Illinois Central Blotters

This beautiful blotter advertises Illinois Central’s all-Pullman Panama Limited from Chicago to New Orleans. The cloche hat worn by the woman in the picture dates the blotter to the 1920s, while the reference to Gulfport, Biloxi, and Pass Christian dates it to after 1924, when Illinois Central acquired control of a rail line to that area.

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During the 1920s, IC had three trains a day between Chicago and New Orleans: the New Orleans Special (which was called the Through Mail northbound), the New Orleans Limited (which was called the Chicago Limited northbound), and the Panama Limited. All three stopped at Jackson, Mississippi, where passengers could catch a train to Gulfport on the Gulf & Ship Island Railroad. IC operated this railroad as a subsidiary after 1924 and folded it into the railroad in 1946. Passengers traveling on to Biloxi (12 miles east of Gulfport) or Pass Christian (9 miles west of Gulfport) would take an Illinois Central bus.

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While Illinois Central was best known for its route from Chicago south to New Orleans, it also had a route from Chicago west to Sioux Falls, SD, with branches to Sioux City, Iowa and Omaha, Nebraska. IC’s premiere train on this route was the Hawkeye, which for a time had through cars to all three cities. These blotters are clearly two of many that were issued as monthly calendars and ads for IC service, with the above advertising trains to the Mardi Gras while the one below promotes football season and hunting season.

Click image to download a 0.6-MB PDF of this blotter.

Since IC had a route to Omaha, it is somewhat surprising that Union Pacific through passenger trains to Chicago did not use that route. Edward Harriman had acquired control of the Illinois Central in the 1880s. He reorganized the Union Pacific in 1898, took over the Southern Pacific in 1901, then 23 percent of the Baltimore & Ohio in 1906. This potentially gave him a complete line from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans. While he died in 1909 before he could do anything about coast-to-coast traffic, the SP-UP-IC connection between California and Chicago seems obvious. Yet UP’s through passenger trains used either the Milwaukee Road or Chicago & North Western.

One explanation is that the latter routes are shorter, each about 488 miles from Chicago to Omaha vs. 515 over the IC. While railroads often competed with one another despite small differences in route lengths, for some reason IC didn’t take on the responsibility of transcontinental passenger traffic.

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