The Alton Railroad was the final name of a railroad linking Chicago to Alton, Illinois; St. Louis, Missouri; and Kansas City, Missouri. Its predecessor, the Chicago and Alton Railroad, was purchased by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1931 and was controlled until 1942 when the Alton was released to the courts. On May 31, 1947, the Alton Railroad was merged into the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad. Jacob Bunn had been one of the founding reorganizers of the Chicago & Alton Railroad Company during the 1860s.
The first railroad built in Madison County was the Chicago & Alton – first known as the Alton & Sangamon or Alton & Springfield. The railroad was spearheaded by Captain Benjamin Godfrey and other Alton businessmen such as Cyrus Edwards, Simeon Ryder, S. Griggs, and Robert Ferguson. Planning stages began in December 1838, and the charter was issued February 27, 1847. Construction began in February 1850, and was completed from Alton to Springfield in 1852. Benjamin Godfrey lived in a railcar, and followed the work as it progressed. He mortgaged all his property to ensure its success.