Rock Island Railroad History (relating to Jefferson County Park)
In 1870 the city leaders lobbied to have a second railroad (the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad) come through Fairfield. It arrived in 1871 from Washington, Iowa, and continued on to Eldon, Iowa, and on to Kansas City. In 1946 the tracks were rerouted from Washington to Eldon to create a more direct route.
The Rock Island carried freight and passengers to and through Fairfield until its demise in 1980. For some time Louden Machinery Company was the largest shipper on the Rock Island.
Parts of the roadbed are still visible in and around Fairfield although the rails were removed in 1982. Five sections of the abandoned Rock Island roadbed are currently utilized (the 1871 and 1946 alignments).
- Jefferson County Park section - This 0.8-mile section on the 1946 roadbed crosses the northern part of the park, connecting at its western end to the Cedar View Trail, and at its eastern end to the Prairie and Pond Trail. A spur trail continues, roughly paralleling the roadbed, to join the Erma Hartman Trail.
- Cedar View Trail - The Cedar View Trail uses 1.5-miles of the 1946 roadbed. Beginning at the 32nd Street entrance to Jefferson County Park, it extends southwesterly, crosses Cedar Creek on the Cedar View Bridge, and ends at 223rd Street. (The old railroad bridge was dismantled in the 1980's).
From 223rd Street the Cedar View Trail utilizes 3 miles of county roads to travel to the town of Libertyville. In the future, the existing railroad bed to Libertyville may be turned into trail, depending on funding and easements.
The new Cedar View Trail bridge over Cedar Creek which replaces the Rock Island Railroad bridge, which was dismantled in the early 1980's.
- Jefferson County Park entrance - The Park entrance road, at Libertyville Rd., uses the original 1871 alignment of the Rock Island (it was abandoned in 1946 when the section to Libertyville was straightened out and shortened). The entrance road is 0.5-miles long, and then becomes a trail that extends northeastward to the East Entrance, where it joins the Erma Hartman Trail.
- Erma Hartman section - The 0.4-mile Erma Hartman Memorial Trail starts at West Jackson Ave (west of 7th St.) and runs southwesterly along the 1871 (and 1946) section of the old roadbed to the East Entrance trail of Jefferson County Park.
- Section near MUM -- A 1.3-mile section along the northwest border of Maharishi University of Management (1946 alignment) has become a crucial part of the North Segment of the 17-mile Fairfield Loop Trail. This section connects 8th Street- Gear Avenue with North B Street.
The railroad bridge that once crossed over Highway 1 was removed in 1982, so the Matkin Memorial Bridge was built in 2009 allowing Loop Trail users to safely cross this busy highway.
The new Loop Trail bridge over Hwy 1 which replaces the old Rock Island Railroad bridge.