Chronological History


The first ten miles of the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad are completed, a direct predecessor of the Chicago & North Western.

July 4 marks groundbreaking ceremonies for the Pacific Railroad, a direct predecessor of the Missouri Pacific. The first rails of what will eventually become the Southern Pacific are laid at Buffalo Bayou, near Houston, Tex.

President Abraham Lincoln signs the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862, which names and directs two companies, the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific, to construct a transcontinental railroad.

Ground is broken at Omaha for Union Pacific, but construction is delayed because of insufficient funding. Central Pacific begins construction east from Sacramento, Calif.

The first UP rail is laid in Omaha. The predecessor of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad (Katy), is incorporated as the Union Pacific Railway Southern Branch. The manual block system of traffic control is developed. This is later replaced, in 1872, by the automatic block signal, which electrifies track circuits, reducing the frequency of accidents and collisions.

George Pullman, along with Andrew Carnegie, approaches Durant with the idea of sleeper cars. George Westinghouse patents the air brake. The refrigerator car is developed. UP establishes its Land Office, and land is sold for $5 an acre.

Confederate veteran Major Eli H. Janney patents the automatic coupler.

The golden spike is driven at Promontory Summit, Utah, by officials of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific, marking the inauguration of the transcontinental railroad.

Miners flock to Colorado.

The Denver & Rio Grande completes its initial 3' gauge line between Denver and Colorado Springs, Colo. The Texas & Pacific Railway incorporate to build a line from Marshall, Texas, on through El Paso to San Diego, Calif.

The Credit Mobilier scandal emerges. Thomas C. Durant and other UP officials reap $23 million in dividends from their construction company, the Credit Mobilier, passing its stock to influential members of Congress.

Union Pacific opens the first bridge across the Missouri River between Omaha and Council Bluffs.

The Missouri Pacific Railway is created by the investors who purchased the Pacific Railroad.

Jay Gould acquires controlling interest in the Missouri Pacific.

Union Pacific purchases the Kansas Pacific and Denver Pacific railroads.

Missouri Pacific gains control of the St.Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern.

Standard Time, proposed by the nation's railroads, is adopted throughout the United States.

The Oregon Short Line is completed, connecting the UP main line at Granger, Wyo., to the Pacific Northwest via the Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation Company. The Southern Pacific company is created.

The Interstate Commerce Commission, the nation's first independent regulatory agency, was established to oversee railroads. The ICC was given additional power to regulate virtually all aspects of the business in 1920 when the government returned railroads to their owners after taking control during World War I. The ICC was replaced by the Surface Transportation Board in 1995.

Eli H. Janney obtains a patent for an automatic coupler.

Narrow gauge track mileage peaks on the Denver & Rio Grande as they begin a program of standard gauging on key routes.

Union Pacific Coal Company, the first UP subsidiary, is established. The Denver & Rio Grande completes the conversion of its Denver to Salt Lake City main line from 3' gauge to standard gauge.

Jay Gould dies and control of his rail empire passes to his son, George Gould.

Union Pacific falls into bankruptcy.

Union Pacific is sold to a group of investors for $110 million. Their number includes E.H. Harriman, then-president of the Illinois Central.


Union Pacific purchases 38% of Southern Pacific stock and assumes control of the railroad.

The Western Pacific Railway is organized to build the San Francisco to Salt Lake City route to compete with SP. Western Pacific is part of George Gould's Rio Grande-Missouri Pacific system.

The San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad is completed. The last spike is driven west of Las Vegas, providing UP access to Los Angeles.

Construction of Western Pacific begins at Oakland, CA. The Pacific Fruit Express Company is formed, with joint ownership by SP and UP.

The Denver, Northwestern & Pacific Railroad (later the Denver & Salt Lake) completes its initial line west of Denver toward Bond, CO. Built by David Moffat, the line is planned as competition for the Denver & Rio Grande Western on the Denver to Salt Lake City route.

Union Pacific and Southern Pacific begin using articulated steam locomotives as helper engines on mountain grades. The articulation featured a "hinged" frame that permitted bigger boilers, yet allowed the locomotives to negotiate sharp curves. The concept reached its peak in the

E.H. Harriman dies, Sept. 9, 1909. The final spike of Western Pacific is driven near Keddie, Calif.

UP is ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court to sell its 46% share of SP stock and relinquish control.

The Denver, Northwestern & Pacific Railroad (later the Denver & Salt Lake) reaches Craig, Colo., its final terminal, less than half the distance toward its goal of Salt Lake City, Utah. Built by David Moffat, the line planned as competition for the Denver & Rio Grande Western on the Denver to Salt Lake City route.

MP and SLIM&S declare bankruptcy and are placed into receivership. WP goes into receivership, followed by D&RGW. A year later, WP reorganizes. Gould loses control of the railroad.

