Comparing and constrasting MoPac, CB&Q and Rock Island railroads histories... is a free online Railroad Discussion Forum and Railroad Photo Gallery for railroaders, railfans, model railroaders and anyone else who is interested in railroads. We cover a wide variety of topics, including freight trains, passenger and commuter railroads, rail news and information, tourist railroads, railway museums and railroad history.


New Member
I was recently reviewing the history of three different classic railroads in the midwest. Missouri Pacific, Chicago Burlington and Quincy and Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific. Here's my quick assesment so far:
1)Missouri Pacific was more or less cobbled together by many mergers and acquisitions throughout its long history. It never seems to have been financially very strong- but just strong enough that the Union Pacific was happy to merge with it in 1982.
2)Burlington Route doesn't seem to have much in the way of any distinguishing characteristics to its history. It seems to have been the strongest of the three that I have reviewed both financially and image/status wise. It just simply kept to itself for most of its history and also kept its own identity for almost its entire life and then simply merged into the Burlington Northern in 1970.
3)Rock Island went through a lot of financial downturns in the 20th century and seems to have been the victim of some kind of conspiracy to destroy the company from the inside out (which indeed eventually happened) so that its property could later be parted out, piece-meal style, to various different road names later on (most also located in the midwest).

If you can add any other informative history tidbits to what I have discovered so far, then by all means feel free to comment.

Thank you

Bill Anderson

Well-Known Member
The Burlington Route (CB&Q) was owned 50% by the Great Northern and 50% by the Northern Pacific. The Burlington, in turn, owned two railroads: the Colorado & Southern (C&S) and the Fort Worth & Denver (FW&D), both of which were operated as independent subsidiaries well into the Burlington Northern era. Their locomotives were purchased separately and separately lettered and numbered even after being repainted into post merger Cascade green.

As far as the Rock Island's demise, I would not believe all the conspiracy theories you hear without closer investigation. Similar theories were floating around about the Milwaukee Road's bankruptcy as well. I don't know how much competing roads benefited by the Rock's fall. Like the Milwaukee Road, its physical plant and infrastructure were in very poor shape and most of its territory was already served by other railroads. If it had been a serious competitor to its neighboring roads, it probably would not have gone out of business.
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Mr. Punchy, I don't think the Missouri Pacific and subsidiaries were in that bad shape. I think they came to the Union Pacific with strength and as a means to access Gulf Coast ports; they were profitable through their merger with the UP.

Could have they have made it independently, as has the KCS, into the Big Four era, who knows. Possibly had they been aggressive in pursuing the NdeM against the KCS (they had direct access through Laredo/Nuevo and not the KCS's cobbled together circuitous route) and they had acquired the C&EI giving them Chicago access on their own rails. Possibly the UP was looking ahead and foresaw they would also make a play for the SP, and their East-West subsidiary Texas & Pacific, would place them in position to establish an additional transcontinental route - at least top El Paso had the SP gone elsewhere.

So far as passenger trains, although they acquired more new equipment than their regional competitors such as SSW (they bought none), MKT, or Frisco, they knew by 1960, it was "tilt; game over" and aggressively bailed out the loss leader.

So to "lump" MP with the Rock Island and MY (employed; 1970-81) MILW, I think is a bit misleading. Their management was reputed for running a tight ship. Had you hired on with them and were any kind of a railfan, best to have kept that to yourself. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to - An online railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used railroad books. Railroad pictorials, railroad history, steam locomotives, passenger trains, modern railroading. Hundreds of titles available, most at discount prices! We also have a video and children's book section. - An online model railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used books. Layout design, track plans, scenery and structure building, wiring, DCC, Tinplate, Toy Trains, Price Guides and more.

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