About the GM&O Heritage Trail in Columbia Illinois
When the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad abandoned and removed their tracks through Columbia in 1986, our city leaders at that time had the foresight to acquire the entire railroad right-of-way through town. Without their efforts the opportunity to build this trail would have been lost forever. The development of the trail and its designation as the GM&O Railroad Heritage Trail was initiated by the City Of Columbia in 2015. The purpose of the trail is twofold:
- To preserve the railroad history of Columbia
- To create a linear park for biking and walking
Completion of the trail will be in phases as finances are available but once complete, it will stretch from State Route 3 at South Main Street north to Quarry Road at State Route 3 (once known as Millstadt Junction) and then on to the intersection with the Union Pacific rail line under the overpass for Interstate 255 (once known as Bixby Junction), a total distance of over 3 miles.
The first section of the trail from Cherry Street to Rueck Street was paved in 2015. Phase 2 will pave the section from Rueck to Gedern subdivision in 2017. Phase 3 will pave the section from Cherry Street to the Metter/Ferkel Streets intersection. Phase 4 will pave from Metter/Ferkel Streets to an overlook at State Route 3 and South Main and finally, Phase 5 will complete the section from Quarry Road to Bixby Junction.
Our ultimate goal is to make this trail unique and to commemorate its former role as a railroad line that linked the small town of Columbia to the outside world before automobiles and highways made travel easier. We plan to do this by replacing the crossing signs, mileposts, trackside signals and other railroad signage in their original locations so that the walker or biker can experience what the train crew and passengers viewed as they traveled the line to or from St Louis through Columbia.
To date, the City has used only grant funds to cover the cost of trail development. Private donations toward trail development are welcome and can be made through the Columbia PLAY Foundation on a tax deductible basis. For more information on the Columbia Play Foundation click here.
This website will keep you updated on trail development and progress as it occurs. Check back often and take time to explore the other pages of our website.