Banner's Unbuilt Peoria and Hannibal Railroad

In the Village of Banner, IL, a bit south and west of Peoria, IL lies a cryptic sign, "Peoria and Hannibal Railroad Est. 1859". But there is no railroad in Banner, and there never was. So what's the story behind this sign?

Peoria and Hannibal Railroad Est. 1859 Image: Cary Miller at Banner, IL

The railroad in question proposed to operate in Banner, or more specifically, Utica, IL, as it was originally called, but these were apparently very early plans, and like many railroad charters, this never came to fruition. The company was a predecessor to the Chicago Burlington & Quincy Railroad.

In 1859, The Mississippi and Wabash Railroad, which itself was an early predecessor to the Toledo Peoria & Western Railroad, and the Peoria & Hannibal were trying to come into an agreement with each other to operate along the same territory between nearby Canton and Pekin, IL; either as a joint railway on the same track, or separate grades. The following excerpt comes from The Board of Supervisors of Fulton County, Appellants, v. The Mississippi and Wabash Railroad Company, Appellee

"It is the intention of the officers of the central division, either as an independent line, or in conjunction with the Peoria and Hannibal Railroad, to construct the said railroad between Canton and Pekin; and witness thinks we (officers of the central division) have reasonable assurance that the company will build the same. These assurances are, that thirty miles of railroad now under contract for completion and equipment, will form a good basis for expenditures for further continuances of the work. $50,000, subscription to the stock of the road, promised by the Kingston Coal Mining Company, to be subscribed. $175,000, subscribed by Peoria and Fulton counties, to the Peoria and Hannibal Railroad Company. 

The line of both said roads covers the' same ground from Canton to a point opposite Pekin, which roads may be consolidated, or jointly use the same track. Said joint occupancy or consolidation has been a matter of conference between the directors of the two companies. The progress and completion of portions of the work on other divisions is a further assurance, and the increased private subscriptions that may be obtained when the work is about to be commenced. These are all the assurances I know of, that the company have of constructing the road from Canton to Pekin. This part of the road has not been put under contract by the Mississippi and Wabash Railroad Company, nor by the central division thereof. No contract has been made between the Mississippi and Wabash Railroad Company, and the Peoria and Hannibal Railroad Company, to run on the same track."

Banner Twp., Fulton County, IL Plat Map, 1871. Historic Map Works.

Of course, the only reason that the company was under litigation in the first place was that there were bonds issued for construction in the area of Utica, and while M&W line would be completed between Canton and Pekin, it ran a few miles north of the area, not through Utica. From the same case as above, an 1853 bond of $41,850 from Fulton County contained a proviso of which, $6,000 of the above subscription is also subject to the condition that “ the road is located through Utica, and a side track and depot is built at or near Utica, at the most convenient point for the Copperas Creek business.”

Banner was the name of the township which was home to Utica, and a small settlement known as Monterey that is essentially a ghost town today. So while the railroad made plans, and received bonds, to construct a road through Banner, it ultimately never came to fruition, with the rail line ultimately moving a few miles north.

But there was some building activity that seems to have occurred, albeit not a whole lot. Looking at the LiDAR data below, it appears that there was a small part of this line that was graded, but almost certainly no other construction or activity occurred on this line. 

A grade of the Peoria & Hannibal Railroad preserved only in LiDAR Data. Image: Illinois Height Modernization LiDAR Data Viewer.

Its possible that part of present-day Illinois Route 9 west of Banner used part of the former right of way, and more grading occurred that is no longer visible, but nothing that I am aware of confirms or denies this hypothesis.

Thus, I have only mapped the area in/around Banner and the apparent grade west of there on our Abandoned Railroads Map as an unbuilt line;

Abandoned & Out-of-Service Railroad Lines Map at Banner with ESRI World Topo Basemap

This grading was confirmed in History of Fulton County, IL. "Canton was not a point named in the charter of the Peoria & Hannibal road but it was talked of running the road two or three miles south of Canton. The Peoria & Hannibal road was graded from Hollis, Peoria Co., to the southern line of that county and some work was done at Utica in this county...When the Panic of 1857 came upon the country, all work on [the line] ceased."

In 1861, the P&H became part of the CB&Q, who never finished the line through Utica, effectively ending any railroad activity in the village, and leaving the future village of Banner without railroad service, which certainly hampered its growth.

Thanks as always for reading!


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