NORTHERN PACIFIC RAILWAY

 

  First of the Northern Transcontinentals!

 

 



On July 2, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed an Act of Congress creating the Northern Pacific Railroad Company. The railroad was chartered to build from the Great Lakes to Puget Sound and its route followed the journey of the 1804-1806 Lewis and Clark expedition across the West. The 20 years which followed the signing of the charter saw a continuous struggle to complete the road in the face of shaky financing, battles for control the company, and national economic upheavals.

Jay Cooke and the Banana Belt
Groundbreaking on the eastern section began near Carlton, Minnesota in 1870. At nearly the same time the Northern Pacific began construction on its western end at Kalama, Washington Territory, on the banks of the Columbia River. The directors of the Northern Pacific hired Cooke and Company, the famed Civil War bond sellers, to promote the route. Jay Cooke spent time and money promoting the line, so much so that the route of the Northern Pacific quickly became known as his Banana Belt. While Cooke promoted the road, he also became more and more directly involved with the lines financing. From 1870 to 1873 the Northern Pacificís crews pushed the railheads from Duluth, Minnesota, to Bismarck, Dakota Territory, in the east, and from Kalama to Tacoma, Washington Territory, in the West. Unfortunately, the bonds used to finance construction failed to sell in sufficient numbers to support expenses. Cooke and Company overextended itself, and on September 18, 1873, the banking house closed its doors. This in turn lead to a great loss of confidence in the American banking system, and quickly created the Panic of 1873.

Reorganization and the Rise of Henry Villard
The unfinished Northern Pacific languished for several years, until Frederick Billings and a group of eastern businessmen reorganized the road in 1878. Streamlining the road's finances, they augmented the company coffers with more than $40 million in bond sales (Tell Tale. Volume XXVII, Number Seven, July, 1964, p. 4). This helped Billings kick off a building boom which would last for more then a decade. The Northern Pacific began pushing its railheads again, moving west from Bismarck and east from Wallula Junction in Washington Territory, a site near the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. This same period saw the rise of a man who was to play a key role in completing the Northern Pacific: Henry Villard.

Ferdinand Heinrich Gustav Hilgard had been born in Bavaria in 1835, emigrating to America in 1853, at the ripe old age of 18. Settling in Illinois, the well-educated Hilgard became a journalist and editor, covering the Lincoln-Douglas debates, then the American Civil War for the larger New York papers, changing his name to Villard along the way. He went back to his native Germany in 1871, where he came in contact with European financial interests speculating in American railroads. When he returned to the United States after the Panic of 1873, he was the representative of these concerns. In the few short years prior to 1880, Villard intervened on the behalf of these interests in several transportation systems in Oregon. Through Villard's work, most of these lines wound up in the hands of the European creditors holding company, the Oregon and Transcontinental. Of the lines held by the Oregon and Transcontinental, the most important was the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company, a line running east from Portland along the south bank of the Columbia River to a connection with the Union Pacific's Oregon Short Line at the confluence of the Columbia and Snake rivers near Wallula. Within a decade of his return, Henry Villard became the head of a transportation empire in the Pacific Northwest that had but one real competitor, the ever-expanding Northern Pacific.

The Northern Pacific, with cash in hand from the bond sale by 1881, was moving to a completion that would mean the rise of the Puget Sound region over Oregon's premier city, Portland, as well as the possibility of a competing line for Villard's Oregon Railway and Navigation just across the river, on the north bank of the Columbia. At this point Villard set up his ďBlind Pool,Ē a fund of more than eight million dollars from his European financial contacts which he could use for an as yet unannounced purpose. This was Villard's answer to the problem the coming of the Northern Pacific presented. He would simply co-opt it. Villard set about to make Navigation the Northern Pacificís outlet to Puget Sound, via Portland and Kalama, and to give Oregon a direct link to the east, via the completion of the Northern Pacific. Using the money of the blind pool to secure control of the Northern Pacific, he became its seventh president in September, 1881 (Tell Tale. Volume XXVII, Number Four, April, 1964, p. 8). At the dawn of 1882, the only thing which stood in Villard's way was Montana.

The Rush to Gold Creek
The year 1882 found the Northern Pacific stood poised at the brink of completion, after just under 20 years. In the previous year the Northern Pacificís Construction Department made tremendous strides. From the east, the railheads were pushed nearly to the banks of the Yellowstone River, 690 miles from Saint Paul, Minnesota, at Glendive, Montana Territory. In the west, track gangs built from Wallula, near the confluence of the Columbia and Snake rivers, northeast to Spokane Falls, while at the same time crews in Spokane pushed the road across Lake Pend Oreille towards the Clark Fork River.

Now in the east, crews were moving out of Glendive and skirting the north bank of the Yellowstone. In the middle of 1882 the Yellowstone Division was organized, from Glendive to Forsyth, Montana Territory. With less than a month to go in the year crews reached the last crossing of the Yellowstone, just to the east of Livingston, Montana Territory, having built 115 miles of railroad in three months. Grading crews were working far ahead of the track crews. Bozeman Tunnel, between Livingston and Bozeman, Montana Territory, was begun in the first months of 1882, even before the rail head had reached Billings, Montana Territory, 128 miles away. The tunnel collapsed after five months of crews working through clay and unstable rock, when the Northern Pacific renewed its efforts here, it did so using hydraulic mining methods, washing the clay away in a long flume. The Railroad also redoubled its efforts at Bozeman Pass, building a temporary line in the winter of 1882 to bridge the gap in the line. The tunnel itself would not be completed until December of 1883, after the gold spike ceremony.

