The Rock Island Line and The Illinois Michigan Canal

    Probably one factor that led to the ultimate demise of the Illinois Michigan Canal was the Rock Island Railroad. 
     The idea of building a railroad between LaSalle and Rock Island, Illinois was first discussed by civic leaders in Rock Island in June,1845.  It was felt that this would be a logical overland link between the I M Canal and the Mississippi River.    Representatives from Rock Island lobbied state legislators in favor of this initiative.   In February 27, 1847, the Rock Island and LaSalle Railroad Company was Incorporated by a special act of the legislature.   The members of this company encountered difficulty raising money for this proposal.  At that time, it was believed that this difficulty was due to the fact that the rail line was between two waterways and not major metropolitan areas.  The organizers subsequently petitioned the legislature for an amended charter to build a rail line between Chicago and Rock Island.  The amended charter was approved on 2/17/1851.  The new name of the railroad was to be the Chicago and Rock Island. 
     My personal thoughts here. Did the state legislators ever consider that it might not be a prudent idea to build a railroad paralleling the canal?  After all the canal had only been in operation for a few years and the tolls were needed to pay off the bond holders.
     Construction on the railroad began in Chicago on 10/1/1851.  It was completed to Joliet in October of 1852.  It was completed to Rock Island on February 22, 1854.
     The first effect on the canal was the end of passenger traffic on packet boats.  There was increasing competition on freight tolls. 
     The railroad had several positive features that worked to its advantage in this competition.  Travel by rail was more swift.  The railroad operated year round.  The Canal was closed in the winter.  Railroads could handle most freight expeditiously  because the multiple rail lines services reached areas beyond the reach of the canal.
     Tolls declined between 1869–1878 because of the competition.  The Canal came to be used more for the transportation of bulk goods that did not require speed.  This included grains, coal lumber and stone.

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