTORY OF THE C.S. & ST. L. RAILROAD

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Russell Eyer
Courtesy of Russell Eyer, Palmyra, Illinois See Story

Palmyra, Ill.

The brief history of the C.S. & St. L. Railroad comes from a
brochure written by Mrs. F. L. Chiles, deceased, entitled Early
History of Palmyra and given before the Palmyra Woman’s Club
April 3, 1913.

Also excerpts here and there given by Mrs. Etna Downing of
Palmyra whose father was drayman in Palmyra for many years.

The C.S. & ST. L. was completed in January 1881. Prior to
that time goods were hauled overland from Alton and later from
Carlinville by oxen, later being replaced by the horse and wagon.
The railroad known as the Chicago, Springfield and St. Louis
railway ran from Springfield, Illinois to Alton, Illinois by the
way of Curran, Loami, Waverly, Roher Station, Modesto, Palmyra,
Hettick, Chesterfield, Challacombe Station, M e d o r a , Fidelity,
Jerseyville, Dow, then along the bluffs into Alton.

In 1883 the hopes of the citizens were raised by the survey of
the B & O Railroad which which was to run from Litchfield to
Quincy. This road was graded from Litchfield through Palmyra and
nearly to Scottville before the company ran out of money. So ended
Palmyra’s hopes for a second railroad.

This photo was originally from a postcard and taken about 1908
showing ‘Uncle Hardy’ Neece meeting the train at the
station in Palmyra headed North to Springfield. The only other
persons identified in the picture is his son Roy who was about 8
years old at the time and John Grider a resident at the time. John
Childs ran the dray from 1894 to Oct. 15, 1904 when Howard Neece
took over the job. Lee Bradway was the station agent at the time.
For many years the streets of Palmyra were unpaved. Board walks
were footpaths of the day. The first sidewalks appeared in 1901.
The first telegrapher in Palmyra was V. N. Hinkle.

Among other station agents at Palmyra were Ben Scott, Otis
Robison and George Gardner. As the years went by, few changes were
made in the railroad right of way. When the railroad ceased to be,
many of the original buildings were still standing, some boarded up
and neglected. The original rails were classified as sixty
pounders. Many of them stood the test of sixty years of use
notwithstanding being crooked and warped.

In the year of 1931 Illinois route # 111 was completed through
Palmyra sounding the death knoll for the railroad. Trucks began to
take over much of the business that was once enjoyed by the
railroad. The old line began to run into financial difficulties
during the depression. Several times the road received a shot in
the arm with finances from various sources.

For several years before its abandonment, the roads only
passenger service was the old faithful motor car # 151 which
brought the mail and passengers down from Springfield in the
morning and returned from Alton in the afternoon. As package and
freight service dwindled ‘Uncle Hardy’ abandoned his horses
and wagon for a four wheel cart about two years before the line was
abandoned.

As a boy, this writer can remember many nights when the freights
would be late coming from the South because of the grade into
Palmyra. Many fences along the line were not in too good shape and
livestock would wander onto the tracks causing confusion and delay.
Sometimes the engineer would have to back up and take another run
at the grade. Wrecks and track jumping were nothing unusual.

On May 21, 1941 motor car # 15 made its last trip on the line.
The old road was destined for the scrap heap. There were smiles and
farewells as the old motor car pulled into each station and
possibly a tear or two as old timers recollected fond memories of
days gone by. George Gardner who now lives in Petersburg, Illinois
was the last depot agent in Palmyra. Then too ‘Uncle Hardy’
has long since passed on to his reward having passed away in March
1940.

The writer of this history is still around at this writing and
with him he carries many fond memories, especially as he crosses
what used to be the old tracks. As he looks up and down the old
right of way he sees the oncoming train and hears the ‘toot
toot’ of the whistle reminding him of his school days as he
daily crossed the tracks somewhere in town. He also remembers the
day he hitch hiked a ride on a truck to Medora and rode the box car
to Alton. Much of the right of way has been leveled off and
returned to farming. Houses have been built squarely on the
‘tracks’. Yet here and there are portions of the right of
way still like it was the day they removed the rails except it has
grown up in brush. Near Hettick a stretch of the roadbed was
reclaimed for a road through the bottoms.

This bit of history is presented to those whose memories carries
with them the same fondness for railroads and steam engines as does
the writers. This history is correct as far as we know. If someone
reading this history has anything to add or detract from it please
get in touch with me and I will make corrections or additions in
accordance.

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