, 2022-07-21 14:32:00,
The development of Peoria-area railroads began in the 1840s and brought immigrant laborers of many nationalities to central Illinois, many of them who put down not only tracks, but roots that remain in this area.
This was the message that Ralph “Bud” Linroth, author of three books on Illinois railroad history, shared with more than 50 members and guests of the Peoria County Genealogical Society (PCGS), which met July 14 at at Peoria’s North Branch library. Linroth, whose 272-page, hardbound book “ A History of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy (CBQ) Peoria Line” was published in 2020, retired from the Burlington-Northern Santa Fe Railways company in Galesburg in 2009 after a 38-year career as a railman. In addition to his insights on central Illinois’ rail history, Linroth shared several personal stories and anecdotes from his career with attendees.
During his hour-long presentation, Linroth related how some of the early railroad workers became part of Peoria’s history and shared genealogy. “In Galesburg they brought in lots of Irish and Swedes to work on the railroads; this is where my people came from,” he said. “This ties our railroad history to our local genealogy.”
Linroth delved into the processes involved in order to attract railroad investors to communities like Peoria, El Paso and Chillicothe. Oftentimes, the choices investors made determined the success or failure of the towns themselves. Many communities became “ghost towns” when railroads passed them by, causing entire populations to uproot and move to other nearby communities selected for railroad service.
Peoria’s first railroads were established in the 1840s when a group of capital investors purchased stock to secure the rights to the Illinois Central Railroad route, according to Linroth. “If you didn’t want to play ball and provide so many dollars, the railroads passed you by in a different direction. This happened in Oquawka and Fairview. It was always based on how much stock (a town) was going to buy,” Linroth said. “The Illinois Central was the first (successful) railroad to come into Peoria, and there were a few other pieces of track here and there.”
Peoria’s railroad “heyday” came in the 1910s when no less than 14 separately owned rail providers crowded the Peoria Riverfront between Water Street and the Illinois River. Along with the CBQ line, the Toledo, Peoria and Western (TP&W) Railway, Peoria and…
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