Northern Pacific Railroad

 

Northern Pacific Railroad (1864-1970) – Chartered by the Federal Government on July 2, 1864, the Northern Pacific was the first northern transcontinental railroad in the United States. The federal charter and the completion of its mainline in 1883 were major factors in the opening of the northern tier of United States. Operating primarily in the north-central region of the United States, the railroad served a large area, including extensive trackage in Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin.

The company was first headquartered in Brainerd, Minnesota when it was granted some 47,000,000 acres of land to building rail transportation to undeveloped territories. Like other start-up railroad companies, the Northern Pacific struggled with financing during its first few years, as the costs of building a railroad into a vast wilderness were drastically underestimated. Organizationally, it survived numerous financial upsets, takeovers, reorganizations, financial panics, and lawsuits, but finally, the final spike was driven in at Gold Creek, Montana on September 8, 1883.

For the next two decades the railroad continued to build tracks and grow and by the turn of the century was famous for its passenger service throughout the northern United States. By the 1950s, the Northern Pacific had almost 7,000 route miles in its system. However, after more than a century of operation, in March 1970, the Northern Pacific merged with the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad, Great Northern Railway, Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway, and their subsidiaries to become the Burlington Northern Railroad.

 

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated January 2018.

Also See:

A Century of Railroad Building

Highwaymen of the Railroad

Linking the Oceans By Railroad

Railroad Main Page

Vintage Photographs of Railroads & Depots

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