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Kevin Swaney Question

From: Kevin Swaney
Subject: Big Four
Date: Tue, 31 Dec 1996

>My older relatives from Wellington, OH used to refer to the NYC there as the "Big Four". I have been seeking an explanation of that name for some time, and I have received as many different answers as people I have asked. Can someone tell me the origin of that name?

Kevin Swaney


The Big Four was the CCC&StL. The name was the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad (source - Edson's "Railroad Names").
The CCC&StL was an independent system until the 1880s or 1890s when it became a part of the New York Central System. Essentially, it became the NYC between Cleveland and East Alton with GM&O trackage rights to East St Louis, Cleveland to Cincinnati via Columbus and Dayton, and Cincinnati to Kankakee via Indianapolis, with trackage rights on the Illinois Central into Chicago. There were numerous associated branches.
The CCC&StL (as near as I can tell) was a home grown Indiana-Ohio product. It started with the Bee line connecting to it's counterpart in Ohio and the railroad begin to build around that main line. They leased and bought and built and they were THE power from Cleveland to Columbus to Cincinnati to Indianapolis to Chicago to St. Louis and Peoria. It's no wonder that the New York Central Lines wanted them.
The New York Central leased the railroad from the CCC&StL. This was a common way for one railroad to acquire another connection and/or operation. Another reason for the leasing of a property was the financial obligations of the leased line. The CCC&StL and THE BANKS owned a lot of property and equipment. Even when the equipment carried the name of the leasing RR (ie. NYC Lines) there would be a small tag somewhere stating that the owner was the CCC&StL.

At one time, the Big 4 was headquartered in Indianapolis. Its HQ building still stands, I believe, on the SE corner of Meridian and Maryland streets. That's across from the new Circle City downtown mall. The Big 4 began construction in 1906 of a new shops complex in Beech Grove. This is the Amtrak Beech Grove Shops today. Previously, the Big 4 had a shops complex on the east side of Indianapolis along the Bee Line, which is still used by Conrail as its Cleveland to St. Louis Mainline. The CCC&StL Avon yards to the west of Indy is still very active.
I live a quarter block from track one of the old Bee Line/Big 4 Main line in Anderson Indiana. The NS dispatchers still refer to Conrail crossing the NS in Muncie as the Big 4. "The Big 4 is running one ahead of you" is a common statement that I hear on my scanner as the NS train slows to a crawl or a stop until they can cross in the clear.
Old names can take a long time to die. The 'Bee Line' name comes from an 1864 merger that opened the line form Indianapolis to Bellefontaine. :-) Yet another merger in 1868 let the new railroad reach Cleveland and then when the road was consolidated in 1889 with two other lines now reaching from Chicago to Cincinnati, St. Louis, Indianapolis and Cleveland. The Big Four was born.

The CCC&StL, increased in importance as a part of the NYC Cleveland Division when control of the road passed to New York Central Lines in 1922 through the leasing mentioned above. By 1930, it was firmly a part of the New York Central. The property then passed on to Penn Central and now Conrail.

Roger Hensley

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