The Toluca Marquette and Northern Railroad

Written by Nancy Piper

In the late 1890’s and early 1900’s a railroad was built from Rutland to Toluca and north to Magnolia, Granville and McNabb, Illinois. By 1940, this railroad no longer existed.  This is the history of the Toluca, Marquette and Northern Railroad.

The Beginning - 1892

The original railroad, named the “Toluca and Eastern” (T&E) was proposed in 1892 by Charles Devlin, owner of the Toluca Coal Mines. Devlin needed to have a connection with the Illinois Central Railroad (IC) in Rutland, Illinois to ship his coal. The original railroad ran a distance of 6 miles and was incorporated on October 11, 1897. It was capitalized at $50,000. The railroad’s charter authorized it to build a line from Toluca to Rutland and to points in Evans and Roberts Townships in Marshall County “as may be determined upon by the corporation”.
The Toluca-Rutland segment of tracks for the T&E railroad were laid east to west from Toluca to Rutland south of the Santa Fe railroad. The railroad was officially opened in December of 1897 with Charles J. Henning as the General Agent.

Laying the tracks for the T&E railroad  
(courtesy John Focci)

December 11, 1897
The laying of the track for the Toluca and Eastern has nearly reached completion. Work on that line is now being done within the corporation limits and it is expected that a connection with the Central will be made today and the first car of coal will be shipped over the road before the day ends. Trains will be running the first of next week. The time card will show two round trips a day for the benefit of the public. An extra engine will be procured to assure against delays should the first engine break down. The combination coach is now at Toluca ready for use. The first wreck on this new road was reported last Wednesday evening. A bolt connecting the trucks and the main part of the car gave way and the former jumped off the track. The car was filled with workmen returning home but no one was hurt. - Toluca Star

1899 - The Connection with the C&A railroad (Custer)

By 1899, the railroad had also started to lay tracks in Evans Township, Marshall County, Illinois. On September 6, 1899, General Agent, Charles J. Henning requested permission to cross the Chicago and Alton (C&A) railroad that ran east and west through Marshall County. This would become the T&E’s link with the C&A railroad (and later a very important part of the railroad’s history).

Custer Station  (courtesy John Focci)

The crossing was located 4 miles east of Varna and north of present Highway 17. It became known as the Custer station. By May of 1901, the Ball & Twist elevator, a general store and a post office was built at Custer.

Big Sandy

Four miles north of Custer between Custer and Magnolia, was Big Sandy. Devlin originally built his sawmill here. In May of 1901, there was also a boarding house, run by Mr. and Mrs. Bertla, that housed the men hired to lay the tracks. By October of 1901, the railroad had lain the extension as far as Big Sandy.   Later on in January of 1905, a coal washer was built on Sandy creek near Big Sandy.

Feb. 13, 1903 - Magnolia News
The T.M. & N. sawmill is getting in a large stock of logs preparatory for sawing the
coming spring. Eleven teams are hauling logs on sleds and 10 men are cutting logs, making 21 men on the pay roll. - Toluca Star

Toluca-Rutland Service

Back on the Toluca-Rutland Extension, the T&E railroad continued to improve their line. Trains ran regularly on the line and special trains were scheduled for special village events.

August 30, 1901 - Page 5, Local News
Toluca was largely represented at the opening of the new opera house in Rutland Monday night. A special train was run over the T.&E. Over eighty from Toluca were present. They report the play very good. - Toluca Star

1900 - The T.M. & N. Railroad

The Toluca, Marquette and Northern (TM&N) railroad was originally organized in August of 1900 as a separate railroad from the T&E railroad. It’s charter authorized it to build “from Toluca northerly or northwesterly through Marshall and Putnam Counties to Marquette in Bureau County, with branches eastwardly, northerly and westwardly in Marshall, Bureau and Putnam Counties to points at or near the east and west line of these counties.” It was incorporated May 9, 1901 with capital stock of $100,000.

Driving the pilings for the TM&N railroad
(courtesy John Focci)

In 1902, the TM&N railroad took over the operation of the T&E under a “temporary verbal agreement”. On May 15, 1902 the deed of the T&E railroad was given to the TM&N. The TM&N railroad assumed the T&E’s funded debt and the railroad’s capital stock was now $150,000. By the end of September, the TM&N had two trains running daily.