MP and SLIM&S are reorganized and merged into the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company.

Discovery of the Lincoln railroad car silver in a UP vault in Omaha leads to the founding of the Union Pacific Historical Museum in the headquarters building.

MP gains control of the New Orleans, Texas & Mexico Railroad and its subsidiaries. By

MP and NOT&M have added several other Texas and Louisiana railroads to their empire.

The 6.21 mile-long Moffat Tunnel is completed in Colorado, allowing Denver & Salt Lake to abandon its route over Rollins Pass and shorten its route by 22.84 miles.

The Denver & Rio Grande Western gains control of the Denver & Salt Lake.

WP completes construction between Keddie and Bieber, CA on the Inside Gateway route. This line, in conjunction with the Great Northern, competes with SP for traffic to Oregon and California.

SP gains control of the St. Louis Southwestern Railway, commonly known as the Cotton Belt.

MP declares bankruptcy and is placed in trusteeship.

The nation's first streamliner, the M-10000, introduces luxury passenger service. The Denver & Rio Grande Western completes the construction of the Dotsero cutoff, connecting the D&RGW and D&SL main lines in central Colorado and opening a direct route between Denver and Salt Lake City.

Western Pacific goes into receivership.

UP opens the Sun Valley Resort in Idaho, the country's first western ski resort. It features the nation's first ski lift with chairs, invented by railroad personnel in Omaha.

The City of San Francisco and the City of Los Angeles Streamliners inaugurate service between Chicago and their namesake cities, and The City of Denver begins daily service between Chicago and Denver on the fastest long-distance schedule in the United States.

SP introduces a new streamlined and steam-powered Coast Daylight passenger train, dubbed "The Most Beautiful Train in the World," for its flashy red, orange and black color scheme.

Diesel-electric locomotives are introduced on the Missouri Pacific.

Cecil B. DeMille's motion picture "Union Pacific" premieres in Omaha.

The largest steam locomotive ever built, the Big Boy, goes into service on UP lines. This same year, diesel power is introduced for freight service.

The last steam engine built for the UP, No. 844, is constructed.

The Western Pacific emerges from reorganization.

Blizzards strike Nebraska and Wyoming, closing UP's main line for seven weeks.

The Streamliner City of San Francisco is snowbound on Donner Pass in California. The three-day-long rescue effort makes national headlines.

The Missouri Pacific retires its last steam locomotive.

A 23-year trusteeship, the longest in U.S. rail history, ends as MP is reorganized. The Gulf Coast lines (NOTM, BSL&W, O&NW, NI&N, ISM&E, SLB&M, IGN, SAS, SAUG, AB, SB&RGV, SL, H&BV, HNS) are absorbed into MP.

UP acquires Spokane International, giving UP a connection with Canadian Pacific Railway. Litchfield & Madison is merged into Chicago and North Western. Steam engines make their last runs on SP.

UP targets Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific as a merger partner, beginning one of the longest, most bitterly contested merger proposals in railroad history.

SP and Santa Fe begin an attempt to acquire the WP. Minneapolis & St. Louis is merged into C&NW.

SP absorbs its Texas & New Orleans subsidiary.

MP acquires railroading's first solid state computer, and IBM 7070.

Texas & Pacific gains control of the Kansas, Oklahoma & Gulf and Midland Valley Railways. The KO&G-MV partner, Oklahoma City-Ada-Atoka Railway, is sold to the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe.

The Pacific Electric subsidiary is absorbed into SP.

ICC rejects the SP-AT&SF bid to acquire the WP.

MP gains control of the Chicago & Eastern Illinois Railroad. SP completes the 78-mile Palmdale-Colton cutoff, allowing trains to bypass the Los Angeles basin.

UP acquires the Mount Hood Railroad. The Chicago Great Western is merged into C&NW. MP and C&NW gain joint control of the Alton and Southern.

The Union Pacific Corporation is established as a holding company, with Union Pacific Railroad as one of its operating companies. The Ft. Dodge, Des Moines & Southern is leased by C&NW. MP sells the Evansville line (eastern side) of C&EI to Louisville & Nashville, and the Chicago to Woodland junction passes into joint MP-L&N ownership.

Western Pacific's California Zephyr vista dome passenger train makes its last run.

D&RGW loses the last vestige of its steam-powered narrow gauge empire when the Chama, N.M., to Durango, Colo., line is abandoned. Durango to Silverton remains as a tourist attraction, while Chama to Antonito, Colo., is sold for tourist train use.

The National Rail Passenger Service Act transfers most passenger service to Amtrak (America, Travel and Track). Some railroads, notably the Denver & Rio Grande Western, Southern, and Chicago, and Rock Island & Pacific hold out and continue to operate their own trains.

