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Railroad Companies in American History

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Railroad Companies:


Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad

Central Pacific Railroad

Chicago and North Western Railroad

Chicago and Rock Island Railroad

Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad

Galveston, Harrisburg, & San Antonio Railroad

Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad

Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad

Missouri Pacific Railroad

Northern Pacific Railroad

Southern Pacific Railroad

St. Louis-San Francisco Railway

Union Pacific Railroad 


Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, Chicago, Illinois, 1943

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, Chicago, Illinois

Jack Delano, 1943.

This image available for photographic prints and downloads HERE!


Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, A.T.&S.F. (1859-1896) - More often simply referred to as the "Santa Fe Railroad," this organization was first chartered by the State of Kansas in February, 1859 and called the Atchison-Topeka Railroad. Four years later, "Santa Fe" was added to the name, but ironically, the railroad's main line never reached there as the terrain was too difficult  to lay the tracks. As the railroad was first being built, many of the tracks were laid directly over the wagon ruts of the Santa Fe Trail, and in 1871, when the line was extended to Newton, Kansas, the railroad assured its success by becoming a major cattle shipper. Later, it would also extend to Wichita and Dodge City, making those settlements into instant "cowtowns." The Santa Fe's first tracks reached the Kansas/Colorado state line in 1873, and connected to Pueblo, Colorado in 1876. As the railroad continued to expand, it increased its profitability by selling farm land from the land grants they had been awarded by Congress. Becoming one of the first major freight operators, the company remained a success until it ceased operations on December 31, 1996 when it merged with the Burlington Northern Railroad to form the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway. 


Central Pacific Railroad, 1865Central Pacific Railroad (1862-1959) - Chartered by Congress in 1862, the Central Pacific Railroad was the California-to-Utah portion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. Breaking ground in Sacramento, California, the organization was able to lay only twenty miles of track before running out of money. And, for the next three years, during the Civil War, funds would continue to be scarce. However, under the leadersip of Leland Stanford and Collis P. Huntington, progress was made eastward as the organization hired some 10,000 men, many of whom were Chinese immigrants, to work through blizzards, bore tunnels through mountains, and bridges over canyons. Finally on May 10, 1869 the Central Pacific Railroad met the Union Pacific Railroad at Promontory Summit, Utah.


In 1885 the Central Pacific Railroad was leased by the Southern Pacific Railroad, though it technically remained a corporate entity until 1959 when it was formally merged into Southern Pacific. Through the years, the line expanded to more than 13,000 miles of rail covering most of the southwestern United States.


In 1901, the Union Pacific Railroad took control of much of the Southern Pacific Railroad; however, it would be almost a century, before it was officially merged. In 1996, the Southern Pacific Railroad came to an end as all remaining operations were merged under Union Pacific's umbrella.


Chicago and North Western Railroad, C&NW (1859-1995) - Sometimes simply known as the North Western Railroad, the original line was chartered by the legislatures of Wisconsin and Illinois on June 7, 1859, after purchasing the bankrupt Chicago, St. Paul and Fond du Lac Railroad, which began in 1855. Six years later, in February, 1865, it officially merged with the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad, which had been chartered on January 16, 1836. Continuing to invest, the line owned a majority of stock in the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railway by 1882.


For many years, the railroad company picked up other smaller lines and by 1910, when it reached its peak, it was probably the largest and most profitable of the Midwestern railroads.


Though the automobile had much reduced railroad travel by this time, the company still continued on. In January, 1958, it finalized the acquisition of the Litchfield and Madison Railroad, in November of 1960, it acquired the rail properties of the 1,500-mile Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway.


It officially leased the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railway (Omaha Road), and merged it into the North Western in 1972. Mergers and acquisitions continued until the railroad finally ceased to exist when it was acquired by the Union Pacific Railroad in April, 1995. At its peak, the railroad operated more than 5,000 miles of track in seven states.



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Chicago and Northwestern RR Caboose, 1943

Chicago and Northwestern RR Caboose, by Jack Delano, 1943.

This image available for photographic prints and  downloads HERE!


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