September 5, 1902 - Page 5 - Around Home
The Toluca and Eastern Railroad company has sold its railroad rights and franchise to the Toluca, Marquette & Northern Railroad company for $128,000. The latter company has increased its stock from $50,000 to $150,000 and by resolutions adopted June 3, 1902, decided to issue bonds and execute a trust deed for $30,000 per mile. - Toluca Star

September 27, 1901 - PAGE 3, LOCAL NEWS
Two trains are now running on the T.M. & N. railroad. - Toluca Star

T&E and TM&N connection

The TM&N railroad and the Toluca-Rutland section of the T&E were individual railroads separated by the Santa Fe railroad. Trackage rights over Santa Fe were obtained to connect T& E to the TM&N railroad. It was a very clumsy setup, so right-of-way for an overpass just west of Toluca was acquired. Some track was laid to the overpass but for some unknown reason the overpass was never completed.


The TM&N continued laying track north in Evans Township. The next stop was at Porterfield which was located 3 miles north of Custer between Custer and Magnolia. The extension the Porterfield was completed in August of 1901. The same month a new time card was issued and the station established for Porterfield. Later on, a grain elevator was also built at Porterfield.

September 6, 1901 -PAGE 5-LOCAL NEWS
Porterfield is the name of the next town to Custer on the T.M.&N. R.R. - Toluca Star

1901- Magnolia Extension

The TM&N continued pushing northwest into Putnam County, Illinois. By October of 1901an extension of the TM&N railroad had been completed to Magnolia. The first train out was an excursion train that was bound for the Woodsman picnic at Toluca, Illinois. The Magnolia depot was completed during 1901. The route had 2 passenger trains daily to Toluca.
Friday, October 25, 1901 - Page 5
Two Regular Trains -
The T.M. & N. R.R. are now and have been since the line reached Magnolia, running two regular trains, and the crews of both trains are kept busy, and often have to make overtime. Conductor Barton, with Engineer Pat O”Briene, have charge of the passenger train and make two regular trips each day between Rutland and Magnolia. Conductor O.L. Stewart and Engineer James Ryan have charge of the freight. O.L. used to be the agent and day operator at Custer and James Ryan was fireman for Pat O’Briene before the second train was put on. If the business of this new road keeps on increasing in the future as it has in the past few months, it will be only a question of a short time till the officials of the road will be obliged to put on another train. - Toluca Star

First Train out of Magnolia - October 1901
(Courtesy John Focci)

Magnolia Depot, early 1900's
(courtesy John Focci)

Friday, August 16, 1901 - Page 4
Work on the extension of the T.M & N. is progressing rapidly. It is expected that
Magnolia will be reached within a few weeks. - Toluca Star

Friday, August 30, 1901 - Page 5
J.E. Porterfield & Co. have the contract for building the T.M. & N. depot in Magnolia -Toluca Star

February 14, 1902 - Brief Locals
The T.M.&N. R.R. Co has been feeding 150 mules at Magnolia all winter, paying $15 a ton for hay and as a result, hay has become a scarce article in that vicinity - Putnam Record

This would be the only railroad Magnolia was ever to have. After the TM&N railroad entered Magnolia business began to grow. By 1904 a new side track had to be added to accommodate the growth of Magnolia business. The Station Agent during 1904 was Mr. Taft.

1902 - Henry Junction and the Henry Extension

Henry Junction was located 1 1/4 miles southeast of Magnolia in Roberts Township. The TM&N railroad line was completed there before 1902. This would be the junction point at which the train would either continue east toward Henry or turn north towards McNabb and Granville.

The Henry Extension was proposed from Henry Junction south of Magnolia, west along Sandy Creek to Illinois River at Henry.

Friday, October 18, 1901
Will Run to Henry - The Toluca, Marquette and Northern Railroad is now completed to Magnolia and it is rumored that a spur is to be run from the old historic town to Henry. Should this rumor be true Henry would be greatly benefited thereby - Wenona Index

The track was only laid to a station called Broaddus, five miles west of Henry Jct. (It never made it to Henry). The old Sante Fe bridge at Chillicothe was moved to Henry for the railroad to cross, but it was never used. The extension was put into operation in August of 1903 but the branch had little use and was short-lived.

Broaddus station

Broaddus station was named for a local landowner who originally owned the property where the station was located. It was situated on th south side of present Marshall County road 1170N, west of county road 1960E. Besides a station, the only other structure located there was a stock pen.

1902 - McNabb extension

The TM&N railroad was built to McNabb by May 15, 1902, where it connected with the Illinois, Iowa and Indiana (II&I) railroad McNabb. Two new stations were added to the line - Price Valley and “End of the Line” (McNabb). From McNabb, the railroad had planned on building road to Marquette in Bureau County.

