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200 North Main St | Bloomington, Illinois | 309-827-0428

Collection Description

The coming of the Illinois Central and the Chicago and Alton Railroads in the 1850s changed Bloomington-Normal forever.  The railroads provided faster transportation and shipping throughout Illinois and the nation.   

The Illinois Central was running cars into Bloomington in May 1853 and the Chicago and Alton Railroad cars started arriving in October 1853.  The railroads are credited with increasing the population of Bloomington from about 1,600 to 8,000 over a ten year span.  The Chicago and Alton Railroad Shops on the city’s west side had several different functions: rail yards, roundhouse, repair work, and construction.  The C & A Shops was the city’s largest employer for a span of approximately 50 years.  The facility included roundhouse, locomotive repair shop, foundry, paint shop, wheel and axle shop, powerhouse, offices, and rail yards. 

The Chicago and Alton Railroad helped to shape Bloomington-Normal during the late 1800s through the mid 1900s.  Several community organizations, social clubs, concerts, sports teams, picnics and Labor Day celebrations, and ethnic community organizations shaped the neighborhoods and social constructs of Bloomington-Normal.

This collection contains a miscellany of items including contracts, correspondence, and items pertaining to the Chicago & Alton Railroad.  Other items are union memorabilia, employee information, circulars, and railroad timetables. 


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