Short History of the Wabash Railway


The Wabash Railroad has been 100% Dieselized since the close of World War II. On the left is a modern Diesel locomotive of the type that carries freight through Monroe City. No passenger trains are maintained on the line through here.

The steam engine on the right was built in 1867 for the Toledo, Wabash and Western Railway company running from Hannibal to Moberly. The line was acquired by the M. K. & T. and sold to the Wabash in 1944.  

In the 1830s the State of Illinois planned a system of internal improve­ments which included a railroad from the Illinois river (at Meredosia) to the Illinois-Indiana line near Danville, Ill. The railroad was known as the “Northern Cross.” And so the Wabash Railroad System had its beginning, when on November 8, 1838, a select party was taken on a trip to the end of the track, some eight miles from Meredosia, and back again. The railroad reached Jacksonville, Ill., January 1, 1840 and Springfield, Ill., May 13, 1842. Another line was also built and reached Naples, Ill, from Bluffs, Ill. in 1838. The name of the railroad was subsequently changed to the Great Western Railroad of Illinois and the track was completed to Danville in November, 1856.

 Meanwhile an enterprising group of businessmen in Indiana and Ohio had visions of an unbroken line of railroad to connect Toledo, Ohio, with the Mississippi river. This line was to run through the valleys of the Maumee and Wabash rivers to the state line of Illinois at a point seven miles from Danville and was projected to connect with the Great Western Railroad of Illinois to complete the line with the Mississippi river.

Two companies were formed and known as the “Toledo and Illinois Railroad Com­pany and “The Lake Erie, Wabash and St. Louis Railroad Company.”

 The Toledo and Illinois Railroad Com­pany was incorporated April 25, 1853 in the State of Ohio and the 75 miles of track from Toledo to the Ohio-Indiana state line was completed on July 17, 1855.

The Lake Erie, Wabash and St. Louis Railroad Company was incorporated August 31, 1852 in the State of Indiana to baud a line of track from the Ohio­Indiana state line to the Indiana-Illinois state line. The track was completed to Fort Wayne, Ind., August 1, 1855, to Lafayette, Ind., June 23, 1856 and the state line was reached on August 1, 1856.

These two railroads were consolidated on September 23, 1856 to form the Toledo. Wabash and Western Railroad Company.

The Great Western Railroad of Illinois was extended on the west from the Illinois river to the Mississippi river at Quincy, Ill, and Keokuk, Iowa, and the dream of the Indiana and Ohio business­men was realized. On June 30, 1865 these railroads were consolidated to form The Toledo, Wabash and Western Railway Company. In 1870 the Hannibal and Na­ples Railroad Company was completed and operated by The Toledo, Wabash and Western Railway which provided an ad­ditional through route from the Mississip­pi river to Toledo, Ohio. In August, 1871 the Hannibal and Central Missouri Railroad was completed between Hannibal and Moberly, Mo. through Monroe City, Mo. This line was leased to The Toledo, Wabash and Western Ry. Co. The following is quoted from The Railroad Gazette of Sept. 2, 1871:

“Hannibal and Central Missouri R.R. Company.

“This road, which has been for some­time in progress from Hannibal west­ward, seventy miles, to Moberly, Missouri, on the North Missouri Road Company was completed on the 21st of August, the road forms an im­portant western connection for the Toledo, Wabash & Western Road, being on nearly an exact air line between Toledo and Kansas City and making the distance between these places, via The North Missouri, 660 miles—.42 miles shorter than the present route via The Hannibal & St. Joseph Road.”

 The Hannibal & Central Missouri Railroad was conveyed to the Missouri, Kan­sas and Texas Railway Company in June, 1873. Traffic of The Toledo, Wabash & Western Railway was then interchanged with and handled by the M. K. & T. Railroad until November, 1897 when the Wabash Railroad was given joint use of the line between Moberly and Hannibal. In August, 1923, the Wabash was given exclusive use of the line and it was put-chased by the Wabash Railroad in 1941 and now owned and operated by the Wabash. Passenger service was discontinued many years ago, only freight tonnage now being serviced to Monroe City.

In Missouri the Wabash R.R. had its origin when on March 3, 1851 the North Missouri Railroad was chartered to build a line of railroad from St. Charles, Mo. to the Missouri-Iowa state line. Later the charter was amended to extend the line from St. Louis. In August, 1855, the line was completed from St. Louis to St. Charles. The North Missouri Railroad continued west and north from St. Charles and reached Hudson or Macon, Mo. via Moberly, Mo. in February, 1859. Because of the Civil War, during which the North Missouri R.R. was partially destroyed, construction was delayed and the line did not reach the Missouri-Iowa state line until December, 1868. The North Missouri R.R. line west from Moberly, Mo. was also completed in December, 1868 and service established to Kansas City, Mo. The North Missouri Railroad Company was succeeded by the St. Louis, Kansas City & Northern Railway Company in 1872.

 On October 25, 1879, The Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific Railway Company was incorporated and the several segments east and west of the Mississippi river were consolidated into one great rail­road system. On August 1, 1889 the name was changed to the Wabash Railroad Company and that name has remained to the present time.

 Since World War II the Wabash Railroad has invested more than one hundred million dollars in new facilities of all kinds in order to serve even more effi­ciently the shipping and traveling public. In addition to modernizing its freight yards, communication facilities, and signal­ing devices, the Wabash Railroad has also greatly improved its passenger train equipment. It is now 100% Dieselized.