Northern Pacific Railway

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The Northern Pacific Railway ( NP ) was a US railroad company operating in the states of Idaho , Minnesota , Montana , North Dakota , Oregon , Washington, and Wisconsin , and operating international routes to Winnipeg , Manitoba and southeastern British Columbia . The company was based in St. Paul , Minnesota. The company was founded on the initiative of the government in Washington to build a transcontinental railroad link in the northern United States. The golden nail was driven in by former US President Ulysses S. Grant on September 8, 1883 in Montana. In 1970 the Northern Pacific became part of the Burlington Northern Railroad .

Route network

Route network

As of 1929, the route network comprised 6784 miles (about 10,900 km) roughly from the main route from Duluth on Lake Superior to Seattle . The route led through Fargo , Bismarck , Glendive , Billings , Missoula , Spokane and Tacoma . The Great Northern Railway ran mostly further north and the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad ( Milwaukee Road ) mostly south and across South Dakota . In Tacoma, the east-west axis branched out into a northbound route to the Canadian border and a southbound route to Portland . Other important routes in Minnesota led north to Winnipeg , further east north to International Falls on the border with Ontario , from Duluth east to Ashland (Wisconsin) and from Staples (Minnesota) and Duluth south-east and south to the metropolitan area of ​​Minneapolis-Saint Paul .

In 1949, the route network was split from 6,889 miles (11,087 km) into 2,831 miles (4,556 km) main and 4,057 miles (6,529 km) branch lines, which were administered by seven railway divisions : Lake Superior, based in Duluth, St. Paul is based in Minneapolis , Fargo is based in Fargo, Yellowstone is based in Glendive, Rocky Mountain is based in Missoula, Idaho is based in Spokane, and Tacoma is based in Tacoma.


The railway company was established on July 2, 1864 as the Northern Pacific Railroad. The route planned was a connection from Lake Superior to Puget Sound , with which large areas of land should be developed for agriculture, livestock, forestry and mining. To support the construction of the railway, the company received state land along the route and issued bonds totaling $ 30 million. Josiah Perham, after whom Perham (Minnesota) was named, was elected as the first president . Construction work began in 1870. It began in Carlton, Minnesota , where there was a connection to the Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad , which was rented two years later and thus secured the connection to Duluth. In 1873 the line to Bismarck on the Missouri River in North Dakota and at the western end the connection from Kalama on the Columbia River to Tacoma on the Puget Sound was completed.

During the economic crisis of 1873 , the Northern Pacific ran into trouble and had to file for bankruptcy on June 30, 1875. With the reorganization of the company, the bonds were converted into shares. Railway construction was resumed at least on a small scale in 1877: a branch line was built from Tacoma southeast to Puyallup and another to the coal fields around Wilkeson . Much of the coal extracted there was transported via Tacoma to San Francisco , where it was needed for the steam locomotives of the Central Pacific Railroad . In a short period from 1879 to 1881 the lawyer Frederick H. Billings took over the chairmanship of the board. The realignment of the company, bond sales and an economic upswing made it possible for the first time to build 100 miles west across the Missouri River through a contract.

Northern Pacific Railroad Company preferred stock dated November 28, 1881

In 1881, Henry Villard, with the help of European investors, took control of the company in order to maintain the monopoly in the transport industry in the Pacific Northwest that had been built up after the stock market crash in 1873 . Under his leadership, the gap in the route network was closed on September 8, 1883 in Gold Creek near Garrison (Montana) . Between Wallula Junction, not far from Pasco and Portland , the tracks of the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company (OR&N) had to be used along the south bank of the Columbia River. From there there was a connection to Puget Sound via Goble , where there was a ferry connection over the Columbia River to Kalama. The OR&N was also owned by Villard, but construction of an alternative route over the Stampede Pass of the Cascade Range began before the last nail was hit in Gold Creek in order to directly develop the prosperous region around the Puget Sound . At the end of 1883, the Villard Empire collapsed and OR&N was transferred to the Union Pacific Railroad . The replacement route with the pass tunnel was not fully completed and put into operation until May 1888, after a provisional connection with switchbacks over the Stampede Pass was accessible from 1887.

Despite this success, the railway company, like other US railways of its time, lived on debt. From 1887 to 1893 Henry Villard returned to the board, but declined to chair. Instead, Thomas Fletcher Oakes, a colleague of Villard's time at Kansas Pacific , took over the chairmanship of the board on September 20, 1888 . In an attempt to expand the business, under the rule of Villard, an intensive construction of secondary lines was carried out regardless of the actual transport requirement, just to be able to open up new areas. In addition, at that time first experience had to be gained in competition with the Great Northern Railway from James J. Hill . The management errors, together with low traffic and the stock market crash in 1893, led to a second bankruptcy on October 20, 1893. After three years of struggle over supremacy, the railway company was continued under the name Northern Pacific Railway in 1896 and the task of unbundling the confusion of the company was on JP Morgan surrendered. In 1900 the St. Paul and Duluth Railroad and a year later the Seattle and International Railway were acquired. In 1901, the Northern Pacific and the Great Northern Railway took over 98% of the shares in the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad , thereby enabling important access to Chicago , the central Midwest and Texas . In the same year, the Northern Securities Co. was founded by James J. Hill and JP Morgan. Under their umbrella, the two Hill-owned companies Northern Pacific and Great Northern were combined. The Supreme Court resolved this connection in 1904 by order. Nevertheless, the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway was founded by the two companies in 1905 to build a line from Spokane to Portland.

