Railroading Turns 160 Years Old in Chicago
Forerunner of Union Pacific Operated First Train in Chicago on Oct. 25, 1848
Omaha, Neb., October 22, 2008 From Kinzie Street, just north of the Chicago River, Chicago's first train departed from the Windy City's first train depot Oct. 25, 1848. Loaded with dignitaries, supplies and workers, the rail cars headed west seven miles to Oak Park, where some of the supplies were used by workers to continue building westward toward Elgin, Chicago's first railroad, the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad.
The Galena & Chicago Union's distinction of being the first railroad in Chicago was short-lived as the race by other railroad entrepreneurs to build a transportation network in Chicago connecting the city with other parts of the world was on. The competition to move the vast amount of agricultural goods out of the city and state, to "far off" destinations was so great that within a dozen years, 10 railroad companies called Chicago home.
As the national rail network expanded in the mid-19th Century, many small railroads were combined into larger regional systems. The Galena & Chicago merged with the Chicago & North Western – a forerunner of Union Pacific Railroad – in 1864. Chicago & North Western was the first railroad to connect with Union Pacific at Council Bluffs, Iowa, in 1867.
The Chicago & North Western was a railroad of contrasts — serving Chicago commuters, Michigan iron mines, Iowa farms and Illinois coal fields. The C&NW established the industry's first safety campaign by coining the phrase "Safety First."
In 1984, the C&NW partnered with Union Pacific to open a rail line to the coal fields in Wyoming's Powder River Basin – enabling the region to become a major U.S. energy source of low sulfur coal. The Chicago & North Western and Union Pacific merged in 1995.
Throughout the 160 years after the first train departing Chicago, rail transportation has been a lifeline to the Windy City. Today, Chicago has the distinction of being the largest rail hub in the United States and Union Pacific Railroad, or one of its predecessor railroads, has been there then and now.
About Union Pacific
Union Pacific Corporation owns one of America's leading transportation companies. Its principal operating company, Union Pacific Railroad, links 23 states in the western two-thirds of the country and serves the fastest-growing U.S. population centers. Union Pacific's diversified business mix includes Agricultural Products, Automotive, Chemicals, Energy, Industrial Products and Intermodal. The railroad offers competitive long-haul routes from all major West Coast and Gulf Coast ports to eastern gateways. Union Pacific connects with Canada's rail systems and is the only railroad serving all six major gateways to Mexico, making it North America's premier rail franchise.
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