Norris City came into existence after two railroads crossed at a site where no village or town existed. The Springfield and Southeastern Illinois (later known as the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad, and then as the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad) was built through the site in 1870. It ran from Beardstown in Cass County (north of Flora) to Old Shawneetown in Gallatin County. The Cairo and Vincennes Railroad (later became the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis or Big Four Division of the New York Central System) was completed through the same area in 1872 It ran from Chicago to Cairo.
In anticipation of the crossing of the two railroads at this site in Indian Creek Township, the plat for Norris City was filed on August 17, 1871. The first building, which was used as a hotel, was built in 1871, and the first business, which was a general merchandise store, opened later the same year. Norris City was organized as a village in April 1874.
The two railroads originally crossed east of South Division Street on East Second Street near the present location of the American Legion building on Second Street.
The B. & O. tracks came from the north through Enfield to Norris City. The tracks ran between U.S. Route 45 and the Norris City Coal Mine, to the depot at the northwest corner of the intersection of Main and Division Streets, on the east side of the current Rusty Bucket Laundromat. From there, it crossed Main Street and ran behind the stores on the east side of South Division Street, running behind the Southern Illinois Lumber Co. and on toward Omaha and Old Shawneetown. The B. & O. tracks remained in their original location until its closing and removal of the tracks.
The original tracks of the Big Four, coming from Carmi, curved from north of the present Enbridge-Texas Eastern plant to east of the present post office at Main and Conger Streets, then on the north side of the present Dollar General Store, on the west side of the American Legion building, crossing the B. & O. tracks across the present location of Doug’s Food Mart, across Division Street from the present Southern Illinois Lumber Yard (the depot was across South Division Street from the lumber yard with the tracks west of the depot), through the residential area of town toward Ebenezer Cemetery and then on along the east sides of Ebenezer and Mt. Oval cemeteries and south on the east side of Sandy Run Lake, with the old railroad right of way currently being used as a road at Sandy Run Lake. Going south from Norris City, the Big Four railroad tracks went through Texas City to Eldorado on towards Harrisburg.
The Big Four railroad tracks were moved out of Norris City in 1906 and 1907 to parallel on the north side of old Illinois Route 1 and U.S. Route 45 highways with a new Big Four depot built midway between the present Enbridge-Texas Eastern site and the old intersection of old Illinois Route 1 and U.S. Route 45. The old underpass on South Division Street used to be located just north of this intersection.
The picture of the new Big Four depot on Illinois Route 1 shows the B. & O. tracks crossing the Big Four tracks just south of the depot.
I have various pictures of the later Big Four Depot. I grew up going to it with my Dad nearly every day. He had the U.S. Mail, Railway Express, and Freight contracts there, as well as the job as station attendant when the depot was reopened for the night combination freight and passenger train (the Egyptian) which ran from Cairo to Chicago going through Norris City at 9:25 p.m. each night. Dad had these jobs until the trains were discontinued in 1958.
If anyone has any information or pictures about the railroads in Norris City to share with the readers of these articles, please contact me at Edward Oliver, P. O. Box 456, Norris City, IL 62869 or email me at email@example.com.
- B. & O. Depot at Main and Division Streets, picture taken between 1900 and 1910. Note the current location of Rusty Bucket Laundromat to left of the depot.
- The last Big Four Depot, picture taken probably between 1910 and 1925. Note the B. & O. Railroad tracks crossing the Big Four Railroad tracks.
- Construction crew at Big Four freight house, across from present Southern Illinois Lumber Co. yard on South Division Street at Third Street, when tracks were being moved. Note part of depot at left of picture. Picture taken about 1906 or 1907.
- Original Big Four Depot at South Division and West Third Streets across from the present location of the Southern Illinois Lumber Co. Picture taken between 1900 and 1907.
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