The Modern Burlington Route, "Everywhere West"
These roads constituted the original core of the Burlington system. However, like every other major Midwestern granger many more predecessors went in to creating the modern CB&Q network. Two other notables included the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad (chartered on February 16, 1847) and the Burlington & Missouri River Rail Road. The former, acquired by the Forbes Group in 1854, was the first to complete an east-west route across Missouri, opening on February 15, 1859. The railroad connected its namesake cities and interchanged with another Forbes road, the Quincy & Palmyra, at Palmyra. This system was only 14 miles but provided a connection to the CB&Q at Quincy once a bridge had opened over the Mississippi River on November 9, 1868. Finally, there was the Kansas City, St. Joseph & Council Bluffs, an 1870 formation of various systems which had opened service between all three of its namesake cities on November 25, 1869. This had offered a direct, if somewhat roundabout, link to Council Bluffs. Following the H&StJ's completion the B&MR was chartered on May 12, 1869 to build another lengthy route, this time from Burlington directly across the state to Council Bluffs/Omaha at the eastern point of the recently completed Transcontinental Railroad (Union Pacific). Work on the road proceeded quickly and, via lease, had reached Council Bluffs on January 3, 1870 by way of the St. Joseph & Council Bluffs Rail Road from Pacific Junction. A direct link into Omaha was established by July 19, 1871 (Omaha & South Western Railroad). The CB&Q took lease of the B&MR on December 31, 1872.
With a route already established to Kansas City the Burlington was fast becoming one of the Midwest's preeminent carriers. The two men most instrumental behind its great expansion was John Murray Forbes and John L. Gardner. Forbes died on October 12, 1898, followed by Gardner on December 10th. However, before their passing most of the modern CB&Q had been put into place. On May 29, 1882 the "Q" reached Denver, Colorado and then four years later finally had a coveted direct route into the Twin Cities, completed on August 23, 1886. There was additional growth during the 1890's as a new corridor opened to St. Louis on March 4, 1894. The railroad pushed further west into Montana, completing a connection with the Northern Pacific at Huntley on October 28th that same year. The transcontinental NP became more than just an interchange partner; the great "Empire Builder," James J. Hill, who was instrumental in finishing the Great Northern added the Northern Pacific to his portfolio in 1899, followed by the Burlington on May 21, 1901. Shortly thereafter he also established the Spokane, Portland & Seattle as a bridge road linking Spokane, Washington with Portland, Oregon.
Even into the 20th century the Burlington's expansion was not over. Its biggest acquisition came on December 19, 1908 via the Colorado & Southern Railway. The C&S had been created on December 19, 1898 to take over the bankrupt Union Pacific, Denver & Gulf Railway stretching from Orin Junction, Wyoming to the Texas/New Mexico border via Cheyenne, Denver, and Pueblo. The property, a former Union Pacific subsidiary, also included a segment of narrow-gauge trackage stretching southwest of Denver which reached the mining towns of Gunnison, Leadville, Como, Georgetown, and others. These fabled lines were operated by the Colorado Central and most notable of all the Denver, South Park & Pacific (until 1918 it also included the Colorado Midland Railway, operated jointly with the Rio Grande). Finally, there was the Fort Worth & Denver City, which fell under C&S control. At Texline, Texas the FW&DC connected with the C&S end-of-track and offered through service to Fort Worth. On June 1, 1925 it acquired trackage rights over Rock Island's Chicago, Rock Island & Gulf to reach Dallas.
Beyond Dallas/Fort Worth the C&S took over the Trinity & Brazos Valley Railway (T&BV) in 1905. It was jointly owned with the Rock Island and originally extended from Cleburne to Mexia before expanding to Houston in 1907, which also included a branch from Teague to Waxahachie. To reach nearby Galveston the road established trackage rights over the Texas & New Orleans (Southern Pacific). Chronic financial problems forced the T&BV into bankruptcy during 1914 and it was reorganized as the Burlington-Rock Island Railroad on July 7, 1930 with the two parent roads remaining in control. The Cleburne-Mexia segment, which utilized trackage rights over the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe (Santa Fe) to reach Fort Worth was abandoned during the 1930's. This followed another change in the trackage rights agreement between Dallas and Waxahachie as the B-RI switched from the T&NO to the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (Katy) on June 1, 1931. Beyond the great Lone Star State few other major expansions occurred (one notable addition was a new extension connecting the C&S at Orin Junction with the CB&Q's original trackage into Montana at Fromberg, which opened on October 18, 1914). The modern Chicago, Burlington & Quincy was a powerful system operating 11,000 route miles from the Midwest to the Rocky Mountains and Gulf Coast.
The Profitable Burlington
The Burlington had long been a prosperous carrier throughout the 19th century and this continued into the 20th. The finely managed company was one of the few to never experience a bankruptcy throughout its corporate history. By the 1920's it was somewhat unique as a granger in that it did rely greatly on agriculture. Instead, its freight was diversified and included everything from coal (tapped from the Ohio River valley in southern Illinois) to manufactured goods. There was also various less-than-carload movements and several interchange gateways. Following the Great Depression of 1929 and the downtrodden economy of the 1930's the Burlington struggled but avoided bankruptcy. According to Mike Schafer's book, "Classic American Railroads," its worst year ever was 1932, the same year that Ralph Budd became president. Arguably the road's most influential leader he turned the company into an even greater machine of efficiency. Budd, unlike most railroaders,
did not hold onto outdated operational practices. This issue, the lack of modernity and innovation, plagued the industry long after World War II. He realized as early as the
1930s that railroads would continually need to find better ways of retaining and sustaining business if they were to survive in the modern age of highways and airliners.
