The Cape Girardeau Northern Railroad

The Cape Girardeau & Chester Railroad connected Cape Girardeau with Jackson, MO and the Missouri Pacific Railroad. It eventually became the Cape Girardeau Northern Railroad in 1905, after the earlier company floundered, partially due to its poor construction. In 1913, the St. Louis & San Francisco Railway planned to acquire a majority of its stock, but operate it as a separate company. (Right of way map)

The CGN had many of the same faults of numerous other short lines of the day, mainly poor construction and questionable necessity, as often the mere existence of a new railroad did not generate enough economic development to justify its existence. Further, they dealt with increasing competition from improved roads and automobiles during this time, which would further burden operations.

The CGN travels through the floodwaters of 1909 around the Cape Girardeau area. (Southeast Missourian) "A July 1909 river flood inundated downtown Cape Girardeau. Here, a Chicago & Eastern passenger train traveled the flooded tracks near Independence Street. By July 15, with the river cresting at 35.0 feet, trains were moving slowly between Themis and Merriweather streets, and there were 3 1/2 feet of water over the tracks at that point. It took trains 10 minutes to traverse that two-block distance."

Eventually the road traveled as far north as West Chester, MO, located on the Mississippi River across from Chester, IL. 

CGN Stock Certificate from Amazon. (NOTE: Clicking on links may earn this site a commission.)

From Saline Jct., south of Lithium, MO, the company also served Farmington, MO that was originally constructed by a company known as the Saline Valley Railway.

Undated photo of a Cape Girardeau Northern Railroad derailment. (Rusted Rails)

Like many speculative railroads, it could not overcome its financial struggles, despite early success, and it was absorbed into the Missouri Pacific system, who abandoned much of the line by 1925, leaving only industrial track within the city limits of Cape Girardeau.

CGN Map, 1913 from History of the Cape Girardeau Northern Railway: A Transportation Anachronism

While doing some research on the Cape Girardeau Northern Railroad, I discovered that there was a railcar ferry over the Mississippi River between Illinois and Missouri that was owned by the same promoter of the road, Louis Houck. The following photo and excerpt comes from the Southeast Missourian. I'm not certain if the ferry was owned by a separate company or was part of the CGN Railroad as well. Apparently, another ferry crossing was used between West Chester and Chester, IL.

"In June 1891 a railroad transfer boat named the Vice President began operating between Cape Girardeau and East Cape Girardeau, Ill. 

Image and history: Southeast Missourian

Louis Houck was responsible for bringing the line to the city. The boat, at times working day and night, ferried railroad cars across the Mississippi River, using specially built inclines on both sides of the river. The Vice President burned at Cape Girardeau in February 1892, but was shortly replaced. Several boats were used, including the the John Bertram. Service continued until the early 1900s. (Courtesy of Katherine Cochran; Missourian archives)"

It is probable, if not likely, that the opening of the Thebes Bridge a few miles downstream from Cape Girardeau in 1905 meant that this ferry service became obsolete. In Illinois, it connected to a spur from McClure, IL at East Cape Girardeau that was originally built by the Grand Tower & Cape Girardeau Railroad in 1889, that was abandoned by the Illinois Central Railroad in 1902.

The same promoter was responsible for another abandoned right of way from Cape Girardeau south to Morley, MO, known officially as "Houck's Missouri and Arkansas Railroad". This line did in fact become part of the Frisco system.

Thanks as always for reading!


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