The ICC rules in favor of the UP-CRI&P merger, but three months later UP terminates its offer for the CRI&P, as the line is steadily declining. Rock Island falls into receivership.

The Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform (4R) Act calls for the restructuring of bankrupt lines and makes $2.1 billion in repayable financing available to northeastern and midwestern companies. The Chicago & Eastern Illinois and Texas & Pacific subsidiaries are absorbed into MP; the parent corporation, Mississippi River Corp., is renamed the Missouri Pacific Corp.

The first double-stack car for container traffic is designed and tested by SP.

Pacific Fruit Express, jointly owned by SP and UP, is dissolved equally. It becomes the SPFE and UPFE companies.

President Jimmy Carter signs the Staggers Rail Act, partially deregulating the rail industry.

The Union Pacific, Missouri Pacific and Western Pacific railroads file merger applications with the Interstate Commerce Commission. Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific ceases operations. In the following years, many of its lines are sold to other railroads, including MP, SSW and MKT. SSW acquires the Rock Island "Tucumcari" line and gains access to Kansas City. The MKT subsidiary Oklahoma, Kansas & Texas is created by purchasing Herington, Kan., to Dallas, Texas, from CRI&P.

The UP-MP-WP merger is approved by ICC. As conditions of the merger, D&RGW gains trackage rights from Pueblo to Kansas City and SP gains trackage rights from Kansas City to St. Louis via MP.

D&RGW ceases operation of its Denver-Salt Lake City Rio Grande Zephyr and joins Amtrak.

UP and C&NW complete a connector line to the Powder River coal basin fields in eastern Wyoming.

C&NW purchases the Kansas City-Minneapolis "Spine Line" from the Rock Island trustee after fierce competition from the Soo Line. C&NW proceeds to abandon the now-redundant ex-CGW line.

UP acquires the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, commonly known as the Katy. Rio Grande Industries acquires the Southern Pacific Railroad. The D&RGW and SP railroads are merged, retaining the SP name.

UP's Harriman Dispatching Center opens in Omaha, centralizing all train dispatching in one location.

UP purchases 25 percent of Chicago & North Western stock, which is held in a voting trust. SP gains access to Chicago with the purchase of the St. Louis to Chicago line from the defunct Chicago, Missouri & Western. SP sets up a SPCSL (SP-Chicago-St. Louis) subsidiary.

Disastrous flooding during the summer months strikes the midwestern states, causing millions of dollars in damage to UP and other railroads' physical plants. Train service is disrupted for several weeks throughout the region, as floodwaters crest.

UP gains minority control of the C&NW following the ICC's approval of the voting control granted by its stock holdings. UP makes an offer for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe in competition with Burlington Northern.

UP merges with C&NW after acquiring the remaining 75% of its stock. UP ends its attempts to acquire the Santa Fe. The BN and AT&SF merge into the BNSF Corporation, and SP gains significant trackage rights from BNSF as a merger concession. 

July 23, Union Pacific announces it will run a special passenger train across major portions of the United States to carry the Centennial Olympic Games flame to Atlanta. 

Aug. 3, UP and SP announce their intent to merge.

Sept. 27, Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe reach a comprehensive agreement to preserve and intensify rail competition following the UP/SP merger.

Nov. 30, Union Pacific files its application with the Interstate Commerce Commission to acquire Southern Pacific.

Dec. 28, The 50,000th coal train is operated out of Wyoming's Powder River Basin, 12 years after UP operated the first train over the newly constructed connector line on Aug. 16, 1984.

Jan. 19, plans are announced of the intent to sell the 203-mile "Colony Line" in western South Dakota and Wyoming to the Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern Railroad. The 40-day journey of the Union Pacific 1996 Olympic Torch Relay Train begins its run on April 26. The Surface Transportation Board votes to approve the UP/SP merger on July 3.

July 27, Dick Davidson is elected as Union Pacific Corporation COO, and Ron Burns is elected as Union Pacific Railroad president. The Union Pacific-Southern Pacific merger takes effect on September 11, forming the largest railroad in the U.S.

Nov. 6, Ron Burns resigns as CEO and president of Union Pacific Railroad. Jerry Davis is named president and COO of the railroad. Dick Davidson, president and COO of UP Corporation and chairman of UPRR, is named CEO of the railroad.

Nov. 21, Dick Davidson is elected chairman and CEO of Union Pacific Corporation, succeeding the retiring Drew Lewis.

Jan. 1, the Missouri Pacific Railroad legally merges into Union Pacific Railroad, with UPRR remaining as the surviving corporation.

March 3, the Feather River Canyon line reopens after massive flooding closed the line on Jan. 2.

May 2, The first major step in the UP/SP merger is taken with the completion of the first of four cutovers to the computerized Transportation Control System (TCS); the former Denver & Rio Grande Western portion of the SP. The former SP headquarters building in San Francisco is offered for sale on June 15.