While crews were repairing Bozeman Tunnel, another crew was grading and boring the line to Mullan Tunnel. This line, between Bozeman, Helena and Missoula, Montana Territory, had been one of the last questions of location facing the Northern Pacific. William Milnor Roberts, Chief Engineer during Jay Cooke's brief reign prior to collapse in 1873, had surveyed numerous passes in Montana in 1872 and recommended Deer Lodge Pass, which avoided Helena and the necessity of constructing a tunnel at the summit. Now, in the early 1880s, Chief Engineer Adna Anderson made the decision to cross the Continental Divide at Mullan. The route was steeper, and required a nearly mile-long tunnel, but had the benefits of being 40 miles shorter, as well as traveling through Helena, the soon to be state capitol. By the spring of 1882 crews had constructed a cut to the west heading of the tunnel. In the year that followed, crews moved from rock to rotting limestone and finally to underground streams. Facing a completion date no sooner than the winter of 1883, Villard ordered yet another temporary line to bridge the gap. Like Bozeman, this tunnel would not be opened until after September 8, 1883.

Crews on the west end put roughly 150 miles of track into service in 1881 and 1882. They had been build from Ainsworth, Washington Territory, near the present day Tri-Cities, through Spokane Falls, Washington Territory, and on to the Clark Fork River. Gangs were working almost simultaneously between Ainsworth and Spokane Falls, and from Spokane Falls to Lake Pend Oreille. By the spring of 1882 grading crews had crossed into Montana Territory proper, following the surveyors and working southeast along the Clark Fork, aiming for Missoula. The work force of nearly 4,000 men, with over 2,600 Chinese, were creating boomtowns of saloons, restaurants, flop houses and tents at the construction sites (Renz, Louis T. The Construction of the Northern Pacific Main Line. Privately published: 1973, p. 40). The spring of 1883 saw the rail head reaching Paradise, Montana Territory, with small crews being transferred to Missoula to work back towards the west. As the construction crews moved across the Flathead Indian Reservation their composition changed. Instead of Chinese, the gangs were now primarily Mormons, which Louis Renz notes in his short history of the Northern Pacificís construction as being ďFortunateĒ (Ibid., p. 42).

As completion neared, the Northern Pacific discharged over 1,700 workers from the western force, most of whom wound up working for a soon-to-be competitor, the Union Pacific's Oregon Short Line, charged with reaching the Oregon Railway and Navigation.

June, 1883, saw the railhead just under 40 miles west of Missoula, but having crossed two major obstacles, Marent and O'Keefe trestles, which would consume six months time and a crew of 150 men. By August, eastern and western construction crews had narrowed the Northern Pacific line to a 64 mile gap in the immediate vicinity of Missoula. East of Missoula, crews were slowed by a large amount of trestle and bridge work, while in the west, crews were working their way down Evaro Hill. During Villard's presidency, crews were averaging a mile and half of track laying each day (Tell Tale. Volume XXVII, Number Seven, July, 1964 p. 5).

In August a shoo-fly was built in a final ten mile segment, leaving the final main line location open for the completion ceremony on September 8. The run around was turned into a contest, with crews racing to the completion at a flag in the center of the stretch. The start time was 5 A.M. on August 23. By nearly 1 P.M. eastern crews had laid four miles of rail, but they were subsequently delayed by an accident and western crews reached the flag at 1:50. By 3 P.M. the railheads met and Michael Gilford, from the western crew, drove the last spike, 1,198 miles east of Lake Superior, 847 miles east of Puget Sound and 59 miles from Helena.

The final ceremonies at Gold Creek were staged at a purpose-built pavilion, with board walks and evergreen branch bunting. Though the Northern Pacific had ordered 23 Pullman sleepers and 48 day coaches in anticipation of its grand opening in 1883, the group of visiting dignitaries proved so unwieldy that the Northern Pacific had to lease equipment enough to fill out four passenger trains to get the guests to the spot (Renz, p. 25).

Northern Pacific President Villard, former Northern Pacific President Billings, former U.S. President Grant and Secretary of the Interior Henry Teller, the Fifth Infantry Band from Fort Keogh near Miles City, as well as scores of Montanans, looked on as western and eastern crews finished the remaining 1,200 feet of track remaining between western and eastern crews. They began on Villard's command at 3 P.M., five hours after the purported start time of 10 A.M. The last spike and the sledge hammer had been connected to make a telegraphic click at Northern Pacific offices in New York, St. Paul and Portland, a sound the Northern Pacificís operators finally heard after more than seven hours at the key, at 5:18 P.M. Shortly thereafter, the army units started a hundred gun salute and the playing of the Grand Triumphal March, composed by Bandmaster Price for the occasion. It was just a week short of Villard's second year as president of the Northern Pacific. (Nolan, Edward W. Northern Pacific Views. Helena [Mont.]: Montana Historical Society Press, 1983, pp. 70-73).

