Tell Tale Extra:

Chief Engineers of the Northern Pacific



The Northern Pacific’s own Tell Tale includes an issue which lists the company’s presidents, and devout collectors of employee time tables can amass fine lists of general managers and superintendents. With the aid of Jerry Masters is a brief introduction to the Northern Pacific’s chief engineers. Sources include Simmons-Boardman publications, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and Northern Pacific correspondence.


Edwin Ferry Johnson, 1803-1872

Engineer-in-Chief, 1867

Born: Essex, Vermont, May 23, 1803.

Son of: John and Rachel (Ferry) Johnson.

Educated: American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy, Middletown, Connecticut (now Norwich University).

Married: Charlotte Shaloer, September 7, 1830; eight children.

Career: Instructor, mathematics; assistant professor, natural history, American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy, 1825 to 1826; professor, mathematics, civil engineering, 1826 to 1829; in charge of land surveys for Erie Canal, 1829; Champlain Canal, 1830 to 1831; Morris Canal, 1831; assistant engineer in charge of surveys for Catsckill and Canajoharie, 1831; principal assistant engineer in location of 14 railroads, including New York and Erie, New York and Boston, Chicago, St. Paul and Fond du Lac, also four canals; president, Stevens Association, Hoboken, New Jersey; member, Connecticut Senate, 1856; mayor, Middletown, Connecticut, 1856 to 1857; chief engineer, Northern Pacific, 1867; consutling engineer, 1871; inventor, canal lock improvment, screw power press, six-wheeled locomotive truck, eight-wheeled locomotive. Author, Report Upon the Defenses of Maine, 1862; Report of a General Paln of Operations to the Secretary of War, 1863 (both at the request of the U.S. War Department); Review of the Project for a Great Western Railway, 1831; The Railroad To the Pacific, Northern Route, Its General Characteristics, Relative Merits, Etc., 1854. Died New York City, New York, April 12, 1872.

No author. The National Cyclopedia of American Biography. New York: James T. White, 1940, p. 280.


William Milnor Roberts, 1810-1881

Engineer-in-Chief, 1869 to 1879

Born: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, February 12, 1810.

Son of: Thomas Paschall and Mary Louise (Baker) Roberts.

Married: Annie Gibson, June, 1837.

Married: Adeline Beelen, November, 1868; at least nine children.

Career: Assistant in survey and construction, Lehigh Canal, between Mauch Chunk and Philadelphia, 1826; senior assistant engineer for proposed Allegheny Portage Railroad, 1831 to 1834; general manager, 1834 to 1835; chief engineer, Lancaster and Harrisburg, 1837; in charge of construction of two-level lattice-truss bridge across Susquehanna River at Harrisburg, 1837; in charge of extensions of Pennsylvania State Canals, 1834 to 1840; built Bellefontaine and Indiana, Allegheny Valley, Atlantic and Mississippi, Iron Mountain; chairman, Commission to Consider Reconstruction of Allegheny Portage; constructed railroads in Middle West, 1855 to 1857; contracted to build Don Pedro Segundo, Brazil, 1865; proposed improvements of Mississippi River at Keokuk, Iowa, 1866; U.S. engineer in charge of improvement of navigation of Ohio River; associate chief engineer in construction of Eads Bridge across Mississippi River at St. Louis, 1868; engineer-in-chief, Northern Pacific, 1869 to 1879; member, Mississippi River Jetty Commission; chief engineer, all public works in Brazil, 1879 to 1881; vice-president, American Society of Civil Engineers, 1873 to 1878; president, 1878. Died Soledad, Brazil, July 14, 1881.

No author. The National Cyclopedia of American Biography. New York: James T. White, 1940, p. 447.


General Adna Anderson, 1827-1889

Engineer-in-Chief, February 18, 1880, to January, 1888

Born: July 25, 1827, Ridgway, Orleans County, New York.

