Train No. 1, the Wabash Cannon Ball at Tolono, Illinois, October 28, 1962. Click to enlarge.

(Photo by Roger Puta, courtesy Marty Bernard, railfan 44, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)



Detroit Limited redirects here. Not to be confused with Cannonball (LIRR train).

The Wabash Cannon Ball was a passenger train on the Wabash Railroad that ran from 1950 to 1971. The train was named after the song "Wabash Cannonball". It was the second train to bear the name "Cannon Ball"; the first was the fast express Cannon Ball, which ran in the late 1800s to the early 20th century.


Wabash 703, a 4-6-4 and earlier steam power for the Cannon Ball. Photo by Harold K. Volrath. Click to enlarge




First Cannon Ball trains
There had been several Wabash Cannon Ball trains traveling throughout the middle and western United States from as early as the 1880s. The first Cannon Ball express train traveled from Chicago, Illinois, southwest to El Paso, Texas. This express train traveled throughout the western part of the Midwest and the eastern part of the southwestern United States. In addition to traveling on the Wabash Railroad, it also traveled on the "Great Rock Island Route" in the late 1800s and into the early 1900s. The Cannon Ball was also known as the Detroit Limited and the Detroit-St. Louis Limited


N&W 2477 and 485, both ex-Wabash with Train 4, the Wabash Cannon Ball departing Decatur, Illinois, May 1966. Click to enlarge.
(Photo by Roger Puta, courtesy Marty Bernard, railfan 44, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Song and reinstituting of a new train and new route

J. A. Roff wrote a song, The Great Rock Island Route, in the 1880s. In the 1930s, after a rewrite as Wabash Cannonball, country and western singer Roy Acuff gained great popularity with the song. The Wabash Railroad in 1950 resurrected the train on an entirely different route on the railroad between two major Midwestern cities, St. Louis, Missouri, and Detroit, Michigan.

The new route hosted one of the Wabash company's prestige trains. The Wabash Cannonball, number 4 eastbound and number 1 westbound, had a parlor car, a dining-lounge car, chair cars and reclining seat coaches. In St. Louis it made connections with the Wabash's City of Kansas City, bound for Kansas City, and the Wabash's City of St. Louis for Denver and points further west. A nighttime counterpart, the Detroit Limited, made the trip eastbound, and another night train counterpart, the St. Louis Limited, went westbound on the same route.

The train was under the administration of the Norfolk and Western Railway from 1964, as the Wabash company merged with the N&W that year. The train did not survive the conversion of private passenger lines to administration of the trains by Amtrak in May, 1971.


Route of the Wabash Cannon Ball. Click to enlarge.

Wikipedia, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 3.0)


Major stops of the Wabash Cannon Ball

St. Louis, Missouri (Union Station)
St. Louis, Missouri (Delmar Boulevard Station)
Decatur, Illinois (Wabash Station)
Danville, Illinois
Lafayette, Indiana
Logansport, Indiana
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Detroit, Michigan (Fort Street Union Depot)


Norfolk & Western Train 111-11, The Banner Blue - Wabash Cannon Ball west of Decatur, IL. Click to enlarge.

The observation car for the Banner Blue has the train name and N&W herald for the drumhead but still lettered Wabash on the sides, May 7, 1966.

(Photo by Roger Puta, courtesy Marty Bernard, Railfan 44, Public domain,



Service type: Inter-city rail
Status: Discontinued
Locale: Midwestern United States
Predecessor: Detroit Special, St. Louis Special
First service: February 26, 1950
Last service: April 30, 1971
Former operators: Wabash Railroad/Norfolk and Western Railway
Route Termini: St. Louis, Missouri / Detroit, Michigan
Distance traveled: 488.8 miles (786.6 km) (1959)
Service frequency: Daily (1959)
Train numbers: Eastbound: 4, Westbound: 1
On-board services
Seating arrangements: Reclining seat coaches and chair cars
Catering facilities: Diner-lounge with radio
Other facilities: Drawing room
Track gauge 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)