Map of Illinois Central Railroad.
An 1854 description of Illinois by Ensign, Bridgman & Fanning states:
"The general surface of this State may be regarded as a gentle plain more or less rolling, inclined in the direction of the river. There are no mountains in its whole extent; the northern and extreme southern sections are somewhat broken and hilly. Some of the prairies are of vast extent, presenting the appearance of the ocean after a violent storm. There are some localities where very little timber is to be seen, and the prospect only bounded by the sky. In that portion north of Kaskaskia River the prairie country predominates; and it is computed that two-thirds of the State is covered with this class of land. Notwithstanding these lands are from thirty to one hundred feet higher than the bottom lands on the rivers, yet they are exceedingly fertile.
The vast railroad system projected, and which is now prosecuted with vigor, together with enlightened legislation, will soon rank this important star in the national galaxy among the most wealthy and populous of the Union; her lands in many sections having tripled in value within the past few years."
The Illinois Central Railroad was a successful standard-gauge railway which connected the northern states with the southern states. It began in the early 1850's with a land grant for a line to run from the top of Illinois to the bottom.
The railroad was chartered in 1851 during a state general assembly following arguments by both Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. At the time, Lincoln was a promoter and lawyer for the railroad and Douglas owned much of the land surrounding the proposed terminal at Chicago.
In the 1860's the Illinois Central added a line leading into Iowa.
Later in the 1870's and 1880's the railroad acquired existing lines in southern states, expanded connections, and eventually covered more than 3,000 miles, with lines crossing Mississippi from New Orleans to Louisville, and in the north, expansion westward through Wisconsin and the Dakotas to Omaha, Nebraska.
The Illinois Central Railroad was one of the most popular railroads of the 1890's.
In the 1970's Steve Goodman was inspired by the Illinois Central Railroad in his writing of "City of New Orleans", which was popularized by Arlo Guthrie.
This detailed map of the central states from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, published in 1892 by Rand, McNally & Co., shows relief by hachures, drainage, cities, towns, counties, roads and railroads.