Entered railway service: February, 1847, chainman, location, New York and New haven; October, 1847, to November, 1848, assistant engineer, Connecticut River, Massachusetts; November, 1848, to September, 1849, assistant engineer, Mobile and Ohio; September, 1849, to March, 1850, assistant engineer, Ashuelot, New Hampshire; April to December, 1850, resident engineer, Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana; December, 1850, to September, 1852, locating engineer, Mobile and Ohio; September, 1852, to July, 1855, resident [engineer]; July, 1855, to January, 1860, chief engineer and superintendent, Edgefield and Kentucky; September, 1860, to January, 1861, chief engineer, Henderson and Nashville; January, 1861, to April, 1862, receiver, Edgefield and Kentucky; June, 1862, to February, 1863, assistant engineer and chief of [C]onstruction [C]orps, Army of Potomac (Federal) in Virginia; February, 1863, to February, 1864, chief engineer, [M]ilitary [R]ailroads of Virginia; February to November, 1864, general superintendent, [G]overnment [R]ailroads, [M]ilitary [D]ivision of Mississippi; November, 1864, to July, 1866, chief superintendent and engineer, [M]ilitary [R]ailroads, United States; February to May, 1867, chief engineer, Illinois and St. Louis Bridge, four years ending 1871; general superintendent, Kansas Pacific, [three] years ending May, 1874; vice-president and general manager, Toledo, Wabash and Western, January, 1872, to January, 1873; vice-president, Lafayette and Bloomington and fifteen months ending May, 1874, receiver, Chicago, Danville and Vincennes; January, 1878, to October, 1879, general manager, Paducah and Elizabethtown; February, 1880 to date, engineer-in-chief, Northern Pacific, and since October, 1886, second vice-president, same company.

Talbott, E. H., Hobart, H. R., editors. The Biographical Directory of the Railway Officials of America for 1885. Chicago [Ill.]: Railway Age, 1885.

p. 17.


General Adna Anderson was born at Ridgway, Orleans [County], New York, July 25, 1827. He began his railway career in 1847, as chainman on the location of the New York and New Haven []. From October, 1847, to November, 1848, he was [a]ssistant [e]ngineer of the Connecticut River Road; from November, 1848, to September, 1848, [a]ssistant [e]ngineer on the Mobile and Ohio []; from that date to March, 1850, [a]ssistant [e]ngineer on the Ashuelot, [New Hampshire] Road. Afterward he was successively [r]esident [e]ngineer of the Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana []; [l]ocating [e]ngineer of the Mobile and Ohio []; [c]hief [e]ngineer on the Tennessee and Alabama []; [c]hief [e]ngineer and [s]uperintendent of the Edgefield and Kentucky []; for a short time [c]hief [e]ngineer of the Henderson and Nashville []. When the Edgefield and Kentucky [] failed, General Anderson was appointed receiver.

            When the War of the Rebellion broke out General Anderson offered his services to the Government, and was made [a]ssistant [e]ngineer and [c]hief of the Construction Corps of the Army of the Potomac in Virginia. In the following year he was made [g]eneral [s]uperintendent of Government Railroads of the Military Division of the Mississippi. From November, 1864, to July, 1866, he was [c]hief [s]uperintendent and [e]ngineer of all the military railroads.

            From February to May, 1867, he was [c]hief [e]ngineer of the Illinois and St. Louis Bridge; afterwards [g]eneral [s]uperintendent of the Kansas Pacific []; then [v]ice-[p]resident and [g]eneral [m]anager of the Toledo, Wabash and Western []. General Anderson was made [p]resident of the Lafayette and Bloomington in 1873; he was appointed receiver of the Chicago, Danville and Vincennes in May, 1875; in February, 1880, he was made [c]hief [e]ngineer of the Northern Pacific.

            In the latter part of 1881 General Anderson took a long and fatiguing journey over the proposed line of the Northern Pacific [], making a personal inspection of the proposed route across the backbone of the continent and through what was then the western wilds.

