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Chicago and Alton Railway
The Flood of 1903.
MW01S HISTORICAL SURMHC
1UW01S HISTORICAL SUR«
THE FLOOD OF 1903
DEDICATED TO OUR FRIENDS, THE TICKET
AGENTS THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY. WHO
CAN ESPECIALLY APPRECIATE THE DIFFI-
CULTIES UNDER WHICH RAILWAYS ARE
SOMETIMES COMPELLED TO OPERATE
THE FLOOD OF 19Q3
DURING the month of June, 1903, the Chicago & Alton Railway passed
through the most disastrous flood conditions in the history of the prop-
erty. High water made its appearance at Kansas City, May 31st, and
ended at East St. Louis, June 18th, which covers a period of nearly three weeks.
During that time both all-rail passenger and all-rail freight service was impossi-
ble between Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City, except by detouring trains via
circuitous routes and, notably, by the use of steamboats between Alton and
St. Louis. Communication, so far as passenger traffic was concerned, was carried
on continuously. It is principally of these successful efforts in keeping the
line open that this pamphlet treats, the pictures illustrating conditions at a
period when the Chicago & Alton was, in fact,
"THE ONLY WAY "
AT KANSAS CITY
The high water at Kansas City made its first appearance in the 12th Street
yard, May 31st. The work of getting cars and engines to neighboring points of
safety began at once, and met with more or less success, but the water rose so
rapidly (about one foot an hour) that ten passenger and baggage cars, 700
freight cars and two engines were caught in the flood. Fortunately, the water
did not go completely over the roofs of this equipment, the high -water mark
ranging from the car floors to within one foot of the roofs of equipment left in the
lowest places. As a result, only a '^small number of cars were derailed, but the
yardmasters', the car inspectors' offices and platforms were floated away or
In the Kansas City freight house the water began to creep over the floor,
May 31st, at noon, and by 3:45 the same afternoon over three feet of water
covered the floor. Employes left the freight house on a raft at 4:00 p. m.,
The high water came over the floor of the Kansas City Union Depot at
11:30 a. m., May 31st, and at 9:00 p. m., same day, there was six feet of water
over the floor. One of the illustrations on another page, gives a better idea
of this condition than many words. Passenger traffic into and out of Kan-
sas City Union Depot was suspended from May 31st to June 9th, the C. & A.
running the first train into the Union Depot, local passenger train No. 61 from
Slater, Mo., June 9th, 1903.
At Kansas City the highest point reached by the Missouri River was 35 feet,
Sunday night, May 31st, but the principal damage was caused by the Kaw
River, which rose eight feet higher than the highest stage of the Missouri.
Where the Missouri River flows adjacent to the C. & A. right of wav, the
roadbed sustained six breaks, as follows:
Break No. 1, 850 ft. long, 7 ft. deep, 5,100 cu. yds. fill.
" 2, 1,300 "
" 280 yds. trestle.
" 3, 500 "
" 12 "
" 4, 300 "
" 13 "
" 5, 800 "
" 13 "
" 6, 300 "
" 10 "
All this was in the vicinity of the magnificent million-dollar bridge — a
bridge in the approaches and reconstruction of which nearly half a million
dollars have been spent during the last two years. The bridge, of course, stood
like a rock against the tremendous current of the water, but the approaches
and trestle work were ravaged by the flood, and from June 4th to 16th trains
were detoured by other lines.
On June 5th, there occurred a washout of 800 feet, which ran 60 feet deep — the
result of the break in the Sny levee. The C. & A. right of way formed a por-
tion of the levee at this point, the track itself being on the top of the levee.
Near this washout the embankment, rails, etc., were completely washed away
and out of sight, and it was a case of bridging and piling to cross the washout.
This was accomplished June 16th. Passenger trains in the meantime were
detoured by other routes
ALTON, EAST ST. LOUIS AND ST. LOUIS
These three points may be covered as one, for the flood practically covered
the entire right of way between these points. The City of Alton, Illinois, there-
fore became the railway terminus and starting point for passengers enroute
to and from St. Louis, and this condition existed from Sunday, June 7th, to
Friday, June 19th, 1903.
