Railroads | Railroad Stations | Chicago Railways Company Routes | CB&Q | C&NW | Alton
The Alton had a long and colored history with many name changes along the way.
The initial charter was for the Alton and Sangamon Railroad issued on February 27, 1847 for a line from the Mississippi River town of Alton, Illinois to the state capital at Springfield. This line was finished in 1852.
The line extended to Bloomington, in 1854, as the Chicago and Mississippi Railroad, and to Joliet in 1855, where it ran over the Chicago and Rock Island to Chicago and La Salle Street Station.
The Joliet and Chicago Railroad was chartered on February 15, 1855 and opened in 1856. It was leased by the Chicago and Mississippi creating a continuous line from Alton to Chicago. Two more reorganizations formed the St. Louis, Alton and Chicago and then the Chicago and Alton Railroad by October 10, 1862. On December 28, 1863 the Alton and the Pittsburgh Ft. Wayne and Chicago Railroad completed an agreement for the Alton to move from the Illinois Central depot, where they had been briefly, to the PFW&C depot on Madison Street, later to become the Union Station, where the Alton resided until it’s demise. (Amtrak does, however, us the old Alton line, now part of UP and Canadian National for passenger service to St. Louis).
In 1864 the Chicago and Alton chartered the Alton and St. Louis Railroad to complete its line to East St. Louis.
The Kansas City line grew from the leasing, 1n 1870, of the Louisiana and Missouri River Railroad running from Louisiana to Springfield, Missouri, and the leasing, in 1878, of the Kansas City St. Louis and Chicago Railroad running from Mexico to Kansas City, Missouri.
So by 1878 all the essential main lines of the Chicago and Alton Railroad were established.
1906-1931 – Chicago and Alton Railway controlled at various times by the U. P., the Rock Island and Nickel Plate.
1931-1947 – Alton Railroad – subsidiary of the Baltimore and Ohio
1947-1972 – Alton merged into Gulf Mobile and Ohio Railroad
1971 – Passenger service taken over by Amtrak
1972-1987 – Alton merged into Illinois Central Gulf
1987 – Alton Joliet-St. Louis line sold to Chicago Missouri and Western
1989 – CM&W acquired by UP
1990 – St. Louis (& Springfield) to KC sold to Gateway Western Railroad
1998 – Canadian National purchases Joliet-Chicago portion of old Alton. Passenger service operated by METRA
1997 – KCS obtains St. Louis-KC line from Gateway Western
Technological Advances by the Alton Railroad
The Alton was the first railroad to install a sleeping car designed by George Pullman and built in the C&A’s Bloomington shops. This went into service on the Chicago to East St. Louis line on September 1, 1859.
The Alton was the first railroad to install a dining car, the Delmonico, in regular service. It was built by George Pullman in the CB&Q Railroad’s Aurora, Illinois shops. Two more dining cars, the Tremont and the Southern were also built and leased by the Chicago and Alton, providing dining car service on all of its Chicago to East St. Louis trains.
In 1932 the Alton was the first Chicago-St. Louis Railroad to install air conditioning on its passenger trains.
The Alton was the leading Railroad in Chicago to St. Louis service.
The Mammoth Camera by the J.A. Anderson Company
The Mammoth camera was manufactured by the J.A. Anderson Company, Chicago in 1900. It was designed as the largest camera every made in order to capture a complete train with cars.
The followng is an exerpt from the Railroad magazine, 1901:
The Chicago & Alton Railway had built a special train to go into fast daylight service from Chicago to St. Louis and wanted it photographed. Mr. Charlton, the director, believed his train to be the handsomest in the world and he wanted a photograph of it, six long Pullmans, engine, tender and all. He called the company’s photographer, George R. Lawrence, and instructed Mr. Lawrence that it was necessary to have a photograph 8 feet long of the ” Alton Limited. ” The photographer explained that the train would have to be photographed in sections, and these sections fitted together during the process of printing. But he felt obliged to add that this was an ordinary method which was not conducive to absolute truthfulness of perspective, and one which would certainly show the joints, no matter how carefully the different sections were blended together.
But the directors did not want a half-and-half photograph. They had built a faultless train, of which they demanded a faultless photograph, and it must be a photograph at least 8 feet long. The photographer assured them of his helplessness in the matter, but the directors were more than obdurate; they insisted. At last a truce was called, and the railway photographer left the boardroom with an idea.
When, sometime after the conference, the photographer returned, it was with the plans for a camera holding a single plate 8 feet by 4 1/2 feet, this being three times as large as the largest plate ever before exposed. The Chicago & Alton Railway, then and there gave Mr. Lawrence, their photographer, carte blanche to have such a camera made.
The lenses were ground at great expense and trouble. They arc the largest photographic lenses ever made. The wide angle lens has an equivalent focus of 5 1/2 feet; the other lens, a telescopic, rectilinear lens, is of 10 feet equivalent focus. The latter was the one used when taking the large photograph of the ” Alton Limited. ”
The plates for this gigantic camera are also the largest ever manufactured. They are made in St. Louis, and have to be coated entirely by hand. They cost $70 per dozen. Five gallons of developer arc used to develop one plate, and the services of eight men arc required to manipulate it during the process in the dark room.
The camera was transported on a flat freight car, but when away from the railway was moved in a specially padded van. Fifteen men were necessary to handle and set up the monster camera, to focus and photograph the train.
There was no snap-shotting this subject. On the occasion of this, the first exposure, the day was clear, but an exposure of 2 1/2 minutes was given. An isochromatic plate was used to preserve the colour-value of the train, and from the first exposure a perfect negative was secured, resulting in the largest photograph ever made on one plate, or, to quote the proud boast of the railway concerned, -the largest photograph in the world of the handsomest train in the world.-
Largest train in the world, Cavalry in foreground mounted on horses.
Photographed by George Lawrence