McNabb Depot about 1903

November 15, 1901
The Toluca, Marquette & Northern is now running regular trains into Magnolia and the gap will soon be filled up between that point and McNabb. The latter is the connecting point with the Three I, on which the TM.&N. trains will be run into Marquette. Just as soon as the road is finished to McNabb, it is supposed that the entire force of men and teams will be put on the work between here and Marquette. This work is something stupendous for a short line, as the deep gulches between here and Marquette will be bridged with stone, or rather the crossings will be made on stone culverts which, owing to the great depth of one or two of these gulches, is a big undertaking. - Toluca Star

December 6, 1901
A new time card took effect on the Toluca, Marquette and Northern railway, Dec. 4. The track is now built to the Three I’s Ry. (Iowa, Illinois and Indiana Railroad), and two new stations are placed on the time card - Price (Valley) and End of Track. For changes see time card published elsewhere in this issue. - Toluca Star

1902 To 1903 - Changes and Events

1902 - New Railroad Superintendent

In March of 1902, Charles Henning resigned as superintendent of the TM&N railroad. He was replaced by L.C. Badgely of Magnolia.

March 21, 1902
Superintendent Henning of the T.M.&N. Resigned.
Charles J. Henning superintendent of the T.M. & N. R.R. Co. resigned his position with that company and gone to the Rock Island R.R. He left here Tuesday morning for Indian Territory to take charge of a surveying party who are surveying a new line for the Rock Island in the territory. Mr. Henning’s family will remain here till the end of the school year. L.C. Badgely of Magnolia succeeds Mr. Henning as superintendent. - Toluca Star

1902 - First Death on the Railroad

The first person killed on the TM&N tracks was on the Toluca-Rutland branch. A miner was coming home from the mines in Toluca, Illinois and apparently fell asleep on the tracks. The train was backing out of the station and the train conductor didn’t see him until it was too late.

June 6, 1902 - Front Page
Killed on Track
Frank Magahony, a coal miner, was killed on the T.M. & N. railroad track about four blocks northwest of the depot in Toluca, about half past 9 o’clock, Saturday morning, May 31. Conductor Barton was going out on his regular run. The engine was going backward. Mr. Barton was on top of a freight car several cars back from the engine, and saw some object on the track, but thought first it was a big tumbling weed but when the train got close enough to enable him to see better, he saw it was a man sitting on the track with his head bowed down on his knees. As soon as he discovered it was a man he shouted to the fireman and engineer, but it was too late. The engine ran over him. When the train men went back he gasped once or twice and died. He had been at work in the mines and it is supposed was on his way home when he sat on the track and fell asleep.

1903 - New Depot in Rutland

The Toluca-Rutland extension continued to improve. A new depot was built in Rutland in 1903. In 1904, William Aitkins was the Station Agent.

August 21, 1903
The T.M. & N. is to have a new depot at Rutland. John Gannon has the contract and the work is being pushed ahead as rapidly as possible. - Toluca Star

September 11, 1903
The new T.M. & N. depot at Rutland is now nearing completion The roof is on, the floors are laid, and it will soon be ready for the painters. John Gannon has the contract, and a gang of men under the supervision of Dave Farley are doing the work. - Toluca Star

1905 - Granville Extension

The TM&N railroad extension was completed to Granville by January of 1905. The tracks paralleled the Iowa, Illinois and Indiana Railroad (II&I) (later Chicago, Indiana and Southern, New York Central) on the west side for 7/10 of a mile north of McNabb. The tracks then crossed the II&I railroad and continued north to Granville on the east side of II&I railroad.

The TM&N railroad entered Granville along Elm Street and Hopkins Avenue. The depot was erected there by C.N. Tyler and regular service started in May of 1905. The railroad was connected with the II&I at Granville. Later on, this connection was removed and a connection with Chicago, Milwaukee and ST. Paul (CMStP&P) railroad at Granville was completed by 1907.

1905 - The end of Delvin’s empire

By July of 1905, Devlin had overextended his resources and was forced to file bankruptcy. Receivers of TM&N railroad were appointed by the courts on July 14, 1905. Charles Devlin died on Nov. 1, 1905 and his empire collapsed From 1905 to 1907, the TM&N railroad remained in the hands of the court appointed receivers. Trains continued to run daily on all branches.

1909 - Rutland, Toluca and Northern Railroad

In 1909, bondholders of TM&N railroad brought suit for foreclosure of the railroad. They had a judgement entered in United Stated Circuit Court on July 28, 1909 for the amount of $1,209,207.32. On November 11, 1909 a new corporation was chartered to run the existing railroad. It was called the Rutland, Toluca and Northern Corporation (RT&N).  The TM&N railroad receivers sold it to the RT&N Corporation on Dec. 3, 1909 for $150,000. On Oct 1, 1910, the corporation assumed control of road.  The Deed listed the following stock: 3 locomotives, 1 passenger car, one combination car, 54 freight cars, steam shovel, Pile driver, six hand cars, six push cars and 2 velocipedes.

