Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad

By: George C. Werner

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: October 18, 2016

The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Company (Rock Island) was chartered in Delaware on December 16, 1947, as successor in reorganization to the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway. The new company, which also consolidated the Chicago, Rock Island and Gulf Railway, began operating on January 1, 1948, with 7,650 miles of track in fourteen states. Originally chartered in Illinois on February 27, 1848, as the Rock Island and LaSalle Rail Road Company, the road was renamed Chicago and Rock Island Rail Road Company on February 7, 1851, and Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Company in 1866. In Texas the Rock Island operated 633 miles of main track plus joint ownership of the Burlington-Rock Island. Three main Rock Island routes crossed the state. The Midcontinent Route ran from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Fort Worth and Dallas and, with the Burlington-Rock Island, to Houston and Galveston. The other two main lines connected with the Southern Pacific at Tucumcari, New Mexico, to form through routes to the Pacific Coast. These were the Golden State Route, running from Chicago and Kansas City through Dalhart, and the Choctaw Route, which ran from Memphis and Oklahoma City through Amarillo. In addition to its Texas routes, the Rock Island also served the major railroad centers of St. Louis, Missouri, and Denver, Colorado. Two of the named passenger trains of the Rock Island operating across Texas were the Twin Star Rocket and the Golden State Limited.

The Rock Island acquired thirty-nine miles of the Wichita Falls and Southern Railroad between Graham and South Hanlon in 1955, but abandoned this line in 1969. The Rock Island had acquired a 50 percent interest in what later became the Burlington-Rock Island in 1906. The B-RI was operated separately until 1964, when it was merged into the parent companies. This allowed the Rock Island direct access to the Houston and Galveston markets. In addition, the Rock Island owned 50 percent interest in the Galveston Terminal, 45 percent interest in the Great Southwest, and one-eighth interest in both the Houston Belt and Terminal and the Union Terminal Company at Dallas. Track abandonments by the Rock Island included the 12.5 miles between Dalhart and Wilco in 1960 and the forty-five miles between Amarillo and Stinnett in 1972. The fifty-four-mile branch between Bridgeport and Graham was sold to the Texas Export in 1973.

The Rock Island was one of the weaker major railroads, and reentered receivership in 1975. At that time the line had 609 locomotives and 27,736 freight cars. Attempts to sell the railroad to a stronger carrier were delayed by regulatory hearings while the financial and physical condition of the Rock Island continued to deteriorate. The line was unable to withstand the effects of a strike and ceased operations on March 31, 1980. However, major portions of the Rock Island in Texas were acquired by other railroads, including the Golden State Route by the St. Louis Southwestern and the Midcontinent Route from Kansas to Fort Worth by the Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas (now the Union Pacific). The jointly owned line between Dallas and Houston continued to be operated by the Burlington Northern. Most of the Choctaw Route, however, was abandoned.

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

George C. Werner, “Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 17, 2022,

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October 18, 2016