The completion of what would become the Rocky Mountain Division yielded the Northern Pacific more than a million acres of land,and subsequently caused Henry Villard to yield control of the Northern Pacific itself (Renz, p. 27). His dramatic rise as railroad speculator would shortly end, as the massive construction costs to finish the road, coupled with the large dividends Villard had been paying to his supporters to ensure that they would remain behind him, now consumed his empire. On January 4, 1884, control of the Northern Pacific passed to a new president, Robert Harris, and the construction work, so recently completed, would soon begin anew to bridge another gap, across Washington's Cascades (Tell Tale. Volume XXVII, Number Four, April 1964, p. 8).

The Cascade Branch:
A Direct Route to Puget Sound

Almost as soon as the main line was completed, the Northern Pacific was remaking itself. In the middle 1880s, prompted by its charters stipulation of reaching Puget Sound directly, the Northern Pacific began construction of the Cascade Branch. This line was to extend from the Tri- Cities through Yakima, Ellensburg and via a tunnel under Stampede Pass to western Washington. Exploration of the route had been carried out during the Billings years in the early 1880s, and on July 1, 1884, grading began, with crews reaching Yakima by the end of the year. Construction during 1885 was slowed by several circumstances. Building through the narrow and rugged Yakima Canyon was difficult at best, at one point the river rose and swept away most of the Northern Pacificís rudimentary bridge works. At other points Northern Pacific officials struggled over whether or not the Oregon Railway and Navigation would remain the railroads route to western Washington. Oregon Railway and Navigation interests proved so strong that 700 workers were actually laid off. Only an inspection tour by President Harris and the pressure of Congress to complete a more direct line forced the work to begin anew.

Early in January of 1886, Nelson Bennett, who had hitherto been building and grading the branch between the Tri-Cities and Yakima, won the contract to drive Stampede Tunnel itself. Only 77 miles remained between crews driving from the east and west. Once again, in order to expedite work, the Northern Pacific built a temporary three mile switchback to carry the mainline while the tunnel was under construction. The tunnel itself was to be 9,850 feet long, 22 feet high, 16 feet wide, saving the Northern Pacific from an additional 800 foot climb to the summit of Stampede Pass. From the east portal the bore would rise on a .2 percent drainage grade, cresting the summit at an elevation of 2,830 feet just past the mid-point of the bore, and then descend on a .74 percent grade to the west portal.

Bennett wasted no time in getting to work. He purchased as much equipment as possible for the job, an electric light plant, dinky engines for use in the bore, air compressors and drills, and sent all the material to the end of the railheads, where it was dragged through deep snows to the site. On February 13 his crews began work at the east portal, joined by a crew at the west portal on March 18. Small towns grew up at the site, with lighting plants, saw mills, stores, offices, even a hospital. In a years time the 300 men had drilled 4,100 feet, making nearly 16 feet of headway each day. In another years time they had increased this to 18 feet a day. Finally, on May 3, 1888 the crews broke through (Lewty, Peter. Across the Columbia Plain. Pullman [Wash.]: Washington State UP, 1995, p. 64). By the end of the month Bennett had the bore opened to traffic and the Northern Pacific's main line was once again complete.

Enter James J. Hill:
Bankruptcy, Reorganization,
and the
Northern Pacific Corner

Between 1888 and 1893 the Northern Pacific spread a vast system of branch lines across its territory in the Northwest to feed its main line. The expenses it incurred following the completion of the Cascade Branch, coupled with the Panic of 1893, drove it into a second bankruptcy in August of 1893.

While the Northern Pacific sank into receivership, it gained a competitor just to the north of its route, in the form of James Jerome Hill's Great Northern Railway. Completed into Seattle from Minnesota in 1893, the Great Northern was one of the few roads in the country not to succumb to the financial pressures of the depression. Instead of bankruptcy, Hill was able to purchase an interest in the reorganized Northern Pacific Railway at a bargain price. Just a few years later, in 1901, a fight once again broke out for the control of the Northern Pacific. This time, a war of stock control was waged by the two most powerful western railroad tycoons in the country; the Great Northern's James J. Hill and the Union Pacific Railroad's Edward Henry Harriman.

The short and feisty Harriman had worked his way up from Wall Street clerk to director of the Illinois Central by 1893. As the Panic of 1893 spread and began to take under more and more lines across the country, Harriman set his eye on the road he would become synonymous with, the Union Pacific. With his solid experience on the Illinois Central behind him, Harriman bested the banking firm Kuhn, Loeb and Company for the right to reorganize the Union Pacific.

Ironically, this fight with Kuhn, Loeb eventually led to Harriman's friendship with of one of the firms leading officers, Jacob Schiff. Harriman was well on his way to not just reorganizing the Union Pacific, but virtually rebuilding it. By 1899, Harriman's attention turned to the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, a powerful midwestern system. His negotiations to purchase the system helped to drive the stock price up, which alerted Hill, who quickly entered the fray and outbid Harriman for the system. Rebuked by Hill after an offer for a minority interest in the Burlington, Harriman decided in 1901 to go after another route.

Canadian-born James J. Hill began his career as a steamship line bookkeeper in Saint Paul, Minnesota in the 1850s. In the wake of the Northern Pacific-inspired Panic of 1873. Hill risked his small fortune on gaining control of a defunct railroad called the St. Paul and Pacific. This he managed to do, reorganizing it as the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba in 1879, renaming it the Great Northern Railway in 1889. Hill pushed his line westward to the Pacific in the late 1880s, reaching Seattle and Puget Sound in 1893. As a testament to the quality of its construction and the sagacity of its builder, the new Great Northern was one of the few lines that did not succumb to the financial panic that year.

