Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway

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Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway
Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway system map (1918).svg
Big Four (red) and New York Central system (orange) as of 1918
Locale Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio
Dates of operation 1889–1976
Successor New York Central
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Headquarters Indianapolis, Indiana

The Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway, also known as the Big Four Railroad and commonly abbreviated CCC&StL, was a railroad company in the Midwestern United States. It operated in affiliation with the New York Central system.

Its primary routes were in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. At the end of 1925 it reported 2391 route-miles and 4608 track-miles; that year it carried 8180 million net ton-miles of revenue freight and 488 million passenger-miles.


Map and list of railroad consolidations from an 1899 timetable

The oldest predecessor of the Big Four (and a comparatively late addition to it) was the Mad River & Lake Erie. Ground was broken in 1835, and the line was opened from Sandusky to Dayton, Ohio, in 1851. It went through several renamings and became part of what later was the Peoria & Eastern before it was merged into the Big Four in 1890.[1]

The Cleveland, Columbus & Cincinnati (CC&C) was chartered in 1836, broke ground in 1847, and opened in 1851 between Cleveland and Columbus. In 1852, it teamed up with the Little Miami and Columbus & Xenia railroads to form a Cleveland–Cincinnati route.[1]

In 1848, the Indianapolis & Bellefontaine (I&B) and the Bellefontaine & Indiana (B&I) railroads were incorporated to build a line between Galion, Ohio, on the CC&C, and Indianapolis. The I&B and the B&I amalgamated and became known as "The B. Line". They were absorbed by the CC&C when it reorganized as the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati & Indianapolis in 1868. The nickname of the new railroad was "The Bee Line." The Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati & Indianapolis reached Cincinnati with its own rails in 1872; that same year it opened a line from Springfield to Columbus. By then the Vanderbilts owned a good portion of the railroad's stock.[1]

The Terre Haute & Alton Railroad was organized in 1852; its backers were certain that with a railroad to Indiana, the Mississippi River town of Alton, Illinois could easily outstrip St. Louis a few miles south. It soon combined with the Belleville & Illinoistown Railroad as the Terre Haute, Alton & St. Louis. The Indianapolis & St. Louis was organized to build a route between Indianapolis and Terre Haute, Indiana. It leased the St. Louis, Alton & Terre Haute, successor to the Terre Haute, Alton & St. Louis, and came under control of the CCC&I in 1882.[1]

In the late 1840s and early 1850s, several railroads were completed, forming a route from Cincinnati through Indianapolis and Lafayette, Indiana to Kankakee, Illinois, connecting there with the Illinois Central Railroad north to Chicago. In 1880, these railroads were united as the Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis & Chicago – considered to be the first "Big Four". Heading the company was Melville E. Ingalls, and on its board was C. P. Huntington, whose Chesapeake & Ohio Railway formed a friendly connection at Cincinnati.[1]

The Vanderbilts had invested in the first Big Four, and they were firmly in control of the new Big Four, the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis, which was formed in 1889 by the consolidation of the old Big Four (Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis & Chicago) and the Bee Line (Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati & Indianapolis).[1]

In the late 1880s, Ingalls and the Vanderbilts gathered a group of railroads between Cairo and Danville, Illinois. After adding the St. Louis, Alton & Terre Haute to that group, they added the group to the Big Four. The line from Danville north to Indiana Harbor was a comparatively late addition to the system: It was built in 1906 and became part of the NYC rather than the Big Four.[1]

The Peoria & Eastern was formed in 1890 from several small railroads. At one time, its predecessor briefly included the former Mad River & Lake Erie and a line from Indianapolis east to Springfield, Ohio, before settling down to be simply a Peoria-Bloomington-Danville-Indianapolis route. In 1902 the Big Four bought the Cincinnati Northern, a line that had been proposed in 1852 and finally constructed in the 1880s from Franklin, Ohio, between Dayton and Cincinnati, to Jackson, Michigan. In 1920 the Big Four acquired the Evansville, Indianapolis & Terre Haute, a castoff from the Chicago & Eastern Illinois in southwestern Indiana. The New York Central Railroad formally leased the Big Four in 1930.[1]

Notable facilities[edit]

The Chesapeake Building, former headquarters of the Big Four

The railroad was headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, in the Chesapeake Building at 105 S. Meridian Street. The building was constructed for the railroad in 1929 and was also known as the Big Four Building. In 2007 this multi-story structure became a Hampton Inn hotel.[2]

On the southwest corner of Pennsylvania and Georgia streets in the Wholesale District of downtown Indianapolis, a large building was built by the railroad as one of its maintenance shops. Until the neighboring Conseco Fieldhouse was constructed in the late 1990s, an elevated track crossed Pennsylvania Street into a partially open locomotive service bay, which remains visible along the south side of the second story of this still standing structure. During the Conrail era most of the building was used as office space; its successor, CSX, still uses a portion of this Georgia Street facility.

The railroad once operated a terminal at Bellefontaine, Ohio which included the largest roundhouse in use at that time between New York City and St. Louis, Missouri. Conrail closed the Bellefontaine terminal in 1983, and its roundhouse was dismantled.

A large yard facility known as Big Four Yards is located in Avon, Indiana along the line's tracks, now owned and operated by CSX.

In 1895 the railroad acquired what became known as the Big Four Bridge across the Ohio River at Louisville, Kentucky, thereby giving it access to that city. Use of the bridge for railroad purposes ceased by 1968, and it sat abandoned until work began by 2006 to convert it to use by pedestrians and bicyclists.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Drury, George H. (1994). The Historical Guide to North American Railroads: Histories, Figures, and Features of more than 160 Railroads Abandoned or Merged since 1930. Waukesha, Wisconsin: Kalmbach Publishing. pp. 206–217. ISBN 0-89024-072-8. 
  2. ^ Hampton Inn - Downtown Indianapolis
  3. ^ Kleber, John E. (2000). Encyclopedia of Louisville. University Press of Kentucky. p. 89. ISBN 0813121000. 

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