The principal trouble was at East St. Louis,, where, on Friday afternoon,
June 5th, the water was reported dangerous. Extra freight equipment was
started to points of safety, but Saturday, June 6th, prophesy was generally
made that the railroad property had little to fear. The falsity of this prediction
was apparent when Sunday morning, June 7th, at nine o'clock, a telegram
from St. Louis announced that the water was rising and that movement of trains
by the Eads Bridge was impossible, and that by night there would be little if
any chance of any railway line bringing trains into or taking trains out of St.
On Sunday, June 7th, arrangements were perfected with the Eagle Packet
Companv to turn over their two boats, the Spread Eagle and the Bald Eagle,
for use in handling passengers, baggage, mail, milk and express between Alton
and St. Louis, in connection with the Chicago & Alton Railway trains. Pass-
engers from Chicago and Kansas City arriving at Alton on trains Monday morn-
ins: were transferred to the boats and landed in St. Louis onlv twentv minutes
later than the usual schedule for the regular all-rail route. Simultaneously,
the service northbound was opened, passengers from St. Louis being taken to
Alton by boat and transferred to the Alton Limited and Kansas Citv Limited
trains, for Springfield, Bloomington, Chicago and Kansas City.
The arrangement with the Eagle Packet Company proved an exceptionallv
satisfactory one. The boats were placed in charge of C. & A. representatives,
who accompanied each boat on each trip during the entire flood period and
looked after the comfort and convenience of all passengers.
At Alton the transfer between the boat and the train was made without
the slightest inconvenience to the passengers, for the water in the Mississippi
rose to such a height that the boats threw their gang planks right onto the
railway station platform within six feet of the trains.
The landing at St. Louis, a floating dock house, conveniently adjusted
itself to the varying heights of the water.
The Mississippi had overflowed its banks and the back water, extending
for miles beyond the usual confines of the Father of Waters, presented a
truly magnificent spectacle. As the boats passed the point where the Missouri
flows into the Mississippi, new and great interest was awakened, and again
when the boats, with lowered stacks and watchful look-outs, passed under the
Merchants and E ads bridges, barely having room to clear, all on board cheered
with the crowds of spectators who crowded the bridges and approaches. While
the trip on the boat had these pleasurable, novel and exciting features, the
devastation and suffering wrought by the flood was always in evidence. But,
upon the whole, the diversity from the old, established rail route was distinctly
welcome; so much so, in fact, that since the flood many requests have been
received to continue the boat service to the extent of giving passengers via
'"The Only Way" the option of journeying between Alton and St. Louis by
rail or by boat.
The volume of baggage, mail, express, milk, etc., was simply enormous,
as for days at a time the Alton route was the only one in operation, and the
C. & A. and the Eagle Packet Company handled not only their own traffic, but the
traffic of other railway lines which were detouring their trains via Alton. The
casual observer who saw those surging crowds of excited, hurrying passengers;
those tremendous piles of Uncle Sam's mail pouches; the mountains of baggage
and truck after truck of express traffic, and the endless lines of negro roust-
abouts, each negro carrying his shining milk can in the quick shamble up
and down the gang-planks, would imagine there was little order 'Jn [all^this
seeming confusion, hurry and bustle. But if any one went away with [that
impression, he was wrong, for all was governed by a perfect system.
The close observer noted the practiced methods which prevailed; how long
years of experience in steamboating, the loading of miscellaneous cargoes,
fitted into the flood conditions, and resulted in maintaining a service creditable
to the C. & A. Railway and to the Eagle Packet Company.
The Eagle Packet Company, whose roomy and handsomely equipped river
packets were placed at the service of the Chicago & Alton Railway during the
two weeks of the flood, is the oldest steamboat line operating from St.
Louis. It 'was founded in 1S61 by Captain William Leyhe, its President,
and Captain Henry Leyhe, its General Manager. Its first boat was named
the "Young Eagle," and its builders were the captains themselves, who cut,.
hauled and sawed the timber of which it was constructed. For tiller ropes
these enterprising young boat-builders used the bed-cords of their mother's
bed. The first boat was built on the wharf at Warsaw, 111., was 14 feet wide
and 80 feet long, and ran between Warsaw and Alexandria and Keokuk.