While Hill knew the necessity of building a Pacific extension before rising prices forever put such a large project out of the scope of possibilities for small midwestern systems, he also knew of the necessity of a connection to the nations greatest rail center, Chicago. The success of the Great Northern in the troubled years after 1893 allowed Hill to do just that, in the form of acquiring 97 percent of the stock of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy in 1899. To this he added a tenuous control of the Northern Pacificís stock as well. By 1901 Hill was ready.

On May 3, 1901 Harriman set out to gain control of the Northern Pacific through Jacob Schiff of Kuhn, Loeb and Company. and kicked off what was to become known as the Northern Pacific Corner. By the end of the day Harriman controlled a majority of the Northern Pacificís stock, lacking but 40,000 shares of the company's common stock. Hill, sensing the plan, and knowing that the Northern Pacificís common stock could vote to retire the preferred, arranged to buy at least 150,000 shares of Northern Pacific common stock after the close of business the next day. Harriman also placed an order for the last 40,000 shares on the morning of May 4, only to have it stopped by Jacob Schiff, who believed it unnecessary.

Stock brokers, noting all this activity, quickly tried to get in on the scheme, but heavy purchasing by Hill and Harriman gobbled up the supply of Northern Pacific stock. By May 6, Northern Pacific common hit nearly $150 per share, and for a moment, it looked as though the Northern Pacific might be involved in yet another great American financial panic. Brokers found themselves having to pay as much as $1,000 a share to keep out of trouble, having sold short on shares not quite in their hands. When the papers finally settled Hill had secured control of the Northern Pacific, together he and Harriman compromised to settle the stock brokers dilemmas as well as put a few Harriman appointees on the boards of the Burlington and the Northern Pacific to avoid litigation. To avoid such skirmishes in the future Hill set up a holding company, the Northern Securities Company, for the stocks of his lines. Sued by both the state of Minnesota and the federal government, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the company to divest itself of stock in 1904.

The Northern Pacific in the Twentieth Century
After the turn of the century the Northern Pacific had a record of steady improvement. Together with the Great Northern, the Northern Pacific also gained control of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, gaining important access to Chicago, the central Middle West and Texas, as well as the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway, an important route through eastern and southern Washington. Its physical plant was upgraded continuously, with double tracking and hump yards in key areas, and automatic block signaling along its entire main line. This in turn gave way to centralized traffic control, microwave and radio communications as time progressed. Finally, the Northern Pacific maintained and continuously upgraded its equipment and service. The road helped pioneer the 4-8-4 Northern type steam engine, the 2-8-8-4 Yellowstone, and was among the first railroads in the country to adopt the widespread use of diesel power beginning with General Motors' FTs in 1944. The Northern Pacific's premier passenger train, the North Coast Limited was among the safest and finest in the nation.

In the spring of 1970, the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy, Great Northern, Northern Pacific and Spokane, Portland and Seattle under the auspices of John Budd (Great Northern) and Robert Macfarlane (Northern Pacific) were merged into the Burlington Northern Railroad, fulfilling James J. Hill's nearly 100-year-old dream. Today, the former Northern Pacific's main line is in the hands of Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway from Portland, Oregon to Sand Point, Idaho. From Sand Point to near Billings, Montana, the line is run by Montana Rail Link. From Billings, to St. Paul, Minnesota, the line is once again controlled by Burlington Northern and Santa Fe.

In the 106 years following the completion of the Northern Pacific the territories through which its rails passed became states; spread out along its main line between Puget Sound and the Great Lakes are all the major cities of the Old Northwest and the Pacific Northwest. The Northern Pacific helped to open up the resources of this vast area; its land holdings and 6,000 mile system made it not only a partner but a driving force in Northwest history.

Monad
Story of the Monad
A mystic symbol, the Monad, lies in the center of Northern Pacific's trademark. this symbol dates back nearly 1,000 years, and traces of it can be found at least 4,000 years before that. The design is called the great Chinese Monad or the diagram of the Great Extreme. Traces of this design appear in the bead work of the American Plains Indians. Modified versions of the design are used as good luck tokens in Japan. Northern Pacific sees it not merely as a symbol of good luck but as a symbol of good transportation.

In 1893, Edwin Harrison McHenry, Chief Engineer of the Northern Pacific, was visiting the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He chances to visit the Korean exhibit. Seeing the Korean flag which bore the Monad in red and blue, he was impressed by the simple but striking design. At that time, the Northern Pacific was searching for a suitable trademark. When he returned to St. Paul, he submitted his idea to Charles Fee, then General Passenger Agent, and together they worked out the emblem which is today so familiar to Americans.

The symbol has deep philosophical meaning. The two comma shaped halves represent the dual powers of the universe Ė two principles called Yang and Yin. Their primitive meanings were: Yang, light; Yin, darkness. Philosophically, they stood for the positive and the negative. Many interpretations are assigned to these: male and female, heaven and earth, motion and rest. To the Chinese, the colors of the two elements were apparently unimportant.






























































































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Chronology

1864
President Abraham Lincoln signs an Act of Congress creating Northern Pacific Railroad and authorizing construction of the first of the northern transcontinental railroad and telegraph lines between Lake Superior and Puget Sound, July 2. Act provides for right of way and land grant. First Board meeting is held, September 1. Josiah Perham is elected President, December 7.

