A Chicago Train Connecting Railroad - 1930's - 1940's
Northern Pacific Railway


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The Northern Pacific Railway, NP, was a railway that operated in the north-central and northwest regions of the United States. The railroad served a large area, including extensive trackage in the states of Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin. The company was headquartered first in Brainerd, Minnesota, then in St. Paul, Minnesota (wik).
The signing of the charter for the Northern Pacific by Abraham Lincoln in 1864 and the completion of its mainline in 1883 were major factors in the opening of the northern tier of United States. The NP was involved in some key events affecting the development of the nation, such as: the demise of Custerís troops, the financial collapses of 1873 and 1893, and the anti-trust legislation of the early 1900s. The NP was an early innovator in the areas of on-board dining services, the 4-8-4 and 2-8-8-4 steam locomotive designs, the center-truss flat car and much more (nphs).
The Northern Pacific became part of the Hill lines about 1903 after many various interests had competed for its control. It's main line, running south of the parallel line, the Great Northern, was not nearly as successful as the GN. It went through several bankrupcies and did not have the connections that were well thought out by the GN as it was being developed by James Hill.
The NP did, however, operate a luxury train to the Pacific Northwest, the North Coast Limited using the Burlington rails from Chicago to St. Paul, Minnesota. The North Coast Limited lasted almost up until the Amtrak days being phased out about 1970 a year before Amtrak took over the national passenger service.(wik)(rp)

Short History of the Northern Pacific Railway
1866 - Northern Pacific chartered to build Northern transcontinental railroad. 47 million acres granted to NP.
1866-1870 - Road struggled to obtain financing.
1870 - First groundbreaking at Thompson Jct., Minnesota, west of Duluth.
1870 - Financier Jay Cooke provides needed backing and NP pushes into North Dakota territory.
1870 - West Coast construction begins Portland toward Puget Sound, with 4 locomotives, Minnetonka, Itaska, Ottertail and St. Cloud,, shipped around Cape Horn.
1870 - Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad completed from St. Paul to Duluth.
1871 - LS&M leased to and eventually absorbed by NP. 230 miles completed in Minnesota.
1872 - 164 miles put down in North Dakota and 45 miles in Washington.
Northern Pacific
Northern Pacific
June 19, 1942
NP Brochure
Northern Pacific
Yellowstone Park
1904 Brochure
1872 - Indians attack crews. Settlers begin to inhabit tracts. Federal troops called in for protection. Gold discovered in South Dakota.
1873 - Cooke fortune collapses, NP out of money. Panic of 1873. NP survives bankruptcy. Line completed to Tacoma Washington.
1875 - NP slipped into bankruptcy.
1876 - Custer defeated in battle of Little Bighorn.
1877-1879 - Very little construction takes place, but lines west of Missouri River are started, with ferry service across the River. Backshops built in Brainerd Minnesota and South Tacoma Washington.
1880 - Henry Villard, a strong rail power in Oregon, gains control of NP to prevent its competition to Villard's lines.
1881 - Stampede Pass route discovered. This would eventually shorten roundabout route in Washington to reach Tacoma.
1882 - More branches completed and Missouri River spanned with a bridge.
1883 - First train reaches Livingston Montana. Back shop started there.
1883 - Line nears completion and Villard has big celebration including U.S.Grant for driving of golded spike at Gold Creek.
1884-1887 - Villard leaves for Germany. Former head of CB&Q Robert Harris takes over. Railroad is long and with little traffic. Harris works to break tangled links with Oregon Railroad and Navigation Co.
1884-1886 - Building toward Stampede Pass in Cascades undertaken.
1886-1888 - Cascade Tunnel (9850 feet) constructed.
1887-1893 - Henry Villard back in the board of directors, and NP builds many branch lines to occupy territory to protect against Great Northern which was building toward Puget Sound from the east.
1893 - NP goes into bankruptcy during panic of 1893.
1893-1903 - Struggling NP fought over by different interests, including Villard, J.P.Morgan, E.H.Harriman and James Hill.
1903 - By 1903 James Hill had obtained control of the NP, the SP&S and the Burlington to complement his parallel line the Great Northern. These lines were henceforth known as the Hill Lines. They now had an entry into Chicago through the Q, previous efforts by the NP to get to Chicago through the Wisconsin Central having failed.
1903-1970 - All four lines, NP, GN, CB&Q and SP&S operate as separate entities.
1947 - New diesel powered lightweight streamlined North Coast Limited, Chicago to Portland and Seattle.
1958 - NP fully dieselized.
1970 - Four lines, NP, GN, Q and SP&S, merged to become Burlington-Northern.
1996 - BN and Santa Fe merge to become the BN/SF (Burlington Northern/Santa Fe).

GN 1920 map
Northern Pacific 1900 Map


NP map
Northern Pacific 1942 Timetable Map
Note the fewer connections to Canada and other destinations than that of its parallel line the Great Northern.
Also note the proximity of Yellowstone Park.


Our Sources
Private Collection of Richard R. Parks(rp)
Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia [web](wik)
Official Guide- April 1940
The Trains We Rode-Lucius Beebe and Charles Clegg(bc) www.RailServe.com
Diesel Victory-Kalmbach Publishing Co.(dvk)
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Web Page Written and Maintained by Richard Parks
Copyright © Richard Parks, April 30, 2009, revised Sept. 23, 2011