A Chicago Hub Railroad of the 1930's - 1940's
The Chicago Rock Island & Pacific Railway
(Rock Island)

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The Chicago Rock Island and Pacific Railway (CRI&P), also known as the Rock Island or the Rock, was a class 1 railroad running west, southwest and northwest from Chicago. It had trackage in Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas. Major lines included Chicago to Denver and Colorado Springs and Chicago to Tucumcari, New Mexico where it connected with the Southern Pacific for trains to Los Angeles and cars to San Diego. Other through routes included Minneapolis to Houston, and service to major cities such as Kansas City, Dallas, Fort Worth, St. Louis and Memphis. In the 30's the Rock Island introduced a series of early streamlined diesel-electric powered passenger trains, the "Rocket" series. The Rocky Mountain Rocket was one of the first, from Chicago to Denver and Colorado Springs. The Rock took the luxury train, the Golden State, from Chicago to Tucumcari, New Mexico where it connected with the Southern Pacific for the run to Los Angeles.
The Rock Island dieselized very early and all steam locomotives were retired by
Rock Island
Rock Island
July 1940
1953. Passenger service was continued, for a short while after Amtrak took over the national passenger rail service in 1971. After long and unsuccessful attempts, the Rock Island was unable to obtain a merger partner during the merger period, beginning in the 1960's. The plant and equipment deteriorated during this time and the Rock went back into receivership in 1971 and closed down in 1980. Scraps of the railroad exist today operated by various carriers,
Early history of the Chicago Rock Island and Pacific Railway (CRI&P)(Rock Island)

1845 - Idea to connect Mississippi at Rock Island with Illinois & Michigan Canal at La Salle, Illinois
1847 - Rock Island and La Salle Railroad chartered.
1851 - Plan to enter Chicago conceived and charter changed to Chicago and Rock Island Railroad. Construction starts from Chicago
1852 - 1st locomotive, a 4-4-0 named "Rocket" operated from Chicago to Joliet with six passenger cars
1853 - Mississippi and Missouri Railroad organized to extend line from Davenport to Council Bluffs, Iowa.
1854 - Rock Island is the first railroad to reach Mississippi at Iowa
1855 - First train from Davenport to Muscatine
1856 - First bridge over Mississippi completed as plans are to extend to Omaha and Kansas City
1856 - Abraham Lincoln successfully defends suit by river boats to challenge bridge, after bridge accident
1866 - M&M acquired by Rock. Name changed to Chicago Rock Island and Pacific
1888 - Trackage to Colorado Springs completed
1889 - Denver reached
mid 1890's - Line to Tucumcari New Mexico completed, with connection to Southern Pacific
mid 1890's - Line built south through Oklahoma territory
1902 - St.Louis Kansas City and Gulf becomes part of the Rock, so St. Louis and KC access is achieved
1902 - Burlington Cedar Rapids and Northern acquisition give the Rock lines in Iowa
1904 - Choctaw Oklahoma and Gulf acquisition gives access to Amarillo, Texas and Arkansas
1904 - Link completed to Little Rock and Memphis
1915 - Syndicate tries to merge Rock Island with the Frisco (STLSF), The Rock goes into bankruptcy
1917-1920 - Rock under US Government control (war years)
1920 - Rock exits bankruptcy
1929 - EMC builds 7 gas-electric cars for the Rock
1933-1947 - Rock back into bankruptcy
1934-1936 - John Farrington hired and revitalization of the Rock Island begins
1937 - EMD builds 600hp switcher for Rock Island at EMD plant in McCook, Ill.
1937 - EMD builds 6 TA 1200hp diesel-electric streamlined locomotives in McCook, starting "Rocket" series trains.
1937 - The first Rocket was the "Peoria Rocket" a five car articulated stainless steel train set behind a new EMC 1200hp TA Streamlined diesel-electric locomotive. It ran two round trips from Chicago to Peoria, 171 miles in 160 minutes.
1938-39 - New era of streamlined "Rocket" passenger trains emerges.
Rocky Mountain Rocket, (Chicago to Denver and Colorado Springs)
Golden State (with SP to Los Angeles)
Corn Belt Rocket (Chicago—Des Moines—Omaha)
Twin Star Rocket (Minneapolis—St. Paul—Des Moines—Kansas City—Oklahoma City—Fort Worth—Dallas—Houston)
Zephyr Rocket (Minneapolis—St. Paul—Burlington—St. Louis)
Choctaw Rocket (Memphis—Little Rock—Oklahoma City—Amarillo—Tucumcari)
1952 - Higher hp EMD E7's and E8;s on Rockets.
1953 - Change from steam to Diesel-electric locomotives completed
1955-60 - G-1001 "Talgo Jet Rocket Aerotrain" placed in service Chicago-Peoria. Too rough riding and discontinued by 1960.
1964 - Six Chicago-Peoria Rockets, three each way, now in service.