            From the observations made on this long journey from Bismarck to Portland, General Anderson became satisfied that the general route laid down by the late [William] Milnor Roberts, (Past President, [American Society of Civil Engineers]), as the line of the Northern Pacific, was in the main correct, at least so far as the line between the Missouri River and Columbia River is concerned, and on this line, substantially, he went on and completed the road, witnessing the driving of the last spike September 8, 1883.

            The main line having been completed from St. Paul to Wallula where junction was formed with the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company’s line, thus making a through line to Portland, the company turned its attention to its Cascade Division, intended to connect its line at some point near the mouth of [the] Snake River, with Tacoma on Puget Sound. Surveys for this division had been in progress much of the time since March, 1880, and much had been done even previous to that date, at intervals, in the way of reconnaissance and preliminary work. The company desired to build on the best attainable line, but to find this line, with conditions then existing, was a work of great difficulty, requiring time, labor and expense. General Anderson took great interest in all this work, but did not express any final judgment until the autumn of 1883, after all the information was available, when he reported that the line ought to be built through Stampede Pass, believing it to be the route that could be operated at least expense and that it would best protect the company from the encroachments of rival enterprises, which judgment has been fully confirmed by the events of the past two years.

            In October, 1886, General Anderson was elected [second] [v]ice-[p]resident of the Northern Pacific [], which position, together with that of [c]hief [e]ngineer of this road, he held up to January, 1888.

            General Anderson married, in 1856, Miss Juliet C. Van Wyck, who with their six children survives him. The eldest daughter, Miss Sallie, married Lieutenant John C. Fremont, Jr., a son of General John C. Fremont, who is a lieutenant in the United States Navy; the oldest son, Philip Van Wyck Anderson, is a [c]ivil [e]ngineer on the Northern Pacific [], and the younger children, John C., Elizabeth Van Wyck and Mary Van Cortlandt, reside with their mother at their home in Sing Sing.

            In May, 1889, General Anderson opened an office in New York, at 155 Broadway, where he was engaged in organizing the Gordon Fire Alarm Company and the Steel Car Company. About a year before his death he contracted what is known as mountain fever while on one of his western trips, from which he never entirely recovered.

            General Anderson was a quiet and somewhat taciturn man, of absolute integrity and clear headed, impartial judgment. He was a steadfast, kindly fried through evil or good report. His works were managed with honorable motives and without scandal. He served his country during the long War of the Rebellion with honor and fidelity. While he must have had many opportunities to become wealthy in legitimate ways, the fact that he died poor shows that no consideration of self-interest was allowed to influence him a hair’s breadth in his professional duties or in his loyalty to the enterprise he served.

            General Anderson deserves to be remembered among men and engineers as one of the noble ones produced by this country. [Died May 15, 1889, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.]

[Bogue, Virgil Gay, L. L. Buck, W. H. Whiton.] Proceedings of the American Society of Civil Engineers, n.d.


John William Kendrick, 1853-1924

Chief Engineer, January, 1888, to July, 1893

Born: October 14, 1853, Worcester, Massachusetts.

Education: Worcester Polytechnic Institute, C.E., 1873.

Entered railway service: 1879 as levelman construction party in Yellowstone Valley for the Northern Pacific Railroad, since which he has been consecutively 1879 to 1880, location work; 1880 to 1883, in charge of construction of 160 miles of Missouri and Yellowstone divisions; 1883 to 1888, chief engineer, St. Paul and Northern Pacific Railroad, in charge of main line and terminals between Brainerd and St. Paul, Minnesota; 1888 to July, 1893, chief engineer, Northern Pacific Railroad and leased lines; July, 1893, to February 1, 1899, general manager for receivers, same road and reorganized road, the Northern Pacific Railway; February 1, 1899 to date, second vice-president.

Busbey, T. Addison, editor. The Biographical Directory of the Railway Officials of America, 1901 edition. Chicago [Ill.]: Railway Age and Northwestern Railroader, 1901, p. 298.


Edwin Harrison McHenry, 1859-August 21, 1931

Chief Engineer, July, 1893, to September 1, 1901

Born: January 25, 1859, at Cincinnati, Ohio.

