NEBRASKA STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY COLLECTION
Title: Chicago, Burlington, &
& Quincy Railroad Company. Lines WestDates: 1869-1950s
boxes, 1 volume (108.5 cubic feet)
Collection Number: RG3913.AM:
Copyright: To inquire about usage, please contact the Nebraska State Historical
Preferred Citation: Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy Railroad Company. Lines West (RG3913.AM). Nebraska State
The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad (CB&Q) started out as the Aurora Branch
Railroad on February 12, 1849 in Aurora, Illinois. By 1864, the railroad had 400 miles of track
(all in Illinois) and adopted the familiar name Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Co.,
which properly described its trackage stretching to Burlington, Iowa and Quincy, Illinois on the
Mississippi River. The Burlington, as it came to be known, completed its own line from Aurora to
Chicago in 1864.
The railroad across Iowa was the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad (B&MR),
incorporated in Burlington in 1852. Operations began over the first few miles of track on New
Year's Day 1856. The railroad reached Ottumwa by 1857, through Murray in the fall of 1858 and
was completed to the Missouri River in November 1869.
In 1868 the CB&Q completed bridges over the Mississippi both at Burlington and Quincy,
giving the railroad through connections with the B&MR in Iowa and the Hannibal & St.
Joseph Railroad in Missouri. The B& MR continued building westward into Nebraska as a
separate company, the Burlington & Missouri River Rail Road in Nebraska, founded in 1869.
During the summer of 1870, it reached Lincoln, the newly designated capital of Nebraska, and by
1872 it reached Kearney. That same year the CB&Q absorbed the B&MR across Iowa. By the
time the Missouri River bridge at Plattsmouth was completed, the B&MR in Nebraska was
nearing Denver, Colorado. That same year, the Nebraska B&MR was purchased by the CB&Q.
The CB&Q completed the line to Denver in 1882, making it the first direct rail line from
Chicago to Denver.
The turn of the century brought about the purchase of the CB&Q by railroad "Empire
Builder" James J. Hill, founder of the Great Northern Railroad. Hill's Great Northern and
Northern Pacific railroads purchased 97.2 percent of the CB&Q's common stock, paying $200
Perhaps the Burlington's best-known achievement took place in 1934 with the introduction of
the Pioneer Zephyr, America's first diesel powered streamlined passenger train. Its high-speed
diesel-electric propulsion system was the forerunner of thousands of diesels that replaced steam
locomotives on virtually every railroad a few short years after WWII. Burlington's first freight
diesels were purchased in 1944, and 95 percent of its trains were diesel powered by 1953.
In 1945, Burlington created America's first vista-dome passenger car. Some of the
Burlington's passenger trains included the Aristocrat, the Blackhawk, the Denver Flyer, the
Denver Zephyr, the Pioneer Zephyr, the Twin Cities Zephyr, the Mark Twain Zephyr, the General
Pershing Zephyr, the Kansas City Zephyr, the American Royal Zephyr, the Nebraska Zephyr, the
Ak-Sar-Ben Zephyr, and the Sam Houston Zephyr. In cooperation with other railroads, the
Burlington also ran the Empire Builder, Exposition Flyer, California Zephyr, North Coast
Limited, Zephyr-Rocket, and the Western Star.
On March 2, 1970, the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad became a part of the
Burlington Northern Railroad, which merged the CB&Q with its owners, the Great Northern and
the Northern Pacific. Shortly thereafter, America's passenger trains were nationalized with the
creation of Amtrak. The silver, stainless steel Zephyrs gave way to a rainbow of equipment from
railroads across the nation.
The BN painted the Burlington's bright Chinese red locomotives Cascade green and they
continued pulling freight trains of all kinds. On September 22, 1995, another merger took place,
combining the BN with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad creating the current BNSF
Note: This background information is courtesy of the Burlington Route Historical Society.
Scope and Content:
Series 1 (88 boxes) consists of field books/survey notes relating to this railroad company's
Nebraska Lines, 1869-1950s. The latter designation is considered appropriate for those routes
either originating in Nebraska or at least traversing a portion of the state. Specifically, the
volumes include topography and transit books as well as those titled "cross-sections" and
"levels." Some time books for various employees working on the lines are also available.
The material within the boxes, though not organized numerically, reflects a basic numerical
scheme of arrangement (#1 - #12379) as employed by the Lincoln Burlington office. Individual
volumes are labeled with a number that should be included within the general numerical range
reflected on each box. Often, the books within a container represent more than a single range
were related to non-Nebraska lines and, thus, not accessioned. Also, since the items within the
boxes were transferred directly from office file cabinets, certain volumes, if initially
misfiled, remain so. Thus, the book numbers within a container may not necessarily coincide with
the range of numbers delineated on the box. Lastly, the eleven volumes of indexes contained in
Box 1 are not relevant to the entire range of field books. See also box 89 for clippings and
correspondence regarding train accidents and the blizzard of 1949.
Series 2 consists of twenty boxes containing rolled profile maps and drawings relating to
various sections of track of the CB&Q and associated railroads.
Series 3 contains Right of Way abstract books (description pending).
Series 4 consists of various maps (description pending).
Series 5, Miscellaneous, contains correspondence and clippings regarding train accidents and
the blizzard of 1949 as well as a report on the Plattsmouth Bridge by the Chief Engineer, George
S. Morison, dated 1882.