top of page
  • Writer's pictureLawrence Lore

"Tri-Weekly Railroad"

In the 1990s the Lawrence County Genealogical Society published a newsletter. The following article is from the October 1995 publication; the author was not identified. Since then, more research has been completed and an Illinois State Historical Society Award -winning book was written by the late John Hamilton.


The Oil Belt Traction Company was a railroad that ran from Oblong, Illinois to Bridgeport, Illinois. A group of individuals formed the company to start construction of the railroad in 1909, after the oil boom had been going on a few years. Their purpose was to haul supplies and workers between the two towns. The farmers and oil people in the area along the route were all very supportive, as this was a much faster, and easier, means of moving supplies and men from place to place than the mule and oxen teams being used at that time.


The Bridgeport Leader ran an article stating that it would be a convenient method of traveling to and from school, but most days pupils would be late, as the train was rarely on time. It was a narrow- gauge line, so was therefore unable to transfer trains, or cars from the tracks at Bridgeport or Oblong to the other tracks already there. They also neglected to construct a turnaround on either end, so the train would come to Bridgeport, and then back all the way to Oblong. They owned one engine, one passenger car, six boxcars, six cars, and one caboose.


Thomas E. Walsh said that the people called it a Tri-Weekly. It would come to Bridgeport on Monday, and try all week to get back to Oblong. It rarely made the trip either way without derailing. It was also called the “Pumpkin Vine” Railroad because of the crooked tracks.


To draw the interest of the people in the area, and give the “Oil Belt” more significance, the company decided to build a park along the tracks. A site was finally settled upon. It was on this side of the Embarras River, north of Cranston. Mrs. Stanton Paddick donated the land and they named it Wolfe Park as her maiden name was Wolfe. This was in a low area in the river bottoms, and a sand point in the river being used for swimming and a well drilled for water. As an added attraction for the park, it was also near the site of an Indian Mound. They constructed a merry-go-round, speakers’ platform (also used as a bandstand), one tennis court, two croquet courts and a baseball diamond. Every Sunday they had a large crowd, with some people coming by the train while others came by carriage and horseback. They had a barbecue, and a popcorn stand went into business.


The Oil Belt Traction Company ended operations on October 31, 1916. Creditors showed up at the depot one night, repossessed the locomotive and put the railroad out of business. The train crew came to work the next morning and discovered they didn't have a job. The rails were removed in 1918 to be used to scrap iron for WWI. The farmers in the area blew up the trestle on the Embarras River to keep it from collecting debris and impeding the flow of water during flooding. And that was the end of the Little Railroad that Tried.

Heading to Wolfe Park on the Oil Belt Railraoad circa 1910. Note the method of getting on the flatbed car is by a swayback board.

Recent Posts

See All

Stage Coach Driver

CHARLES W. ACKMAN was born in the Blue Grass regions of Kentucky, in 1828.  In 1851 he came to this State by stage. After his first arrival in Lawrence County, Illinois, he went to stage driving, whic

Early Trains in Illinois

The first railway charter granted by the Illinois General Assembly was to the Chicago and Vincennes Railroad in 1835. The demand for State construction of an extensive system of internal improvements

Comments


bottom of page