Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Special Features : Development of Railroad Lines from Chicago
Special Features
Development of Railroad Lines from Chicago

Development of Railroad Lines from Chicago
Rail Line on Map Date of Line Historical Significance
Alton       Chicago & Alton Railroad (1861)
St. Louis 1857 First route between Chicago and St. Louis.
AT&SF       Atchison, Topeka & Sante Fe Railway ("The Santa Fe") (1859)
Kansas City — Los Angeles 1884 Headquartered in Chicago after 1904; connected Chicago with Southwest.
B&O       Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (1827)
Pittsburgh — Baltimore 1874 First significant railroad in the United States; built line to expand B&O’s eastern network into Chicago.
CB&Q       Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad (1856)
Kansas City, Omaha — Denver / Ft. Worth / CA 1850, 1864 Aurora Branch RR built initial 13-mile track from Aurora to West Chicago in 1850, a line extended westward to the Mississippi River by 1855 and renamed Chicago, Burlington & Quincy. Route from Chicago to Aurora built in 1864. CB&Q thrived in nineteenth century by bringing agricultural goods from Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Nebraska to Chicago.
Iowa Grain District 1871
Ottawa — Streator 1871
CGW       Chicago Great Western Railway (1892)
Iowa — St. Paul 1887 Self-described "Corn Belt Route" served upper-Midwest agriculture.
C&EI       Chicago & Eastern Illinois Railroad (1877)
St. Louis, Evansville 1871 Served as strategic bridge line and was called "an All-American average railroad."
CMSTP&P       Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad ("The Milwaukee Road") (1874)
Milwaukee — St. Paul 1873 Known as "The St. Paul" in the nineteenth century and "The Milwaukee Road" in the twentieth, this railroad connected Midwestern farmers and passengers with Chicago. It pioneered the grain elevator and painted its cars a distinctive bright orange. Overexpansion into the Pacific Northwest and Southern Indiana after 1905 led to largest bankruptcy in U.S. history in 1925.
Omaha — CA 1873
Terre Haute — SE Indiana 1904
Madison — Grain District 1900
DeKalb — Davenport 1905
C&NW       Chicago & North Western Railway (1859)      
Omaha — CA 1848 The Galena & Chicago Union (GCU, 1848) built the region’s first railroad, from Chicago to West Chicago in 1848, extended to Freeport and the Mississippi River by 1855. In the "Great Consolidation" of 1864, the well-managed GCU merged with (and took the name of) the smaller C&NW, which owned a line to Madison. Rapid post — Civil War expansion created a large railroad serving upper-Midwest and Great Plains agriculture.
Freeport 1853
Madison — Twin Cities 1854
Milwaukee — St. Paul 1855
Milwaukee 1904
C&O       Chesapeake & Ohio Railway (1868)
Cincinnati 1907 Major coal hauler from Ohio Valley to Chicago.
CRI&P       Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad ("The Rock Island") (1866)
Kansas City, Omaha — Denver — Tucumcari 1852 The Chicago and Rock Island Railroad (1851) reached Joliet in 1852 and in 1854 became the first Chicago railroad to cross the Mississippi River.
EJ&E       Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway (1887)
  1890 Outer Belt Line served freight connections around city.
Erie       Erie Railroad (1895)
New York 1883 Suffered from stock manipulation in 1860s; specialized in freight traffic to Northeast.
GTW       Grand Trunk Western Railroad (1900)
Port Huron / Canada 1880 Important freight link to Ontario; absorbed by Canadian National system after 1923.
IC       Illinois Central Railroad (1851)
St. Louis — Memphis — New Orleans 1852 First railroad financed by a federal land grant, the IC completed route from Chicago to Cairo in 1856. During the twentieth century, the IC served as a major route for southerners migrating to Chicago.
Iowa Grain District 1888
Monon       Monon Line Railroad (1956)
Indianapolis — Louisville 1882 Major carrier of Indiana building stone and coal to Chicago.
NKP       New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad ("The Nickel Plate") (1881)
Cleveland — Buffalo 1882 Known for fast, low-cost freight traffic along Great Lakes trunkline.
NYC       New York Central System (1853)
Cleveland — New York 1852 Lines built by Michigan Central and Michigan Southern, arriving into Chicago one day apart in 1852; NYC was chief rival to PRR as passenger and freight carrier to New York.
Detroit — New York 1852
PRR       Pennsylvania Railroad (1846)
Pittsburgh — New York 1858 Premier carrier to East Coast; 1905 Broadway Limited reached New York in 18 hours.
Soo       Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie ("The Soo Line") (1883)
St. Paul / Sault Ste. Marie / Canada 1886 The Soo Line connected upper-Midwest farmers first with Canada then with Chicago after 1909 lease of Wisconsin Central line into Chicago built in 1886.
Wabash       Wabash Railroad (1877)
St. Louis — Kansas City 1886 Under Jay Gould, Wabash connected main Toledo — Kansas City line with Chicago.