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Building the Illinois Central Railroad, riverboat at Lincoln's New Salem are featured in latest issue of Historic Illinois

(Text copied from file provided by the Illinois Office of Communication and Information)

[JAN. 20, 2007]  SPRINGFIELD -- The construction of the Illinois Central Railroad in the mid-1800s and the replica riverboat Talisman that delighted thousands of Lincoln's New Salem visitors for nearly 40 years are featured in the latest issue of Historic Illinois, a publication of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA).

The 150th anniversary of the completion of the Illinois Central Railroad, which connected the northern and southern parts of the state, was observed during 2006. The 705-mile railroad set the stage for Illinois' tremendous growth in the 1800s and the Illinois Central, now with 11,500 miles of track, remains one of the five largest railroads in the United States. The Illinois Legislature in 1851 gave a charter to the Illinois Central Railroad Company to build the line stretching from Cairo to Galena, with a branch line from Centralia to Chicago. However, the charter demanded that the railroad be completed in six years, a daunting task at the time. Bonds were sold, mainly to investors in England, to raise the $10 million needed for construction. Ten thousand workers, many of them German and Irish immigrants, were hired for the job, many of whom ended up purchasing land along the railroad and settling there. When the Illinois Central was completed in 1856, a full year ahead of the deadline, it was the longest railroad in the world. The article was written by Stanley Changnon, a semi-retired professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana who has authored numerous books and articles about Illinois railroads.

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The steamboat Talisman, a replica of the riverboat co-piloted in the 1830s on the Sangamon River by Abraham Lincoln, is the subject of another article. Brothers Dennis and Robert Trone, natives of Schuyler County along the Illinois River, grew up hearing the fascinating tales of Lincoln's river exploits. In 1958 Dennis got the idea to build a Talisman replica and enlisted his brother's help, and in 1962 the completed steamboat made its maiden voyage, a 530-mile trek from Dubuque, Iowa, where it was built, to Petersburg, Illinois. The journey was fraught with many of the perils Lincoln faced in his day, including obstacles, low water levels and emergency repairs. After its much-heralded arrival in Petersburg, the Trone family offered authentic steamboat rides for nearly 40 years on the Talisman for visitors to nearby Lincoln's New Salem, the reconstructed log village where Abraham Lincoln lived for six years. Permanent declines in the water level of the Sangamon River forced the operation to cease in 1998. The article was written by Keith A. Sculle, head of Research and Education for IHPA.

Historic Illinois is a bimonthly IHPA publication that features historically significant sites in Illinois. Subscriptions are $10 per year, which includes six issues of Historic Illinois and one full-color Historic Illinois Calendar. For more information, call (217) 524-6045, visit, or write:

Historic Illinois
Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
1 Old State Capitol Plaza
Springfield, IL 62701-1507

[Illinois Historic Preservation Agency news release]


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