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Galena and Chicago Union Railroad
1850 Galena & Chicago Union.jpg
Original plan from Chicago to Galena
Locale northern Illinois
Dates of operation 1836–1864
Successor Chicago and North Western
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
1862 map

The Galena and Chicago Union Railroad (G&CU) was a railroad running west from Chicago to Clinton, Iowa and Freeport, Illinois, never reaching Galena, Illinois. Incorporated in 1836, the G&CU became the first railroad built to Chicago.


The first railroad constructed out of Chicago, the Galena and Chicago Union, was chartered January 16, 1836, to connect Chicago with the lead mines at Galena. "The Pioneer," the first locomotive on the road, arrived at Chicago on October 10, 1848, nearly thirteen years after the charter was granted. In 1850, the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad was completed as far as Elgin. The railroad and the canal were vital in the development of Chicago and the population of the city tripled in the six years after the opening of the canal. Eventually other railroads were built and Chicago became the largest railroad center in the world.

In 1862 the G&CU leased in perpetuity the Cedar Rapids and Missouri Railroad which was to be the first railroad to reach Council Bluffs, Iowa and the First Transcontinental Railroad. The G&CU consolidated with the Chicago and North Western Railway in 1864, which merged with the Union Pacific Railroad over a century later in 1996.

Today, the G&CU's main line between Chicago and West Chicago is a busy commuter service, jointly operated by Union Pacific and Metra as the Union Pacific / West Line.


The railroad was constructed starting in March 1848, and was completed in 1853. The first westbound train out of Chicago departed on October 25, 1848, pulled by a used Baldwin-built locomotive named Pioneer.[1][2]


  1. ^ Rivanna Chapter, National Railway Historical Society (2005), This Month in Railroad History - October. Retrieved October 25, 2005.
  2. ^ Chicago Historical Society, History Lab Collections - Riding the Rails. Retrieved October 25, 2005.


  • Cronon, William (1992). Nature's metropolis: Chicago and the great west (reprint ed.). W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-30873-1.  examines the economic effects of the railroad (among other things).
  • A Chronological History of Chicago: 1673- Compiled by Chicago Municipal Reference Library, City of Chicago, updated by Municipal Reference Collection, Chicago Public Library

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galena_and_Chicago_Union_Railroad — Please support Wikipedia.
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4 news items

Crain's Chicago Business

Crain's Chicago Business
Thu, 01 Oct 2015 04:45:09 -0700

In 1848, the land the four homes stand on was the site of Chicago's first train depot, built for the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad. Nearly a century and a half later, the River Cottages got a good deal of TV time as the backdrop for the spot in the ...
Motley Fool
Tue, 21 May 2013 15:06:05 -0700

The basics: The company traces its roots back well before the Civil War, to 1848 and the completion of the first 10 miles of the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad. In 1862, President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act, authorizing the Union ...
Sat, 25 Oct 2014 22:13:05 -0700

1848: The first ten miles of the “Galena and Chicago Union Railroad” were completed. 1862: Abraham Lincoln signed The Pacific Railroad Act of 1862, which calls for two major companies (Union Pacific and Central Pacific) to create a transcontinental ...


Thu, 18 Apr 2013 15:02:15 -0700

In March 1849, the year after the Illinois and Michigan Canal opened, the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad began, and Chicago got its first telegraph line—when it was born as an American metropolis—the city was flooded after a warmup and three days ...

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