1866
John Gregory Smith succeeds Perham, January 5. Congress extends the time required for commencing and completing construction.

1867
Subsidiary Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad (incorporated in 1857 as Nebraska and Lake Superior) begins construction. General George Washington Cass, Jr., and William G. Fargo are elected to Board. Edwin F. Johnson is named Chief Engineer, begins surveys of line.

1868
Operations begin between St. Paul and Wyoming, Minn., December 23. Congress again extends time to begin construction.

1869
Congress consents to give NP authority to "Issue its bonds and secure the same by mortgage." Jay Cooke becomes NP's fiscal agent.

1870
Groundbreaking ceremonies are held at Thompson Junction, Minn., the junction of Northern Pacific and Lake Superior and Mississippi lines 25 miles west of Duluth, on February 15. Jay Cooke and Co. begin selling Northern Pacific 7-30 gold bonds, July 1. Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad opens, August 23. Grading and track laying are begun at both ends of system in June. Lake Superior and Mississippi drives last spike on 155 mile line between St. Paul and Duluth. First locomotives (Minnetonka, Itaska, Ottertail and St. Cloud) and rolling stock purchased.

1871
NP completes 230 miles of line between Lake Superior and Mississippi Junction and Moorhead, Minn., on the Red River, plus 25 miles of line on North Pacific Coast. Major General Winfield Scott Hancock orders out 600 troops to protect survey parties in hostile Indian country. Brainerd, Minn., shops are established.

1872
Freight contract is signed with Hudson's Bay Company. Chief Engineer reports completion of 164 miles of main line into Dakota Territory and 45 additional miles on coastal line. Colonization offices are opened in Europe. Frederick Billings is named Managing Director of Land Department. President Smith warns U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant that hostile Indians are impeding construction. General George Cass succeeds Smith as President, Nowember 1. Lake Superior and Mississippi leased.

1873
Tacoma, Washington Territory, is named as Northern Pacificís western terminus, July 14. Northern Pacific line is completed to the Missouri River, June 4. Jay Cooke's firm collapses September 18; Northern Pacific slides into bankruptcy. Coastal line from Kalama to Tacoma, 110 miles, is completed, first train reaches Tacoma December 16.

1875
Charles Barstow Wright is elected President as General Cass resigns to become receiver of the company, June 30. Northern Pacific sold at auction to committee of bondholders, April 23. Reorganization plan, formulated by Frederick Billings, is put into effect. General Custer is assigned to Fort Rice, Dakota Territory, and provides protection for Northern Pacific survey and construction crews.

1876
Operations begin between Seattle and Black River (Tukwilla) Washington Territory, January 8.

1877
Northern Pacific employs mining engineer to open company's coal fields in Washington Territory; beginning of Geology Division. Shops are established at Edison, near Tacoma, Washington Territory.

1879
Subsidiary Little Falls and Dakota Railroad incorporated January 29. Frederick Billings succeeds to presidency, May 24. Contract is let for building first 100 miles of line west of Missouri river. Foreign immigration program in Europe expanded.

1880
Operations begin between Wyoming and Taylor Falls, Minn., November 8. Northern Pacific Express Co. begins operations in Minnesota and Dakota. Broad program of branch line construction instituted.

1881
Henry Villard raises millions with famous blind pool to create Oregon and Transcontinental Company and secretly gains control of the Northern Pacific. Frederick Billings resigns presidency, June 9. A. H. Barney becomes president from June 9 to September 15. Henry Villard is elected to the presidency, September 15. Line reaches Sandpoint, Idaho Territory, from the western end and Horton, Montana Territory, from eastern. One hundred and ten miles of branch line are completed.

1882
Northern Pacific Beneficial Association is founded under General Herman Haupt, August 19. Bridge over Missouri River at Bismarck, Dakota Territory, opens October 21. Operations begin between Wadena Junction and Fergus Falls, Minn., October 10. Three hundred and sixty miles of main line and 368 miles of branch line are completed, bringing totals to 1,347 and 731 miles, respectively. First dining car is purchased.

1883
First service to Livingston, Montana Territory, begins January 15. Temporary line over Bozeman Pass opens, March 9. Land purchased for Como Shops in Minn., March 17. Operations begin between Lisbon and LaMoure, Dakota Territory, August 25. Last Spike is driven as main line is completed in grand celebration at Gold Creek, Montana Territory, September 8. First transcontinental train arrives Portland, Ore., September 11. Mullan Tunnel completed between Helena and Missoula, Mont., November 1. Through passenger service is begun with Pacific Express (westbound) and Atlantic Express (eastbound).

1884
Henry Villard ousted as President effective January 4, remains on Northern Pacific Board, Robert Harris becomes President. Bozeman Tunnel between Livingston and Bozeman, Montana Territory completed, January 16. Operations begin between Rush City and Grantsburg, Minn., January 24. Snake River Bridge opens, April 20. First train from Livingston to Gardiner, Montana Territory run to Yellowstone Park, June 29. Transfer boat Tacoma delivered for Kalama, Washington Territory to Oregon transfer service, July 21. First transfer of train by steam boat at Kalama, Washington Territory, October 9. Stampede Pass chosen as route across Cascade Mountains, November 21.