Educated: Pennsylvania Military College at Chester, Pennsylvania.

Entered railway service: 1883 as rodman on Black Hills Branch, Northern Pacific, since which he has been consecutively rodman, chainman, draftsman, leveler, transitman, assistant engineer, division engineer, principal assistant engineer, and November 1, 1893, to January 1, 1896, chief engineer; October, 1895, to October, 1896, also receiver same road; September 1, 1896, to September 1, 1901, chief engineer reorganized road, the Northern Pacific, in charge of location, construction and maintenance; 1901 and 1902, visited China, Japan and Philippine Islands; June 1, 1902, to May 10, 1904, chief engineer, Canadian Pacific; October 1, 1904, to date, first vice-president, Consolidated Railway, in charge of construction, operation and maintenance of the trolley lines owned by the New York, New Haven and Hartford, and also fourth vice-president, New York, New Haven and Hartford, in charge of Electrical Department covering electrical construction and maintenance of lines operated by electricity.

Busbey, T. Addison, editor. The Biographical Directory of the Railway Officials of America, Edition of 1906. Chicago [Ill.]: Railway Age, 1906, pp. 381-82.


William Lafayette Darling, 1856-1938

Chief Engineer, September 1, 1901, to September, 1903, and January, 1906, to 1916

Born: Oxford, Massachusetts, March 24, 1856.

Son of: William Edward and Cynthia Marana (Steers) Darling.

Married: Alice Ernestine Bevans, April 15, 1901.

Children: Fayette Bevans, William Lowell and Edna Cyrena.

Education: Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Bachelor’s of Science, 1877); [lettered in] baseball and football.

Career: engineering construction, Northern Pacific, 1879 to 1883; division engineer, St. Paul and Northern Pacific (now Northern Pacific), 1883 to 1884; engineer, Chicago, Burlington and Quincy, 1884; engineer, location and construction, St. Andrews Bay and Chipley, 1884 to 1885; resident engineer in charge of terminals in St. Paul and Minneapolis, Chicago, Burlington and Northern (now Chicago, Burlington and Quincy), 1885 to 1887; engineer, location and construction, Duluth, Watertown and Pacific (now Great Northern), 1887; located the line afterwards built by the Great Northern from Sioux Falls to Yankton, South Dakota, 1887 to 1888; engineer in charge of washout repairs from Minot, North Dakota, to Great Falls [Montana], Great Northern, 1888. The following positions with the Northern Pacific: in charge of construction of Howe truss bridge[s] in Montana, 1888 to 1889; in charge of location and construction of line from Little Falls to Staples, Minnesota, 1889; in charge of location and construction of the Coeur d’Alene Branch, 1889 to 1890; principal assistant engineer in charge of engineering and construction, 1891 to 1892; division engineer in charge of engineering from St. Paul, Minnesota, to Billings, Montana, 1892 to 1896; division engineer and assistant chief engineer, 1896 to 1901; chief engineer, 1901 to 1903. Chief engineer and vice-president, Gulf Construction Company, building a line from St. Louis to Kansas City, 1905; chief engineer, Pacific Railway (now Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific), 1905 to 1906; chief engineer, Northern Pacific system and allied lines and during same period was vice-president and construction engineer in charge of construction of the Portland and Seattle Railway (now Spokane, Portland and Seattle), also during this period was construction engineer of the Pittsburgh and Gilmore. Since 1916 he has been consulting engineer, at St. Paul with the following activities: Associate member, Naval Consulting Board during the World War; appointed a member of the Advisory Commission of Railway Experts to Russia by the Secretary of State, 1917; Member of Board of Economics and Engineering for the Owners of Railroad Securities in New York, 1921 to 1922. Public office: Member, City Planning Board, St. Paul; Member, City Zoning Board, St. Paul.

Clubs and Fraternities: American Railway Engineering Association (former director); American Society of Civil Engineers; Permanent Association of Navigation Congresses; General Contractors of America (honorary member); Minnesota Club, St. Paul; University Club, St. Paul; Thirty-second degree Mason; Shriner; Protestant; Republican.