1910 to 1927 - C&A Ownership

The RT&N railroad was immediately leased it to the Chicago and Alton (C&A) railroad for 99 years.  The Chicago and Alton Railroad (C&A) had acquired the entire $97,000 stock of RT&N railroad and operated the railroad between 1910 and 1927. They continued to call the railroad the Rutland Toluca&Northern Line and the Granville Branch. The RT&N line connected with the C&A railroad’s Dwight-Washington branch at Custer. The Henry extension of the RT&N line was abandoned when the C&A railroad acquired control of the railroad and these rails were taken up in 1919.


In 1916, 4 trains ran each direction daily except Sunday. There was 1 round trip between Rutland and Custer, 2 round trips between Toluca and Custer and one between Toluca and Granville. The Toluca coalmines closed in 1924, and there was no longer a need for as many trains. The Line was cut back to 4 trains 3 times each week.

The C&A in financial difficulty

In 1922, the RT&N branch of the C&A railroad had gone into receivership and was unable to pay the fixed charges. The railroad had not paid interest on its own indebtedness since 1917. In 1924 a protective committee for the railroad bondholders was formed. They instructed counsel to begin foreclosure proceedings on the RT&N.

Abandonment of the RT&N

In 1925, the C&A railroad applied to the Interstate Commerce Commission to abandon the RT&N railroad. The people of Marshall and Putnam Counties, especially Magnolia, whose only railroad was the RT&N protested the closing of the railroad. On Friday, January 23, 1925 a public meeting was held in the Magnolia school auditorium to contrive means to “effectively protest against the abandonment”. C.L. Skelton was the chairman of the meeting.

Public Versus the Railroad

The people retained the law firm of Stevens & Herndon of Springfield and appointed representatives from each school district to try to raise funds and inform the public. According to the January 29, 1925 edition of the Henry News Republican Newspaper the following committee members were elected: Union School District- Doss King and Ray Eddingfield; West College School District - Walter Helper and Henry Shields; Center School District- Dan McKirgan; Clear Creek School District - Frank Kochler and Art Westerlund; Bobbit School District - Mark Kays and Fred Stansell; Union School District - Tony Glenn; Arnold School District - Dot Judd and Dewey Spear; French School District- Ralph French, Wilbur Mann and A. Capponi.

The Public Hearing is Scheduled

At10:00 AM, Friday, February 13, 1925, a public hearing was scheduled in the Hopkins Township high school at Granville for the commission to hear the plea of abandonment. The firm Newman, Poppenhousen, Stern and Johnston of Chicago appeared for the C&A railroad, while Stevens & Herndon of Springfield were hired by the Illinois Agricultural Association and the Marshall-Putnam Farm Bureau to represent the interest of the people. According to the February 12, 1925 edition of the Henry News Republican Newspaper, a “valiant effort” was made by the villages along the line to save the branch. Posters were put up that were signed by the Granville Merchant’s Association, the Greater Toluca Club and the Magnolia Commercial Club. The article stated that most of the people of the eastern part of Putnam county were expected to appear for the hearing and a special train would run for the hearing because of bad roads in the area. The train would leave Toluca at 8:30 AM and would “return in time for farmers to do their chores.”

February 13, 1925 - The Hearing

The February 19, 1925 edition of the Henry News Republican Newspaper stated that approximately 500 people from the surrounding area attended the hearing. Both sides had to present their case to Commissioner Clark of the Illinois Commerce Commission, who was gathering testimony to present to the Commission. Based on the information gathered at the meeting, the Commission would make a decision whether or not to allow the abandonment of the railroad.

The railroad’s law firm contended that the line “traversed waste country that was of little value agriculturally.” The people’s defense brought in F.E. Fuller, a farm advisor who testified that it passed through rich farm land. His testimony was based on “his intimate knowledge of agricultural pursuits through the territory served by this branch road”. Next the people’s defense had merchants from Granville show their freight bills, which amounted to $800 - $1,100 a year. They alleged the railroad had purposely neglected business “through failure to solicit, late shipments and poor service on perishables”. One merchant claimed that the railroad had taken five days to ship a car of potatoes from Granville to Streator. Another merchant claimed that if perishables arrived on Saturday afternoon, they were not available until Monday.