1885
Construction begun on east portal of Stampede Tunnel at Martin, Washington Territory, February 13. Future subsidiary Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railroad incorporated, April 28. Operations begin between Duluth, Minn., and West Superior, Wis., July 6. Operations begin between New Rockford and Minnewaukan, Dakota Territory, August 6. Operations begin between Jamestown and LaMoure, Dakota Territory, December 14. Construction is completed to eastern extremity of the Northern Pacific system, Ashland, Wis.

1886
Northern Pacific and Union Pacific jointly organize Montana Union Railway, June 28. Utah and Northern tracks standard gauged for Northern Pacific trains, August 1. Operations begin between Marshall and Belmont, Washington Territory, October 5. Spokane Falls and Idaho Railroad opens to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho Territory, October 24. Operations begin between Ellensburg and Cle Elum, Washington Territory, December 20. Roslyn Branch opens, December 21.

1887
Last spike driven on Stampede Pass switchback, June 1. Operations begin between Winnipeg Junction and Pembria, Dakota Territory, October 7. Operations begin between Fairview and Grand Bend, Dakota Territory, October 19. Operations begin between Drummond and Philipsburg, Montana Territory, November 20.

1888
East and west crews break through in Stampede Tunnel, May 3. First train runs through Stampede Tunnel, May 27. Operations begin between Woodinville and Falls City, Washington Territory, on Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway, May 19. Columbia River Bridge opens at Pasco, Washington Territory, April 13. Operations begin between Logan and Pipestone, Montana Territory, June 14. Operations begin between Woodinville and Snohomish, Washington Territory, on Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway, July 3. Thomas Fletcher Oakes succeeds Harris as president, September 20. First train between Spokane Falls and Medical Lake, Washington Territory, November 27. Introduction of the use of copper wire and quadruplex circuits in telegraph service.

1889
The Northern Pacific receives F-1 Class steam engine No. 460, Baldwin Locomotive Works' 10,000th locomotive, April 15. Operations begin between Crocker and Wingate, Wash., May 6. Operations begin between Little Falls and Staples, Minn., November 24.

1890
Subsidiary Tacoma, Olympia and Grays Harbor Railroad incorporated, May 7. Subsidiary United Railroads of Washington incorporated, August 2. Operations begin between Belmont and Farmington, Wash., December 10. Right-of-Way and Lease Department is created and industrial development begins.

1891
Operations begin between Gate and Lacey, Wash., August 10.

1892
Operations begin between Montesano and Ocosta, Wash., June 6. Subsidiary Washington and Columbia River Railway incorporated, September 23.

1893
Adoption of the Monad as trademark. Oakes becomes receiver as the Northern Pacific slips into second bankruptcy, Brayton C. Ives becomes president, October 20.

1895
Fire at Sprague, Wash., destroys Northern Pacific shops and town, August 3.

1896
Reorganized to become Northern Pacific Railway, March 16. Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railroad sold to Northern Pacific at foreclosure sale, June 19. Edward D. Adams becomes president as Northern Pacific begins to come out of receivership, July 1 to July 21. Edwin W. Winter takes over presidency, July 21. John Pierpont Morgan and Company become financial agents; Morgan heads voting trust; James Jerome Hill, founder of the rival Great Northern Railway, gains tentative interest in the Northern Pacific.

1897
Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation bought at foreclosure sale January 26, narrow gauge line helps access mines in the Idaho Panhandle. The Northern Pacific accepts first X Class 2-8-0 steam engine, No. 13, on February 9. Charles Sanger Mellen becomes president September 1.

1898
Line between Meeker and Black River, Wash., completed, April 21.

1900
North Coast Limited is introduced, April 29. Subsidiary Minnesota and International Railway incorporated, July 17. Operations begin between Crookston to Carthage Junction, Minn., September 6. Brainerd and Northern Minnesota and the St. Paul and Duluth (old Lake Superior and Mississippi) absorbed.

1901
Voting trust is dissolved. Northern Pacific and Great Northern purchase control of Chicago, Burlington and Quincy to assure access to the rail hub of Chicago. Edward Henry Harriman seeks to buy control of the Northern Pacific; Morgan and Hill stop the raid but give Harriman seat on Nothern Pacific Board (Northern Pacific stock is quoted at $1,000 at height of battle, a Wall Street record). Northern Securities Company is incorporated to pool ownership of the Northern Pacific, Great Northern, Chicago, Burlington and Quincy.

1903
United States Supreme Court, by five to four decision, rules Northern Securities Co. violates Sherman antitrust laws. The Northern Pacific absorbs Duluth Transfer Railroad, May 26. Operations begin between Kalama and Vancouver, Wash., March 1. Monte Cristo Railway absorbed, July 31. Howard Elliott becomes president, October 23.

1905
The Northern Pacific and Harriman's Union Pacific undertake construction of Camas Prairie Railroad, May 25. Northern Pacific and Great Northern begin construction of Portland and Seattle Railway (later Spokane, Portland and Seattle), August 22. Operations begin between Edgerly and Streeter, N.D., November 22.

1906
King Street Station opens in Seattle, Wash., May 10. First Mallets purchased in the form of 16 Z Class 2-6-6-2 steam engines, December 7.

1907
Washington and Columbia River Railway absorbed, June 18. Fargo Division extended eastward to Dilworth, Minn., October 10.