Home address: 2100 Iglehart Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota.

No author. Who’s Who in Railroading – United States, Canada, Mexico, Cuba – 1930 Edition. New York: Simmons-Boardman, 1930, p. 124.


Edward J. Pearson, 1863-1928

Chief Engineer, September, 1903, to December, 1905

Born: October 1863 at Rockville, Indiana.

Education: Graduated from Engineering Department of Cornell University.

Entered railway service: 1880 as rodman Missouri Pacific, since which he has been consecutively to 1883, in Engineering Department Missouri, Kansas and Texas and Atlantic and Pacific; 1883 to 1885, assistant engineer, Northern Pacific; 1885 to April, 1890, supervisor, Bridges, Buildings and Water Supply, Minnesota and St. Paul divisions; April, 1890, to May, 1892, division engineer, Eastern Division of same road; May, 1892, to May, 1894, principal assistant engineer at Chicago in charge of construction of Chicago Terminal Lines and of work on the Wisconsin Central Lines being operated by the Northern Pacific; May, 1894, to August, 1895, superintendent, Yellowstone Division, Glendive, Montana; August, 1895, to December, 1898, superintendent, Rocky Mountain Division, Missoula, Montana; December, 1898, to April, 1902, superintendent, Pacific Division, Tacoma, Washington; April, 1902, to September, 1903, assistant general superintendent; September, 1903, to May 1, 1904, acting chief engineer, and May 1, 1904, to December, 1905, chief engineer; December 1905, to date, chief engineer, Pacific Railway.

Busbey, T. Addison, editor. The Biographical Directory of the Railway Officials of America, Edition of 1906. Chicago [Ill.]: Railway Age, 1906, p. 467.


Howard Eveleth Stevens, 1874-1928?

Chief Engineer, 1916 to 1928

Born: Bluehill, Maine, March 8, 1874.

Education: University of Maine (Civil Engineer, 1897).

Career: Engaged in survey and bridge work and in 1900 was associated with Ralph Modjeski, Construction Engineer, Chicago, on bridge design, fabrication and construction, which included, among other structures, the bridge over the Mississippi River at Thebes, Illinois.

Entered railway service: 1904 as a draftsman in the Bridge Department of the Northern Pacific and was later assistant engineer, specializing in steel bridge design; 1906-16, bridge engineer; 1916 to 1928, chief engineer; 1928 to 1938; 1938—, vice-president, Maintenance and Operation.

No author. Who’s Who In Railroading in North America, 1940 edition. New York: Simmons-Boardman, 1940, p. 606.


Bernard Blum, 1883-1954?

Chief Engineer, 1928 to March, 1953

Born: Chicago, Illinois, February 12, 1883.

Son of: August and Edith (Bromfield) Blum.

Married: Lillian Swan Wynn, August 8, 1908.

Education: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Bachelor of Science, Civil Engineering, 1904).

Entered railway service: 1905 as rodman, Chicago Junction, serving in this capacity and as draftsman, inspector. and assistant engineer, until 1907. His subsequent career, all service with Northern Pacific, has been as follows: 1907 to 1909, assistant engineer on construction projects; 1909 to 1910, assistant to division engineer; 1910 to 1911, roadmaster; 1911 to 1916, assistant district engineer; 1917 to 1919, district engineer; 1919 to 1928, engineer, maintenance-of-way; 1928—, chief engineer, Northern Pacific, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Member: American Society of Civil Engineers; St. Paul Engineers Society; Minnesota Federation Architectural and Engineering Societies; University Club; St. Paul Athletic Club; Matoska Country Club.

Home Address: 580 Laurel Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota.


Harold Robert Peterson, 1896-1963

Chief Engineer, March, 1953, to May, 1962

Born: Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 5, 1896.

Married: Clariece Munsey, January 1, 1940.

Education: Minneapolis public and high schools; University of Minnesota (Bachelor’s of Science in Engineering, 1918).

