Illinois Central Railroad

Illinois Central Railroad caboose in Cairo
Illinois Central Railroad caboose in Cairo, Illinois, photographed by Flicker user Mobilus In Mobili

Senator Stephen A. Douglas and political rival Abraham Lincoln both lobbied in support of the Illinois Central. Douglas owned land near the terminal in Chicago, and Lincoln was a lawyer for the railroad. Chartered in 1851, the Illinois Central Railroad was the first to receive a land grant when it was completed. The line from Chicago to Cairo, Illinois, was opened in 1856, earning the company 2.5 million acres. At the time it was the longest railroad in the world. Until the Mississippi River was bridged at Cairo in 1889, passengers and freight transferred to Mississippi River steamers for travel west.

Postage stamp honoring train conductor Casey Jones
Postage stamp honoring train conductor Casey Jones

John Luther “Casey” Jones

Casey Jones, who resided in Centralia during the early 1890s, was an engineer for the Illinois Central Railroad famous for his speed and his distinctive whippoorwill train whistle. He was killed April 30, 1900 when his train collided at night with a stalled freight train near Vaughan, Mississippi. Jones was remembered for sounding his whistle and slowing his train from 75 to 35 miles per hour, becoming the only fatality. Legend has it that when his body was pulled from the wreckage, his hands still clutched the whistle cord and brake.

Post-statehood
Illinois Central Railroad