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Railroad Companies - Page 4

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Southern Pacific RailroadSouthern Pacific Railroad (1865-1996) - Founded as a land holding company in 1865, its original charter called for the railroad to be built through southern California through Arizona and New Mexico to El Paso, Texas. However, it later expanded to New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1885, Southern Pacific leased the operations of the Central Pacific Railroad, which technically remained a corporate entity until 1959 when it was formally merged into Southern Pacific. By 1900, the Southern Pacific Company had grown into a major railroad system which incorporated many smaller companies, such as the Texas and New Orleans Railroad and Morgan's Louisiana and Texas Railroad. Through the years, the line expanded to more than 13,000 miles of rail covering most of the southwestern United States.


On August 9, 1988, the Southern Pacific was sold to Rio Grande Industries, the company that controlled the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. However, the railroad retained its name until it was taken over by Union Pacific in 1996.


Frisco Railroad LogoSt. Louis-San Francisco Railway (SLSF) (1876-1978) - More familiarly known simply as the "Frisco," the railroad line was dominant throughout the south central United States, primarily in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.


Incorporated in Missouri on September 7, 1876, the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad was formed from the Missouri Division and Central Division of the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, which had gone bankrupt. Many of these original tracks were created by the Pacific Railroad of Missouri as early as 1855. However, building was dramatically cut back during the years of the Civil War.

The Frisco acquired rights-of- way through much of the region and had an interest in the development of the land, which would eventually bring people to an area. This development often led the way for westward expansion in the second half of the nineteenth century as well as the development of a number of towns.

Frisco system in 1918The tracks were aggressively expanded into Oklahoma and Kansas, and by the 1880's was complete through Tulsa to Sapulpa, Oklahoma. After the turn of the century the Frisco completed the line though Kansas and Oklahoma and into Texas. In 1901 the Railway expanded to the Southeast and by the 1920's had reached the Gulf of Mexico at Pensacola, Florida.


However, Frisco's rapid expansion and acquisitions also caused financial difficulties for the line by 1912. That year, levees along the Mississippi River gave way, flooding the mainline for more than a month and a half, hurting its revenue further. Beginning in 1913, the railroad went into receivership for three years and in August, 1916, reorganized as St. Louis-San Francisco Railway.


From March, 1917 through January, 1959, the Frisco, in a joint venture with the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad operated the Texas Special, a luxurious streamliner that ran from St. Louis, Missouri to Dallas, Ft. Worth, and San Antonio, Texas.


After World War I, the Frisco struggled through the 1920's and 1930's, falling into receivership again in 1932 and abandoning many of its branch lines. However, it continued on and after World War II, was a much leaner company with emphasis on its profitable freight lines.



With the rise of automobile use and the interstate system, passenger service declined on all rail lines during the 1950s and the Frisco began to terminate its passenger services. The Frisco became part of the Burlington Northern Railroad system in 1978, which in turn joined with the Santa Fe Railroad to become the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) in 1995.


Despite its name, the railroad never went west of Texas.


Union Pacific Railroad (1862-Present) - Following the approval of the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862, which provided aid in the construction of a railroad and telegraph line from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean, the Union Pacific Railroad was incorporated on July 1, 1862, under the guidance of its dominant stockholder Thomas C. Durant. Setting up headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska, the company first began laying tracks in its hometown, gradually moving westward through some of the most difficult terrain in the nation. As Union Pacific built westward, the Central Pacific Railroad of California was building eastward from Sacramento, California. By the end of 1865, United Pacific had already spent a half a million dollars but laid only 40 miles of track, or as one newspaper put it: "two streaks of rust across the Nebraska prairie."


However, when the role of Chief Engineer was given to a young Union General and civil engineer by the name of Grenville Dodge, progress began in earnest. Hiring thousands of men, who braved frequent Indian attacks, extreme weather, and almost insurmountable canyons and mountains.


The United Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads finally came together at Promontory, Utah on May 9, 1869. The railroad was complete, bringing an end to the many wagon trail across the west. However, it was just the beginning for the Union Pacific Railroad. The Panic of 1873 led to bankruptcy for Union Pacific, but under the leadership of Jay Gould, the organization stayed afloat and for the next two decades expanded rapidly. However, over-speculation again led to bankruptcy in 1893. Again, the company made it through its difficult financial times and by 1901 had recovered to the point that it was able to take control of Southern Pacific Railroad.


Over the years, Union Pacific also acquired the Missouri Pacific, Chicago and North Western, Western Pacific, Missouri-Kansas-Texas, and the Rio Grande Railroads. Today, the company is one of the largest and transportation companies in the United States, as well as the oldest railroad company in continuous operation under its original name west of the Mississippi River. It continues to be headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska.




Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated March, 2017.



Also See:


A Century of Railroad Building

Highwaymen of the Railroad

Linking the Oceans By Railroad

Vintage Photographs of Railroads & Depots


Union Pacific Railroad Engine

Union Pacific Engine coming out of the roundhouse, H.C. White, 1905.

This image available for photographic prints and downloads HERE!


Railroad Slideshow:



All images & more available for photographic prints and downloads HERE!


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