1908
Operations begin between Granger and Grandview, Wash., October 17. Operations begin between Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash., November 17. Operations begin between Craigmont and Grangeville, Ida., December 22. Spokane Portland and Seattle Railway is completed.

1909
Operations begin between St. Regis and Paradise, Montana on February 6, supplanting the Evaro Hill line. Operations begin from Pinehurst to Trout Creek, Mont., April 26. Introduction of the Great Big Baked Potato.

1910
Subsidiary Walla Walla Valley Railway incorporated, April 30. A Northern Pacific train saves 75 people from a forest fire at Wallace, Ida., August 20. Operations begin between Puyallup River and Lake Kapowsin, Wash., October 30.

1911
Tacoma Union Station, Tacoma, Wash., opens, May 1. Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway opens service to Washington, competing with the Northern Pacific and Great Northern, May 29. North Coast Limited service extended from St. Paul, Minn., to Chicago, Ill., via Chicago and Northwestern, December 17.

1912
Operations between Manhattan and Anceny, Montana, begin January 23.

1912
Jule M. Hannaford becomes president, August 27.

1913
Auburn, Wash., yard opens, April 10.

1914
North Yakima and Valley Railroad absorbed, June 14. The Northern Pacific and the Great Northern begin construction of St. Paul General Office Building, largest in the city, then and now.

1915
Double track between Lester and New Stampede, and Martin and Easton, Wash., opens on Stampede Pass, February 20. Operations begin between Tacoma and Tenino, Wash., via Point Defiance Line Change, December 15.

1916
Operations begin between Harrah and White Swan, Wash., November 4.

1918
Operations begin between Weikel and Tieton, Wash., January 11. Howard Elliott again becomes president, July 1. Flathead Valley Branch opens, August 15.

1920
Howard Elliott steps down from the presidency, February 29. Jule M. Hannaford becomes president again, March 1 to December 1.

1921
Charles Donnelly becomes president, December 1. Geologic survey of company lands.

1922
Puget Sound Division absorbed by Seattle and Tacoma Divisions, October 1.

1923 Automatic Block Signaling is completed on all of main line between St. Paul and the Pacific Coast.

1925
Fargo Division absorbs Minnesota Division, April 19. Operations begin between Kamilche and Shelton, Wash., October 3.

1927
The Northern Pacific and the Great Northern file application with Interstate Commerce Commission for unification of systems on February 1. Last section of Washington Branch abandoned, March 8. The Northern Pacific introduces 4-8-4 Northern steam engines.

1929
The Northern Pacific introduces 2-8-8-4 Yellowstone steam engines, largest in the world at that time.

1930
System passenger districts consolidated from six to three, October 26.

1931
The Northern Pacific and the Great Northern withdraw unification application when the Interstate Commerce Commission bases approval on condition that the two lines divest themselves of their interest in Chicago, Burlington and Quincy. Northern Pacific Transport Company, highway subsidiary, begins operating in Montana.

1932
Tacoma and Idaho Divisions absorb Pasco Division, December 18.

1933
Timken's famed Four Aces, world's first roller bearing locomotive purchased, becomes Northern Pacific 2626.

1934
First A-2 Class 4-8-4 steam engine delivered, September 10. Air conditioning begun on North Coast Limited.

1936
Installation of first continuous welded rail in tunnels.

1938
Line from Sunnyside Junction to Granger, Wash., removed April 9. Electro-Motive Division NW-2 diesel No. 100 begins first diesel service in Seattle, December 27.

1939
Longest serving Northern Pacific President Charles Donnelly dies, September 4. Charles Eugene Denney becomes president, September 28. Mechanized accounting procedures begun.

1940
Diesel switchers Nos. 101 and 102 begin service in Northtown Yard, Minneapolis, Minn., March 5. Electro-Motive Division FT diesel No. 103 begins test runs, March 6. Gilmore and Pittsburg abandonment authorized, March 22.

1941
Minnesota and International absorbed, October 22.

1944
Electro-Motive Division FT diesels first run between Glendive, Mont., and Mandan, N.D., February 23. First diesel shops are completed at Auburn, Wash. Work is begun on new car building shops at Brainerd. First lightweight passenger equipment ordered. Last of steam locomotive purchases are placed in service. System-wide carrier telephone service inaugurated.

1946
Electro-Motive Division F-3 diesel No. 754 begins test runs, November 2.

1947
Newly dieselized North Coast Limited goes in service with all new lightweight equipment. Company installs its first centralized traffic control, a 55-mile section in Montana; begins using end-to-end and dispatcher-to-train radio in Washington State. First Electro-Motive Division F-3 diesel No. 6500 run in passenger service, January 22.

1948
Sand and Brown becomes paint scheme for structures, February 11. New Salem Cut-Off opens, December 3.

1949
Mullan Tunnel between Missoula and Helena, Mont., caves in March 2. Traffic rerouted through Butte, Mont. Renumbering of diesel locomotive fleet begins, December 2.

1950
Charles Eugene Denney retires, December 31.

1951
Board of directors elects Robert Stetson Macfarlane president, January 1. Oil is discovered in Williston Basin; Texas Company brings in well on Northern Pacific lands, July 13. Welded rail program is begun.

1952
Electro-Motive Division FP-7 diesels Nos. 6000 and 6001 delivered to Mississippi Street Shops in St. Paul, Minn., February 21. Last run of The Alaskan, November 15. North Coast Limited goes on new fast schedule, and second transcontinental name train, The Mainstreeter, is placed in service, November 16. Oil Development Department is established.

