Northern Cross Railroad

City: Meredosia

County: Morgan

State: Illinois

The Northern Cross Railroad originated as part of an internal improvement act passed by the Illinois General Assembly in 1837. As part of its grand design to crisscross the state with railroads, the General Assembly allocated $1.85 million to construct the Northern Cross Railroad from Quincy, through Springfield and Danville, to the Indiana state line. The state contracted for 105 miles, and contractors began laying rail at Meredosia in the spring of 1838. By the end of 1839, construction was halted as the state struggled with financial difficulties associated with the Panic of 1837. In 1842, the state now recovered from the financial panic, laborers completed the tract between Jacksonville and Springfield, and in February 1842 the first train reached Springfield. Plans to have three runs a week, however, never materialized, and by 1844 the railroad was a financial failure. In 1847, the state sold the line at auction for $21,000 (one-fortieth of the cost of construction) to Nicholas Ridgely, who renamed the line the Sangamon and Morgan Railroad. In 1853, the line was re-named the Great Western Railroad of Illinois. In 1854, the railroad reached Decatur, and by 1856 the line extended to the Indiana state line as part of the Toledo, Wabash, and Western Railroad Company.

An Act to Establish and Maintain a General System of Internal Improvements; An Act to Provide for the Completion of that Part of the Northern Cross Railroad from Springfield to Jacksonville, and for Other Purposes; An Act in relation to the Northern Cross Railroad between Springfield and Jacksonville; Theodore C. Pease, The Frontier State, 1818-1848 (Chicago, IL: A. C. McClurg, 1919), 216; Robert P. Howard, Illinois: A History of the Prairie State (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1972), 200-202; H. J. Stratton, “The Northern Cross Railroad,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 28 (July 1935), 5-52; Report of the President and the Executive Committee of the Toledo, Wabash and Western Railroad Company to the Stock and Bondholders (New York: George F. Nesbitt, 1857), 5-6.