Magnolia, who had the most to lose, stated that before the railroad was built, there were no businesses in Magnolia. The village now had a saw mill, lumber yard, elevator and bank. A. Hecht testified that the annual income from the saw mill was $22,000. He alleged that this mill would close if the railroad was allowed to discontinue. The defense also contended that the elevator’s income would be seriously affected. It was the largest in Marshall or Putnam County, with a capacity of 70,000 bushels of grain. The owner of the elevator, H.E. Hutton testified that carloads of grain were billed out for a week before being moved. The people’s defense contended that this was evidence the C&A railroad was not trying to make the line pay.

After all the testimony from both sides, a final hearing was scheduled for 10:00 AM, Friday, February 27th at Toluca, Illinois. The Commission ruled in favor of the public and the railroad was not allowed to discontinue service.

C&A Wins Right to Abandon

The C&A railroad finally won the right to abandon the railroad. The railroad had continued to lose money. In July of 1926, only three passenger fares were sold in Magnolia. The Interstate Commerce Commission recommended on Monday evening, August 15, 1926, that the railroad, which was now the in hands of receivers, be allowed to discontinue operation of the RT&N railroad. The Commission granted the abandonment in February of 1927 and the railroad ceased operations on midnight April 23, 1927. The stock was immediately sold to John R. and Lura Cox.

1927-1935 John Cox Ownership of RT&N Railroad

After buying the railroad ,John Cox ran RT&N railroad as an independent operation. John Cox was the president and general manager of the line. His wife, Lura Cox was the secretary-treasurer and John Cox Jr. was the vice president and assistant general manager. At first, Cox ran the road as a combination freight and passenger train. Of the original RT&N crew, Sam Kerr was the only engineer retained by the new ownership. The original train schedule was as follows: leaving Toluca at 10 a.m., arriving at Granville at 12 p.m., leaving Granville at 3 p.m., and arriving in Toluca at 5 p.m.

Eventually, passenger service was discontinued and the Coxes and a handful of employees alternated operating, maintaining and the office management of the railroad. Unfortunately they had little success attracting any business for the line. Times were changing, roads were being paved and improving and all railroads were having a hard time attracting business.

They were forced to abandon the segment of road between Rutland and Toluca in 1930. Trying to keep the railroad alive, Cox tried to increase rates between Custer and Granville from $6 to $10 per car but was denied. With the railroad failing quickly, they tried to find a buyer for the railroad but the only interested buyers were scrap dealers.

Attempted reorganization

Desperately trying to save the railroad, John and Lura Cox formed a partnership with John Cox Jr., Mr. Kelly and W.G. Rothermel of Milwaukee in 1933. The new railroad was chartered September 20, 1933 and was to be called the Milwaukee, Rockford and Southwestern Railroad Company. However, the railroad was never switched over because of the railroad’s continuing financial difficulties.

The Staged Wreck Fiasco

The new company attempted to raise funds to finance reorganization by staging a head-on collision. The event took place at Magnolia on June 30, 1935. They used two Ten-Wheelers, Nos. 50 and 51. The crash was not a tremendous success. The trains were supposed to collide on a trestle north of present Highway 18. Unfortunately the timing was off and the trains met on level ground south of the highway.

(courtesy John Focci)

1937 - End of the Railroad

On May 27, 1935 John and Lura Cox filed an application with the Illinois Commerce Commission to “abandon, scrap and remove the railroad”. However, on September 10, they requested dismissal of application, because they were trying to get a loan from Reconstruction Finance Corporation. The loan was denied in July 1936 because the decision was made that railroad was not needed.

By 1937, all that was left of the railroad was the tracks that ran from Granville to Custer and Magnolia. Even the tracks between Granville and McNabb had been washed out. On January 21, 1937, a new application for abandonment was filed. The problems cited in the application were: All the ties needed to be renewed; the interlocking plant at McNabb needed rebuilding at estimated cost of $8,000; all bridges werein dangerous condition, moving both vertically and laterally when trains passed over them; the track between Custer and Toluca was so bad, it had not been used in 3 years; and the railroad’s operating losses for period 1932-1936 averaged $4,744.54 annually.

The Illinois Interstate Commerce Commission authorized abandonment on April 21, 1937 to commence May 7, 1937 or after. The railroad quit its service on December 15, 1937.  The tracks were torn up and the railroad was sold as scrap for approximately $180,000.  Magnolia survived the loss of the railroad, since new hard roads had been completed in three directions.   The Toluca Marquette and Northern railroad is now just a memory. There is nothing to show it ever existed except a few graded embankments.

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