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Rock Island / Great Plains-West Rail Gallery
Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific


In 1875, shortly after the track was laid down, the CRI&P erected a depot, then east of town, near Antelope Creek. This elaborate building still stands today. Purchased by City National Bank & Trust (now Union Bank), the depot serves as a drive through bank while retaining it's historical significance to the city; August 2001 - T. Greuter photo

The Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad, the CRIP, the Rock... whatever you may call it, the road is still one fondly remember by many, even in the Burlington country of Lincoln, Nebraska. Despite it's troubles, finally ending in bankruptcy in the early '80's, the Rock is remembered for it's rich history.

The Rock's Beginning
The date was October 1st, 1851 when the first spadeful of dirt was turned at Chicago and railroad construction officially was begun on the new Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad. One year later on October 10, a colorful 4-4-0 American-type locomotive named the Rocket, coupled to six sparkling new yellow coaches belched a cloud of wood smoke and headed west over the 58-pound iron rails that had been imported from England. It wouldn't be until 1879 when plans were made to lay track into Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and Oklahoma.

The Rock and Nebraska
On March 19, 1886, a charter was issued to the Chicago, Kansas and Nebraska Railway Company to build the road in Kansas and Colorado, which included most of the Nebraska mileage. One year to the day later, a contract was signed between the Nebraska-based Union Pacific and the Chicago, Kansas and Nebraska Railway Company for joint use of the U.P. tracks between Kansas City and North Topeka for a period of 999 years.

Two years later, in 1890, the Rock Island was extending westward toward Jansen, Nebraska, just east of Fairbury. From Jansen, construction moved on through Limon, toward Colorado Springs. By June 10, 1891, through consolidations, the lines in  Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado all were brought into the Rock Island System, a total of 1,476 miles of new railroad line. Construction was also underway leading westward from Omaha on through Lincoln, for a connection with the Colorado line at Jansen.

The Rock's Final Years
As the Rock Island approached its centennial year of 1952, it was a strong railroad, and one of the best in the country. The first diesel switchers had been acquired in 1937, followed by the inauguration of Rock Island's first streamliner, the Texas Rocket. Dieselized freights began in 1945, with total dieselization acheived in 1952.

The Rock Island entered its third and final bankruptcy in 1975, and despite the best efforts of management and trustee, and the flashy new blue and white "Rock" image, the company could not survive
, and forced a bankruptcy.The Rock Island Railroad ceased to exist - ending the liquidation of the railroad, the largest such liquidation in U.S. history, and on March 23, 1980 the Cotton Belt Line took over. On March 31, 1980, the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad operated its last train.

The CRI&P erected a depot, as it appeared in earlier days. This image is from a vintage postcard.

The Rock and Lincoln
In 1875, the last of the city's five modern railroads arrived. The CRI&P extended it's track from the Missouri River to Lincoln, and on south to Belleville Kansas on it's KC-Denver mainline. An elaborate depot was built shortly after along "O" Street and Antelope Creek (the creek's path in town has been altered greatly since). As "O" Street grew more heavily traveled with the age of automobile traffic and lined by businesses, you can imagine the conflicts that could and did occur.

In Lincoln, you may still find some lingering remnants of the road - the right-of-way is preserved as a bike path in the rural far northeastern area of town and south through the busy Antelope Creek/Folsom Children's Zoo neighborhood. Plans are to finish the path on the NU campus where the Rock and MoPac intersected. The elaborate passenger station in the downtown area is the proudest symbol of the road to survive - it escaped the fate many other city depots met by being preserved as a home to an area bank. In the neigborhoods near the fairgrounds you may spot a forgotten boxcar overgrown by trees, the Rock Island emblem barely visible.



Click on the thumbnails to see a larger image

CRI&P 246 - a U28B caught at Innergrove, Minnesota on April 1980 - photo from James Gilley collection

CRI&P 246 - a U33B at Silvis, Ill on January 23, 1980 - photo from James Gilley collection

CRI&P #354
- a GP40? - Jay Glenewinkel Collection

CRI&P GP40 #367 - After the fall of the Rock Island's flag, most of its fleet continued to be seen in Rock Island paint after being divided among other railroads. This loco along with several other GP40s were assigned to the Missouri Pacific (by Union Pacific after the merger of these two roads). The RI #367 became MP #624. - Jay Glenewinkel Photo Collection

CRI&P 4311 - a GP38-2 - photo from James Gilley collection

Rock Island GP38-2 #4340 - was among several GP38-2 units acquired by the Missouri Pacific when Rock Island shut down in 1980. The RI #4340 became MoPac #2278. - Jay Glenewinkel Photo Collection

CRI&P 4588 - a U30C - photo from James Gilley collection

OL&B 47 - is an ex-Rock Island rebuilt SW1200, a common sight in the yards near the state fairgrounds in Lincoln, NE if you know where and when to look. Here #47's pulling up to the old MoPac track near the OL&B yard to grab some hopper cars from the Union Pacific. - T. Greuter photo

See more of #47 at OL&B's Gallery

CRI&P 17051 - now operated by the Boone & Scenic Valley RR at Boone, Iowa, is coupled to a switch engine trailed by a string of authentic wood passenger cars behind. 9/8/01 - T. Greuter photo

CRI&P 17130 shines like new at the RailsWest Museum at Council Bluffs, Iowa, August 11, 2001. - T. Greuter photo


A fading logo on a forgotten boxcar potently speaks as to the fate of the Rock in Lincoln

Featured Photography - James Gilley collection, Jay Glenewinkel

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Latest update: Thursday, 13 November, 2003

All photos & text 2000-2003 T. Greuter / Screaming Eagles , unless otherwise noted. All Rights Reserved.