Another attempt to merge the two companies was made in 1927, but the Interstate Commerce Commission would only have approved it under strict conditions. From 1956 studies began again on a merger of the Northern Pacific and the Great Northern. This led to the formation of the Burlington Northern Railroad (BN) on March 2, 1970 .

In 1995 the BN merged with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway to form the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway .


The company's first locomotives in 1870 were four small, two-axle construction locomotives named Minnetonka , Itaska , Ottertail and St. Cloud , which were built by Porter and Smith from Pittsburgh . The Minnetonka was delivered by ship to Kalama on the west coast of Cape Horn . It is now on display at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth. The early American stock (2'B) included the Countess of Dufferin , delivered by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1872 , which was sold to the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1877 after its use in Minnesota and the Dakota Territory , where it was the first locomotive in the Prairie Provinces was used. The first ten-wheelers (2'C) were delivered by Baldwin in 1882.

Spokane, Portland and Seattle 700, one of the NP's Northern identical locomotives, 1991 in Union Station in Portland (Oregon)

The Northern Pacific was a leader in the development of modern steam locomotives. It was one of the first US railroad companies to put the Mikado (1'D1 ') into service. The desire to burn low-quality, semi-fat coal from the company's own mines in Rosebud (Montana) even required a completely new development: The calorific value , which was 50 percent lower than that of anthracite coal , made a much larger fire box and therefore an additional trailing axle necessary . This led from the Mountain to the Northern (2'D2 '), which was first built by Alco for the railway company in 1926 and classified as Class A. The Yellowstone design with the Mallet axle formula (1'D) D2 'was also built by Alco for the first time in 1928 for the Northern Pacific and classified as number 5000 or class Z-5. Other machines of this type were built by Baldwin for the railway company in 1930. They were used to enable higher trailer loads in freight traffic and to save Mikados and their locomotive crews. The original operational area was the eponymous Yellowstone Division in the west of North Dakota and in the east of Montana. In 1933 the Northern Pacific acquired the Timken 1111 , the first locomotive with roller bearings . The company gave it the number 2626 and classified it as Class A-1. It hauled passenger trains in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana until 1957 and was then scrapped. After the Timken 1111, the Northern Pacific procured exclusively steam locomotives with roller bearings, with the exception of class Z-6 ( (2'C) C2 ' ), which was later rebuilt.

The (2'C) C2 'locomotives, classified as Z-6, Z-7 and Z-8, were so large that the Northern Pacific had to expand the clearance profile at many points on its double-track main line in Montana . Due to the dimensions of the Stampede tunnel under the Stampede Pass, they never drove west of Easton (Washington) .

In 1944 the first line diesel locomotives were introduced with the EMD FT .

passenger traffic

View of the observation deck of the North Coast Limited (ca.1948)

The most famous passenger train and the company's flagship was the North Coast Limited , which ran from Chicago to Seattle via Butte and Homestake Pass . It began operations on April 29, 1900 and, after the company merger on March 2, 1970, continued to operate briefly as the Burlington Northern train until April 30, 1971, the day before Amtrak was founded . Operations from Chicago Union Station to St. Paul were carried out by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad on their main route through Wisconsin along the Mississippi River .

In the second row of the transcontinental traffic drove the Alaskan , which was replaced on November 16, 1952 by the Mainstreeter . The Mainstreeter, which, unlike the North Coast Limited , drove via Helena and Mullan Pass , operated until Amtrak was founded, but was switched to the route of after the last run of the former Burlington Black Hawk train on April 12 and 13, 1970 and shortened to St. Paul.

The Northern Pacific also participated together with the Great Northern Railway and the Union Pacific Railroad in the connection Coast Pool Train from Portland to Seattle. The Northern Pacific and Great Northern Coast Pool Trains were also maintained until Amtrak was founded.

There were various passenger train routes that disappeared from the scene even before the merger to form Burlington Northern. These included those from St. Paul to International Falls, the connection from St. Paul to Duluth operated at times jointly with the Great Northern Railway and the Soo Line , that from Duluth to Staples, from St. Paul to Jamestown (North Dakota) and from Fargo to Winnipeg.

Web links

Commons : Northern Pacific Railway  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d George H. Drury: The Historical Guide to North American Railroads . 2nd Edition. Kalmbach Publishing Co., Waukesha 1999, ISBN 0-89024-356-5 , pp. 312-315 .
  2. ^ A b M. John Lubetkin: Jay Cooke's Gamble-The Northern Pacific Railroad, the Sioux and the Panic of 1873 . University of Oklahoma Press, Norman (Oklahoma) 2006, ISBN 0-8061-3740-1 , pp. 32-33 .
  3. John F. Strauss Jr .: Northern Pacific Pictorial, Vol. 5: Domes, RDCs and Slumbercoaches . 1st edition. Four Ways West Publications, La Mirada (California) 2001, ISBN 1-885614-45-4 .