University News

WIU Grad Authors Book About Local Railway System

September 12, 2006

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MACOMB, IL – A Western Illinois University graduate has turned his love of trains and railroad history into a book published by his alma mater.

Frank Hicks, a 2005 engineering technology graduate, authored “The Little Road” as part of the New Western Illinois Monograph Series, which is co-sponsored by the WIU College of Arts and Sciences and the University Libraries. The series supports studies in the history, geography, ethnography, literature, politics and culture of the western Illinois region and its people. “The Little Road,” which details the history of a little-known railroad system, the Macomb Industry & Littleton Railway, is based on articles and information Hicks began researching while attending Western.

Hicks, originally from Elmhurst (IL), first grew to love trains and the railroad system because of his father’s passion for trains. His interest eventually led him to the WIU Malpass Library Archives and Special Collections Unit where he researched the local railway.

Once cited as a “mystery line of Illinois” in one railroad book, the Macomb Industry & Littleton Railway was built as a source for farmers to transport grain and livestock between Macomb and Littleton. The railway was planned to later connect with larger railways; however, it was abandoned by its investor and founder in 1910 when he went bankrupt and left town. The path of the Macomb Industry & Littleton Railway was abandoned again years later after a derailment and the beginning of the Great Depression in 1930. Hicks found the existing corporate records of the company in the WIU Archives.

“There was so much information about it right here in Macomb,” Hicks said. “The idea of getting some of the line’s history in print was too good of an opportunity to pass up.”

Hicks worked countless hours on researching the railroad line, and credits many of the employees of the Malpass Library at WIU for his accomplishment.

“The entire staff of the Malpass Library Archives and Special Collections Department’s support was absolutely vital,” Hicks said. “I’d especially like to thank Jeffrey Hancks, the co-editor of the New Western Illinois Monograph Series, for his assistance.”

Since publishing “The Little Road,” Hicks’ love for the railway is now stronger than ever. He continues to volunteer with his father at The Illinois Railway Museum in Union (IL). And because his father’s hobby started Hicks’ railroad enthusiasm, he has dedicated the book to his father.

“The Little Road” is available at the University Bookstore and at Copperfield’s New Book Service on the Macomb Square.

Posted By: Darcie Shinberger (
Office of University Relations