The Big Seven Railroad Systems in North America Today
Merger Times
1940-Present

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WHERE DID ALL THOSE NEAT RAILROADS GO?

The glorious times of luxurious passenger trains, and not so luxurious ones, which were the hallmark of the 1930's and 1940's, would soon be coming to an inglorious demise. The heavily subsidized airline industry began eating into the passenger railroad pie. World War II demonstrated the need for an improved interstate highway system, which was also heavily subsidized and built during the 1950's and later. The resulting increase of passenger and freight loss to cars, trucks and airplanes, as well as years of neglected maintenance due to the heavy war traffic and depression year losses caused the railroads to begin a combination of abandonment of unprofitable branch lines, and mergers and acquisitions to reduce redundant and non-competitive main lines and to seek competitive advantages in the shrinking market. By 1967 the passenger rail traffic was at such a diminished state that most all traffic was turned over to Amtrak, the government subsidized passenger rail system. When I use the words "government subsidized" I do so with tongue in cheek for the subsidies are ludicrously low and can barely sustain the needed system.
The markets for railroads were changing also during the period after the 1940' and 1950's. Railroads which served smaller in-line companies and customers were moving toward longer haul unit type trains. Some examples would be coal unit trains from the growing Wyoming and Montana open pit mines to large electric generating plants; Container unit trains from ports such as Los Angeles and Long Beach to points east; truck trailer unit trains, and automobile unit trains from major consolidation points or plants to various long haul destinations.
The intense competition for these new long haul markets help stimulate the growth of a limited number of major railroad systems that merged or acquired many of the individual 1930 and 1940 railroads. Some few of the 30's and 40's railroads survived, either in a modestly smaller size or in rare cases expanded. Many were abandoned in total or in part, or sold to short lines.
The short line story is an interesting one. As the big systems were moving to long haul high speed service, there arose a need for someone to service the local customers. The big systems became too remote and lost connection with the smaller wayside or branch line type customer. Hence the rise of short lines, serving more localized customers, with on site support from the short line operator. The big railroads were only too happy to spin off the short lines and branch lines. Thus a whole new group of smaller railroads, short lines, have been developed, from portions of many of the old 30's and 40's roads. The short lines can often be quite profitable since they are well attuned to local needs.
We now will show a little bit about the mergers and acquisitions that brought the Big 7 together, and also show a little about the genealogy of each of the 7 from their 30's and 40's beginnings.


MAJOR MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS 1940 TO PRESENT
HOW THE BIG 7 WERE BORN

Shown below is a list of some of the major mergers and acquisitions which helped create the seven major railroad systems operating in North America today. This list is only a partial one, but shows some of the major consolidations.

Year System Mergers or Acquisitions
1940 Gulf Mobile and Ohio M&O, GM&N. Alton(1947)
1960 Erie Lackawanna Erie, Lackawanna
1963 C&O-B&O C&O, B&O
1964 Norfolk & Western N&W, Nickel Plate, Wabash
1967 Seaboard Coast Line ACL, SAL
1968 Penn Central Pennsylvania, NYC System
1970 Burlington Northern Burlington, GN, NP, SP&S
1972 Family Lines System SCL, L&N, Geo, A&WP. WRA, Clinch, D&S
1972 Illinois Central Gulf IC, GM&O
1976 Conrail PC, LV +
1982 Norfolk Southern N&W, Southern
1983 Union Pacific UP, WP
1986 Soo Soo, Milwaukee
1986 CSX Chessie System, Seaboard/CSX
1988 Southern Pacific SP, D&RGW
1989 Missouri Pacific MP, M-K-T
1992 Burlington Northern Santa Fe BN, AY&SF
1992 Canadian Pacific CP, Soo
1992 Union Pacific UP, SP
1995 Union Pcific UP, C&NW
1997 Union Pacific UP. Missouri Pacific
1998 Canadian National CN, IC
1999 Canadian National GTW(CN), IC
1999 CSX CSX, Conrail )partial)
1999 Norfolk Southern NS. Conrail )Partial)
2002 KCS KCS, KCSM. Tex.Mex., Panama Canal
2007 Canadian Pacific CP, DM&E, IC&E


BURLINGTON NORTHERN SANTA FE
BNSF
GENEALOGY FROM 1930

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) is primarily a consolidation of the old Hill lines, the Chicago Burlington & Quincy, Great Northern, Northern Pacific and the Spokane Portland and Seattle which formed the Burlington Northern and then merged with the Santa Fe to become the BNSF. The BNSF operates about 25,000 route miles and about 50,000 track miles of line.

bnsf map

BNSF Genealogy


CANADIAN NATIONAL
GRAND TRUNK WESTERN
GENEALOGY FROM 1930

The Canadian National and it's United States subsidiary the Grand Trunk Western are a large system which covers Canada from coast to coast and has lines extending through the Central United States as far south as the Gulf of Mexico at New Orleans and Mobile. The system comprises about 20,400 route miles, and is an extension of the old CN/GTW System into the

CN map
US with the recent acquisition of the expanded Illinois Central, Bessemer and Lake Erie, the Missabe Roads, the DSS&A, and the Detroit Toledo and Ironton. Many of the acquired roads have been optimized with spin- offs of many portions, as for example much of the old Alton, which became GM&O then ICG and finally IC, with segments going to UP and KCS.

