Wabash Legends and Folklore
The Wabash Cannonball
Read the headlines of the Wabash Plain Dealer on April 29, 1971. Following is the story written by Associated Press Writer-Hugh Morgan:
"The stationmaster threw his hand down casually in a signal from the dimly lit, nearly empty Union Depot at 7:15 a.m. EST, and the Wabash Cannonball was on its way on one of its last journeys. Engineer J.L. Miller of Detroit-44 years on the railroad-sounded the bell. Looking under the peak of his Detroit Tiger's baseball cap, he eased the throttle, and on to St. Louis went the Wabash Cannonball, the last of the trains to carry the historic name. It is being eliminated after its run Friday, under the new nationwide Amtrak system....The Wabash Cannonball is a descendent of freights and passenger trains of the same name in the 1800s. Time table in the company's files showed it visited Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis, and Omaha among other cities. The Wabash Cannonball entered the American folk culture as a hobo ballad, whose lyrics have been rewritten and revised many, many times."
The first railroad came through Wabash Town Jan. 26, 1856. The train made it possible for a person to board the train at 7:00 in the morning and arrive at Toledo, Ohio that evening. The freight depot was built in 1872 and the passenger station in 1868 and again in 1954 to accommodate both freight and passenger business. 1964 the Wabash Railroad merged with the Norfolk & Western. The famed "Wabash Cannonball" brought the end of passenger service through Wabash after a span of 115 years.
Most of the Wabash Cannonball's ancestry is lost to the past. Some veteran railroaders recall the Cannonball as a Chicago to Kansas City train. Others remember it running between St. Louis and Omaha, or between Detroit and Kansas City. Regardless of the origin or route, the Cannonballs were known as superb trains of their time. They were equipped with smokers, parlor coaches, and Pullman Palace Sleeping Cars, and were lighted with oil lamps and heated with pot- bellied stoves. In the mid-1940s, the Wabash line was striving and investing to retain passenger service. Many of the famous runs were re-instituted or upgraded during the post-war period. The Wabash Cannonball was too famous to let die. On February 28, 1950, the name was reinstated and the new Cannonball's route took it from Detroit to St. Louis, and it made the 489-mile trip in a little more that ten hours. But miles of super highways, assembly lines manufacturing millions of automobiles a year, and finally, the advent of jet liners began to lure away former rail passengers. Finally, in March 1971, there was an announcement that no passenger trains operated by Norfolk and Western (who now owned the former Wabash lines) would be included in the Amtrak system. On April 30, 1971, the Cannonball made its final run from Detroit to St. Louis. This time the Wabash Cannonball was gone forever....from the tracks, but not ever from man's memory.
The above information is gathered from "Wabash County History Bicentennial Edition 1976" - Linda Robertson, Editor and newspaper articles from the "Wabash Plain Dealer".