Aug. 27, A joint safety team of UP managers, union employees and Federal Railroad Administration representatives is established to review safety across the UP system.

Sept. 3, UP and FRA unveiled a package of Safety Assurance Compliance Process measures (SACP). Union Pacific files a Service Recovery Plan with the Surface Transportation Board aimed at eliminating congestion on October 1.

UP and BNSF announce that a joint regional dispatching center for Gulf Coast operations will be opened in Spring, Texas, on March 15.

April 2, work begins on restoring 17 miles of former Missouri-Kansas-Texas track in New Braunfels, Texas, to improve train movement between Ft. Worth and San Antonio.

April 17, UP and BNSF announce the sale of the jointly-owned Camas Prairie Railroad in Idaho to a subsidiary of North American RailNet, Inc.

July 6, the sale of 12 miles of the Colorado Royal Gorge line to a tourist railroad is announced.

July 10, a new $70 million intermodal terminal opens at Marion, Ark., 10 miles west of Memphis, Tenn.

Sept. 15, Ike Evans is named president and COO, and Jerry Davis is named vice chairman of Union Pacific Railroad.

Nov. 23, A new $32 million diesel shop is dedicated at Hinkle, Ore.

Dec. 1, A special train dedicates the restoration of double track in Western Iowa.

Union Pacific increases its financial interest in Ferrocarril Mexicano (Ferromex) to 26 percent. UP and Burlington Northern Santa Fe agree to coordinated dispatching operations covering Southern California, the Kansas City area and the coal-rich Powder River Basin of Wyoming. It is the largest railroad coordinated dispatching agreement in history.

The rebuilt classification yard in Roseville, Calif., is reopened and named after retired UP Vice Chairman Jerry Davis.

One of the largest railroad construction projects in modern times, the rebuilding of the double track main line and the addition of a third main track across Central Nebraska is completed. The segment is the busiest freight corridor in North America.

An agreement is reached with the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors Corporation to lease 1,000 new SD70M locomotives, the largest single unit order in history and the beginning of an extensive locomotive replacement program.


A 105-mile double-track project is completed between Gibbon, Neb., and Marysville, Kan. A new auto unloading facility is opened in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Also, another new auto facility is opened in Centreville, Ill., serving the St. Louis area.

Union Pacific tightens security across its system following terrorist attacks in New York City and against the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. Union Pacific begins adding large American flag decals to the sides of its locomotives.

Union Pacific named railroad supplier to the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.

Union Pacific Corporation celebrates construction of its new 19-story headquarters building in Omaha.

The sale of track and land between San Jose and Fremont, Calif., to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority is announced. The company also announces the sale of land and track to the Utah Transit Authority for commuter train operation along the Wasatch Front.

Union Pacific operates a special train carrying the Olympic flame across 11 states over more than 3,200 miles en route to the Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

The Union Pacific Railroad Museum is opened at the former Carnegie Library building in Council Bluffs. Union Pacific opens a new $181 million Chicago region intermodal facility in Rochelle, Il.

James R. Young is named president of Union Pacific Railroad, succeeding Ivor J. (Ike) Evans. Union Pacific Center opens in Omaha, the new headquarters building for Union Pacific Corporation and Union Pacific Railroad.

Union Pacific bases the world's first Genset switcher and first hybrid Green Goat locomotive in California.

A heritage program that features specially painted locomotives to salute merger predecessor railroads is announced.

Kenefick Park is dedicated in Omaha’s Lauritzen Gardens to honor retired UP President John C. Kenefick. The park displays "Big Boy" steam locomotive No. 4023 and "Centennial" diesel No. 6900.

James R. Young is elected chief executive officer of Union Pacific Corporation, succeeding Dick Davidson who remains as chairman of the board.

Jim Young is elected chairman of the board.

First of sixty new environmentally friendly ultra-low emission diesel locomotives for use in Los Angeles Basin rail yards unveiled.

90 percent of Union Pacific’s road freight trains now have a Train Image Recorder (TIR) equipped locomotive in the lead.

150th anniversary of the signing of the Pacific Railway Act of 1862, which chartered The Union Pacific Railroad Company to build west from the Missouri River for the transcontinental railroad. In recognition, Union Pacific hosts family days and public celebrations, and sends UP Steam No. 844 on a goodwill UP 150 tour covering more than 13,000 miles over the course of the year..

As a way to share its heritage with communities that grew up along UP's tracks or near terminals, Union Pacific creates its Train Town USA registry.

John J. Koraleski is named president and chief executive officer. Jim Young remains as chairman of the board.

UP acquires its third steam locomotive, "Big Boy" No. 4014.

Lance M. Fritz is president and CEO. John J. Koraleski is chairman of the board.