CN Genealogy


CANADIAN PACIFIC
GENEALOGY FROM 1930

The Canadian Pacific was the first transcontinental railroad system in Canada. In the 1990's the CP began to divest itself in lines east of Montreal and began to build a system to major US cities of Chicago and New York. It acquired the Soo Line, which had acquired the Milwaukee Road, thus gaining entrance to Chicago. CP also acquired the Delaware & Hudson giving it access to the New York area. It now controls 13,600 route miles in Canada and

CP map
the U.S. In 2007 CP began the process of acquiring the Dakota Minnesota and Eastern, and the Illinois Chicago and Eastern, former Milwaukee lines into the Dakotas. They intend to reach the lucrative coal deposits in Montana and Wyoming.

CP Genealogy


CSX GENEALOGY FROM 1930

The CSX System is a conglomeration of many eastern and central US railroads with 28,629 route miles and about 37,000 track miles. The primary systems which comprise CSX were the C&O-B&O, portions of Conrail, and the Family lines system which included the old Atlantic Coast Line, Seaboard Air Line, Louisville and Nashville, Monon, Clinchfield, NC&St.L, and many other smaller lines. CSX inherited the New York Central System portions of Conrail with certain exceptions such as the Cleveland Chicago main and the Michigan Central which went to Norfolk Southern. CSX did, however, get the old Pennsylvania Panhandle route from Pittsburgh to St. Louis.



CSX map

CSX Genealogy


KANSAS CITY SOUTHERN
GENEALOGY FROM 1930

The Kansas City Southern is sort of an upstart in the "big" systems race. What started out as a small north-south railroad from Kansas City to Shreveport, Louisiana, and was certainly to be gobbled up in the merger mania of the 60's to the 90's, turned out to be a multi-country little giant in it's own right with over 6000 route mile and great prospects for the future. Merger with the Louisiana & Arkansas brought KCS to New Orleans, and the growth of subsidiaries to the south, Texas Mexican, and into Mexico port cities, KCS de Mexico, have given KCS access to more gulf ports and international trade. Recent additions from the Midsouth Railroad (old IC and M&O lines) have placed KCS in the race for west to east traffic from Pacific sources to N&W connections.



kcs map

CN Genealogy


NORFOLK SOUTHERN
GENEALOGY FROM 1930

The Norfolk Southern began as a merger of the Norfolk & Western and The Southern back in 1982. When Conrail was split up in 1998 NS received 58% of Conrail including The Pennsy main line Philadelphia to Pittsburgh as well as most other Pennsy lines, except the Panhandle which went to CSX. NS also gained the Erie-Lackawanna, the Michigan Central and the NYC Cleveland Chicago main as well as other lines. It has resulted in a very profitable system of some 25,927 route miles in the eastern and central US as far west as Kansas City/ Other old roads in the NS system are the Nickel Plate, Wabash and Virginian.

ns map

NS Genealogy


UNION PACIFIC
GENEALOGY FROM 1930

The Union Pacific is the second large western United States system owning 26,949 miles of track and operating 32,426 miles. The current UP system is primarily a merger of the Southern Pacific and the old UP which took place in 1992. The SP had absorbed the Denver & Rio Grande Western, the Cotton Belt , and the Northwestern Pacific, and the UP had absorbed the Western

up map
Pacific, the Spokane International and the old Alton Joliet-St. Louis line before the merger. After the merger the new UP Merged the Chicago & Northwestern and the Missouri Pacific. The CNW had absorbed the Chicago Great Western and the Minneapolis and St. Louis and the MoPac had absorbed the Texas & Pacific and M-K-T, so now the UP had clear access into the Chicago hub and a broad spread of the US from Chicago west..

UP Genealogy


Our Sources
The private timetable collection of Richard R.Parks
Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia- (web)
The Official Guide of the Railways-Various dates
Reynold De Jager (BN date)

Your source for 1930's-1940's Public Timetable and Railroad History
Please contact us with comments and suggestions e-mail


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Web Page Written and Maintained by Richard Parks
Copyright Richard Parks, Last updated May 4, 2010