This is the first of several railroads that are both entirely new, and based on pre-existing railroads that existed at certain points in real life.
Built starting in the 1870s, this line was created with the intention of linking the coal fields of the Virginias and Kentucky to Chicago. However, the route would go on be more than just that, with two mainlines linking at the town of Monon, Indiana (hence the nickname the Monon Route). The route would go on to eschew branchlines in most places in favor of two mainlines.
The first of these two mainlines ran from the railroad's originally terminus to Michigan City, Indiana to Louisville, Kentucky via Lafayette and Bloomington. Once crossing the Ohio River into Kentucky, the line would . Then it'd swing southeast to reach the Cumberland Gap on the border with Virginia. From there, the line would go all the way to the city of Roanoke, Virginia via Abingdon, Wytheville, and Ffloyd. This ambitious mainline was built under the rule of Jacob Astor III (whose death happened later than 1890 in this reality).
A second mainline ran from Chicago to Columbus, Ohio via Rensselaer, Indianapolis, and Dayton. Originally, the line planned to reach all the way to Virginian Territory at Deepwater, West Virginia. However, plans never got that far. Instead, the company went back south to build from Cumberland Cap to the city of Charlotte, North Carolina.
In the Monon's heyday, one could see strong Mikados and hulking 2-10-4s puffing through the mountains around the Cumberland Gap and on to the Midwest, then these images were succeeded by those of ALCO Centuries and early EMD units. Like many shorter northeastern roads, the Monon went through hard times when the coal industry began to wane, but they eventually revitalized as a fast-freight hauler, which led to its takeover by the Erie Lackawanna in 1973. As this route consisted principally of mainlines, most of it is intact today, and a major artery of Erie Lackawanna traffic. Especially in terms of competing with the Pennsylvania Railroad's former Norfolk & Western, the Chessie System, and New York Central's former Virginian.
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