CRI&P map

Rock Island 60+ start-stop speeds -Chicago to Denver - 1940
The Rock Island tried valiantly to give the Burlington and the Northwestern/UP a little competition to Denver with its Rocky Mountain Rocket, and posted a few 60+ runs. The "Rocket" was diesel-electric powered.
Train#From CityTo CityMilesMin.mph
Rocky Mountain Rocket 8 Moline Bureau 65.1 56 69.8
Rocky Mountain Rocket 7 Iowa City Grinnell 65.7 57 69.2
Rocky Mountain Rocket 7 Bureau Moline 65.1 59 66.2
Rocky Mountain Rocket 7 Englewood Bureau 107.6 99 65.2
Rocky Mountain Rocket 8 Bureau Englewood 107.6 103 62.7
Rocky Mountain Rocket 7 Davenport Iowa City 54.1 52 62.4
Rocky Mountain Rocket 7 Grinnell Newton 20.1 20 60.3
Average Speed 485.3 446 65.3

The Fallen Flag

Later history of the Chicago Rock Island and Pacific Railroad (CRI&P)(Rock Island)

1960-1970's - Merger plans with other roads, and long attempt with UP, never materialize and Rock plant and equipment begin to deteriorate
1966 - Rocky Mountain Rocket discontinued
1970 - Most long haul passenger trains discontinued. Only two Rockets remain, a "Peoria Rocket" and a "Quad-Cities Rocket".
1971 - The Rock does not join Amtrak and continues to operate its own passenger trains, the "Peoria Rocket" and the "Quad Cities Rocket" (Chicago-Rock Island)
1975 - Rock Island enters receivership for 3rd time
1970's-1980's - UP acquisition of Rock fails to complete. Rock Island plant and equipment deteriorates badly
1978 - Passenger service discontinued
1979 - Strike shuts down Rock Island
1979 - Kansas City Terminal takes over operations by ICC ruling
1980 - Rock Island shuts down operations and is dismantled. Some portions operated by other carriers
1981- St. Louis-Southwestern (Cotton Belt) acquires Rock Island Golden State Routes from Tucumcari to Kansas City and St. Louis.
1984- Iowa Interstate obtains 500 miles of Rock Island's Omaha main line in Nebraska. Iowa. and Illinois. 1984-5 - Last of Rock Islands assest have been sold. Railroad ceases to exist

Our Sources
Private Collection of Richard R. Parks(rp)
Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia [web](wik)
Official Guide- April 1940
www.rockrail.com(early history)
Diesel Victory-Kalmbach Publishing Co
Classic Trains - Kalmbach Publishing Co.-summer 2006
Classic Trains - Kalmbach Publishing Co.-Fall 2006 Trains - Kalmbach Publishing Co. Dec. 2008
To contact our contributors please make a request by Email to:
Richard Parks


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Web Page Written and Maintained by Richard Parks
Copyright © Richard Parks, April 25, 2009, revised Nay 7, 2011