1954
First Electro-Motive Division F-9 diesel No. 7000 arrives at Mississippi Street Shops in St. Paul, Minn., January 25. Vista-Dome coaches and sleepers are added to North Coast Limited, August 16. Trailer-on-flat-car service is begun, September 1. The Northern Pacific receives 1954 Progress Award of the Federation for Railway Progress "in recognition of outstanding achievement in progressive passenger service."

1955
New $5-million electronic freight classification yard art Pasco, Wash., first in the Pacific Northwest, opens June 21. Stewardess-nurse service, another Pacific Northwest "first," is inaugurated on North Coast Limited. First Budd RDCs added to passenger fleet. The Northern Pacific and the Great Northern institute new unification study. The Northern Pacific joins in building Butte Pipeline as Williston Basin discoveries continue. Accounting procedures are streamlined with installation of IBM 650 Data Processing system.

1956
Open cut replaces Homestake Tunnel, August 8. Oil and gas revenues nearly double that of 1955; shared wells grow to 166.

1957
Noxon Line Change opens, October 16. New five-track diesel maintenance shop is opened at Livingston, Mont. Two thousand mile direct-dial telephone network goes into service between St. Paul and North Pacific Coast cities.

1958
Timken's Four Aces, Northern Pacific 2626, is reduced to scrap as dieselization program is completed in January. Last steam engine run W-3 Class Mikado 1713, in Duluth, Minn., January 17. Pig Palace stock cars enter service, February 18.

1959
Slumbercoaches are added to North Coast Limited, December 1.

1960
Train Nos. 5 and 6 between Seattle and Spokane, Wash., are discontinued, April 1. The Northern Pacific, along with the Burlington, Great Northern, and Spokane, Portland and Seattle announce plan to merge, July 15.

1961
Northern Pacific and Great Northern stockholders approve merger plan; the Interstate Commerce Commission begins hearings on application to unify the Northern Pacific, Great Northern, Burlington and Spokane Portland and Seattle. First railroad to install IBM 1401 Magnetic Tape Data Processing system.

1962
North Coast Limited derails at Granite Lake, Ida., killing engine crew, March 2. North Coast Limited derails at Evaro, Mont., killing one passenger, June 10. Merger hearings are concluded. Installation of citizens band radio system to coordinate St. Paul general offices maintenance. Oil and gas revenues near $8 million as shared wells grow to 766. Passenger revenue reaches highest peace-time level since 1929.

1963
Further improvement of electronic accounting with installation of IBM 1410 Magnetic Tape Data Processing system. Addition of 80 miles of continuous welded rail boosts total on system above 400. Mileage under centralized traffic control grows to more than 400 also. Microwave radio between Seattle and Portland and intermediate points expands communications network. Net income of $24,592,470, highest since 1943.

1964
For its Centennial year, the Northern Pacific authorizes $35 million improvement program, including more welded rail, centralized traffic control, branch line dial service, 15 new 2500 horsepower diesel units, 900 freight cars.

1965
Athol Line Change opens, September 24.

1966
Louis Wilson Menk becomes last Northern Pacific President, Robert. Stetson Macfarlane becomes Chairman of the Board, September 22. Economy Buffet service opens on Seattle, Wash., to Portland, Ore., November 3. General Electric U-25s enter service.

1967
Last run of Trains No. 3 and 4 between St. Paul, Minn., and Jamestown, N.D., October 18.

1968
The Northern Pacific and the Great Northern announce Auburn, Wash., will be a major facility on the merged roads, January 30. First unit coal train from Colstrip to Billings, Mont., July 5. Corporate records donated to the Minnesota Historical Society for posterity, December 2.

1970
Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, Great Northern Railway, Northern Pacific Railway and Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway merge into the Burlington Northern Railroad, creating the largest rail system in the United States, March 3.


Divisions and Mileage - 1949

Headquarters Main Line Branch Line Total
St. Paul, Minn. 2,831.27 4,057.34 6,888.61
Divisions
Lake Superior
Duluth, Minn.
Ashland, Wis., to Staples, Minn.
White Bear Lake to Duluth, Minn.
356.43 274.11 630.54
St. Paul
Minneapolis, Minn.
St. Paul to Staples, Minn.
St. Paul to White Bear Lake, Minn.
Staples to Dilworth, Minn.
309.80 599.41 909.21
Fargo
Fargo, N.D.
Dilworth, Minn., to Jamestown, N.D.
Jamestown to Mandan, N.D.
216.42 950.51 1,166.93
Yellowstone
Glendive, Mont.
Mandan, N.D., to Billings, Mont.
Billings to Livingston, Mont.
546.37 328.45 874.82
Rocky Mountain
Missoula, Mont.
Livingston to Helena, Mont.
Helena to Paradise, Mont.
Logan to Garrison, Mont.
562.95 329.96 892.21
Idaho
Spokane, Wash.
Paradise, Mont., to Yakima, Wash.
Gibbon to Parker, Wash.
465.92 656.89 1,122.81
Tacoma
Tacoma, Wash.
Yakima to Auburn, Wash.
Seattle, Wash., to Portland, Ore.
Tacoma to Tenino, Wash.
373.38 660.92 1,034.30

Updated December 20, 2004.