Chicago & North Western’s Last Year.

 

Images of the Midwestern Railroad Final Days.

C&NW logo
Historic Chicago & North Western herald on the side of a HyRail truck in Spring 1995.

It’s been nearly 18 years since Union Pacific absorbed the Chicago & North Western system. I was fortunate to have been in position to photograph C&NW in its final year of independence.

C&NW’s busiest route was its largely double-track Chicago-Council Bluffs mainline. Yet, long before C&NW was formally merged with UP, this route had functioned as an eastward extension of UP’s east-west mainline. In the early 1990s, many trains operated with UP run-through locomotives.

C&NW at Rochelle, Illinois.
C&NW was famous for left-hand running. An eastward C&NW freight crosses the Burlington Northern diamonds at Rochelle, Illinois on the morning of April 2, 1995. Nikon F3T with Nikkor f4 200mm lens, Kodachrome 25 slide film.
C&NW DASH8-40C
On April 23, 1995. a pair of C&NW General Electric DASH8-40Cs lead a westward freight on Arcadia Hill in western, Iowa. Nikon F3T with f1.8 105mm lens, Kodachrome 25 film.

I found C&NW’s  surviving secondary lines even more photogenic. Yet, these lines represented just a shadow of C&NW’s once sprawling empire. Many routes had been fragmented or abandoned. Once busy secondary mainlines, served as little more than lightly served freight feeders. Several C&NW operations had been physically isolated from its core network, with the railroad relying on haulage arrangements in place of its own lines.

C&NW Jefferson Junction, Wisconsin
A pair of C&NW GP7s work the Jefferson Junction local on the evening of April 19, 1995. Jefferson Junction, Wisconsin was once the crossing of two important secondary routes, but by this late date it was effectively served as a branch from the Adams Cutoff via Clyman Junction. Nikon F3T with 35mm PC (shift) lens, Kodachrome 25 slide film.
C&NW hoppers at Jefferson Jct Wis Apr 19 1995
C&NW hoppers at Jefferson Junction Wisconsin on April 19, 1995 .

C&NW held onto its identity into its last days. Its historic herald was still proudly displayed on equipment and infrastructure. Vestiges of its former greatness survived as visual cues to an earlier era. So its final year, C&NW retained these threads of corporate continuity. While the appearance of C&NW continued for a while under Union Pacific operation, once it was part of the UP system, these threads were less meaningful.

I made roughly a thousand C&NW images between June 1994 and May 1995 (UP’s intended merger date in late April 1995 was ultimately postponed a few weeks, despite reports to the contrary). These are just a sampling of those efforts.

C&NW logo

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3 thoughts on “Chicago & North Western’s Last Year.”

  1. A pair of DASH8-40c on a westward ”freight” at Arcadia, is it coal, taking with f1.8 105mm, was it a fixed lens Brian, Kodachrome25, interesting photo, f1.8 wouldnd give great dept of field, but works well in that photo.

    1. Perhaps, I should clarify: in this instance f1.8 105mm describes the lens, rather than the specific exposure. I have several Nikkon 105mm lenses, one was a heavy 105 f.8 lens (used in the C&NW photo), others include an f2.5 105mm. My actual exposure on the day of the C&NW photo was probably 1/250th of second at f5.6 (rather than wide open at f1.8). Sorry about the confusion. Brian Solomon

    2. Thanks Brian, Kodachrome 25 photos are always interesting, and become more interesting as they mature and time goes on

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