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The Last Steam Engines of Southern Illinois

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Ben Gelman (1920-2007) was a photographer for the Southern Illinoisan from 1956-1982 and later a public information specialist for Southern Illinois University Carbondale from 1982-1996. He captured these images depicting the final days of the Illinois Central Railroad’s operation of steam engines in Carbondale and greater Southern Illinois in early 1959. Gelman later used some of these photographs in a Southern Illinoisan feature article on the end of the steam engine era that appeared in the March 1, 1959 issue. By the spring of 1959 all but one shift of trains in the IC St. Louis division had been dieselized, and Gelman believed that “the last steam locomotive with any life in it will probably be gone from the area by April 1.” The IC was fully dieselized by the end of 1959.

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