In 1865 the business of the company had so prospered that a second boat,
the Gray Eagle, was built, also at Warsaw, and added to the service. A third
boat, the first Spread Eagle, was built in 1872, for the trade between Keokuk
In 1874, the company removed to St. Louis, since which time it has enjoyed
continuous and increasing prosperity, until to-day it is operating four magnificent
steamers and building a fifth, which will be the largest and finest of all. The
names of the four are the "Spread Eagle" (the fourth of her name), the "Bald
Eagle," the "Grey Eagle" and the "Cape Girardeau." The two former were
the boats that did such heroic service during the big flood, the Spread Eagle,
under the command of Capt. Wm. Leyhe, carrying over 24,000 passengers
between St. Louis and Alton, without accident, delay or inconvenience, and to
the general satisfaction of all. The Bald Eagle, which was commanded by
Capt. Harry Leyhe, made a close second.
This little history of the flood of 1903 would be incomplete, did it not contain
unstinted praise for Mr. Russel E. Gardner, of St. Louis, Mo. Mr. Gardner, who
is president and principal owner of the Banner Buggy Co., a successful, profit-
sharing institution, also owns the private yacht "Annie Russell," the pret-
tiest craft afloat on the Mississippi. Although devoted to pleasure, the boat
was put into splendid use during the flood. Day and night steam was
kept up in her boilers, the crew was continually on duty during that trying
period, and Mr. Gardner himself directed the work of saving the unfortunates,
whose retreat was cut off by the merciless waters. Mr. Gardner, with his
yacht, took care of no less than 2,500 flood sufferers. From the first signal of
distress up to the time the waters receded Mr. Gardner devoted himself to the
work and repeatedly risked his life and his yacht to save the unfortunates.
Time and time again it seemed as if the boat was unable to withstand the raging
torrent of water. At one time it had to be lashed to the harbor boat Mark
Twain, and both crafts came near to being dashed to pieces against the piers
of the Eads bridge.
Kansas City, Mo., June t, 1903. Interior of Union Depot, Waiting Room and Ticket Qffice.
Kansas City, Mo., June 2, 1903. High-water mark in front of Union Passenger Station.
Union Avenue looking west from veranda of Union Depot, Kansas City, Mo., June 2. 1903. High-water mark
Kansas City, Mo. The Gondolier in Union Avenue.
Kansas City, Mo. Sink hole on Santa Fe Street, two blocks from the Missouri River.
Kansas City, Mo. On Southwest Boulevard. Choice of land or water route
Kansas City, Mo. A street scene in the Stock Yards District.
Kansas City, Mo. Electric Power House and Elevated Railway Bridge on the Kaw
Kansas City, Mo., June 2, 1903. C. & A. Freight Depot at high-water mark
Kansas City, Mo. C. & A. freight house after the water had receded.
Kansas City, Mo. C. & A. ice house after the water had receded.
Kansas City, Mo., June 2, 1903. High-water mark 12th Street Viaduct.
Kansas City, Mo., June i, 1903 High-water mark in Railway Yards C. & A. ice house in foreground.
Kansas City, Mo. A break between tracks and bridge.
Kansas City, Mo. East Bottoms, at early stage of flood.
Kansas City, Mo. Near the Stock Yards
Kansas City, Mo. Havoc in the Railroad Yards.
Kansas City, Mo. In the Railroad Switching District
Kansas City, Mo. Wreck of stock cars in West Bottoms after the flood.
Kansas City, Mo., June 9, 1903. U. S. Express Co.'s yards and platforms after the water receded
Kansas City, Mo. Submerged district along C. & A. rignt of way.
Kansas City, Mo. East Bottoms during the flood. In this district many small houses were swept away.
Glasgow, Mo., west of C. &. A. Bridge.
A work train distributing "sand bags" in an effort to save th
miles in circumference was formed by
ilasgow, Mo . west of C i A. Bridge A work train
nference was formed by the ba
of the Missouri Rn
C. Si A. New Steel Bridge, Glasgow, Mo , (cost $1,000,000). which stood like a rock against the raging
Kansas City, Mo., June 3, 1903. View of flooded district in the Railway Bottoms from Scarrett's Point.