The most publicly visible aspect of this was the Zephyr streamliner. Rival Union Pacific beat it to the punch by acquiring the first-ever such trainset on February 25, 1934 known as the M-10000. However, it was the Burlington's version which ultimately proved the most successful. As Mike Schafer and Joe Welsh note in their book, "Streamliners: History Of A Railroad Icon," the railroad placed its order with the Budd Company on June 17, 1933 for a sleek, stainless-steel trainset which was 197-feet long and featured three cars (Railway Post Office, baggage-coach, and coach-parlor observation). Received on April 7, 1934 it was the first of its kind to utilize a diesel engine; a 660 horsepower prime mover from the Winton Engine Company (a subsidiary of General Motors/Electro-Motive). The diesel proved much more reliable than the M-10000's gasoline-distillate prime mover. The Zephyr #9900 (or Pioneer Zephyr) wowed the public with its sleek appearance and blazing fast speeds. During its legendary trial run held on May 26th the trainset left Denver at 5:05 AM in anticipation of reaching Chicago that same day. With an average speed of 78 mph it completed the 1,015-mile trip in just 14 hours, arriving in the Windy City at 7:10 PM later that evening.
Not surprisingly, this accomplishment and the train's good looks made it an instant publicity success and the Burlington went on to order several trainsets. Eventually, an entire fleet graced its rails with names like the Twin Cities Zephyr, Mark Twain Zephyr, Denver Zephyr, and Ozark State Zephyr. Perhaps the railroad’s most famous was the California Zephyr, jointly run with the Rio Grande and Western Pacific. The train, launched in 1949, traveled through some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. Thanks to the train's top notch service it witnessed strong ridership through the 1960's. As the financial fortunes of Western Pacific waned the train was discontinued in 1970 while the Rio Grande operated its segment as the Rio Grande Zephyr for several years following. While Budd retired from the CB&Q in 1949 his legacy carried on for many years. Always looking to cut costs and improve service he launched the transition from steam to diesel and implemented Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) as early as 1927 (Steam was gone from main line service by the late 1950's although the C&S maintained a single locomotive in service into 1962. In addition, fan trips were maintained through President Harry Murphy, Budd's successor, until his retirement in 1965 when these were discontinued the following year.).
Diesel Locomotive Roster
The American Locomotive Company
The Baldwin Locomotive Works
The Electro-Motive Corporation/Electro-Motive Division
|F3A||116A-128A, 116D-129D, 130A-138A, 130D-138D, 160A-162A, 9960A-9962A, 9960D-9962D||1947-1949||54|
|F3B||116B-138B, 116C-138C, 160B-162B, 160C-162C, 9960B-9962B||1947-1949||55|
|NW2||603, 605-606 (FW&DC)||1941-1946||3|
|F7A||700A-702A, 700D-702D (C&S)||1950||6|
|F7B||700B-702B, 700C-702C (C&S)||1950||6|
|F7A||750A-752A, 750D-752D (FW&DC)||1950||6|
|F7B||750B-752B, 750C-752C (FW&DC)||1950||6|
|Zephyr Trainset||9900-9905, 9906A-9907A, 9906B-9907B, 9908||1934-1939||11|
|E5A||9909, 9910A-9912A, 9913, 9914A, 9914B, 9915A, 9915B||1940-1941||8|
|E7A||9916A-9937A, 9916B-9936B, 9949||1945-1949||44|
|E8A||9937B, 9938A-9949A, 9938B-9948B, 9964-9969||1950-1952||30|
|E8A||9981A, 9981B (FW&DC)||1952||2|
|E9A||9985A-9989A, 9985B-9989B, 9990-9995||1954-1956||16|
Steam Locomotive Roster
|A-1 Through A-6||American||4-4-0|
|D-1 Through D-7||Consolidation||2-8-0|
|G-1 Through G-10||Switcher||0-6-0|
|H Through H-4||Mogul||2-6-0|
|K-1 Through K-10||American||4-6-0|
|M-1 Through M-3||Santa Fe||2-10-2|
|O-1 Through O-4||Mikado||2-8-2|
|P-1 Through P-6||Atlantic||4-4-2|
|R-1 Through R-5||Prairie||2-6-2|
|S-1 Through S-3||Pacific||4-6-2|
Murphy continued the improvements by updating the road's big classification yard in Chicago, Clyde Yard, into a modern hump facility, expanded CTC to protect 1,750 main line miles by the 1960's, opened the "Centennial Cutoff" on October 28, 1952 (this route shortened the distance between Chicago and Kansas City by 22 miles), and acquired the popular Vista-Domes for its top trains. The railroad, however, was destined to be merged with its allying roads, a dream James Hill had envisioned since the early 20th century. The attempt had been made numerous times until the Interstate Commerce Commission approved the deal in the late 1960's. On March 2, 1970 Burlington Northern was born through the CB&Q, GN, NP, and SP&S. The BN lasted only 25 years before merging with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe
to become the Burlington Northern Santa Fe on September 22, 1995. Even though the Burlington is no
more today it continues to live on as almost all of its main lines remain important routes for its successor. Forever recognized as one of
the best managed railroads of all time perhaps it is best remembered for maintaining a close relationship with the communities it served.
Books Featured In This Article
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy