They Left Their Mark In Oakford, 1872

Rails Across the Prairie
Page 10

During the 1830s and into the early 1840s the settlers had high hopes that the Sangamon River would become navigable. Then boats from the East could deliver the needed merchandise and haul away the farm commodities from nearby towns on the river This would eliminate their hauling to and from Beardstown, some thirty-five long hard miles away. As time passed the settlers hopes faded and they began discussing the possibility of a railroad through the area.

In 1852 a charter was granted the Springfield and Northwestern Railroad Company to build a tract from Springfield through Keithsburg to Rock Island on the Mississippi River crossing Menard County from the southeast corner to the northwest corner. It was voted $50,000 by Menard County, 5% of which was collected to defray survey expenses. Sangamon County did not vote her share of stock, and with other problems discouraged the company. The enterprise was abandoned.

Then on March 24, 1869, the Illinois Legislature revived the old charter, granting power to a new company to build the railroad according to the original survey. To this the county voted $100.000 and the town of Petersburg $15,000.

Work began late in the fall of 1870 at Havana. By 1871 it had reached the northern sector of Menard County. During the year 1872 construction continued and reached Petersburg.

Where the railroad bisected the Morgan County line to miller's Ferry road. William Oakford operated a commissary for the crews providing groceries clothes etc.

By 1874 the railroad was completed as far as Cantrall and later on into Springfield. Eventually the road was extended south to St. Louis and was then known as the CP & St.L Railroad. The railroad had several successful years during the early 1900s.

Clarence Stroh and early station dispatcher and operator states for awhile there were twenty to twenty-four trains passing every twenty-four hours. Oakford was a busy station with operators working around the clock.

The big hill south of town with its reverse curves provided may problems for the steam era. Finally for years a pusher engine stayed at Oakford to assist during the long hauls up the hill as far as Atterberry. As the traffic increased, a casing well was drilled. A water tank was built to provide a watering point along the line.

As the years passed, the rail business failed and was filed into bankruptcy. In 1926 the road was taken over by a new company and became the C&IM. C&IM carried coat from Peabody coal fields south of Springfield to the Commonwealth Edison Power Plants at Powerton and Chicago.

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