3. Canals and Plank Roads Better transportation was a high priority for early Illinois Governors, legislators and citizens. A number of acts were passed, charters granted, and funds expended to open up the interior of the state to development. Construction was started on the Illinois and Michigan Canal in 1836 and completed in 1848. During that same period a number of railroads and plank or toll roads were also planned. Funds needed to be raised before construction could be started on any project. For the first few years the railroads were short unconnected segments, equipment was scarce, rails were non-existent and funding wasn't easy to come by. The route for the Old Plank Road Trail was originally slated to be used for a plank road although the plank road was never built between Joliet and the Indiana border. It started on February 12, 1849, when the Illinois Legislature passed "An Act to Construct a Plank Road from Oswego, in Kendall County, to the Indiana Line, by way of Joliet, Will County." This 1849 act granted the "Oswego and Indiana Plank Road Company" the right to receive subscriptions for $100,000 of capital stock, authorization to construct a plank road from Joliet to the Indiana line, the right to levy tolls and erect toll gates once three miles were finished, the right to appropriate a right of way of up to 80 feet of land when voluntary cession or purchase wasn't possible, and other rights necessary for plank road operation. According to Joliet railroad historian, Bill Molony, the O&IPR company was formed in the spring of 1851 with Joliet businessmen in most of the executive positions. The survey for the road was completed in May, 1851 and the right-of-way was obtained. The company worked on the road in 1851 and 1852 and, Molony says, the plank road from Plainfield to Joliet was completed in 1852 or 1853. Other legislative acts in the 1850's made plank road and railroads charters interchangeable and provided for the incorporation and operation of railroads that crossed state lines.
Jim Nugent collection from an old civil engineering book
Old Plank Road Trail
A 22-mile recreation and nature trail in northeastern Illinois
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