Steve Hile

By  the  early  1880's,  the  Rock  Island  stretched   across
Illinois,  Iowa  and  Northwest  Missouri  from  Chicago  to  the
Missouri River at Council Bluffs and St. Joseph. It's primary aim
was to be a bridge route carrying finished goods from the east to
the developing areas of the far west and to return raw  materials
and  other  comodities. Intense competition  and  rate  reduction
legislation caused the Rock Island to seek additional amounts  of
cargo  and  traffic.  It  first attempted to  set  up  a  traffic
agreement with a road west of the Missouri and then attempted  to
buy a line. Neither attempt was successful. The next logical step
was to build its own line into the new developing territory  west
of  the  Missouri. This included Kansas, Nebraska,  Colorado  and
beyond to Texas, New Mexico and the Indian Territory, soon to  be
Oklahoma.  Marcus  A.  Low,  a lawyer  for  the  Rock  Island  in
Missouri,  made  the proposal to build the new road  and  he  was
given  authority  from the Rock Island Board of Directors  to  go
full speed on the project.
A new company, the Chicago, Kansas and Nebraska Railway was formed in 1885 to contruct the new line. Low became its president. The Rock Island advanced the company more than 25 million dollars to begin construction in exchange for nearly all the stock of the new company. By this arrangement the Rock Island owned, for all practical purposes, this new road.

 Preliminary surveys began December 8, 1885 and grading work began about six months later under the direction of H. A. Parker, a leading construction engineer. Track laying commenced in October of 1886 and by March 31, 1888, over 1000 miles of track were in operation. Sixty-six locomotives fifty passenger cars and 3854 freight cars were on the property and in use.

 Typical of the times, the road bent to accomodate certain cities and individuals like M. D. HERINGTON, FOUNDER OF Herington, Kansas who approached Mr. Low and offered to guarantee the CK&N bonds in two counties and to buy the right of way through his township if the line would be routed through his town. Herington went on to become an important Rock Island junction and terminal point. Similarly, Dodge City was left off the mainline due to political hassles, but a branch line was built to serve that city.

 Additional track laid in 1888 brought the total mileage of owned and leased tracks to 1840 miles as follows:

LEASED LINES Union Pacific, Kansas City, Mo to North Topeka, Ks. 67.60 Miles Union Pacific, Limon, Co to Denver, Co. 89.20 Miles Denver & Rio Grande, Denver, Co to Pueblo, Co. 119.60 Miles SIDE TRACKS 175.78 Miles ------------------- 1840.18 Miles Additional equipment was also obtained including locomotives and rolling stock to bring the total equipment roster to: 143 Locomotives 12 Sleeping Cars 75 Coaches 22 Baggage, Mail & Express 2 Business Cars 3855 Box Cars 600 Stock Cars 480 Platform/Coal Cars 81 Drovers, Caboose, etc 2 Rotary Snow Plows (?) 5129 Total The line south from Pond Creek to El Reno, 83.4 miles, was extended in 1889-90. The additional 15 miles to Minco were added in 1890-91. The CK&N failed to make its interest payment to the Rock Island on January 1st and again on July 1, 1889. At that time the Rock Island instituted foreclosure proceedings. It purchased the property outright on April 30, 1891 with the sale being approved by the courts on June 17, 1891. When the line was purchased the equipment inventory differed somewhat from the previous one: 3768 Box Cars 150 Furniture Cars 50 Refrigerator Cars 350 Flat Cars 70 Cabooses 2 Ditchers 2 Derricks 1 Wrecking Car 3 Pile Drivers 1 Steam Excavator 1 RR Builder 2 Rotary Steam Shovels (Snow Plows?). 4400 Total Equipment The CK&N was never really a separate railroad from the Rock Island as can be seen from the builders photos of the locomotives which were lettered C,K,&N and ROCK ISLAND ROUTE. Some of the CK&N locomotives were built by the Rock Island while the rest were constructed by the Brooks Locomotive Company (later a part of ALCO). Nevertheless, the CK&N added substantially to the Rock Island's mileage and territory in a very short time, making it one of the great midwestern railroads. PHOTOS

#1: CK&N 488 poses for a portrait at the Brooks Locomotive Works. Photo courtesy of Alco Historic Photos, collection of Bill Graham.

#2: Brooks built CK&N 0-6-0 499 is ready to be delivered to the Rock Island so that it may take up it's switching chores in Kansas. Photo courtesy of ALCO Historic Photos. Collection of Bill Graham.

#3: Chicago, Kansas and Nebraska 469 has a short smoke box, which was "normal" up thru the mid 1870's. Photo courtesy of Alco Historic Photos, collection of Bill Graham.

#4: CK&N 500 leaves no doubt as to who controlled the company. Later the Rock Island Route would become the Rock Island System! Courtesy of Alco Historic Photos, collection of Bill Graham.


THE CHICAGO, KANSAS AND NEBRASKA LOCOMOTIVES, showing wheel arrangement, classification, year built, builder, driver diameter, cylinder size, weight on drivers, weight on leading truck, weight of tender and water capacity.


CHICAGO, KANSAS AND NEBRASKA RAILWAY. 1886 - 1891, shows Kansas and parts of adjacent states. Lines described in the text are drawn except western Colorado lines were cut off. -----------------------------------------------------------------

Article contributed by John Matrow, Rock Island Technical Society Newsletter Editor and Director, Feb. 1994.