BURLINGTON SYSTEM. The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Company, commonly called the Burlington, was a major midwestern railroad system that had its origins in 1849 as the Aurora Branch Railroad. By 1900 the company had important lines radiating from Chicago to Minneapolis-St. Paul, Denver, Kansas City, and St. Louis. Other lines of the Burlington extended as far west as Billings, Montana. In December 1908 the Burlington gained control of a Texas system extending from the Panhandle through Fort Worth to Houston and Galveston when it acquired the Colorado and Southern Railway Company. The Colorado and Southern owned several Texas railroads, the oldest of which was the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway Company, chartered on May 26, 1873. The road was promoted by Fort Worth citizens to connect that city with a railroad from Denver. The Panic of 1873 delayed start of construction until November 1881, but the Fort Worth and Denver City reached Wichita Falls in 1882 and the Texas-New Mexico state line in 1888. The Colorado part of the route began on January 25, 1881, with the chartering of the Denver and New Orleans Railroad Company. In April 1881 the Fort Worth and Denver City and the Denver and New Orleans agreed to connect at the Texas-New Mexico border. The Denver and New Orleans built 125 miles of track from Denver to Pueblo that opened in April 1882. However, the line was sold at foreclosure on March 18, 1886, and reorganized as the Denver, Texas and Gulf Railroad Company. A third company, the Denver, Texas and Fort Worth Railroad, was organized on April 12, 1887, to complete the railroad across Colorado and New Mexico. Connection between the Denver, Texas and Fort Worth and the Fort Worth and Denver City was made on March 14, 1888, at Union Park, New Mexico Territory, 528 miles northwest of Fort Worth. Shortly thereafter, the Denver, Texas and Fort Worth acquired stock control of the Fort Worth and Denver City and the Denver, Texas and Gulf, and the three railroads were operated as an integrated system.
The Colorado lines were consolidated in 1891 as the Union Pacific, Denver and Gulf Railway Company and, along with the Fort Worth and Denver City, operated as part of the Union Pacific system. Following the failure of the Union Pacific, Denver and Gulf, the Colorado and Southern Railway Company was chartered on December 19, 1898, and on January 11, 1899, acquired the lines in Colorado and Texas. The Colorado and Southern then embarked on a program of buying or building feeder lines in North Texas. In 1905 the company acquired the Wichita Valley Railway Company. The Wichita Valley had been chartered on February 8, 1890, and had constructed sixty-one miles from Wichita Falls to Seymour. Other railroads promoted and built by local interests were acquired upon completion. These included the Wichita Valley Railroad Company, which had been chartered on October 12, 1905, and by January 1907 had completed fifty-two miles from Seymour to Stamford. The line between Stamford and Abilene, thirty-eight miles, was built by the Abilene and Northern Railway Company. This company had been chartered on February 5, 1906, and completed its line in 1907. To serve the territory north of Wichita Falls, the Wichita Falls and Oklahoma Railway Company was chartered on October 26, 1903, and by June 1904 had built twenty-four miles of track from Wichita Falls to Byers. The only line built under Colorado and Southern auspices was the Stamford and Northwestern Railway, chartered on January 11, 1909, to build between Stamford and Plainview. Only the eighty-three miles to Spur, which opened in October 1909, was built.
In order to extend its system from Fort Worth to Houston and Galveston, the Colorado and Southern bought the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railway Company on August 1, 1905, and subsequently sold one-half interest to the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway Company. The Trinity and Brazos Valley had been chartered on October 6, 1902, and by early 1904 had a line operating between Cleburne and Mexia. The Trinity and Brazos Valley completed its line from Mexia to Houston and from Teague to Waxahachie in 1907, and via trackage rights over connecting railroads reached Fort Worth, Dallas, and Galveston. To provide terminal facilities at Houston, the Trinity and Brazos Valley acquired a 25 percent interest in the Houston Belt and Terminal Railway Company, while the Galveston Terminal Railway Company was organized to develop a Galveston terminal. The Trinity and Brazos Valley also acquired a one-eighth interest in the Union Terminal Company in order to provide passenger facilities at Dallas. The Trinity and Brazos Valley was reorganized as the Burlington-Rock Island Railroad Company in 1930.
