Thursday, October 25, 2018

CGW: Chicago Great Western Overview

1 of 2 images posted Michael Maitland
These maps are from a Standard and Poors book, purchased at a train show.

Larry Brennan posted two images with the comment:
Marty Bernard has been posting a lot of Chicago Great Western pictures from Rick Burns and Roger Puta. For the benefit of those not familiar with the "Great Weedy", I've scanned two relevant pages from the April 1958 Official Guide, showing a system map and the passenger service still being run at the time. CGW exited the passenger business forever at the end of September 1965.

Return with us, then, to the thrilling days of yesteryear, when the CGW could take you 542.2 miles from Minneapolis to Kansas City in 13 hours and 45 minutes, in an air-conditioned coach.

Mike Bartels: By 1950 CGW was running just coach-only local service. The Kansas City train came off in April 1962, the Omaha train at the end of September 1965. The Chicago-Oelwein run ended in 1956. 

Jon Talton posted
Below [above] is a map of the Chicago Great Western Railway, originally called the Minnesota and Northwestern when it was founded in 1885. Mergers allowed it to cover several states, take on the new name, and in the diesel-era it was known for operating long strings of covered-wagon locomotives. It was acquired by the Chicago and Northwestern in 1968 and most of its trackage was abandoned.
Stephen Karlson: Chicago and North Western wanted the Kansas City connection. Everything else was redundant. Once Rock Island failed, the Spine Line offered a better way into Kansas City.
Carl J. Marsico: CGW negotiated with both RI and Soo Line prior to the merger with CNW.
A Soo Line/CGW merger would have been interesting...

Dean Luke commented on Jon's post
Winston tunnel, part of the razed CGW/CNW ROW through the driftless area near Galena, IL. The terrain through this area is pretty rough so it's impressive that the railroad built through here at all.


1897, Public Domain

Marty Bernard's Flickr map is part of a 17 photo collection of CGW photos.

The corporate origin of the CGW was the Chicago, St. Charles & Mississippi River that was formed in 1835 [ClassicStreamliners], 1850 [American-Rail] or 1852 [St. Charles Air Line]. Since the SCAL would be a direct competitor to the G&CU, the G&CU bought it in 1854 and stopped construction. SCAL did lay 9 miles of track and graded the land to St. Charles, IL before the work was stopped. Also in 1854, the SCAL rights were sold to Minnesota & North Western (M&NW). But they did not start building until 30 years later when the St. Paul businessman A. B. Stickney assumed control.He was an experienced railroad man, and he quickly built a line south of St. Paul to Dubuque, IA. (A lot of railroad projects stalled in 1850s because the iron rails had to be imported from England. By the 1880s, America could roll a lot of steel rail.) Stickney realized he would need a connection to the Chicago market to be viable. In 1886 he started construction from Dubuque to Forest Park, IL, where it joined the B&OCT/WC in 1887 for trackage rights to Grand Central Station. (Forest Park was named Forest Home in the 1880s.) This construction was facilitated by the rights to the grading work that was done between St. Charles and Forest Park in the 1850s. Because the other granger railroads (C&NW, CB&Q, Rock Island, and Milwaukee Road) had picked the best routes, they were left building over and through (2,493' Winston Tunnel) hilly terrain. Stickney also pushed south from Oelwein, IA to Kansas City. Using trackage rights for access, he entered the Kansas City market in 1890. But he also wanted to tap UP's transcontinental traffic at Omaha, which he achieved in 1903. Between 1893 and 1899, the main shops were transferred from South St. Paul to Oelwien to reflect the reality that Oelwien had become the hub of the railroad. The Chicago Great Western Railway name was adopted for the 1893 bankruptcy reorganization. (I'm skipping a lot of previous corporate names.) The name changed to CGW Railroad and then back to CGW Railway during subsequent bankruptcies. [American-Rail, cnwhs, ClassicStreamliners]

Even though CGW connected four major cities, the connections between those markets were long compared to competing railroads. So they emphasized customer service and innovation. They introduced internal combustion engine power in 1910 when they bought four McKeen Motor Car Company cars, and they were able to get out of the passenger business by 1962. In 1934 they purchased an 800 horsepower Westinghouse switcher. In 1936 they introduced piggyback service between Chicago and St. Paul and expanded it to the rest of the system by 1940. By 1950 they were 100% diesel powered. They were early adopters of continuous welded rail. They ran famously long freight trains. Over the years, they grew to be 200 cars long. [American-Rail, cnwhs, ClassicStreamliners]

After WWII, it was still reporting profits, but it wasn't keeping up with maintenance. It wanted a merger partner. "It had considered several different mergers with the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco), Missouri-Kansas-Texas (Katy), Chicago & Eastern Illinois, Kansas City Southern, Rock Island, and Soo Line. In hindsight, any of those choices would likely have been better than its ultimate choice, the Chicago & North Western. The merger was finalized on July 1, 1968 and the C&NW, already in a weak financial condition, wanted only the Great Western's Kansas City gateway. Much of the rest was promptly abandoned, a fact greatly resented by CGW employees." [American-Rail]
From an advertisement (source)
Other than a small Canadian National Railway operation near DuPage Airport [Looks like UP to me.], a few industrial customers for Union Pacific between Tyler Rd and Kautz Rd in St. Charles, and a small operation serving the power plant in Byron, the entirety of the 147 mile former Chicago Great Western Railway line between Forest Park and Galena Jct is abandoned, making it the longest abandonment from Chicago by far. [AbandonedRaillines (source)]
Actually, the operation for the nuclear power plant is not that small because it requires the maintenance of a bridge over the Rock River. It is small in that the spur is seldom used.

History video done has a high-school project.

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