How this History Changing Innovation Built the Windy City

Pioneer was the first locomotive to operate on the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad. Wikimedia

2. The Galena and Chicago Union Railroad

Chartered in 1836, the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad was the first to connect Chicago with another city. Its name is a bit of a misnomer, since it never reached Galena. Its furthest distance west was Freeport. Construction began in 1848, and the first westbound train ever departing from Chicago left on October 25, 1848. The locomotive Pioneer, a used Baldwin steam engine, pulled the first train. By 1851 the railroad reached Rockford, and Freeport connected to Chicago in 1853. There construction by the Galena and Chicago ended. Construction to Galena was taken over by the Illinois Central Railroad in 1854.

During the period of construction, the population of the city of Chicago more than tripled. The railroad leading to the west and the new canal created a shipping hub. By 1862 the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad reached Council Bluffs, Iowa, by leasing the Cedar Rapids and Missouri Railroad. Following the Civil War the railroad connected to the Transcontinental Railroad. The produce of the midwestern farms found its way to the Chicago waterfront, for shipping to the east via the lakes, or to the south via the canal and Mississippi River systems. Finished products from the east and the south found their way to Chicago, where the growing city put them to use in homes and factories.