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Chicago & North Western RY


The Chicago & North Western Railway entered Wyoming on 01 March 1903 when it officially acquired the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley RR (FEM). The C&NW and the FEM relationship goes back to day one of the line.

The following is a short history put out by the Chicago & North Western public relations department prior to the merger with the Union Pacific Railroad.

While the Chicago and North Western Railway Company in terms of physical size is one of the largest railroads in the United States, to its officers and other personnel there are many additional facts about our railroad which sets it apart from others in the nation.

Not the least of these is its historical position as the first railroad in the midwest and Chicago. While the North Western today is a single corporation, it is the result of mergers, consolidations, outright purchases and other forms of union of more than 160 railroad companies dating back over the years to 1848 when the first of the lines was constructed westward out of Chicago.

This fact alone makes the railroad unique because of all the roads serving Chicago, the North Western is the only one that can call that city its native community. The other railroads serving Chicago today actually originated elsewhere.

The first president of the railroad in 1849 was William Butler Ogden who only a few years earlier had served as Chicago's first mayor. It was he who in that same year purchased the "Pioneer," a tiny wood-burning locomotive which pulled the first trains in and out of Chicago. Because at that time there were no rail lines from the east into the city, the "Pioneer" had to come to Chicago by water- via the Great Lakes in a sailing brig.

Notwithstanding the need of rail lines to the east, Ogden pointed his little railroad westward across prairies and through forests, thereby opening a vast wilderness in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas to settlement. Many towns and important cities in the nine states served by the North Western today were either named or platted by the railroad or its townsite companies.

From the beginning the North Western was an important freight and passenger carrier, and during the heyday of rail passenger travel operated such historic passenger trains as the "Overland Limited," the "Challengers," the "North Western Limited," the "Twin Cities 400" and the "Dakota 400."

As the first railroad to reach Council Bluffs on the Missouri River in 1867, it played an important role in moving materials and supplies westward for use in construction of the first transcontinental rail line and to this day the North Western is considered the eastern segment of the Overland Route. But it was also a pioneer in other areas: in 1856 it was the first railroad in the west to operate by telegraph; it built the first railroad post office cars in the United States and in 1864 inaugurated the U. S. railway post office service with these cars. In 1910 it was the first industrial firm to create a department concerned with employe and public safety, in the process making the slogan, "Safety First" almost a household phrase. The oscillating headlight, a common acces- sory on locomotives today, was first developed and used on North Western trains. In 1926 the North Western also was the first railroad west of the New York metropolitan area to acquire and operate diesel-electric locomotives.

All of North Western's developments have not taken place in the distant past. Since 1956 under a new management the railroad has been going through a major readjustment and modernization program so that it can be better equipped to take on a leadership role in today's and tomorrow's trans- portation economy.

Since 1956 the railroad has continued to grow as the result of diversification and mergers; it is now not only completely dieselized but its trains are pulled by the most modern diesel power available; its suburban service, largest in Chicago, has received world-wide attention not only because it is completely modernized but because it is also self-supporting. New, streamlined freight car repair and locomotive shops have replaced archaic facilities and old roundhouses. The "new look" of the North Western is further enhanced by its rapidly growing piggyback service, aided by such new facilities as Proviso Piggyback Plaza, constructed by the railroad on the outskirts of Chicago. This is one of the largest and most modern terminals in the nation for coordination of rail and highivay service,

The "new" North Western is staffed by officers who are constantly seeking and adopting better, faster and more efficient ways of performing its overall operations through mechanization of its maintenance of way, through the use of computers and the most advanced techniques in integrated data processing to develop business data more rapidly and more accurately than was ever possible before; by conducting aggressive industrial development programs to improve the overall economy of the Midwestern area it serves and to participate in that economy by offering a transportation service with a reputation for dependability, efficiency and low cost.

This is the continuing objective of the North Western as it moves well into its second century.

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Last Update 02/27/01

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