Entered railway service: November, 1918, as draftsman, district engineer, Northern Pacific. Subsequent career: February to June, 1920, structural draftsman, Toltz, King, and Day, consulting engineers, St. Paul; June 1920 to 1925, draftsman, Bridge Department, Northern Pacific; 1925, inspector, bridge construction, Northern Pacific; 1926 to 1927, resident engineer, branch line construction, Northern Pacific; 1928, assistant engineer, grade separation project, Northern Pacific; 1929 to 1935, assistant engineer, bridge design, construction and special assignments, Northern Pacific; 1936 to 1937, assistant engineer, special assignment, Spokane, Portland and Seattle; 1938 to October, 1940, assistant engineer, bridge design and special assignments, Northern Pacific; October, 1940, to April, 1944, office engineer, Northern Pacific; April, 1944, to December, 1946, principal assistant engineer; December, 1946, to March, 1953, assistant chief engineer, Northern Pacific; March, 1953—, chief engineer, Northern Pacific.

Member: American Railway Engineering Association; American Society of Civil Engineers; Engineer’s Society of St. Paul; Northwest Maintenance-of-Way Club; Alpha Rho Chi; St. Paul Athletic Club; Congregational, Republican.

Home address: 3433 Fifth Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Moore, Russell F., editor. Who’s Who in Railroading in North America, 1959 edition. New York: Simmons-Boardman, 1959, p. 500.


Douglas Harlow Shoemaker, 1905-1972?

Chief Engineer, May, 1962, to March 2, 1970

Born: Bushnell, South Dakota, June 18, 1905.

Son of: Harlow Smith and Ada (Holmes) Shoemaker.

Married: Loretta V. Young, August 27, 1927.

Children: Marie Louise, Douglas Joseph, Walter Francis.

Education: University of Minnesota (Bachelor’s of Science, Civil Engineering, 1929).

Career: October, 1929, draftsman, Bridge Department, Northern Pacific, until May, 1932; May, 1932, to June, 1933, inspector, Minnesota Highway Department; June, 1933, to 1935, superintendent and estimator, Nolan Brothers, Incorporated, contractors, Minneapolis; June, 1935, to May, 1936, partner with Industrial Contracting Company, bridge contractors; May, 1936, Northern Pacific, as draftsman, Bridge Department; August, 1936, to October, 1940, instrumentman, inspector, district engineer; October, 1940, to February, 1941, draftsman, Bridge Department; February, 1941, to June, 1942, division engineer, Fargo, North Dakota; June, 1942, to December, 1943, division engineer, Glendive, Montana; December, 1943, to June, 1945, assistant engineer, construction of Bozeman Tunnel; June, 1945, to December, 1947, assistant engineer, location and construction of line change; December, 1947, to May, 1949, office engineer, St. Paul; May, 1949, to February, 1951, principal assistant engineer, St. Paul; February, 1951, to March, 1953, district engineer, St. Paul; March, 1953, to April, 1956, assistant chief engineer, St. Paul; August, 1956, to April, 1958, special assistant, Executive Department; April, 1958, to May, 1962, assistant chief engineer; May, 1962--, chief engineer.

Member: American Society of Civil Engineers (Northwest Section); American Railway Engineering Association (Committee Four); Engineer’s Society of St. Paul; Northwest Maintenance-of-Way Club; Catholic; Republican.

Home address: 1810 Montreal Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Osthoff, Frederick C., editor. Who’s Who in Railroading, 1968 edition. New York: Simmons-Boardman, 1968, p. 449.


Ranked in years of service, they are:

            1. Blum--25

            2. Darling--12

            2. Stevens--12

            3. Roberts--10

            4. Peterson--9

            5. Anderson--8

            5. McHenry--8

            5. Shoemaker--8

            6. Kendrick--5

            7. Johnson--3

            8. Pearson—2

Author: John A. Phillips, III.
Title: Chief Engineers of the Northern Pacific.
© January 3, 2002