There were no new extensions or railroads built by the Burlington Route in Texas until the mid-1920s. By that time a rivalry had developed between the Santa Fe and Burlington systems over building into the Texas South Plains. The area was becoming agriculturally developed, especially with cotton and wheat, and the Burlington was eager to compete for the traffic. To serve the area, the Fort Worth and Denver South Plains Railway Company was chartered on March 6, 1925. A line from Estelline to Lubbock with an extension from Sterly through Plainview to Dimmitt, as well as a branch from Sterly to Silverton, was completed by November 1928. The main line of the Fort Worth and Denver South Plains was 206 miles long and included two of the six railroad tunnels built in Texas. The Fort Worth and Denver South Plains was leased to the Fort Worth and Denver City for operation. On May 20, 1929, the Fort Worth and Denver Northern Railway Company was chartered. It built a 110-mile line from Childress to Pampa, which was completed on July 15, 1933. This company was also leased to the Fort Worth and Denver City for operation.
In January 1939 the president of the Burlington-controlled lines in Texas was Ralph Budd, and John A. Hulen was one of the vice presidents. In 1940 the system operated 1,031 miles of main track in Texas in addition to the Burlington-Rock Island. There were nine separately chartered railroads and two operating companies in the system. The Fort Worth and Denver City leased the Fort Worth and Denver Northern, the Fort Worth and Denver South Plains, and the Fort Worth and Denver Terminal. Four railroads, namely the Wichita Valley Railroad, the Abilene and Northern, the Stamford and Northwestern, and the Wichita Falls and Oklahoma, were leased by the Wichita Valley Railway Company.
In 1944 the Railroad Commission reported that the Burlington system earned $12,132,515 in freight revenue, $5,839,399 in passenger revenue, and $1,488,095 in other revenue. The Fort Worth and Denver City was renamed the Fort Worth and Denver Railway Company on August 7, 1951. On June 13, 1952, all of the other Colorado and Southern owned properties in Texas, with the exception of the jointly owned Burlington-Rock Island, were merged into the Fort Worth and Denver. The entire Burlington-Rock Island had been leased to the Fort Worth and Denver and the Rock Island in 1950. The Colorado and Southern and the Rock Island absorbed the Burlington-Rock Island in 1965, when each owner received an undivided one-half interest in the property. The Colorado and Southern's interest was sold to the Fort Worth and Denver and merged into that company. For the first time the 1,115 miles of Burlington-owned track in Texas operated under one corporate name. In 1972 the Fort Worth and Denver owned twenty locomotives and 1,520 freight car, but operated at a loss of $1,743,551. Main-line track mileage had been reduced to 1,033 by 1978.
The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy, the Great Northern, the Northern Pacific, and the Pacific Coast merged on March 2, 1970, under the name Burlington Northern, Incorporated. The name was changed to Burlington Northern Railroad the following year. On November 21, 1980, the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Company was merged into the Burlington Northern, thus adding the Frisco's Texas mileage to that of the Fort Worth and Denver. The Colorado and Southern was merged into the BN on December 31, 1981, and the Fort Worth and Denver became a direct subsidiary of the BN. This lasted until December 31, 1982, when the Fort Worth and Denver, in turn, was merged into the BN. In 1992 the BN owned 1,020 miles of track in Texas and operated over an additional 160 miles via trackage rights. In 1995 Burlington Northern, Incorporated, and Santa Fe Pacific Corporation agreed to a merger that would produce one of the largest railroad systems in the United States.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, George C. Werner, "Burlington System," accessed February 26, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/eqb17.
Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on September 28, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.