Patroling and watching the largest bridge abutment n the world, at Glasgow, Mo., to protect it from the rush of the waters.
Glasgow, Mo., and the Great Steel Bridge o.er the Missouri, showing submerged farm property on river fn
A'once prosperous farm in vicinity of C. & A $i ,000,000 Bridge, at Glasgow, Mo.
Bent on seeing the flooded district at "$1.00 per." "Only a coal car special" with over 600 excursionists.
rack of 800 feet, where the water rushed through at a depth of 60 feet.
Louisiana, Mo., showing C & A. Railway Bridge across the Mississippi to the
Cedar City, Mo., the terminus of C & A. track, on the South Branch.
The Missouri River at Cedar City, Mo.
The morning boat unloading passengers for The Alton Limited at Alton station.
The mid-day boat at Alton sta'ion receiving passengers, baggage, mail, express and milk for St. Louis.
Passengers from the local trains in morning taking the 10:00 o'clock boat from Alton station to St. Louis.
The "Spread Eagle" about to land at Alton, III.
Up i. ' ''
9Br i* - - aft lfiW^Bfifrp9l
Transferring passengers from the boat to the train, Altor,, II
Waiting on the Alton station platform for the boat to land.
Express piled in front of the City Hall Square, near the
station, at Alton, III.
The transfer of passengers, baggage, mail and express at Alton Station, 7:00 a. m., from the Chicago-St. Louis "Midnight Special" to th
at "Spread Eagle" receiving cargo at Alton Passenger Station. Division Passenger Agent Burns, C. & A. Ry. ; General Passenger Agent
Lynch, "Big Four" Route; Capt. William Leyhe, "Spread Eagle," and General Passenger Agent Charlton, C. & A., in foreground.
Officers and agents of the Chicago & Alton Ry. and the Eagle Packet Co. in charge at Alton and St. Louis of all transportation during high water
Ticket office at Alton, III., used temporarily as general passenger office. Station Agent Norris, Capt. "Alf." Robinson ("Black Eagle"), Train Master
Reardon, Gen'l Pass. Agent Charlton (at 'phone; receiving reports from St. Louis. Telegrapher and Stenographer in foreground.
Capt. Alf. Robinson of the "Black Eagle.'
The good ship "Black Eagle" pressed into special service
to carry the overflow, Tuesday, June 16, 1903
Capt. Russel Gardner 0' the private yacht "Annie Russe''.
The private yacht "Annie Russell" puts into Alton
to offer services.
A street close to river front, Alton, II
ffffiflH r' :• I
Submerged water front, north of C. & A. station, Alton, III.
High-water mark at Alton, III. C. & A. station and boat landing. Suburban platform, train shed and levee tracks under water in foreground.
Spieler announcing -trains to passengers about to
land from the boats at Alton, III.
Raising and repairing the track at the end of the break
at Granite City.
The President, General Passenger Agent and Train Master
"talk it over," at Alton. III.
C & A. track near Mitchell— the last to be covered by water
Railway yards at Granite City. Water gradually creeping up over the tracks.
First appearance of the water in the yards at East St. Louis.
Liquidating the corn crop. An elevator in East St. Louis.
Houses in East St. Louis near the C. & A. depot.
A street scene in East St. Louis (C. & A. track in foreground) .
The improvised|ticket office on the docks, St. Louis, Mo.
A crap game on steamer between Alton and St. Louis The editor and proprietor of Saxbys' Magazine in foreground getting on to the game.
View of River Front, St. Louis, Mo. "Capt. Alf " Robinson's Boat, the "Bio
Eads Bridge, St. Louis, Mo., at high-water mark. Only three boats were able to find head room to pass under.
Wharf boat landing, St. Louis, Mo., with bridge and gangways to street.
River Front, St. Louis, Mo. "Capt. Alf " Robir
Trucking baggage from the dock, St. Louis, Mo. C. & A waiting-room on the left
Passing under Merchants' Bridge with lowered smoke stack.
Will she clear the bridge (only four inches to spare) ?
M«M ■ «l IIIIIWIHI II
FA.ITBOR.M PTQ. CO., CHICAGO.
UNIVERSITY OF ILUNOIS-URBANA
3 0112 001052619