The only place in the United States named “Bando” is in Sangamon County.
If you want to visit it from Springfield, you won’t have to go far. From Stuart Park on the city’s northwest edge, follow the trail that curves down from the playground and then turns sharply to rise in a curiously straight line to join the Sangamon Valley Trail. Turn right and follow the trail uphill to level ground. Open your favorite digital map and the name “Bando” will be hovering nearby.
“Why ‘Bando’?” you might well ask. “And why here?” The answers can be read in the trail you followed. But you aren’t alone in asking: In Place Names of Illinois (2010), Edward Callary listed Bando as a name of unknown origin.
In fact, Bando’s story is a railroad story. But long before the railroads, a small stream flowed down from the prairie to join Spring Creek. And over thousands of years, this minor stream carved a major gap in the Spring Creek bluffs.
The trail leading out of Stuart Park today follows the railway built in 1870 by the Springfield & Illinois South Eastern Railroad, which ran from Beardstown on the Illinois River to Shawneetown on the Ohio. According to the Illinois State Journal, the segment from Beardstown to Springfield was financed by “township donations.”
Rather than attempting to build a trestle spanning the entire Spring Creek valley, the S&ISE economized by following the ravine down into the valley, then climbing up another ravine on the opposite side to reach the Coal Shaft station in western Springfield.
Despite this act of fiscal prudence, the S&ISE soon fell into bankruptcy. Within a few years, the Springfield-Beardstown track became part of the Baltimore & Ohio railroad system.
Forty years later, the Chicago & North Western had a different idea. Instead of going to Springfield, the C&NW wanted to go around it, in order to efficiently ship coal from their Macoupin County mines to Chicago. The C&NW chose a route along the flat western bluffs of Spring Creek, crossing over the B&O tracks on a trestle where the B&O descended the ravine. C&NW trains started running along this track in 1914.
It was useful to be able to switch cars between the two railroads, so the C&NW built a turnout over the fields to the east to join the B&O on level ground. They placed a station where the turnout split away from the C&NW tracks. They named the station after the railroad they were intersecting: the “B and O”, or “Bando.”
The B&O had a stop nearby called “Bond”, where its tracks crossed Hazlett Road. But it soon began operating its own “Bando” station as well, near where the C&NW turnout joined the B&O tracks. Passengers transferring between the B&O and C&NW probably had to walk from one Bando to the other.
Nothing is left of Bando today, although there probably wasn’t much to begin with. Early aerial photos show no identifiable buildings at either site. But some people worked there: in 1914, the Springfield papers mention a man from Girard taking a job with the C&NW at Bando. And later, a report of a theft mentions that twelve C&NW paychecks were stolen from an “improved mailbox” at Bando.
As is often the case with train station names, “Bando” also became a convenient shorthand for the area near the station. The Springfield newspapers occasionally mentioned people from Bando visiting Springfield, or people from other communities visiting at Bando.
But Bando’s time in history was short. In 1942, less than 30 years after it was created, the Illinois Commerce Commission allowed the C&NW to close its Bando station.
In time, even the railroads faded away. The B&O abandoned its Beardstown–Springfield branch in 1979. The Union Pacific (which absorbed the C&NW in 1995) abandoned its Girard–Barr segment in 1998.
With the stations and the railroads gone, nobody had much reason to talk about Bando anymore. But the Bando name lingered in the files of the US Geological Survey. And when the Geographic Names Information System was created from those files, Bando got a new lease on life.
But there was a twist: the poor soul tasked with extracting place names from the 1930 topographic map appears to have mistaken the referent of “Bando” for the farmhouse north of it, rather than the dot representing the station. As a result, the digital maps of 2022 misplace Bando slightly to the north of where the C&NW station stood.
Meanwhile, users of the Sangamon County GIS will find the “Bando” name floating above the fields east of Hazlett Road, near where the B&O’s Bando station once stood.
And that’s not all: perhaps attempting to make sense of this abundance of Bandos, the Comprehensive Railroad Atlas of North America instead adds to the confusion by placing a single Bando station at the overhead crossing between the B&O and C&NW – the spot where the Stuart Park trail joins the Sangamon Valley Trail.
Thus, from its simple beginning as a descriptive label for a railroad junction, the name “Bando” name spread to two stations and the surrounding community … and can now be found in at least four different places, depending on your map of choice.
Contributor: Samuel Henderson. Henderson works in the legal industry in Springfield. His interests include submerged and buried history and the histories of place and road names.
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